David Gilmour

Imbalancing Act

An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions


Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 433pp £20 order from our bookshop

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.

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