Fun-loving and at home in ‘Little England’
Mithi Chinoy, Times of India
HYDERABAD: You don’t see much of them these days. The Anglo-Indian community, numbering about 20,000 at its peak in the 1960s, is a dwindling community today.
Of British and European descent, this community has co-existed peacefully here since the past 500 years. Also known as domicile Indians, these are the children of colonialism who have survived the Dutch, French and English.
After WW II ended and it was clear that Britain would have to liberate its colonies including India, this well-settled and happy community wondered if there would be room for them in the new India.
Their acknowledged leader and barrister Frank Anthony united them by stressing their Indian culture and roots.
As member of the Constituent Assembly, he secured a special place for the community in the Constitution, including a reservation in parliament and some legislative assemblies.
Aiding him in his endeavour was the All-India Anglo-Indian Association, the bedrock of the community, now in its 127th year.
Immediately after Independence, there was a wave of migration, chiefly to Europe and England, but the exodus from here was to Australia, Britain, Canada, the US and New Zealand in the late 60s and early 70s.
Making the transition was very easy for them as all they had to prove was their descent from a British paternal grandfather. At the time, the refrain often heard from those immigrating was, “Wer’re selling out and going to Australia.”
The city stood helplessly watching the community known to be so full of beans setting up in a far off land they knew nothing of. As a result, today the population of this community has fallen to mere 2,500 families.
Concentrated mainly at Lalaguda, Secunderabad, or Little England, the Anglo-Indians were a really fun-loving and vibrant community.
“We are what we are,” says Sandra. “But we have become responsible and hard working.” In fact, they were more always Anglo than Indian, Western in values, dress, language and food habits.
They made successful convent teachers, nurses and secretaries and even lent class and glamour to the emerging career in the skies, air hostessing, and in modelling, as Miss World Diana Hayden proved.
Who can forget the best co-ed school, Mrs Roshier’s, where the present-day New Citi Hospital stands on SD Road? Or Miss Zinda Ferns, principal of Faust School, Miss Iona Lynch of St Ann’s High School, and the Cooper sisters, among others.
The men worked in the railways, postal department and army and were also auto garage mechanics. Today, with education given paramount importance, young Anglo-Indians are into call centre jobs, computers and teaching.
Being professionally qualified post-graduates in different disciplines, they are on a par with others.
The community here keeps in touch with relatives now settled in Little India, Melbourne through visits, donations and an annual reunion.
Besides, the Anglo-Indian Association’s community bi-monthly magazine, The Review, keeps everyone in touch with happenings here.
Have the changing times made them change their ways too? No, says Rosanne Besterwtich, secretary, Anglo-Indian Association, Secunderabad.
Now quite indistinguishable from their friends and neighbours, the women wear saris and salwar kameez, the kids disco with verve to the latest Hindi film hits and watch Bollywood movies. Though English is still their mother tongue, they speak Hindi and Telugu with equal ease.
Life is on a roll for all those who are here, since the association makes it a point to hold a function every month. Sometimes, it’s a picnic where they let their hair down, other times a puppet show or a cricket match.
But very soon, the queen of all events will be celebrated: The May Queen Ball. But before that, there’s Easter today, when the community will join in for mass at the various churches, followed by traditional fun, festivities and fare.