Category Archives: India

Indentured labourers of the Gulf

Dalrymple acknowledges that his sympathy for the expatriate Dravidian workers of the Gulf states is

self-indulgent, for I know that I will forgo nothing, and do nothing, for them.

Instead, as he dines in a fine Lebanese restaurant, he controls his feelings and

I tell myself what is true — that they have elected to come, and doing so must represent an improvement or opportunity. Even if their passports are held as ransom, it is the life that they have chosen.

Small as the remuneration of the Kerala peons might seem, they send much of it home,

to support a family, to build a house, to start a business.

Is this helotry unfair? Dalrymple points out that fortune

does not distribute its favours in any ethically rational way.

If the system were ended,

hundreds of thousands of people (and their dependents) would lose a chance of betterment of their lives.

There are, says Dalrymple,

desiderata more important than justice.

Founder of modern bacteriology


Dalrymple points out that there was much hostility towards Robert Koch in India, as the scientific agent of German expansionism. Attempts to disprove Koch’s theory continued in India until 1897.

India’s wisdom and glory

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 23.32.30Hindustan alone, writes Dalrymple,

values the Olympic Games at their true worth—which is to say, approaching nil.

It is not, he points out, that Indians

are indifferent to sport. They are crazy about cricket, a game whose considerable subtleties are lost on all who did not grow up with it but which teaches mental flexibility as well as specific skills. But no official encouragement is necessary to promote this enthusiasm. On every field of every Indian city, ragged children can be seen playing with improvised equipment, as richer children play with the latest kit. It is no coincidence that, economically, India now dominates this most English of games.


more or less ignored the Olympics. But it is India, whose government does nothing to encourage (or deter) its athletes, that is right, not the rest of the world.

Hindustan has its priorities right

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 10.56.15

India: creditable performance

Once again, writes Dalrymple,

the only country of any size that emerges from the Olympics with any credit is India. Accounting for something like a sixth of the world’s population, it has not won a single medal in any event. It has steadfastly refused to measure itself by the number of medals it wins at the Olympics.

New Delhi does nothing whatever to encourage citizens to devote their lives to trying to jump a quarter of a centimetre longer or higher than anyone else in human history, for Hindustanis recognise that such a goal is the kind

that totalitarian régimes set for their citizens (or perhaps they should be called prisoners). Custine observed that tyrannies demand immense efforts of their populations to bring forth trifles, and there can be no trifle more trifling than an Olympic victory. To be the best in the world at something is no achievement unless what you are best at is worthwhile.

India, says Dalrymple,

is the last best hope of humanity. May it continue, to its eternal glory, to win no medals.

The gentle Sikh woman

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 20.32.12She waited outside without demur, reading a book of prayers

In the ward, writes Dalrymple, was a young Englishwoman

of the slut-babymother class, whose jaw was clenched in a habitual expression of world-destroying hatred. Her glittering saurian eyes swivelled mistrustingly, on the qui vive for infringements of her rights. She exuded grievance as a skunk exudes its odour.

She had been admitted to hospital because

she had been out celebrating the night before.

Enlightenment reason turned into psychopathic unreason

In England,

celebration is synonymous with aggression and public nuisance, and she had conformed to type. The police dumped her in the hospital rather than in the slammer, where she belonged.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 20.34.20She

turned the attention of her lip to the admitting doctor, who took down verbatim some of what she said to him.

Her recorded remarks were littered with the word ‘fuck’, which the doctor rendered ‘f***’ in neat handwriting, showing that

in India, at least (where the doctor came from), there is still some sense of dignity, decorum and self-respect.

Putrid fruit borne of the doctrine of rights

The following morning a friend of the patient arrived in the ward before visiting time.

Both patient and friend were what is called in the prison ‘very verbal’. A nurse, acting on the biblical observation that a soft answer turns away wrath, asked them to keep their voices down, only to discover that the Bible has been superseded in modern Britain and that wrath turns away a soft answer.

Superseded: the book of Proverbs

Superseded: the Book of Proverbs

The nurse then told the visitor that she had to leave. Shortly after her departure under foul-mouthed protest,

the wife of another patient came. She was a respectable Sikh woman with a gentle manner, but it was not yet visiting time, and the nurses feared to provoke the slut-babymother by allowing her to stay, when they had told the slut-babymother’s visitor to leave. The nurses could all too well imagine the scene: Why am I not allowed a fucking visitor when that person over there is? In vain would the nurses point out the difference in the conduct of the two visitors; if anyone had a right to a visitor, everyone did, irrespective of the conduct of the visitor.

To avoid a conflict over rights,

the Sikh woman was asked to wait outside, which she did without demur, reading a book of prayers.

Young man in the sun

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 08.08.39Peter Greave, writes Dalrymple, was born in India

to a father with a large and expansive personality, an infinite capacity to delude himself and others about business schemes that varied from the merely fantastic to the outright fraudulent, and an unfortunate propensity for sexual exhibitionism. He would disappear for long periods, deserting his family, and then reappear unexpectedly.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 08.08.59Greave’s mother

was utterly devoted to her husband even though he proved himself unworthy of her over and over.


spent time in orphanages and in various down-at-heel and cruel boarding schools in the India of the Raj. His escape from one of them reads like an adventure story. His education was spotty, interrupted and short; his subsequent life in India, going from one absurd job to another, was rackety, unstable and precarious, and yet he was happy.

Postcard from Goa

The wrong place at the wrong time. And drugs emerge from the ether and blitz people completely at random.

The wrong place at the wrong time. Also, drugs emerge from the ether and blitz people at random. (Pictured is the Shanta Durga temple, from which foreign tourists are rightly barred because of their ‘objectionable dressing and conduct’.)

Postcards from Bombay

1903. Designed by S. K. Vaidya and D. N. Mirza

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. 1903, S. K. Vaidya and D. N. Mirza. Dalrymple holes up here but does not enjoy it ‘as much as I might have done, because I was recovering from the hepatitis I had contracted in the South Seas’.

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To the right of the picture, the Taj Mahal Tower. 1973, Melton Bekker. ‘I regretted the modern excrescence that ruined the hotel’s architectural unity.’

China’s growing might

Public life in the corrupt and decaying societies of the West, writes Dalrymple,

is frivolous without gaiety, earnest without seriousness.

Western economies such as Britain’s

cannot compete with China’s in cost of labour, of course.

But the success of China is based not just on cheap labour but on

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 22.27.21a powerful combination of cheap labour and an educational system that is far more serious than Britain’s.

While the British

are so obsessed with supposed social justice that they are prepared to tolerate any degree of mediocrity, China fosters talent in a Darwinian fashion, in the hope and expectation that everyone will benefit in the long run.

Michel Houellebecq's Les Particules élémentaires (1998) in English translation

Michel Houellebecq‘s Les Particules élémentaires (1998) in English translation

The stage has been reached where there is practically

nothing that the British can do better than the Chinese.

At the same time Westerners, and especially Western Europeans,

have destroyed all forms of social solidarity other than handouts from the state.

Westerners are left with

an atomised society in which no one feels he has any duty to anyone else. Widespread social, or rather antisocial, disturbances are the result.

How aid workers pay off their mortgages

Dalrymple explains that, with cash saved from his taxpayer-funded salary while employed on an aid-and-development project in the Gilbert Islands (formerly the King’s Mill Islands), he was able to purchase a whole house. And working on such a project in Africa, he found that it

enriched an inefficient British company and its personnel, and those officials whom it bribed, while the country remained poorer than ever, a tropical Merthyr Tydfil.

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 17.44.10Aid, Dalrymple argues, is

neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of development. There is no country that has been lifted out of poverty by aid, which is international social security for corrupt governments. To lump poor countries together as if they were in the same category is false, a form of uninterested and morally frivolous condescension.

He describes Britain’s obsession with sending aid to India as

the hangover of a colonial superiority complex.

It is

a manifestation of the national administrative, mental and ethical torpor, as well as incompetence and corruption, that is leading us to economic and social disaster. It is time we stopped such aid, and not only to India.

Hindustan, he points out,

has a long, varied, glorious (and terrible) history of civilisation, with the sophistication necessary to absorb influences from abroad, including Western scientific ones. It is outrageous that we condescend to it with our paltry aid, just to pay the mortgages of aid workers.

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Sir Ronald Ross (1857-1932)

Ronald Ross’s poem India (Madras, 1881) is cited:

Here from my lonely watch-tower of the East
An ancient race outworn I see —
With dread, my own dear distant Country, lest
The same fate fall on thee.

Lo, here the iron winter of curst caste
Has made men into things that creep;
The leprous beggars totter trembling past;
The baser sultans sleep.

Not for a thousand years has Freedom’s cry
The stillness of this horror cleaved,
But as of old the hopeless millions die,
That yet have never lived.

Man has no leisure but to snatch and eat,
Who should have been a god on earth;
The lean ones cry; the fat ones curse and beat,
And wealth but weakens worth.
O Heaven, shall man rebelling never take
From Fate what she denies, his bliss?
Cannot the mind that made the engine make
A nobler life than this?