SOCIAL INTERCOURSE BETWEEN NATIVES AND BRITISH IN INDIA.
pro Tar EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] SIE,—Will you allow one who has recently returned from a prolonged residence in Western India to enter a humble protest against certain of the " reflections " recorded by Miss Menpes at the end of the volume, "The Durbar," published by Messrs. A. and C. Black ? I refer to the "two instances which actually occurred not long ago in the Bombay Presidency" of the "caste question," which, according to Miss Menpes, is the abuse of the supremacy of the white man over the black, and which Lord Curzon is said to have attacked. The stories as given by the authoress are ludicrously inaccurate in details; but I do not quarrel so much with the exaggerated and highly coloured versions of incidents which gave pain to many Europeans and Indians at the time. The point I wish to emphasise is, is it necessary or expedient to rake up painful incidents which occurred from fifteen to twenty years ago, and to dub them instances of an actually existing "caste question" ? This question of social relations between Europeans and Indians is a difficult one, and the difficulties can only be removed (if at all) by time and tact. Some Europeans, to whose opinions weight must be given from their long residence in, and experience of, India, think that there never can be any approach to social intimacy between the races so long as Indians keep the female members of their families secluded. Such people object, for obvious reasons, to meeting Indian gentlemen at dinners or dances. Others are inclined to agree with views expressed in Mr. Meredith Towns- end's interesting essays on East and West, and think that there are such radical differences in the natures under the white and brown skins that it is not only hopeless to try to build up a system of social intimacy, but that it is far better for both sides that they should remain entirely apart. There are others, again, who believe that it is possible gradually to establish friendly social intercourse between Europeans and Indians, and that this is an object never to be lost sight of. There are scores of British ladies and gentlemen, not only in Presidency towns, but in up-country stations, who are quietly and persistently doing all in their power to further this object. They deeply deplore any incidents which tend to widen the breach between themselves and their Indian fellow-citizens, and most cer- tainly they are not "on the side of" those of their own race who are guilty of intentional rudeness or discourtesy. But what makes them sometimes despair is the persistency with which casual visitors to India often misrepresent the actual state of things. Regrettable incidents, though they may be ancient history, are quoted as instances of what is said to be happening every day and everywhere, and Anglo-Indian society is held up to scorn as habitually illtreating "the natives." As remarked above, the question of social intimacy between Europeans and Indians is a difficult one. Those who have been doing their best to encourage and foster an intimacy (though it may be of a limited nature) between the races cannot ignore the feelings of those who honestly think that these efforts are mistaken. Let me cap one of Miss Menpea's incidents by another. A few years ago there was a big official dinner at Government House, Poona. When the plan of the table was shown to the Governor, be noticed that a lady whose husband was in Bombay was placed next to an Indian gentleman, and he at once wrote a note to the lady asking her if she had any objection to this arrangement. The lady, being a member of the National Indian Association, one of the chief objects of which is to promote social inter- course between the races, replied that she would be most happy to fill the place allotted to her. I merely quote the incident as showing that the highest authorities do realise that there are two sides to what has been inaptly called the
"caste question."—I am, Sir, &c., E. T. C.