Piers Brendon

What Came After

Ghosts of Empire: Britain’s Legacies in the Modern World

By

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About twenty-five years ago I was invited to tea at the Bangalore Club, one of India’s most exclusive institutions. It was all gleaming teak, crossed swords, stuffed animal heads and sepia photographs of its early days as a British united services club. Winston Churchill had been a member as a young subaltern and in the splendid vaulted lobby a glass showcase exhibited his still unpaid bar bill, dating from 1899, of thirteen rupees. The club had become a monument to tradition and even the sandwiches seemed to have been made during the time of the Raj. My host was the secretary, a charming Indian colonel indistinguishable from the English variety except by the colour of his skin. He explained the importance of maintaining pukka sahib standards and preserving the club as an enclave of the elite. ‘My job’, he told me, ‘is to keep the riffraff out.’

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