Young Anglo-Indian people researching their European ancestry

culture being preserved by Anglo-Indians

Ruchelle Barrie recalls feeling uncomfortable in class.

Her name was frequently misspelled and mispronounced, and her command of English stood out among her classmates in Mumbai, India, who preferred to speak Hindi or Marathi.

However, with that spotlight came inquiries such as Where are you from, Does your family originate from India, and What is an Anglo-Indian?

The last question was the most difficult to respond to, so she learned to avoid it by putting a public face on what was a "core aspect" of her identity.

Anglo-Indians are typically described as having British and Indian ancestry. Legally, however, it refers to Indian citizens who are descended from Europeans on their father's side. As a result, their paternal ancestors may have been British, French, or Portuguese, reflecting India's long history of colonial rule.

Ms. Barrie, now 30 years old, has British and French ancestry on her mother's side and still wonders who she is and where she fits in.

She adds, "But now that I'm more at ease with it, I want to learn more about my ancestry. To learn more about the community and its culture, she has joined a Facebook group for Anglo-Indians.

Ms. Barrie is one of several young Anglo-Indians working to uncover their ancestry and protect the cultural heritage of their community, which many fear is in danger of being lost.

In addition to reconnecting with long-lost relatives and conducting family history research, some people are also finding ways to preserve shared memories and old recipes. They are developing fresh strategies to encourage a sense of community within the dispersed, shrinking community as they go along.

Anglo-Indians preserving culture
Michael and Muna Beatty have been researching their family history.

Although there are no official statistics that reflect this, experts claim that the number of Anglo-Indians has steadily decreased since 1947, when the British left India. Only 296 Anglo-Indians were counted in India's most recent census in 2011, which community members deemed "ridiculous.".

According to Clive Van Buerle, a representative on the All-India Anglo-Indian Association's governing body, the number of their members suggests that there are between 350,000 and 400,000 Anglo-Indians living in the nation.

Particularly in the years following India's independence in 1947, many people emigrated to nations like England, Australia, and Canada. In the years since, a lot of people have also wed outside the community, which has diluted and mixed cultures.

The Portuguese colonized parts of India in the 16th century, which is when the Anglo-Indian community first emerged. The Portuguese encouraged soldiers to wed indigenous women in order to "create a community that would be loyal to the colonizers, yet at ease living in the colonies," according to author Barry O'Brien in his book The Anglo Indians: A Portrait of a Community. Later, the British used this tactic as well.

According to scholar Merin Simi Raj, "the fusion of eastern and western cultures" is what gave rise to the Anglo-Indian identity.

However, this blending of cultures has also led to apprehension and alienation.

"Historically, the community experienced discrimination from the British due to their mixed racial heritage and skin color. Because of their allegiance to the crown, they were also regarded with suspicion by native Indians, according to Ms. Raj.

That sense of exclusion hasn't entirely vanished, as evidenced by Anglo-Indians' outrage when their two parliamentary seat quota was eliminated in 2019.

According to Mr. Van Buerle, "it's like your identity isn't recognized by your government.".

While Anglo-Indian organizations push for political representation, individuals like Ms. Barrie are building online communities of kinship and support.

According to Ms. Barrie, she grew up in a "pukka Anglo-Indian home," enjoying devil chutney, meat ball curry, coconut rice, and country music legends Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. She claims that even then, she is eager to discover more about her neighborhood, including details about long-lost relatives and colonial dish recipes.

Many young people are searching for "easier, simpler and stress-free ways" to prepare Anglo-Indian food, according to Bridget White-Kumar, who has written several cookbooks, the most recent of which includes "easy recipes to cook Anglo-Indian grub in a microwave oven.".

The Anglo-Indian community has influenced and contributed to Indian cuisine, so it's crucial to pass down our family recipes to the next generation in order to preserve them.

Anglo-Indians preserving culture
Books by Bridget White-Kumar on Anglo-Indian cooking are numerous.

Many people look into their family history in an effort to better understand who they are.

Muna Beatty and her husband Michael, who live in Bangalore, use genealogy websites to find old records like birth, death, and marriage certificates and travel to military facilities, places of worship, cemeteries, and old colonial homes to learn where their ancestors were born, worked, or rest.

The group has since established a WhatsApp group called Finding the Beattys. According to Ms. Beatty, the quest has helped them re-connect with family members all over the world.

The activity has improved Marcelle Britto's comprehension of her mother's special childhood. Her mother, who descended from Irish immigrants on her father's side, lived a very different life than she did. She was welcomed to tea parties and ballroom dances and grew up in a huge colonial bungalow with dozens of domestic servants.

Ms. Britto has been able to research her family history back to the 1700s. "My own mixed identity and my mother's stories now make more sense," she claims.

According to Mr. Van Buerle, up until a few decades ago, Anglo-Indians were interested in learning about their ancestry because it might enable them to immigrate abroad. However, as the community successfully integrates in India, fewer people are emigrating there.

According to him, the desire to learn more about one's past and ancestry is now driven by a desire for meaning rather than a need for proof.

Anglo-Indians preserving culture
Grandparents of Cecilia Abraham's paternal side at her aunt's wedding.

Anglo Indian Stories is a social media project run by Hyderabad-based Cecilia Abraham, 47, that encourages users to share old memories and family photos.

Ms. Abraham claims that despite having a very "Anglo-Indian upbringing," she was unaware of her family history. Her father preferred the term "an Indian Christian" to describe himself.

She claims that one of the myths about the community is that Anglo-Indians are uneducated and excessive drinkers and partygoers. "My father didn't want people to perceive us that way. ".

The project's contributors have provided descriptions of life both before and after independence as well as their families' connections to the Indian military and railways. Some people express their pain at having cut off contact with their immediate family.

Ms. Abraham desires that her initiative will encourage pride in self.

She explains, "When we like something, we talk about it; we look after it. And that is how things are preserved for future generations, including culture.

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