Aatish Taseer in an interview speaks of meeting with the late writer VS Naipaul who he tells about his eminent journey the United States to study, Naipaul responds with worry and tells him not to go. “Indians they go to these places, they get dazzled by the institution and they come away having learned nothing but the babble.” Taseer goes on to say “We went to America as the generation before us had gone to Britain, one went if one could, it was as simple as that.”… “I have often thought of what I might have been if I had gone somewhere other than America, somewhere like Britain say, where the seeds of historical antagonism between my society and the one I was coming into had already been sown. I feel certain in Britain, I would have had a ruder awakening to history. The twoness Du Bois speaks of, in my case, of colonizer and colonized, would have split my personality, but I didn’t go to Britain I came to America.” (Taseer, 2018)
This deeply exemplifies how I have felt at times in this country. Having been brought up in Delhi’s upper-middle class society there is a reality of a-historicity. Where there past has been purged as it is too painful to reconcile. Delivered in digestible factual portions as objective truths, be they correct of not. Having arrived in London as an outsider I see a society that has largely done the same. Unable to look at their past selves critically, this society has essentially locked away anything unpleasant in their past. “The British came, they colonized, they left.” (Taseer, 2018) as it were. In the denial of it’s past India and Britain are the same, the key difference being where Britain has enjoyed the last 400 years as a largely wealthy society, India has not.
So it is interesting to me to have come here when the question of Brexit is throwing the country into chaos. Where the fault-lines of decay are visible for the first time in a long time and so the society must confront its past. The division between London and the North, of Bank, of Shorditch and the blocks of council houses littered around the city and country.
There is also coming to terms with the immigrants and the decedents of immigrants who have arrived over the decades from post-colonial societies. This is where I have come in, I have mentioned before on this blog how I have been told to “go back to my country” by strangers on the streets. This resulted in me being tremendously angry, because for me this was a consequence of this nations purposeful a-historicity. And in that sense maybe I’m looking at a mirror for the first time.
Taseer, A. (2018) 'V.S. Naipaul, My Wonderful, Cruel Friend', The New York Times, 12 August. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/12/opinion/vs-naipaul-my-wonderful-cruel-friend.html (Accessed: 3 December 2018). AmherstCollege (2018) We Shall Be a Country with No History. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bM3kmo_MIU (Accessed: 3 December 2018). ALGEBRA (2018) Aatish Taseer @Algebra. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb7AerAWDrg&t=11s (Accessed: 3 December 2018).