Readers of my book After the Raj will remember I wrote one chapter called Kitty's Story about the declining Anglo-Indian community living mostly round Kolkata. I recently received a letter sent on by my publisher The History Press from Tangomaos Ranch, Laikipia, Kenya. It begins "As I write, I look out from our verandah to the endless horizon that distantly shows the outline of the Matthews Mountain Range ". The writer is Edward Taylor who was born in 1931 near Cooch Bihar of an English railwayman and an Hongkong Chinese/Armenian mother. Hence he is an Anglo-Indian. Like many Anglo-Indians he was good at cricket and hockey and well educated by the Jesuits in Darjeeling. Then at Independence he emmigrated to the United Kingdom, aged 17. Now he divides his time between East Sussex and Laikipia where his neighbours in Kenya are nearly all Welsh settlers of the 1930's or their descendants. "You will recognise the names", he writes, "Dyer, Evans, Powis, Tomlinson, still living much the same way as they have always done, and much in the same way as the India of my youth". The names reminded me of the railway community of Anglo-Indians living in Chakradharpur called Bannister, Green, Vengeance, Green, O'Leary and Payne, of whom I wrote in After the Raj. " My book, possibly aided by a sundowner sipped on his verandah, had encouraged Mr Taylor into a bout of introspection. He goes further: "Your written words have powerful wings, and can well have ranged much further than my personal world, and reached in to the deep psyche of many thousands of us who were born in India in the 1930s." His theme is "the accidents of birth". What would have happened, he asks himself, "if I had been born ten years earlier or Indian Independence had come ten years later?" He answers his own question: "I could still be living in India, living a life somewhere between Papa Wakefield [another of my characters] and Kitty Texeira: perhaps even selling mangoes at some 'Gunge' station! Incidentally, my son in law, another Oxford graduate, actually interviewed Kitty Texeira for the BBC".
Of course, we can all ask ourselves the 'what-ifs?' of history. But the Anglo-Indians, made insecure and rootless by the end of the Raj, have more dramatic answers than most.