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Anglo Indians are Admirable

I feel honoured to count Anglo Indians among my many close friends ever since I moved to settle in Fraser Town, Bangalore at the tender age of eight in 1958.

Margaret de Conceicao was the first of them who befriended me as a newcomer midterm in Std. V at SFX GHS and displays her heart of gold with me having shared and still sharing many an adventure be it schoolgirl fun of yore of the young innocent, the camaraderie of hockey players representing Bangalore Sporting Club and Mysore State together during the sixties and holidays in India and abroad when she was an airhostess with IA and I an officer with Bank of Baroda. Presently in our sixties, we often relax at her farm in Bagalur outside Bangalore sipping a beer or a cuppa tea, remembering the decades gone past or planning the present and future ones, while her dozen plus canines frisk around us. She also shares her immeasurable warmth with all I choose to bring along for an outing to the countryside, generously entertaining them with the same gusto and enthusiasm of former times, despite a few creaking bones and slower performing assets - to use banking terminology!

Next, I remember The Stephens family of 34, Ahmed Sait Road who were our first Anglo Indian neighbours when my parents Tom and Tilly Colaco retired in 1958 and moved from Bombay to settle in Bangalore. Our family home was at No. 4 AS Road till 1999.  Mrs. Mercy Stephens and clan welcomed us into the house opposite theirs, and after her passing, her son Rupert and wife Rayonette continuing to be ‘angels of mercy’ to my parents especially in their old age, and to me when severe arthritis afflicted me during the nineties, ever so thoughtfully being the first visitors at our home to greet on every birthday and festival morning, additionally helping out with home repairs at which Rupert was a real handyman.

Time cannot lessen the memories of my oldest Anglo Indian friend the late Cdr. Lionel Lunel, who in his old age - he lived till 90 - showed me what Whitefield was all about and personally exemplified the spunk of his community! His love of plants, pets, arts and music and personal encyclopaedic knowledge of each was so educating to me, as was his warmth of ‘heart and hearth’ in his ‘igloo’ shaped Laurie Baker home in a then unspoiled Whitefield that I discovered during the 70s’. My friendship with ‘Lu’ began through a casual visit to their home along with my friend Wendy at the invitation of her colleague Jackie Lunel, and continued after both these ladies moved over to Australia. Lu’s other daughter Karen was the headline hitting first ‘Liril’ model and son Glen and wife Maggie continue to be my friends. They have collected and curated the greatest collection of music and films one can imagine.

Bridget White Kumar is a recent addition to my Anglo Indian friends. This unassuming world renowned chef and cookbook author of Anglo Indian cuisine first cultivated my acquaintance over Facebook. We later met personally when I decided to have a ‘FACE TO FACE’ pooled tea party at my home for all these ‘till then’ just FB pals. BWK was among them and contributed one of her mouthwatering culinary delicacies to that evening. I discovered her to be soft spoken, gentle and kind hearted, self effacing and genuine. A good two years through our acquaintance which is now a firm friendship we reach out in mutual support in our respective endeavours, be it writing, FB interaction or meeting at the Catholic club iBrowse Book Club. Coincidentally, she and Margaret have become stalwarts of one of the Anglo Indian Associations in Bangalore! Small world…

Finally, another icon of the Anglo Indian community I’ve admired since my teenage years is Kenneth Powell, an athlete who represented India at the Olympics and is an Asian games bronze medal winner in 100mts. during the 1960s. Coincidence had it that he was recently the Chief Guest at the SIS Sports where I was also present, as this is a school run by The Association of People with Disability, an NGO where I am a Hon. Trustee. Kenny and his wife Daphne Simons, the quintessential Anglo Indian couple I meet regularly at Church, exude a smartness in dress, in togetherness, in politeness and again in humility and self effacement despite the height of sports achievement this gentleman reached in his day, for which I now realize he was definitely not adequately rewarded, when I got talking with him at the SIS Sports. “Well it was so in those days, Jackie”, he submitted resignedly, and I agreed, having represented State and India myself in women’s hockey with similar lack of compensation, so different to today…

In summary, I submit that the Anglo Indians have made a mark for themselves especially in the fields of education, music, sports and national defence services, and Bangalore in particular can boast of plenty of outstanding and remarkable Anglo Indians. Many of these have settled in Whitefield, a Bangalore suburb. Some of our Chiefs of India’s Defence Staff after Independence have been Anglo Indians. Many Anglo Indians in the 60s’ and 70s’ though decided to emigrate to the UK, Australia and Canada.

Unfortunately, in post colonial India, many felt unable to blend and accept the fact that they were primarily Indians, even if they did have British blood in them. Sad to say, and I’ve witnessed this personally, many would not learn the local language or adapt with and respect the local customs and would look down in a rather superior manner on the ‘native’! These folk would refer to the UK as ‘back home’ and I know many among these, who are my friends! But those who have remained here are happily settled too and add value to their community and India!

I sure am happy to have my Anglo Indian friends around, as I describe myself anyway as a BANG-ee ANG-ee MANG-ee (Mangalorean)! A total melting pot of cultures within an ‘I’ who speaks English well, Hindi, Tamil and Kannada passably and lives enjoyably and peacefully surrounded by all…