Bangalore history: A 1949 letter by a missionary on anglo-Indians

How were Anglo-Indians perceived just after the Indian independence? A friend on facebook recently shared two sides of an old postcard written by a missionary in 1949 by a missionary KE Munson to a friend of hers in the USA. I was fascinated by the postcard, her opinions and since it’s so difficult to read, transcripted it here for history geeks like me. Read, enjoy, feel free to share! 🙂

From: K.E.Munson, Baldwin Girl’s High School, Bangalore 7-10-1949

To: Miss Hatte Hughes, New York, USA.

Dear Miss Hughes,

How very good of you to send me such a lot of lovely cards. I had forgotten what lovely cards they have at home. I have been giving them out among our mission workers, a dozen or so to each person and they will send them to other friends when the time comes. The do appreciate them so much.

I have kept some for my scrap book, those by Grandma Moses, Currier and Ives, and a few others. Most of them are snow scenes, maybe because I do miss the snow and the cold weather. I really do not approve of the card habit among our Christians when postage costs so much and means that much less to eat. But of course most of the cards are delivered by hand, and in any case take the place of presents that would cost a great deal more. And they are so beautiful, and are treasured for years by those who receive them.

Today a lady is coming to look over the cards and choose her share.

She’s an Anglo-Indian, with some Indian and some European blood. In the early days the East India Company encouraged the men to make temporary unions with Indian women. When I first came to India 30 years ago I knew women who were still receiving pensions as the children of E.I.C officials. The British government paid them. Then of course each war always leaves a lot of children of mixed blood, especially in places like Bangalore that have been military centres. Then too there probably have always been some real marriages, though these have ben difficult among the Hindus because of the caste system.

Naturally the Anglo-Indians, A-I’s as we call them, resent – and justly so – any imputation that their origin has not been honourable.

I suppose that all of them, or at least almost all have quite lost track of their ancestry. That seemed to have been proved true when so many girls wanted to go to America as brides of the G.I. They had to prove that they were either 51 per cent white or 51 per cent Indian as Indians and English had a quota system then. Unless the mixture was in the last generation it was almost impossible to prove. Most of these A-I girls were fair and beautiful, but unless their father was a British soldier and their births registered in Somerset House, they could do nothing about it. You see in the old days, until World War I, passports were not required and birth certificates were rarely saved.

It was these A-I families, many of whom were on the railroad, that William Taylor hoped would evangelize India.

In most cases, the father was or had been, an covenanted hand from Britain, and the mother an A-I. In those days the policy of the Methodists towards the Anglicans was definitely one of proselytism. These people were gloriously converted in Old-fashion Methodist style, and went out to their stations, often in remote railway centers, to start a little church. Most of our mission stations in the early days were started in this way. Later the missionaries came to build on the foundations already laid.

Then about 30 years ago our attitude changed, and we seemed to try to bolster the prestige of the Anglicans. Our schools were filled with A-I girls whom we educated for a very low fee. Of course some were converted and joined the church but we made no effort to hold them. When they married and their children were christened it was in the Church of England. Naturally C.o.E began to look down on us rather as servants, for we so willingly trained and educated their children for them.

Now the situation is changed.

Indians have control, and most of the A-I’s have left India. There really does not seem to be any future for them here. The Government no longer pays for the church expenses as they did when it was the established church. Of course it was only the C.o.E that dipped into the public funds. Money from Britain is a mere dribble. The Anglicans are in a terrible state for only the poorest (and darkest) A-I’s are left and these have never been taught to give. They are having to close churches and schools everywhere. No one knows what will happen in a few years.

These A-I people have usually extremely fine folks.

They are mid-Victorian in their ideals and conduct. Our finest mission workers came from them in the past, but of course when our policy changed we did not get new recruits. This lady, who is now retired, has worked for the mission for 44 years. Her family have all gone to England, but she waits on here, trying to do all she can for the church she loves. She has been associated with me since I came to India. She knows Kanaara perfectly, and she is coming to help me drill some missionaries who are taking their language examination, next month. She is only a little darker than I am, but others of her family are much darker.

Another A-I nurse with whom I shared your cards, a member of our church, is as dark as any negro.

Her father was pure Scotch, her mother must have been a South Indian, or an A-I not far removed from the Indian. She is so very fine, and so efficient, and so anxious to help others. But they are all very sensitive about their colour, and their feelings are very easily hurt. Do remember the Anglo-Indians in your prayers as they suffer here under an unfriendly government, or seek homes elsewhere. They are truly without a home, for the English and the Indians both look down on them. They have come up through great tribulations and the end is not yet.

I wonder what you are doing now. When I saw you, you were typing for various people. You seem to be an institution among Methodists. Isn’t Miss Butler wonderful? She is still going strong and must be nearly 90. So many missionaries who know her remark, “She is timeless”.

I am transferred back to Bangalore, and am living in the school (for A-I girls) though I am trying to get the lovely little house I had for 10 years. The Indian lady who is there is trying to get a place in another part of town and the landlord is very anxious for me to come. But houses are scarce, and are rationed. Since I have a place to stay, my need does not count as urgent. I’m in literature work again,

Thanks for everything,


K. Munson.