Ambitious officials of the Victorian Raj aimed for postings in northern India, in Bengal, the Punjab and especially in what became known as the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. A career in the hills and on the plains of Mughal India was considered more satisfying and invigorating than a life among the lagoons and paddy fields of the south. Only those who passed low into the civil service went down to Madras (a province disparaged as the ‘benighted presidency’), where they were known as ‘mulls’ because they were thought to spend all their time drinking mulligatawny soup.
The Victorians would be very surprised to see how things have changed today. The south may still be the India of their picture books, of palm trees and primary colours, but it is now also the India of success. If you want to live long, live in Kerala; if you