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div.yiv8593037141WordSection1 {}--> The view from sunset boulevard  DEEPA 
ALEXANDER      The Anglo-Indians of Madras — A Fading Presence portrays the 
triumphs and trials of a fast-disappearing community For a brief hour on a 
crowded evening, you could almost relive that greatly-loved, but 
slowly-vanishing world of Anglo-India. As part of Madras Week celebrations, the 
Press Institute of India had organised a screening of The Anglo-Indians of 
Madras — A Fading Presence, an in-house production of Anglos In The Wind 
(AITW), the Chennai-based international magazine for the community.   Played to 
a crowded audience, the documentary, directed by Harry MacLure, editor, AITW, 
and Richard Connor, Superintendent, Customs, was more than just an attempt to 
evoke nostalgia for a time and people fast becoming a memory. It also threw the 
spotlight on how this vibrant community has merged into the mainstream without 
losing its identity, and has enough fire to see it through the next few 
decades.      Urged by city chronicler S. Muthiah, Harry MacLure, who produced 
the documentary and sketched the lovely vignettes featured in it, says, “In the 
pages of the AITW quarterly are stories of how we once were... But, the 
magazine also looks at how we want to take the community forward. There was a 
time when Anglo-Indians needed no help in finding spouses, but now we have a 
bureau that has facilitated 45 marriages. This is a sign of the changing 
times.”   Unlike MacLure, who grew up in Tiruchi and settled in Chennai, Connor 
spent his childhood in the Anglo-Indian hubs of St. Thomas Mount and 
Royapettah. Connor, who also scripted and researched for the documentary, found 
himself traversing the city’s old Anglo-Indian haunts as the story’s narrator.  
 A human legacy of colonialism in India, the term Anglo-Indian has changed over 
time to now denote people of mixed lineage dating back to a period when 
European powers moved from commerce to conquest and intermarried with the 
natives. “A people”, as the Anglo-Indian novelist Allan Sealy wrote, and Connor 
quotes in the documentary, “who spoke their father’s tongue and ate their 
mother’s salt”. The community that thrived during the Raj, manning the Railways 
and playing a significant part in education, post and telegraph, airlines, 
medicine, sports and entertainment, was left in a twilight zone when the 
British exited in 1947.   Within the next four decades, Anglo-Indians migrated 
in droves, mostly to Commonwealth countries, and were remembered only in sepia 
photographs and the ebbing memories of those whose lives they’d touched. It was 
in search of the last of them who still continue to call Chennai home that 
Nicholas Moses’ camera pans on.   The narrative begins in San Thome, once home 
to the city’s Luso-Indians (Portuguese and Indian ancestry), who lived in 
garden houses and “adapted to speaking English once the Portuguese faded from 
the colonial scene”, according to Prof. Eugenie Pinto.   Surnames such as 
Pereira and Demonte now live on in the misspelt boards that point to roads that 
run along the coast. “A life of gentility, fraying at the edges,” as N. Kumar, 
a resident of Leith Castle Road, puts it.   Connor travels to the congested 
streets of George Town, through the quaint house of Keith Rodrigues of Ashok 
Leyland, who has lived here for 60 years, and says a bandwagon during Christmas 
is as rare as the sparrows that populate his house. He stops to chat with 
Charlie Sequeira, an auto driver, and Dennis Andrews, who heads the 
Anglo-Indian association here.   Felix Daly of Royapettah, an HR professional, 
speaks about their memorable get-togethers; drummer Maynard Grant on the 
community’s impeccable sense of music; Dr. Bryan Peppin of Pallavaram on the 
iconic houses of Veteran Lines; Sudhin Prabhakar and Eva Fonceca on Perambur’s 
Foxen Street residents; Gwen Gamble on being the grand matriarch of St. Thomas 
Mount; and Robert Gomes on the vestiges of a glorious past in Royapuram. While 
the story is as much about a sense of loss, it also finds a silver lining in 
the neat grid-like streets of Madhavaram, where the community continues to 
flourish, somewhat.   “While the older lot ask where all the Anglo-Indians have 
gone, the younger generation questions who is an Anglo-Indian,” says Connor. 
“We didn’t have the tenacity to hold on — it’s almost led to us becoming a 
footnote in history.” MacLure says AITW hopes to make more documentaries 
through crowd-funding on other Anglo-Indian centres across India.   The 
documentary ends with Madras-born singer Engelbert Humperdinck crooning ‘The 
Last Waltz’, as the Royapuram Railway Institute, once home to many an 
Anglo-Indian festivity, is demolished and a train pulls out of the station. As 
Connor concludes, perhaps “it’s time to move on”.   (The documentary will be 
screened again on September 3, 5.15 p.m. at Four Frames, 30, 5th Cross Street, 
Lake Area, Nungambakkam.)    Sent from Yahoo7 Mail on Android          


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