Sunday, September 4, 2011

Days of the Raj

A fascinating look at the social lives of the British in colonial India.

Pran Nevile's Sahib's India is a fascinating expedition into the social lives of British in colonial India. It provides insightful details about the way they led their daily lives and their social intercourse with the native people.

The book opens with an interesting chapter titled ‘Household Retinue', telling us how the number of servants in a British household decided the position of the family in the social hierarchy. Some families had as many as hundred servants and maidservants with strict division of work and defined chain of command. In short, the White sahibs spent a luxurious life, which was full of vanity, almost comparable with the lifestyles of the old days nabobs and maharajahs. In the following chapter, the book touches upon the topic of sexual lives of Sahibs in India.

Running away from English prudery, they had very open sexual lives in India, and many of them even indulged in debauchery here. Initially, white women were scarce making the European men opt for Indian girls. The ‘Indian bibi' was a term used for an unofficial wife and long-term consort of White men. ‘Sleeping Dictionary' was another interesting nomenclature for an Indian mistress; she was called so because a mistress doubled up as a teacher of local language and culture for her master. In army cantonments, official brothels (later abolished because of strong protest by Christian missionaries) were maintained to satisfy the physiological urges of soldiers.

Full review here Hindu

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