Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The British Raj and I: a love-hate relationship, even at Srivaikuntam

Despite all the traveling I have done over the years, I have never been to the UK.  Not even a stopover at London.  The logistics of transport is one important reason, of course.  A major reason that was.

A minor reason is that I am yet to develop any passion to visit the UK. 

This level of neutrality is a long way from my teenage anger at the imperial masters who sucked India dry.  Those were the young and rebellious years, as opposed to the contemporary old and rebellious years:) 

In this middle-age of mine, I suppose if I had money to spare, I would not be opposed to the idea of visiting London and the UK for a few days.

Traveling around in India always reminds me of my old hate-relationship that has metamorphosed into "meh" feeling about the UK.  The railways, old university and administrative buildings, road names, ... the reminders are everywhere I look.

The strangest reminder was at Srivaikuntam.  Yes, at this sleepy small town way deep down, near the peninsular tip of India. 

A narrow bridge over the Tamrabarani River links to the town to the other side of the riverbank.  One evening, well before the sun set, I walked the mile from my aunt's home to the bridge.  A plaque at the end caught my attention. 

A remnant of the British Raj!

The anicut (river flow regulator) was designed way back in 1853, by a Royal Engineer.  And then a few years to implement the design and construct the anicut, which was completed in 1873.  Back in 1873!

This will yet another example for me to add to the list that I usually provide in classes when I remark that I am thankful it was the British who colonized India, and not the Dutch or the Germans or the French.  If one's fate was to be ruled by a colonial overlord, well, it was better to be under the British because they at least established universities, built anicuts, bridges, and the railways, ...

This anicut/bridge from 1873 serves as a reminder for yet another reason: how much an independent India has failed to build up the infrastructure. 

This narrow bridge has handled people, carts, motorized transport all these years.  As the transport volume grew, there was nothing done to support the much higher traffic. 

Finally, 65 years after independence, a second bridge has been constructed--well, it is nearly complete, and nobody has any idea on when it will be "fully complete" enough for buses and cars to be diverted there.

Perhaps all the more the reason why the hateful attitude towards the British Raj has vaporized over the years, and I am now far more critical of India's government and politics.

If I live long enough to settle into retirement, perhaps then I will even begin to love the UK, eh!

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