The whole of yesterday afternoon I was glued to my grandpa’s rose-wood armed chair till late in the evening watching the grandiose, spectacular, colourful and elaborate funeral ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. Yes, Great Britain not just Britain. It denotes political union of England, Scotland and Wales. Then what is United Kingdom? Ahoy! It is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland! More the merrier, stronger and greater in the comity of nations. Otherwise it would be a mere island, of course, largest island in Europe. The mention of the Commonwealth was also made as of the Queen’s realm.
Queen is dead, long live the new King Charles III, aged 72. Queen’s long life and legacy is remembered and recalled. Her greatest achievement: Long, (96 years) healthy life and longest reign (70 years). The rightful heir to the throne Charles, with all the ups and down in his personal life, had to wait in the wings this long to become Charles III the King. Let it be.
Much has been written about the British Empire. Some call it an Evil Empire. Some credit it with civilising its Colonies, leading them from darkness to light. Darkness of poverty, lack of “culture,” belief in superstition, cruel rulers, sinister customs and practices, above all lack of modern, scientific education.
Many decades have passed since British left their Colonies but how far have these Colonies developed? Colonies of the past are still blaming the British for their deficiencies and failures in developing their ‘independent, free (and even secular) countries.’ Why? I guess a bit of introspection by these past British Colonies may help. Blaming the British, years after they left their Colonies, for the failures our own rulers is unfair and wrong.
It will do some good to the present rulers of these free countries to go back in time and study the history of their countries before the Britishers colonised them. The life and times of the people, the natives, were worse than under the British. Why not write about it also? Yes, you will find both are evils but my perception is that the British are the lesser of the two evils.
As for India, if British had not come, beating their rivals in trade like Dutch, Portuguese and French, the country (Indian continent) would have remained fragmented under Muslim Mughals, Sultans and Hindu Maharajas with each one engaged in war with the other without development of their little country. Border wars, trade wars…! See Hyderabad Karnataka, Bengal and Bihar and judge. We are not able to fix the underdevelopment in these places even today after 75 years of independence.
However, this is not to justify the British havoc wreaked on the Indian sub-continent but only to say a fragmented Indian continent with absolute Hindu majority was UNITED because of the British colonisation. Yes, if at all there was any good that happened under the British this is certainly the one that saved India for Hindus. After all, united we stand, divided we perish.
Be that as it may, as I vacated that old centurion of a chair my mind was full of the British funeral to their Queen. And I recalled, rather philosophically as a mortal human being, the famous lines of the British poet Thomas Gray in his famous poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard:
Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth ever gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
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