“What is Anglo Indian?” …
….is a question I’ve been asked many times. Annnnnnd that’s because no one except Anglo Indians really know. Another reason is because some Anglo Indians don’t want you to know. But don’t fret, I’m here to share a small part of Anglo-Indian history with you, tracing my family’s history for the past 100 years through found documents and photographs.
“GOLMURI – AN Anglo Indian Story”, the first part in this series begins on my father’s side of the family, dating back to the early part of the 20th Century. In subsequent articles I will trace my mother’s side, both family’s life in India and the UK, and finally their final trip to Canada where they called home for the last 40 years.
One thing I need to point out is that almost all my family members, with the exception of my cousins have died. With each passing I insisted on collecting all their memorabilia with the hindsight that I would one day make a project like this. Part of this project is not only to trace and learn from my family’s history but to leave a historical document because it is estimated that within a few decades, there will be very few Anglo Indians left on the planet.
It is estimated that there are only about 2- 300,000 self-identified Anglo Indians around the globe. Many Anglos marry outside their race and many hide their origins. As they intermarry with other races the lineage becomes diluted since most Anglos reside in Western Countries like Canada, U.S, UK, and Australia.
First… a brief and not very detailed history of Anglo Indians.
Some say they are a deliberate creation of the East India Company. When the Brits moved in to India, making friends with Mogul Rulers, waiting for the appropriate time to take over the country, Anglo- Indians were considered trusted friends and advisors. Intermarriage between the Brits and Hindu princess took place and then little Andy’s were born.
British women, who were considered useless after a certain age (during this time it was the mid-twenties) were shipped off to India to mate with the British officers. Unfortunately very few made the voyage so the soldiers were encouraged to marry Indian women.
The British Parliament described Anglo-Indians as those having been English educated and European in their habits, feelings, dress, and language. More Anglo than Indian. Neither the Brits or the Anglo Indians made any attempt at appreciating Indian, art, music, dance, or film. Many married within their own circle and other white men and women, but very few married actually Indians.
Anglo-Indian families often lived near and were employed by the British Railway, proud to remain in the comfort of a private colony where all of their entertainment requirements available within a few short miles of their homes. These colonies usually had a swimming pool commonly referred to as the tank, surrounded by tennis courts and a community near by which were most famous for weekend dances. My grandparents made enough money to hire servants (ayahs) but spoke little Hindi. Just enough to give orders .
At one point my Anglos were of great service to the British but by the time of partition between India and Pakistan, we were treated differently by both the The British who left them behind and the Indians who resented their allegiances to the Queen. They were regarded as Indian by virtue of being born in Indian but never accepted as Indian by India itself.
The 50’s and 60’s saw a steady stream seeking better job prospects and after independence in 1947 many left for Australia, Canada, the US and mostly Great Britain. It is thought in the past several years perhaps only as few as 200K remain in India and Pakistan. To stay meant having to face increasing discrimination.
ABOVE: This appears to be the marriage certificate for my grandparents George and Olive Hicks. The document is signed by my great-grandfather Walter Hicks and great-grandmother from my grandmother’s side “Someone” Lawrence. Confused. Imagine how I feel.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: (1.) This appears to be my father Hugh Hicks, his brother Ron, and his two sisters Marge and Silvia with their maid and her daughter. I have no idea who the curly hair kid is or the little baby. (2.) My grandparents Olive and George Hicks. (3.) My father, brother and two aunts with several friends when they were teenagers. (4.) My two aunts, Sylvia (bottom left) and Marge (top right) with two friends after a dip in the pool.
ABOVE: This most certainly is my grandfather George Hicks’ birth certificate, form 1907 and possibly the earliest document I was able to find.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: (1.) My dad and his brother chillin’ by the river with two Indian friends. (2.) The family home in Jamshedpur. (3.) My grandmother and my two aunts. (4.) This remains a mystery but I think it’s my my great-grandparents judging by the fact that they are still using a horse and buggy and not a car.
ABOVE: Letter of reference for my grandfather as a duplicate operator in the UK.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT: (1.) The entire family with some of the local Indian friends. (2.) My grandmother holding my father when he was very young: my father was the eldest child in the family. (3.) My grandparents posing with my aunts.