It’s never been different as an Anglo-Indian
Shane J. Alliew
Kollam: “No, I have never felt any different as an Anglo-Indian; in school, college or among my colleagues,” says 26 year old Andrew D’Crus, as I begin an interesting conversation with this young man of many talents.
The Chennai based entrepreneur, hailing from Kollam, formerly British Quilon, in Kerala runs a successful visual effects studio, Mindstein along with two of his college batchmates Arun Lal Pillai and V Babu.
The trio began as freelancers in 2012, after having completed their Bachelors in Visual Effects from ICAT, Chennai. Their first was a Malayalam film. The next year the struggle continued as they merely bagged a single film. Then Mindstein happened; a registered company and their big break came with Pathemari in 2014.
It was a storm scene that the team had created in the film, which actually brought about a storm of changes in their lives.
“Today, even though small, we work with the top editors and directors in the Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu film industry,” opines Andrew, “we have come a long way and gradually seek to expand our base” he adds.
The Anglo-Indian youth was born and brought up in Kollam having completed his education from the Infant Jesus Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School, a premier institute.
“Yet, I was the only Anglo-Indian student of my batch; I never had any Anglo-Indian friends in school. Yes there were a few juniors, perhaps in total just ten Anglos in the whole school,” opines Andrew. He assigns this to the fact that most of the people of the once vibrant community had moved out of Kollam “in search of greener pastures.”
“Even tough there were quite a few Anglo-Indian teachers in school, their children had moved out or were in the process of relocating,” reports Andrew. “They left to find work, move into college and yes even emigrate,” appends the young man.
When among his non Anglo-Indian peers the only thing special about him was that he ‘spoke in English’ and this helped them ‘improve their English communication skills (especially speaking)’.
“It’s not like that my friends did not know English, but the ability to speak the language flawlessly, they said, I helped them develop,” adds a modest Andrew.
“But I suppose it worked both ways,” he feels. “Whilst I spoke with them in Malayalam many a times, or even in Tamil, their diction and pronunciations helped me to improve my skills, for which I am deeply indebted,” he appends.
So would he call this the perfect integration of the community into mainstream India, I ask him.
He smiles and declares, “Integration of the Anglos began decades ago. I believe even before I was born. Hundreds of people declared that India was their country of birth and they were first Indians, then Anglo-Indians. For the others, it was just getting a better opportunity abroad and so they left.”
He queries, “Would any other non Anglo-Indian in India be asked, ‘why are you leaving to work and live in the Gulf, or Canada or Australia? It’s the same across the board, when a better opportunity arrives it’s a choice one makes. So I feel that projecting the exodus of the Anglo-Indians may be a bit far stretched.”
Currently on holiday in his birth place Andrew declares that his ‘first love’ is his home in Tangassery, the Anglo-Indian, Eurasian part of Kollam.
Lovingly called Tangy, he says he finds this place ‘so personal, affectionate and warm’; unlike Chennai, a mega-city, that no doubt has its several charms but is ‘cold and impersonal’.
How does he justify this emotion, I ask him. The young man reports, “If I walk down this street, right up to the Tangy arch, I will have at least five or six people greet me, stop me and ask me how am I and enquire about the welfare of my parents, especially my dad, who is not keeping very well in health. But in Chennai, even as neighbours we would not know each others names, let alone anything else!”
Would this be because he is an Anglo-Indian or because Kollam is a small town, I ask.
Andrew laughs and declares, “I think it is because of both reasons. Ours being a small town and particularly this part of it, people of our community are well-known and even respected a lot.”
Once upon a time Tangy was the hub of the community but today there are merely a few families left. To this enquire of the youth, what does he miss most about the community and its activities?
“Oh yes, the social life,” he chips in. “Sundays were special days. After the 5 p.m. English mass, which comprised of mostly Anglo-Indian in the choir, almost all the Anglo-Indians walked down to the house of Arnold Fernandez (the then President of the All India Anglo-Indian Association, Kollam branch) for a few rounds of Tambola. It was indeed a merry party!” asserts Andrew.
Apart from this he recalls the May Queen Ball dance, the carol singing, the Christmas dance, the choir practices (which incidentally is still being held every Saturday evening in his house), the Christmas tree party and the Annual General Meeting among the main social attractions.
“Many of these functions have discontinued,” laments Andrew, “even though the Christmas tree and carol singing have somehow pulled along, the others have just died out.”
Yet the positive youth sees lot of good as he says, “our Christmas tree today is an open invitation, not only for Anglo-Indians but for others too. So it becomes an excellent platform for non Anglo-Indians to get up, close and personal with our culture and lifestyle.”
Andrew had taken an active part in the carol singing this like, like the other years, with a merry band of carollers moving from house to house. The only lament is that the group now consists of many younger children and teens, as most of the adult seasoned singers are no longer living in Tangy. Also there are not many Anglo-Indian homes to visit, so the carollers visit other Christian homes.
In the year 2000, Tangy had its first Infant Jesus Anglo-Indian H S School Anglo-Indian bash, where all past and present Anglo students, staff and teachers had met for a few days. It was a global reunion, wherein people of the community flew in from various cities in India and abroad. An absolute Anglo-Indian gala party!
“My uncle Paul Grenville D’Crus runs the Tangy Australian Anglo-Indian Association, in Melbourne and this was one of their initiatives,” says Andrew. “The event has been the most memorable one in many years,” he includes.
The only other exclusive Anglo-Indian event Andrew has attended has been the AGM of the All India Anglo-Indian Association held in Chennai in 2009, where he ‘connected with other Anglo-Indian youth’.
In a way I ask him, has he also not moved on from Tangy, now settled in Chennai?
He replies, “Given half a chance I would love to work and operate from here, maybe one day I will. As my work is very desk based I can work from any where and now with modern technology, the world is a mere digital global village.”
Andrew does confess that he visits Tangy at least one a month, to spend a few days with his parents, catch up on old friends and get into ‘the rhythm of working and living between two cities’.
As we conclude this conversation, he tells me, “one has to go with the flow of life; evolution and adaptation are two of the greatest skills of a human being. The same can be also said of the Anglo-Indian community. This is how we move on.”