After all, what’s the essence of independence?

My sister-in-law handed me a copy of the Khaleej Times she had got off a Dubai-Perth flight. Always keen to see the world and its history through prisms different to my own and the country where I now reside, (I am expat British, now an Australian citizen holding dual nationality), I read ‘Between the Lines’ article on the wastefulness of celebrating Independence day with great interest ‘Tell me how long the train’s been gone‘ (KT, August 11).

By John Sims, By Email From Perth

Published: Mon 16 Aug 2010, 10:19 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 10:10 AM

It certainly stirred up my emotions about the whole business of Britain’s colonial past, on which I now take an infinitely more reasoned and informed view than I could ever have hoped to achieve as an English schoolboy of the 1950s. My academic education was only fair to moderate, and my more general education was what one might expect growing up in 1950s England. I have spent the last 50 years trying to make up for the inadequacies of both.

I will confess to a mild ‘bristling’ at reading further stern words about Britain’s colonisation of India, but that soon passed. I said that emotions had been stirred by reading your article, and that is exactly why I am writing to you. Over the two hours since reading your article, I have tried to summon all the intellectual powers I possess, sadly limited ones, in order to rationalise on my response to your words, and to tell you how such a person as myself might receive them. I thought you might be interested to have a little feedback.

The pen is indeed a mighty instrument, and I do so envy your position as a journalist, which gives you the opportunity to have your words disseminated globally. If I were in your position, I’m sure I would wonder where and how my words were being read. I’m happy to tell you that in Perth, Western Australia, at 05.00 on a cold winter’s day, this ageing expat Briton has been most usefully provoked into once again reviewing the understanding he has of his former homeland’s very chequered history. There will be consequences, as my Singaporean wife’s family and friends are of mixed, and in some cases pure Indian heritage, and the subject does arise from time to time. The reading of your article has advanced my ability to contribute positively to such discussions considerably, and I must thank you for your eloquent words.

The principal theme of your article is one that aligns well with my own feelings about major nationalistic celebrations of any kind. I think that your view on India’s Independence Day’ celebrations is entirely correct, and I have great sympathy with your personal feelings, extending to empathy, as I feel inextricably involved with that part of India’s history.

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