Lecture shows how India and Great Britain are intertwined

by Erik Cliburn | Editorial Assistant
Published: Last Updated on

Milind Thakar, a chair in the department of history and political science at the University of Indianapolis, gave a presentation on Nov. 18 about India’s history and relationship with the British. Thakar discussed an array of topics, including the colonialism of the British Empire in India, words that have crossed over from Hindi to English and vice versa, which Indian companies own British products and the musical tastes of Indians.

The presentation began with Thakar offering a brief history of how the British Empire spread to India. He mentioned that the decline of the Mughal Empire was crucial in allowing the British to take control in India,  dissolving the empire into smaller kingdoms.

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Graphic by Kyle Dunbar

The fact that Britain collected opium from India to sell to China also was mentioned in the presentation. The fighting between Hindus and Muslims in India and the separation of  Pakistan from India were caused by the British colonization, according to Thakar.

Sophomore accounting major Connor Clester said the relationship between the countries was very interesting.

“One thing I learned was how closely related India and Britain were through culture, food and sports,” he said. “I didn’t realize how intertwined they were until I saw this presentation. I’ve always been interested in it [Indian history], and I saw this L/P credit event. Then I figured I might as well come and learn more about it.”

Thakar explained that there are many words used in the English language today that actually originated in India, such as: bandana, khaki, cashmere, pundit, thug and pajamas. He said that the British colonization of India was instrumental in making English “the world language,” and that even news reporters would speak in “Hinglish,” a mashup of both Hindi and English. He jabbed at the term “chai tea” because “chai” translated from Hindi to English is “tea.”  Sophomore pre-art therapy major Paige Stratton thought the similarities between the British and Indian cultures were interesting.

“I didn’t really connect the parallels between India and Britain that well before,” she said. “I was really surprised at vocabulary parallels and also food. I always thought British food was very bland and didn’t know that they adopted any of the spicy food from India.”

Thakar mentioned that three well-known “British Icons,”  Jaguar, Land Rover and Tettley Tea, were all now owned by large Indian corporations. He mentioned how in 2001 British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook declared that Chicken Tikka Masala was “now a true British national dish,” and he compared the statement to Donald Trump building the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J.

Thakar discussed how British pop culture is influential in India, especially in terms of music, movies and books. He said that some of the most revered musical artists in India are Cliff Richard, The Beatles, Petula Clark and the Rolling Stones. He said that people of all ages in India love James Bond films, and theaters will even sell out of tickets. Some of the British authors he mentioned that were popular in India included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse. Despite having originated in Britain, cricket has become India’s favorite sport and is even more popular there than it is in its home country.  Many of these observations are not as relevant in the United States according to Thakar.

“It’s more relevant to people from India and Britain, so some British people already know about this kind of stuff. Indians do, but not all of them, either,” he said. “I think it’s very important [learning about Indian culture],  because you realize things like yoga, curry and other things that come from different parts of the world are adopted by Britain and America, and the other way around.”

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