By Maitreyee Chowdhury
A character in one of Satyajit Ray's short stories titled 'Indigo' says " I have treated the natives here so badly that there is none to shed a tear at my passing away"..He was perhaps terribly correct, as they say realization reaches a man late, sometimes even after his death. The story goes on to show how the dead Englishman enters the body of an Indian traveler staying in a Dak bungalow at night, only to kill his pet hound so that the Indigo farmers don't stone him to death..Fear of such parameters is perhaps apt for the amount of atrocities that have been committed by the English on the Indigo farmers of Bengal. They were beaten mercilessly, starved and killed at the whims of the rulers and yet when these very farmers rose in revolt in the years 1859-60, it was a non violent movement.
Of course the Nawab of Awadh played as much spoil sport here as the Britishers, but his commanding high prices led to further atrocities on Bengal's farmers and their compulsion to grow Indigo, in spite of the miserly profits, health hazards and the fear of making the farm land go to waste....Amidst all the ghost stories that still do the rounds of those killed during the Indigo farming and their spirits doing the rounds haunting the Britishers, a small and rather hilarious story caught my attention.
It is said that the Indigo Planters had their estates and lived the comfortable life of planters on these estates. Of course their stay here assumes rather colorful proportions when it is allied with facts of them taking native women as mistresses. One can safely assume that this was done to not only satisfy the Britt libido but also polish off their sense of 'Social service' to the nation in giving birth to a breed of those whom we know today as Anglo Indians.
One such Indigo factory/estate in the district of Nuddea, was being overseen by Richard Aimes. No surprise in that except perhaps for the pretty fact that the gent in question was nicknamed as “Dick Saheb” by the locals. It goes without saying that the gent in question maintained not one but quite a number of native mistresses. To add detail to history his mistresses had been categorized under the variations of their color. They were of course given exotic names such as - Gora or Fair Anund, and Kala or Dark Anund, depending on the color the sahib preferred for whatever time of the year they rendered their services. It shall perhaps suffice to say that the localities found no traces of Dickie bird in the rather colorful Richard Aimes.
There is perhaps nothing exceptional to this piece of historical cross pollination except for the pertinent question that how did the natives get the 'Dick sahab' adage so damm correct!