Set on two different continents and in two different eras, Indian Ink follows free-spirited English poet Flora Crewe on her travels through India in the 1930s, where her intricate relationship with an Indian artist unfurls against the backdrop of a country seeking its independence. Fifty years later, in 1980s England, her younger sister Eleanor tries to preserve the legacy of Flora's controversial career. Below we cover British-Indian relations now.
“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”
Jawaharlal Nehru, Speech on the Granting of Indian Independence
India was granted political independence from Britain on August 14, 1947, but ties between the nations linger.
Chai, or Earl Grey? After centuries of colonial rule, Britain and India share a culture of tea-drinking. Cricket, a British invention, is the most popular sport in India. Some claim Indian curries are Britain’s national dish. India is home to the world’s largest English-speaking population: English is the unifying language of a diverse population. There are 1.5 million people of Indian origin living in the British Isles. For decades, the Indian middle and upper classes educated their children in Britain.
Today, India is the largest democracy in the world. When the nation created its constitution in 1950, it borrowed positive elements of Britain’s political system: an independent judiciary, free press, and a lower house modeled on the House of Commons. Additionally, India is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary association of 53 nations, most of which are former British colonies.
Economically, India is predicted to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2050. Foreign countries look to India as an emerging market for their goods, as well as a source of potential employees. Currently, British banks lend more to India than any other nation, and British firms account for 30% of the foreign investment in the nation. In 2013, Britain’s prime minister visited India in attempt to forge closer commercial and diplomatic ties. Commentators noted that Britain seemed to to be wooing its now-more-powerful former colony.
The influence of Britain on India, and the influence of India on Britain, is undeniable. But debate continues about the legacy of colonialism. There is living memory of the British Raj: eight million Indians are alive today who were at least 15 years old in 1947. Should Britain apologize for atrocities like the massacre at Amritsar, or the famine during WWII? How should the history of British Empire be taught in British schools? How can India reclaim its indigenous languages and cultures? What does it mean to be Indian today?
Artists, writers, and filmmakers are exploring the legacy of the British Empire in India. Perhaps the best-known is author Salman Rushdie. His Midnight’s Children tells of the life of a fictional character born at exactly midnight on August 14, 1947, the moment of Indian independence. Rushdie said, “Midnight’s Children, a book which repeatedly uses images of land reclamation, because Bombay is a city built upon reclaimed land, was itself an act of such reclamation, my attempt to reclaim my Indian origins and heritage from my eyrie in Kentish Town.”
2014-2015 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Indian Ink, Upstage