Empire’s Children, a new series on Channel 4, started last night, tracing the colonial roots of Dame Diana Rigg who was born in India in the 1930’s, where her father worked as a railway engineer.
During the programme, Dame Diana did a certain amount of hand-wringing about the fact that even the relatively low-ranked English sahibs were waited on hand and foot by an army of Indian servants.
Her conscience was assuaged by meetings with a number of Indians who had known her father and gave him good references with regard to his treatment of themselves and other natives. She told us that she now felt somewhat less guilty about their time in India, knowing that her father had not been a typical Sahib.
Her father was working for the Maharaja of Jodhpur at the time his career in India ended, following the granting of independence in 1947. Dame Diana had a photo of a social event in the Rigg house in the early 1940‘s, which included a lady known as Baiji, who was a member of the Jodhpur royal family. Rigg visited this lady, now in her 90’s, who still lives in the Maharaja’s palace.
The documentary showed Rigg being admitted to the Maharaja’s Palace where she was shown into a sitting room. Then Baiji enters the room and Rigg waves her hand at a sofa and invites her to sit there. It struck me as odd, as a guest in someone else’s house, to be inviting your host to sit down.
Clearly the ways of the Raj are not easily forgotten.
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