It’s 70 years since India became independent from the British Empire, after a non-violent anti-colonial movement that took decades and produced leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Across the subcontinent (Pakistan and Bangladesh were part of “India” during the British Raj), and in the UK, the date is being commemorated.
But for The Daily Mail, it seems, the perfect way to remember the end of British imperialism is by featuring a British aristocrat and her live-in “Indian”.
This is the heartwarming tale of June Bedani, 92, and Muthukanna Shamugam who “does not even know when he was born”, and their “relationship like none other” which is “gloriously untouched by the 21st century”. In that “Muthu” is a servant who calls Bedani “the boss” and prepares all the food, tidies the house and serves her gin and vermouth at 7pm. Who says the cocktail hour is dead? Readers will be assured to know there is still time for this loyal “houseman” to watch television.
We learn that Bedani is “a highly intelligent Countess”, but Shamugam “cannot write, struggles to read” and although he is from Tamil Nadu he does not even speak “Indian”. Mysteriously, according to the article, his only language is “still sketchy” English, which he presumably learned when he was born with a silver breakfast platter weighing down his arms. Obviously the language of Tamil, now spoken by 70 million people, is one of these new-fangled 21st century “regrettable modern obsessions”.
Luckily, locals in the village of Norton, where Bedani and Shamugam live, knows how to make Shamugam welcome – by tooting their horns at him as they drive past.
Unconvinced by this “enchanting tale”? Don’t feel too sorry for Shamugam. After all, he “takes a salary for his work”. Those Indians going on about independence should have realised how lucky they were.