UK and US – the best of both worlds
“O, to be in England, now that summer’s there” – Robert Browning
The London Olympics might well mark the rejuvenation of Great Britain.
Sadly, apart from the fact that we drive on the Left side of the road, and our Parliamentary system follows the British parliamentary system, there is not much that could remind us of our British legacy.
To give the British due credit, they have given us systems and processes, a working bureaucracy, a parliamentary democratic system, judiciary, a vast railway system; educational institutions including my engineering college (now renamed, a tad unfairly) in Mumbai, and done enough to discover, protect and preserve our heritage monuments. And lest we forget, they gave the world the steam engine and electricity.
India was the jewel in the crown and so it is expected that India got more attention than the other colonies. But the British left behind a good administration, institutions and infrastructure in every country that they colonised. US, on the other hand, has a more destructive legacy, considering that its international role has been that of a policeman not of a coloniser.
One feels at home in London as in Mumbai, though the former is so green, more efficient, and less crowded. The country-side is so gentle, picture-perfect.England has given me the most pleasurable living experience outside India, when I was posted for a few months in the idyllic seaside town of Plymouth (see my post http://wp.me/sZiJ9-plymouth)
In the sixties, the English language curriculum was very British. One read children’s author Enid Blyton, then Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries. One learnt about English wit and humour through P.G. Wodehouse; was sensitised by Charles Dickens’s Oliver and David Copperfield. The prose and poetry selections included the likes of Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jekyll and Hyde, and India’s Tagore; poets Wordsworth and Milton and Shelley and Tennyson. And those who made India their home: Ruskin Bond the short-story writer who still lives in Mussoorie, Rudyard Kipling the sepoy who wrote Plain Tales from the Hills and Jungle Book, and Jim Corbett, the hunter who lived in Kumaon and was called to shoot man-eating tigers. Later, one would read the world’s most cerebral spy-vs-spy author John Le Carre.
There is no other society which can be ruthlessly self-critical and still be funny. Like Faulty Towers, Two Ronnies, Yes Minister, TV serials which ridiculed the British sense of supremacy and racism, and the political class. While American sitcoms cannot progress beyond sexual innuendoes , the British ones rely on biting wit,
making the most use of their language. No one other than a Brit could make the whacky, quantum science based Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from a radio talk programme, and then a book and then a TV serial.
UK has been the birthplace of Rock, giving the world The Beatles and Pink Flloyd (my favs); cult bands like Rolling Stones, Doors, Jethro Tull, Led Zappellin, Deep Purple, Dire Straits; and many more legends of soft rock like Rod Stewart, Electric Light Orchestra, Beegees, Supertramp, The Moody Blues, whose music I enjoy, and more.
In movies, UK have given the world Sean Connery and Roger Moore as the suave, sophisticated James Bond; classics enacted by Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton,Laurence Olivier and Alec Guinness.
Personally, I have positive feelings for both UK and the US and their people.
The US has given me a post-graduate education, an opportunity to fend for myself in a new alien country and culture, adulthood’s first encounter with individual freedom of mind and action, great memories, great people and associations, and lots of cross-country travel.
US too has no dearth of artists some of who I follow and admire: The Eagles, Doobie Brothers, America, CSNY; Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Marx Brothers; and Saturday Night Fever, Tom and Jerry, Steven Speilberg, the World War II movies, Westerns and Hitchcock.
US is a very dynamic country and one can fee it as soon as one lands on US soil. One can feel the excitement in the air. US has been the land of opportunities since WWII and with its open door policies has been able to attract great talent and aspiring youth. Its easier to make friends and mingle and there is great diversity. It’s a great country to be young in.
Though, I wish they played proper cricket and proper football, and drank tea too in the US: habits that they abandoned or modified as a protest or disavowal of their own British legacy.