The Anglo-Indians: A Portrait Of A Community – Barry O’Brien

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The first Anglo-Indian could well have been born not long after 20 May 1498 when Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, set foot on the shores of Calicut—a whole century before the British arrived in India. Today, after five centuries of ups and downs, twists of fate, and turns of destiny, the Anglo-Indian community is firmly established in its chosen homeland, India. The community has contributed beyond measure to the nation’s school education system; its soldiers and officers, teachers and sports stars have captured the imagination of millions. The Anglo-Indians’ love of yellow rice and ball curry, five-tier wedding cakes, and single-minded faith, rock ‘n roll, and railway institutes is well known. However, stereotypes and romanticized notions of the community aside, who really are the Anglo-Indians, and what is this community all about? 

Barry O’Brien, an Anglo-Indian with a ringside view and his finger firmly on the pulse of the community, delves deep into the heritage, culture, way of life, literature, social mores, and sheer dynamism of the community. There are four sections in this book: ‘A Country Is Colonized, a Community Is Born’ is a historical account of the arrival of the European maritime powers, the birth of the community, its natural ‘Britishification’, and the emergence of two of its greatest champions, Sir Henry Gidney and Frank Anthony; ‘Nationality: Indian; Community: Angle-Indian’ dwells on ‘identity and integration’ and the political transformation of the community through the lens of twentieth and twenty-first-century India and recounts the fascinating stories of those who left and those who stayed; ‘The Anglo-Indian Contribution to Nation Building’ is a chronicle of how Anglo-Indians contributed (and continue to do so) to modern India; and, finally, ‘The Way We Were, the Way We Are’ is a riveting narrative of the community’s culture, then and now. 

The social, cultural, and political history of the Anglo Indians in India and the diaspora has never before been told in such a comprehensive, clear-eyed, engrossing, and enjoyable way. Unarguably, The Anglo-Indians is the best account yet of one of India’s most remarkable and enigmatic communities.

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