Social historians of late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century India have commented on the rise of the educated elite in India. They were distinct in their use of the English language, in their university education, in their urban locations and their professional careers. The upper and middle classes had an almost exclusive access to higher education, their demands were easy to meet as they were so few in number, whereas primary education for the masses was lacking. In many ways they modelled themselves upon the British gentleman, although David Potter has questioned whether this class of professional Indians could really be compared to the British equivalent, because British values were based on Protestant morals, whereas Indians had to refer to different social traditions.1 Indians who had studied abroad were more distinct than other educated Indians and yet they had to return and integrate into some type of society. This chapter will explore the varied social interactions of the students in Britain and India and see the associations and networks they forged in light of gender, race and class relations. In Bengal, these often derided babus were known as the bhadralok class.
J. H. Broomﬁeld has explained how education became the hallmark of bhadralok status.2 Education was the means for social mobility and the demonstration of status for many middle-class Indians, which was explained by the prestige awarded to British higher education and British degree qualiﬁcations. However, Rabindranath Tagore observed how alienated these educated Indians were: ‘Outside the bhadralogue class, pathetic in their struggle for ﬁxing a university label on their name, there is a vast obscure multitude who cannot even dream of such a costly ambition.’3 Many were joining the government services and other high-ﬂying careers, traditionally the preserve of British migrants, which was increasing the social divide within Indian society. British education was irresistible for so many of the Indian upper middle classes and the emphasis on higher education distracted resources from the provision of primary education for the masses. T. V. Satyamurthy has been particularly scathing about this ‘English-educated
middle class’ and described them as lacking an ‘authentically Indian character’
and being a ‘poor imitation of its metropolitan opposite’. Satyamurthy has criticized this ‘deracinated’ fraction of Indian society for lacking originality and for not encouraging or enacting any development of the Indian economy or society as would be appropriate from their privileged education.4 A journalist, Tarzie Vittachi, wrote a book in 1962 deriding the ‘Brown Sahib’ in India for sharing the same values and attitudes as the British and for not being ﬂuent in the language of the masses. Although these ‘Brown Sahibs’ acted as intermediaries between the British and those below, they were running their homes on Western lines with British food, tables and speech and thus had very little in common with the rest of the population.5 However, it was this adoption of Western values that appeared to elevate Indians socially. Concerns also came from Indian voices about the divide emerging in
society and their anxiety about the inﬂuence of British values.6 The mimicry of Western attributes appeared to put the Indian identity under threat and the use of the English language among elites as their preferred method of communication was a clear illustration of their alienation from the masses.7
Amrita Lal Roy studied in Edinburgh for two years and then spent time in America in 1882; he wrote about his experiences in the West in 1888 and explained that Indians who went to study in Britain were convinced of British superiority and thus were determined to go to Britain in order to get the opportunities to compete on the same level. However, Roy pointed out that imitation was not necessarily the most productive method of achieving individual success or political independence.8 Tapan Raychaudhuri has explained that the admiration for the West and in particular English literature and education diverted attention from the ‘unacceptable face of conquest and colonial rule’. Underlying this discourse was a concession at the superiority of British and Western civilization. It was not only Bengalis who appropriated Western understandings of racial hierarchies and unconsciously felt that mimicking the British would elevate them racially and socially. Raychaudhuri has been keen to qualify this admiration and admit that educated Indians were able to appreciate many facets of Indian life and rejected many Western values.9 Interaction with elements of British society allowed for greater comparison and understanding of ‘Indian’ values as well. Hence, they were forging a new outlook that was unique to their experiences and upbringing through dichotomous inﬂuences. Edward Shils, an anthropologist, made a study of the Indian ‘intelligentsia’
in the 1950s and refuted the criticisms that these ‘intellectuals’ were uprooted or lost contact with Indian society. According to Shils, they had strong ties to India and, even if they had Westernized parents, were mostly brought up in an Indian household with a strong attachment to their country and home. Some may have felt guilty about thinking and speaking in English and losing touch with the masses but the nature of British rule in India had made them dependent upon British institutions and British intellectual values. Shils has explained how returned students formed rose-tinted memories of Britain especially those who faced hardship when they returned to unemployment