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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sex, Maids, Englishmen and the Raj


British ruled India for close to 200 years. From the time Robert Clive won the Battle of Plessey in 1757 to 1947 they were the imperial rulers of India. Along with this is the fact that just about 100,000 Englishmen administered a vast country of 250- 350 million( the population at that time).  Most of these Englishmen worked with zeal and genuinely loved India. It is also known that thousands of them worked in far flung areas all alone, without any female company. This was a dangerous period for the lonely Englishman, as he was often prey to his sexual desires and ended up by sleeping with his maid. in effect the Indian maid became the mistress of the house . In many case these maids also became pregnant and their offspring became the Anglo-Indians.
This was the state of affairs in British India for close to 200 years and there is one movie titled "Before the rains' that gives expression and credence to this fact.The movie starring Rahul Bose and Nandita Das was produced by Merchant Ivory production and garnered over one million dollars at the box office. It was made in English and faithfully depicts the sexual liaison of an Englishman in a remote corner of kerala with an Indian maid played by Nandita Das.The role of the Englishman is depicted with great conviction by Linus roache.His love scenes with Nandita Das, who plays the maid have a degree of finesse and lovely to behold.

The movie states an obvious fact that the maid culture of maids as mistresses of lonely Englishmen was a fact of life. This aspect has not been touched by most indian writers and it required Merchant Ivory business house to produce a film and highlight this fact. The English were benign rulers and treated their subjects with due courtesy and respect. The propaganda by pseudo nationalists that the British Raj was all bad is a canard, best thrown into the dustbin. The maid- master relationship is actually a theme of the Victorian age, where we read so many tales with the maid asking the master " Sir, was I good?"
The maid -mistress culture lasted for as long as the Raj( an euphemism for British rule). After the British left in 1947, this culture did not end and the new rich and ruling class copied this aspect of the Raj. We do have tens of maid now working in the houses of the ultra rich and sexual liaisons are very much part of the scenario.