What The British Did To India

An interesting book review.

Before the British occupation, India was a culturally and economically prosperous civilization. According to economist Angus Maddison, in the 18th century India accounted for 23 percent of the world’s GDP, a percentage greater than all of Europe combined. By the time the British packed up their things and sailed home in 1947, that number had fallen to under three percent.

August 14, 1947, as India prepared to declare its independence, the last British Viceroy in India was sitting alone in his study, when, as he recounted later, he thought to himself: “For still a few more minutes I am the most powerful man on earth.” At the midnight hour, India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, would rise and make his most celebrated speech, triumphantly announcing that after 200 years, India was reemerging on the world stage. But the Viceroy had ample reason to be glum: his empire was relinquishing its crown jewel, one that had enriched Britain for centuries. Louis Mountbatten was not exaggerating the extent of his power. Nehru had noted in his earlier writings that the power of the British Viceroy was greater than that of any British prime minister or American president. His Majesty’s deputy was India’s colonial master, ruling over 350 million bodies across a continent 20 times larger than Britain, accountable to none of the people he governed. When Nehru, writing from a prison cell in the 1940s, did search for an analogy to the Viceroy’s power, the only name he could think of was that of Adolf Hitler.

Amazing Statistic Is Sad One

I admit to being addicted….to chocolate.  So when I read the following today I felt really sad for the little kids that are a part of this statistic. 

As more Indians begin to treat themselves to little luxuries, Cadbury PLC hopes to capture millions of new customers with chocolates that sell for a few pennies.

The British candy maker has been in India for more than 60 years and dominates the chocolate market here. Still, less than half of India’s 1.1-billion population has ever tasted chocolate.  (This is about 600,000 million people!!)  Traditional sweets or “mithai” still dominate the industry in India, where sweets are given and eaten at festivals.

Wouldn’t you love to have lots of money, travel to India, give kids their first taste of chocolate, and watch their faces light up?

Indian History Comes To PBS Tonight

There have been many positive reviews from around the country concerning the 6-hour series on Indian history that begins tonight on PBS.  It is this type of programming that makes TV worthwhile.  And once again it is PBS that brings it into our living room. 

The nation of India is a rich and fascinating place, and so I use this post to promote a show that I think will be worth your time tonight, and in the following weeks.

This is not a documentary about the modern India of call centers and terrorist attacks and nuclear tensions. The first two hours, which were available for review, don’t even take the story into the A.D. years. They finish with Ashoka, the bloodthirsty emperor who renounced violence before the end of his reign in 232 B.C. According to the press notes, the narrative will essentially end in 1947 with the partition of India and Pakistan, with a brief glance at India’s history since then.

But Mr. Wood’s method is to teach history on location, with a maximum of travel and conversation — in the first two hours he and his cameras span thousands of miles, from Kerala in southern India to Calcutta, Delhi, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Iraq — and a minimum of explanatory graphics or talking heads other than his own. (He also doesn’t use recreations, though he has found an ingenious substitute: excerpts from Indian films like “Asoka” and “Lagaan.”)

Contemporary India is constantly on screen, in images that are sometimes clichéd but often enough astonishing: the shots of a once-every-12-years festival in which a 60-foot statue of a Jain saint is anointed with showers of milk, saffron, turmeric, coins and flowers are otherworldly.

The colorful scenes in city and country, at temples and schools and archaeological sites, go flooding past, and it’s not always that clear what we’re looking at. But Mr. Wood has an awful lot of ground to cover: the first two hours alone start with the human migration from Africa into southern India 50,000 years ago and continue through the ancient civilizations of the Indus and Ganges valleys, the Mahabharata, the Buddha, Alexander the Great and the Mauryan empire. He can be excused for some compression, and lauded for exposing Americans to a cultural and religious history of which they know almost nothing.