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Part One: CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH - III. Boyhood in India

Boyhood in India

MY FIRST CONSCIOUS MEMORY is of something that happened when I was a child of three and a half. I have a clear recollection of an old man, almost blind, seated on a gray Arab horse, peering to watch a line of horses galloping in training. The time was February or March, 1881; the old man was my grandfather, the Aga Khan, whose name, title, privileges and responsibilities I was to inherit. I too was on a pony, standing near my grandfather, and I was held up in the saddle by a man on either side of me. The scene was Bombay, where my grandfather, after the years of wandering and various vicissitudes described earlier, had settled with most of his family and a considerable retinue.

I was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877, but I spent the whole of my boyhood and youth in Bombay and Poona. That was a Bombay in countless respects inconceivably different from the huge, glittering, commercial and industrial city that is present-day Bombay. It is true that it was a large and prosperous port, the capital of the Bombay Presidency, one of the leading provinces of British India, the seat of a Governor and his Administration, and of an impressive judicature, and the headquarters of a not inconsiderable army. The outstanding difference between that Bombay and Bombay today lies, of course, in the two words "British India." If the capital and focus of the British Raj in India lay, in those days, many hundreds of miles to the northeast in Calcutta (and in the summers in the hill town of Simla), there was in Bombay a long and close tradition of association with Britain. Had not indeed Bombay first been joined to the possessions of the British Crown as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles II?

The Bombay of the mid-nineteenth century in which my grandfather settled was a much smaller, more compact city than its present-day descendant. The home -- or homes -- of my family covered a great deal of some of the more densely populous and prosperous parts; even in my childhood in the eighties it was a huge rambling place, taking in most of two divisions of the present city, Mazagaon and Byculla, stretching from Nesbit Road to Hassanarbad, my grandfather's tomb. This would be comparable to a large part of the West End of London or downtown Manhattan being a single enclosed estate; or to put it in terms of Paris, an enclosure in length from, say, the Madeleine to well beyond the Opéra, and in breadth from the Madeleine to the Pont d'Iena. Within this great area there were several big palaces and innumerable smaller houses and outbuildings; there were gardens and fountains and also a small zoo. There were many stables, since the equine population of the estate -- evidence of my grandfather's inherited and persistent interest in and love for horse racing and horse breeding -- never numbered less than a hundred.

The human population, of course, was far more numerous, and with endless ramifications, divisions and subdivisions. It was the household of a political pretender (in the proper sense of that word) of accepted standing. My grandfather in his migration from Persia had brought with him more than a thousand relatives, dependents, clients, associates, personal and political supporters, ranging from the humblest groom or servant to a man of princely stature, a direct near-descendant of Nadirshah of Delhi fame, who had taken my grandfather's side in the disputes and troubles in Persia and with him had gone into exile.

With the passage of years, however, it had become no longer exile. My grandfather had been confirmed in his rights and titles by a judgment of the Bombay High Court in 1886. * He was an accepted and honored leader of the community, accorded princely status by the British Raj and its representatives in India. Aga Hall, our Bombay home, was his chief seat, but he had another palace, or group of palaces, in Poona, whither we all made seasonal migrations. His life and his world, the life and world into which I was born, were feudal in a fashion far removed from, and indeed not understood by, people of the present day. He was the head and center of a loose but clearly comprehended system of allegiance and adherence; wherever he went, his home, even if only temporary, was a focus of loyalty and homage -- in the Ismaili word, a durkhana, a place of pilgrimage to be visited from time to time by as many of his associates and supporters as possible. This necessitated the maintenance of an impressive establishment -- a need reinforced by the circumstances of my grandfather's departure from Persia and by the number of dependents whom he brought with him.

His family and his dependents, his sons and their wives, his officials, servants and followers, were disposed in a series of houses and palaces around him, both in Bombay and in Poona. In course of time many of his Persian followers married Indian wives, many of them of Ismaili families. They and their children remained under my grandfather's protection and, after his death, under my father's and then under mine. When my grandfather died, there was a rough-and-ready and unofficial division of property, though not of leadership and responsibility, between my father -- his sole rightful heir as Imam -- and my various uncles and aunts. I was my father's sole and unique heir in accordance with Muslim law -- unlike my father in relation to his grandfather.

From my earliest childhood I was trained to be conscious of my inheritance, and of the magnitude of its responsibilities. My early years were in many ways difficult, even harsh. I was the only surviving heir, for my two full brothers both died in infancy and my two half-brothers in their young manhood. I was known to be delicate -a succession of English doctors had prophesied, with somber unanimity, that I would not live to be twenty-five. I was therefore watched over by my mother with extreme vigilance and trepidation. I was petted and spoiled by nurses and foster-mothers and by a group of my mother's ladies in waiting, many of whom were already elderly, in whose eyes I was the "petit prince chéri

* The judgment delivered on November 12, 1866 by Mr. Justice Arnold, contains a classic, fully detailed account of the origins of Ismailism and of the beginnings of my family.

My childhood was saddened -- and complicated -- by my father's sudden death from pneumonia, only a little over four years after my grandfather's. My father had inherited to the full my grandfather's sporting interests, not only in horse breeding and racing but as a shot and hunter of big game. In this latter pastime he was extremely skilled and utterly fearless, for his bag over years consisted not only of thousands of deer of every kind and every sort of game bird but of a great many tigers. In tiger shooting his courage was as great as his skill. When the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) paid his state visit to India, he was entertained at Aga Hall by my grandfather, and commented with interest on the number of tiger skins displayed. How, he asked, did my father get them?

Perhaps I should explain that ordinarily a tiger-shoot in India is conducted either (in the north) from the back of a specially trained elephant or (elsewhere) from a platform constructed in a tree overlooking a tiger's known or suspected haunt or lay.

"Do you go up trees?" asked the Prince of Wales, who -- being stout -- had doubtless recent and rueful memories of being pushed and pulled up trees in this most exciting and aristocratic of all varieties of big-game shooting.

"No," said my father, whose girth, though considerable, was not as great as his guest's, "I am too fat for tree work. I can't climb up. I stand and shoot."

My father's death was occasioned not by any mishap when he was out after tiger, but by a long day's water-fowling near Poona in August, 1885. There were several hours' heavy rain, the going under foot was heavy and wet and my father was soaked to the skin. He caught a severe chill which turned swiftly and fatally to pneumonia. He was dead eight days later.

This was, I can see now, the first big emotional and spiritual crisis of my life. It ended the only carefree period I had ever known. There was at once a forlorn and kindly attempt to prevent me from missing my father or being allowed to feel unhappy. But the prevalent sense of deep mourning and sadness enveloped the eight-yearold boy that I was. As his heir I was in a sense the immediate focus of a great new and pressing sense of responsibility. Our family, our émigré dependents, our Ismaili supporters all over the Islamic world deeply mourned my father's death, but they also turned to me, child as I was, now and for the rest of my life henceforth entrusted with the sacred charge to which I had been born. The change in my circumstances came home to me early and insistently. My father's body was embalmed and brought from Poona to Bombay and thence sent to be buried at Nejaf on the west bank of the Euphrates, near Cufa and the tomb of our ancestor the Imam Ali -- One of the holiest places on earth for the Shias. No sooner were these rites accomplished than a new regime was immediately instituted for me.

It was, of course, a direct consequence of my new station, but to this day I cannot understand why I did not die or turn into an utter dunce under the treatment which I was given. My education for the responsibilities and tasks which I had inherited was serious and strenuous, and it had to be fitted into a regular system of seasonal family migration. From November to April during the cold weather of each year we were in Bombay; in April and May we were at Mahabaleshwar; from June to October we were in Poona and in October we went for a short spell to one of the smaller hill stations, thence back to Bombay. For ten years -- from 1885 to 1895 -- this system continued unchanged; there was no room for a holiday for me, a month, a fortnight, even a week off the chain -- at the most a rare day. And relentlessly was I held on the chain.

This was the typical and unchanging pattern of my days: I was called between six and half past and had my breakfast -- a weak tea, bread, butter, jam and a Persian sweet. At seven, whether I wanted to or not, I had an hour's riding -- a canter or sometimes a gallop on one of the Poona rides or on the racecourse or, at Bombay, along the sands. From eight to half-past eleven I had lessons with my English and French teachers. Then I had luncheon, and I was free until two o'clock. Thereafter I had three hours' instruction in Arabic. A drive or some tennis in the garden or some sort of relaxation was then permitted until dinner at seven o'clock. After dinner came the horror of horrors. I was set down to two hours of calligraphy of the dreariest and most soul-destroying kind. My mother had been impressed by the advice -- the foolish advice as it turned out -- of Arabic and Persian scholars and pedants, who had assured her that calligraphy in the classical Persian and Arabic scripts was of the highest importance, and they pointed out to her that my two halfbrothers who had died had both had beautiful handwriting. My mother, my uncles and everyone else in our household united in compelling me to this horrible calligraphy. It was in fact a very real martyrdom for me because no one had realized that I was from birth so shortsighted that to read or write I had to hold a book or paper an inch or two from my nose, and in my vision of the world further than those few inches from my nose there was no definition and no delight, for everything I saw -- gardens, hills, sea or jungle -was a haze. The simplicity and the sadness of my affliction were for years unnoticed, and how in the end it came to be rectified I shall describe a little later.

The discipline to which I was subjected was rigid, and even the little free time that I was allowed was subject to invasion. For it was my duty, young as I was, to receive those of my followers who came to our home to offer their loyal respect. Saturdays and feast days were the usual occasions of the receptions, and my guests would sit in the garden, bowing and paying compliments, bringing gifts and receiving thanks, blessings and benedictions. My part in these ceremonies was august and ordained by tradition -- but a child resented the fact that they came in the small amount of free time allowed by the curriculum and never, never in lesson time.

Such was the regime to which, at eight, I was subjected. Perhaps it might be appropriate to give a brief account of my way of life in later years. However, I must stress that although I have not changed my basic principles in outlook, there have obviously been certain marked modifications in my pattern of existence. The Aga Khan who dined with Queen Victoria in 1898 was not quite the same person as the Aga Khan who had tea with Queen Elizabeth in 1953. But throughout this long period I snatched hours out of my daily routine as even now I snatch them for reading poetry, fiction, newspapers and literary and critical periodicals. This has been a persistent trait in my character for sixty years. In the same way I have daily given a certain amount of time to physical exercise. Until I was about fifty, the time that I gave to physical exercise was devoted to boxing, Sandow's exercises, Indian clubs, long walks, and, in the early years of the century, long cycling tours through France, Italy, Germany, and other European countries. After I was fifty I had to substitute tennis and golf for these more violent forms of exercise. And since I became sixty I have had to confine myself to golf and walking.

My social life also has naturally varied -- not only because I myself have grown older but because the economic conditions of the world before 1914 were totally different from those of today. In the spheres in which I lived forty years ago and more, social activity was intense. If not daily, certainly four or five days a week there were either dinner parties or luncheon parties wherever I happened to find myself, and there was the same round of theater and opera parties. Between the two wars this part of life very much decreased, and I might say that social engagements dropped in the ratio of twenty to one hundred. After the Second World War these social engagements have withered away -- except when my wife and I ask a few friends wherever I may be to lunch or opera or theater parties. The great social epoch was between 1898 and the opening of the 1914 war. I knew most of the members of the royal families of Europe whom I met over and over again, with the aristocracy and plutocracy that were like satellites revolving about major planets whether in London or Paris, Rome, Berlin, Monte Carlo or Cannes, Nice or Saint-Moritz. That social life is a thing of the past for me. Really it came to an end with the outbreak of the 1914 war because the society I met between the two wars was fundamentally a different one. To give an idea of the social change I might say that between 1898 and 1914 I was a guest ninety-nine times out of one hundred and only one per cent a host -- between the two wars it became about fifty-fifty and gradually it came down to be less and less; and since the last war I find that it is I who am the host nine times out of ten.

Now with the changes in my own life and the society in which I move thus briefly assessed against the background of nearly sixty years, how do I live now, when I am at home in my villa at Cannes, when we are in our house in Bombay, or when we are in hotels in London or Paris, in Venice, Geneva or Evian -- some eight months in every year?

The day begins for me -- as it has begun since my early youth -- at 4 A.M. I wake up automatically about that time and spend the first hour -- between four and five -- at intense prayer. There are no statues in my bedroom but a special prayer carpet is always prepared and my tasbee, my rosary, is always with me. At five I go back again to sleep and wake up some time between eight and nine when I have immediately a breakfast of toast, tea, and honey -- but no butter. By ten I have looked at the newspapers, had a wash, am dressed and then usually go out for a walk of anything between one and two miles, or I play nine holes of golf. If there is rain I do not go out. Until about one o'clock I am at work with my secretaries, dealing with my correspondence, writings and various business matters. I rarely leave anything undone from one day to another and usually have very little leftovers. At one or one thirty I lunch at Cannes in our own house, but everywhere else at some restaurant or other -rarely in the hotel restaurant. Lunch is my main meal of the day and consists of fish, eggs or meat, but only one of the three, and never a combination of the three -- rice regularly, two vegetables and cooked fruit, ice cream or sometimes pudding.

When in Paris or London, sometimes in the afternoon I may go to a race meeting, or I may catch up with activities such as my correspondence, or my reading. About five or six a cup of tea and then until seven or eight I usually try to read again, poetry, works of fiction, magazines of literary criticism, and I read thoroughly the morning and evening newspapers. Dinner consists only of fresh fruit. I never take anything cooked or salty at night. If the fruit is not good, then a salad. When on rare occasions I am asked to dinner, I usually ask the host to give me salad and fruit or such raw vegetables as celery, tomatoes, etc.

Both my wife and I are devoted to the theater, the opera, and the ballet. In towns like London and Paris we go to one or the other four or five times a week and usually take a few friends with us. In places like Cannes we occasionally go to the local theater during the season -- sometimes to the Nice opera or to Monte Carlo or similar places. I usually go to bed quickly after the theater. My lifelong experience has taught me that sleep is like walking -- you can derive from four or five hours of sleep as much benefit as you can from eight or nine hours, just as in twenty minutes' brisk walk you can get as much benefit as from two hours of loitering about the streets and looking in shop windows. In a word, you can either sleep slow or sleep fast. I am a firm believer in brisk sleeping. I am happy to say that while I sleep I sleep; when I go to bed I have no time to lose -- even if they wake me up for anything, I immediately fall back; and practically all my life I have never had dreams. I think that is owing to the fact that I have rationalized my sleep as I have rationalized my exercise. Those who suffer from dreams may find a measure of peace and may overcome physical and moral strain if they can so arrange their habits as to concentrate on the business at hand.

To return to earlier days and disciplines: I had three English tutors -- a Mr. Gallagher, who was Irish, a Mr. Lawrence and another Irishman, Mr. Kenny. All three were found for me by the Jesuits in Bombay. It may seem strange that my family turned to the Jesuits for my education in Western matters, but both in Bombay and in Poona there are big and important Jesuit schools, and both quite near where we lived -- St. Mary's in Bombay and t. Vincent's in Poona. All the children of our considerable household -- the evermultiplying descendants of my grandfather's hangers-on, pensioners, relatives and old soldiers -- went to these Jesuit schools. The whole household knew the Jesuit fathers well, and nothing was easier than to get their advice and help.

Incidentally, there was never a hint of their attempting to convert any of our Muslim children to their own creed. They respected Islam, and never by open argument, by suggestion or insinuation did they seek to weaken a Muslim's faith. This is one of the clearest recollections of my childhood, and I have seen the same phenomenon repeated in contemporary Egypt and Pakistan. One day a few years ago I discussed it with an eminent Jesuit, a Spaniard, and cross-examined him about it.

"What the devil do you want to come and waste your time for?" I said. "You're a missionary, and you've got all these opportunities to do your missionary work, but you never try to convert a single boy! What are you here for? What do you get out of all these huge sums you're spending on teachers and building? What's it all about?"

The Jesuit, who was an old friend of mine, smiled his sidelong smile and said: "Don't you see what we're getting out of it?"


"You are paying us. To every Muslim and non-Christian boy we give the best education we can. But we make them pay through the nose for it. For those who pay, our school fees are enormous, but our poor Catholic children get their education free. So indirectly you're paying for it, and our poor get a first-class education at your expense."

So far as I was concerned, the three teachers the Jesuits found for me were all excellent men. The schooling which they gave me was not in the least narrow or restricted. They lifted my mind to wide horizons, they opened my eyes to the outside world. They were wise, broad-minded men, with a stimulating zest for knowledge and the ability to impart it -- whether in science, history or politics. Most important of all perhaps they encouraged me to read for myself, and from the time I was ten or thereabouts, I burrowed freely into our vast library of books in English, French, Persian and Arabic. My three tutors gave me the key to knowledge, and for that I have always been profoundly grateful to Mr. Gallagher, Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Kenny.

Of them I can say nothing but good. But, alas, of the man responsible for my education in Arabic and Persian and in all matters Islamic I have nothing but bad to say. He was extremely learned, a profound scholar, with a deep and extensive knowledge of Arabic literature and of Islamic history, but all his learning had not widened his mind nor warmed his heart. He was a bigoted sectarian, and in spite of his vast reading his mind was one of the darkest and narrowest that I have ever encountered. If Islam had indeed been the thing he taught, then surely God had sent Mohammed not to be a blessing for all mankind but a curse.

It was saddening and in a sense frightening to listen to him talk. He gave one the feeling that God had created men solely to send them to hell and eternal damnation. However deep and precise his knowledge -- and I admit that in both these respects it was almost unique -- it had withered into bitterness and hate. In later years he returned to Tehran, where he became a great and renowned teacher of Islamic lore and acquired the reputation of being one of the most learned scholars in all Iran; yet to the end, I think, he must have remained the bigoted mullah whom I knew.

Perhaps it was this early experience which for the rest of my life has given me a certain prejudice against professional men of religion -- be they mullahs or maulvis, curates, vicars or bishops. Many of them I admit are exemplary people. The simple religious -- village curés in France, the humbler priesthood in rural Italy, humble, pious and gentle sisters in hospitals all over the world -- I have known, admired and revered. In England I have had many friends all my life among the Quakers, and I am aware of a tranquil sense of mental and spiritual communion with them, for our mutual respect for each other's beliefs -- mine for their Quakerism, theirs for my Islamic faith -- is absolute. The vast majority of Muslim believers all over the world are charitable and gently disposed to those who hold other faiths, and they pray for divine forgiveness and compassion for all. There developed however in Iran and Iraq a school of doctors of religious law whose outlook and temper -- intolerance, bigotry and spiritual aggressiveness -- resembled my old teacher's, and in my travels about the world I have met too many of their kind -- Christian, Muslim and Jew -- who ardently and ostentatiously sing the praises of the Lord, and yet are eager to send to hell and eternal damnation all except those who hold precisely their own set of opinions. For many years, I must confess, I have sought to avoid this sort of person.

It was strange and it was out of place that a boy, whose home and upbringing were such as mine in India, should have been submitted in adolescence to a course of this narrow and formalist Islamic indoctrination. For my early environment was one of the widest tolerance; there was in our home never any prejudice against Hindus or Hinduism, and a great many of our attendants and servants -- our gardeners, messengers, sepoys and guards, and many of those whose work was connected with buying and selling, marketing and rent collection -- were Hindus.

In addition, my mother was herself a genuine mystic in the Muslim tradition (as were most of her closest companions); and she habitually spent a great deal of time in prayer for spiritual enlightenment and for union with God. In such a spirit there was no room for bigotry. Like many other mystics my mother had a profound poetic understanding. I have, in something near ecstasy, heard her read perhaps some verses by Roumi or Hafiz, with their exquisite analogies between man's beatific vision of the Divine and the temporal beauty and colors of flowers, the music and magic of the night, and the transient splendors of the Persian dawn. Then I would have to go back to my gloomy treadmill and hear my tutor cursing and railing as was his habit. Since he was a Shia of the narrowest outlook, he concentrated his most ferocious hatred not on non-Muslims, not even on those who persecuted the Prophet, but on the caliphs and companions of the Prophet, his daughter and two grandchildren, his son-in-law Ali and about four or five of the closest companions of Hazrat Ali; all others were enemies of God and of His Prophet, who had striven to encompass the Prophet's death and after his death had brutally murdered Ali -- his adopted son and natural successor -- and Ali's sons, his beloved grandchildren. This form of Shiaism attains its climax during the month of Muharram with its lamentations and its dreadful cursings. Reaction against its hatred, intolerance and bigotry has, I know, colored my whole life, and I have found my answer in the simple prayer that God in His Infinite mercy will forgive the sins of all Muslims, the slayer and the slain, and that all may be reconciled in Heaven in a final total absolution. And I further pray that all who truly and sincerely believe in God, be they Christian, Jew, Buddhist or Brahmin, who strive to do good and avoid evil, who are gentle and kind, will be joined in Heaven and be granted final pardon and peace. I could wish that all other creeds would have this same charity toward Muslims; but -- with those honorable, humble exceptions whom I have mentioned -- this is not an attitude that I have encountered among Christian divines. It is a sad and harsh thing to say, but I believe it to be true that, in general, the higher a man's position in any of the various churches, the more severe and the less charitable is his attitude to Muslims and to Islam.

The home in which I was brought up was, as you can see, a literary one. I have referred to my mother's poetic sense. She was deeply versed in Persian and Arabic literature, as were several of her ladies in waiting and closest women friends. My mother knew a great deal of poetry by heart and she had a flair for the appropriate classical quotation -- a flair which, I may say, she never lost throughout her long life. Even when she was nearly ninety she was never at a loss for the right and apt quotation, not merely from one of the great poets such as Hafiz and Firdausi or Roumi but from many a minor or little-known writer.

One little anecdote may explain it. Shortly before she died a cousin of mine quoted one night at dinner a verse of Persian poetry which is rarely heard. In order not to bother my mother or worry her, I attributed it to Hafiz. Not at all, said my mother, that is not by Hafiz, and she gave the name of the poem and the name of the rather obscure poet who had written it.

A consequence of this characteristic was that mealtimes at my mother's table were no occasions of idle gossip or tittle-tattle. Our conversation was of literature, or poetry; or perhaps one of the elderly ladies who traveled to and from Tehran a great deal would talk about her experiences at the Court of the Shah.

A clear light shines on this phase of my boyhood. Was I happy or unhappy? I was solitary, in the sense that I had no companions of my own age, except my beloved cousin Aga Shamsuddin and his brother Abbas who were of the same age and the same outlook and were the closest and dearest friends of my youth, but I had so few holidays and so little free time, what could I have done with a host of friends? One fact stands out extremely clearly -- I worked hard, a great deal harder than most young schoolboys. By the time I was thirteen I could read and write English, tolerable French, perfect Persian and fair Arabic; I had a sound knowledge of Roman history as well as of Islamic history. I was well grounded in at least the elements of science -- chemistry and physics, botany, biology and zoology. Nor was my scientific education merely theoretical; in each of our houses I had a small laboratory and I had a set period of practical, experimental laboratory work every day.

As I have remarked, I early acquired an insatiable taste for reading. It developed rapidly from the time that I was ten or so, and when I had temporarily, at any rate, plumbed the resources of our library, I looked elsewhere. I wanted to buy books for myself. But there was one small impediment: my mother allowed me no pocket money. My cousin and I organized ourselves a brilliant way around this difficulty. Each of us put on an abba (a wide, all-enveloping cloak which is, or used to be, a universal piece of clothing in Persia and the Arab countries). Thus garbed we made our way to a wellknown Bombay bookshop. One of us engaged the shopkeeper in eager conversation, and the other slid some books into the folds of his abba. Our little device was pretty soon spotted, and the proprietor of the shop told my uncle and my mother. Naturally our bill was promptly settled, but the family decided that we should be taught a lesson. Nothing was said to us and we continued our naughty little game. We were at it one day when into the shop walked my uncle.

"Take off your abbas!" he ordered sternly.

As we did so, the books which we had stolen tumbled to the floor. Our shame and our mortification were immediate and complete, and from that day to this I don't think I have ever so much as picked a flower in anyone else's garden without telling him.

I continued my reading -- but not with stolen books. And a year or two later my reading and indeed my whole outlook on life were profoundly and permanently transformed by a small, wise decision; much that had hitherto been pain and hardship became pleasure and delight, my health was immediately improved, and I am sure I was saved much trouble and misfortune in later life. Mr. Kenny, the third and last of my European tutors, had at one time been employed by a firm of opticians. As soon as he saw me settle down to work he realized how terrible -- and how dangerous -- was the torture to which, through my congenital short sightedness and the ignorance on these matters of those by whom I was surrounded, I was being daily and hourly submitted.

It is strange and sad to recall that already, more than once before Mr. Kenny's arrival, I had in fun picked up and put on a pair of glasses left lying about by one of our family or friends. The moment I put them on I discovered the joy of a new and exciting world: a world of human beings of definite and different shapes, a world of green trees and brightly colored flowers, and of sharp, strong light instead of the perpetual haze and fog, the world blurred at the edges, which was all that an extremely myopic little boy could see. But those minutes of joy were of short duration, and were indeed forbidden, for the servants had orders to take the glasses away from me, since my family could not believe that a child could be short-sighted and thought that I was being self-indulgent and silly. Mr. Kenny immediately recognized my present plight and its implications for my future. He insisted on taking me to the firm of opticians whose employee he had been; he had my eyes tested and had me fitted with proper glasses both for reading and for distance. My uncles strove to interfere, but Mr. Kenny was adamant; he carried with him the prestige of the West, and he won the day. This sensible and kindly action saved me infinite pain and worry, and gave me a new world in which to live.

What sort of world was it to which my boyish eyes were thus opened? What sort of life was it to which I was being educated? First and most important, I was by inheritance the spiritual head and leader of a far-flung, extremely diverse community of far from negligible significance in the Islamic world. As soon as I was capable of doing so, I had to assume responsibility and take decisions. I was installed on the Gadi of Imams in 1885, when I was eight years old, and there is a photograph in existence of this ceremony, which vividly recalls a vanished epoch. A few years later I found myself exercising my influence and authority in a matter of considerable importance in the life of Bombay -- a security matter as we should say nowadays. In the early nineties there was an outburst of savage communal rioting in Bombay. I issued strict orders to all my followers that they were to avoid participation in the disturbance. The effect of my order was not merely negative; it helped to abate anger and re-establish peace in Bombay between Muslims and Hindus. This -- my first independent political action -- earned the thanks of the Governor and the Commissioner of Police in Bombay, and boy though I still was, it did much to win for me the regard of political leaders of all communities.

For by this time my household, followers, supporters, relatives and hangers-on made up an important element in the population of Bombay, and (as I shall have to relate shortly) they ultimately eated a security problem of their own. My grandfather, conscious that he was an exile from Persia, and conscious perhaps that the greater part of his adventurous and exciting career was over when he settled in Bombay, took no part in Indian politics. My father, during the Governorship of Sir James Fergusson, accepted a seat on the Bombay Legislative Council. In my maturity my political interests and ideals were to take me far afield, but the domain to which in the late eighties and early nineties I was growing up was not without its own political, administrative, social and economic problems and perplexities.

My grandfather, both in Poona and Bombay, had been able to lead a largely insulated life of his own, almost medieval in its style and pattern, the like of which has long since passed away. He brought with him from Persia the pastimes of Persian noblemen of that era, and the splendid and feudal manner of organizing those pastimes. Field sports were a major passion in the society in which he grew up; lavish racing stables were maintained; packs of hounds were bred, and there was continual searching for the best hawks to be found in Iran and Iraq. All these interests he brought with him into exile -- and a great retinue of followers who were identified with them. As soon as he settled in Bombay he bought and raced horses -- Arab, English, Australian, even Turkoman; he collected hawks and hounds anew; and the pattern of his life was arranged round these diversions. His day began at six in the morning either with a deer hunt or after birds, or -- in the racing season -- a visit to the training grounds to watch his horses being put through their paces. By nine o'clock he would be home. He would have a substantial breakfast, and then go to bed. In the middle of the afternoon he would get up, go to a race meeting or more hunting until dusk. Then he would come home and spend the night on his tasks as the leader of his community -- receiving his followers, conducting his correspondence, looking into matters of finance and the like. He would break for a fairly big meal about nine o'clock, and then work on until five in the morning, when he would have a light meal before beginning the day's round again. These were habits familiar to him and many others of the ruling class of his time in Iran and Afghanistan, and he saw no reason not to maintain them in the surroundings of his later life.

I may say, incidentally, that my grandfather had a run of success as an owner on the Indian turf, in the fifties, sixties and seventies of the last century, very similar to my own in England and France from the twenties to the fifties of this century.

My father, during his brief reign, continued much the same manner of living, widening and increasing the stud and organizing his hawks and his hounds in a fashion and on a scale that evoked the admiration of everyone who understood these matters, travelers from Europe, for example, and members of the British ruling class who held high official positions in India. It was to fall to me to adapt and modify this outlook and way of life to changing times.

It was inevitable that during my minority the British Raj and its representatives in Bombay should take a close interest in my welfare and my upbringing. My boyhood coincided with what was no doubt the heyday of British paternalism in India. The Raj seemed effortlessly secure and unshakable; its representatives and officials -- most of whom were enlightened and liberal men whose minds were in tune with the temper of the high Victorian age in which they had matured -- were serenely self-confident. Their actions and their decisions found their source in a mental and spiritual strength which their successors were to lose. The mutiny was a far-off memory, and indeed its effect had seemed to be almost totally confined to Northern India. Nationalism was only just beginning to stir in the womb of time. Congress existed, having been brought into being in the early eighties by the energy and effort of a British member of the Indian Civil Service, a Mr. Hume. A similar Muslim organization was established a little later, and my eldest half-brother was one of its founders. But few would have believed that these were the first portents of all the stress and upheaval of later years.

Relations between British and Indians were in general easy, amiable and without strain. The then Governor of Bombay, Lord Reay, was a Gladstonian Liberal, high principled, benevolent and affable, and sustained in his duty by a charming and talented wife. And the Bombay Army Commander was no other than H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, Queen Victoria's youngest son, who made soldiering his career, as befitted a godson and namesake of Arthur, first Duke of Wellington. From the first it was my particular good fortune that the Duke and Duchess of Connaught took in me a close, affectionate and continuing interest. They would come to tea at our house several times a year, and I, as a child, was more frequently asked to their home and there agreeably spoiled and given perhaps more toffee and chocolate than was altogether good for me. These visits back and forth were red-letter days for me. At Poona and at Mahabaleshwar the Duke was a very near neighbour; every day, and often several times a day, we would encounter him out riding, and we would stop and the Duke would have a talk with me. Thus in a fashion I was brought up close to the British Royal Family and in later years, when I met Queen Victoria, she said at once, I remember, that she had heard all about me and my home from her son.

Similar frequent and informal visits were exchanged between my family and the Governor; and as a boy in the Reays' time I was often taken to tea at Government House. There was in these relationships at this period no sense of tension, no standoffishness and no condescension; they were cordial and confident -- very different relationships from those that developed in later years. The narrow, intolerant "imperialistic" outlook associated with Kipling's name, and with some of his more unfortunate observations (of the order of "East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet," for example), had not then emerged. Had social life and relations between British and Indians continued to be as they were in the eighties, I greatly doubt whether political bitterness would have developed to the extent it did, and possibly something far less total than the severance of the Republic of India from the Imperial connection would have been feasible.

Queen Victoria herself was of course sharply conscious of the responsibilities, not only political but personal and social, which she had assumed with the splendid title of Empress of India. She insisted that Indian Princes and Indian gentlefolk should receive the respect and the dignified status accorded in those days to European princes and gentlefolk. The Duke of Connaught faithfully practiced her principles during his time in India. The Viceroy and Vicereine, Lord and Lady Dufferin, were, like Lord and Lady Reay, people of kind and gentle sensibility, warm hearts and graceful manners. A tone thus set could not be ignored, and Indo-British relationships in general were in this pattern. There was agreeable and unstrained social mixing at receptions, on the racecourse, or on the polo ground.

There is an outstanding example that I recall: Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, a notable figure in the Parsee community in Bombay, gave a reception for the Viceroy and Vicereine, Lord and Lady Dufferin, for the Governor of Bombay and his wife, Lord and Lady Reay, and for the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. All the leading representatives of all the communities in Bombay were present, and just as would have happened in England or any other country, Sir Jeejeebhoy, as host, offered his arm to Lady Dufferin and went into the supper room, and the Viceroy followed with his hostess, Lady Jeejeebhoy, and everyone else went after in turn. A few years later -and thereafter, until the end of the Indian Empire -- it would have been inconceivable that the Viceroy, a Prince of the British Royal House and the Governor of the great province of British India, would have gone to a reception at the house of a Parsee gentleman, however distinguished, and allowed him to lead the Vicereine in first and then have followed with his hostess. Rigid protocol replaced easy good manners -- to the grave detriment not only of social life but of something, in the end, much more important. But in those happy days Empire did not mean "imperialism" -- social vulgarity, and worse, social aggressiveness and highhandedness. It is true that the clubs were closed to Indians but that fact had none of the neurotic significance which it took on subsequently; nobody minded Europeans having a small enclave of their own, and social relations outside were on a basis of free equality.

A curious fact not without a tinge of irony is that in the eighties many Indian ladies on their own initiative were coming out of purdah and were receiving Europeans in their homes with cordial hospitality. It was the result of a spontaneous feeling among Indian ladies that they could not keep back in the general atmosphere of good will and the removal of restraint. Had this atmosphere been maintained it is possible that, in Western India at any rate, purdah would have broken down gradually among the upper classes decades before it did.

This was a happy period whose temper and outlook I have sought to evoke in some detail, for in the harsh and strained years which followed, it was forgotten. The change, it seems to me, set in sharply in 1890. The Duke of Connaught went home and his great influence for good in all social matters was lost. He was followed as Army Commander by General Sir George Greaves (reputedly the original of General Bangs in Kipling's "A Code of Morals"). * Lord Reay too retired and was succeeded by Lord Harris, a famous and enthusiastic cricketer, but a Conservative of the rising new imperialist school of thought. Our relations with Government House, though perfectly friendly, became more formal and less familiar. The whole tone of relationships stiffened. No longer were the easy, frequent receptions and entertainments attended by people of all communities. At Government House there were merely a few rigidly formal garden parties at which social mingling began to be discouraged. Less and less did Europeans invite Indians to their houses, and soon it became rare for the races to meet around a luncheon or dinner table. Even on occasions where rigid separation was obviously impossible, as at race meetings, color differences began to show themselves. Sets were formed, not on the natural basis of personal sympathy and antipathy, but on the artificial and unwholesome basis of race and color. This is an outlook against which I, who had spent my most impressionable years in a totally different atmosphere, was to react strongly.

* Years later, long after he had retired, I encountered General Greaves on the DoverCalais steamer. He was alone, and I put the conventional question that courtesy prompted: "Is Lady Greaves going with you to Paris?" To which the warrior replied, "I don't take a ham sandwich when I go to a banquet."

In Bombay in the nineties perhaps the first sufferers were the Parsees. Energetic, efficient, socially as well as commercially gifted and adapted, they played an important role in easing and smoothing relations between British and Indians. They now suffered the fate of the go-between who is no longer wanted. They were looked down on by both sides, and were more and more isolated to their own company and that of a few advanced Hindu and Muslim families. Europeans would no longer associate with them because they were Asiatics; Hindus and Muslims considered that they had thrown in their lot with the Europeans and then had been cast aside. It was a disagreeable and unjust plight.

An even unhappier change -- and much more far-reaching in its effects -- came over the official British view of nascent political feeling. Congress, benevolently encouraged in its beginnings in the eighties and regarded (probably rightly) as a sign of maturity in one or more members of the great Imperial family, was now thought to be a hostile political organization whose ultimate aim could only be to weaken and destroy the British connection. The alienation of the British ruling classes (or at any rate, the greater number of those they sent to India) from India's educated classes, who were growing in numbers and capacity, was both mental and spiritual. There was frigidity where there had been warmth; and in this process there were sown almost all the seeds of future bitterness.

What happened to the Englishman has been to me all my life a source of wonder and astonishment. Suddenly it seemed that he felt his prestige as a member of an imperial, governing race would be lost if he accepted those of a different color as fundamentally his equals. The color bar was no longer thought of as a physical difference, but far more dangerously -- in the end disastrously -- as an intellectual and spiritual difference. As long as Indians who adopted and imitated the European way of life were few, it was possible for a servant and upholder of the Raj to feel that there was little danger that his unique position would be undermined by familiarity and overthrown by numbers. But now racialism -- on both sides -marched on with giant's strides. It was soon not merely a matter of the relationship between British rulers and the Indian ruled. The pernicious theory spread that all Asiatics were a second-class race and "white men" possessed some intrinsic and unchallengeable superiority.

The infection had, I will admit, its ridiculous aspects. The Turkish Consul General in Bombay happened -- like many of the ruling and official classes in Ottoman Turkey -- to be a Bosnian, a Slav, of one hundred per cent European stock, but because he was a Muslim ignorant prejudice set him down as an "Asiatic"! Some English acquaintances took him into one of their clubs. Other members made such a row about it that the Consul General said flatly that, as a Muslim and the representative of a semi-Asiatic Empire, he had been treated with discourtesy and contempt on racial grounds, and while he would do his duties as Consul General, his contacts with the British in Bombay would henceforth be severely official and he would have no personal relations with them. The Persian Consul shared his experience and his sentiments. The Japanese, who were emerging from their long seclusion from outside contact, moved cannily; they established their own commercial undertakings first, so that when their Consul came he found Japanese clubs and social gatherings already organized and did not feel isolated or dependent on the good graces of the Anglo-Indian community -- in the oldfashioned sense of that word, Anglo-Indian.

A root cause of the new attitude was fear and lack of inner selfconfidence. A contributory factor was the presence, in increasing numbers, of British wives, with no knowledge of or interest in the customs and outlook of Indians. Fear afflicted people in trade and commerce just as much as-perhaps even more than -- officials. The rift deepened and widened as time went on. The color bar had to be kept rigid and absolute, or (so fear nagged at those in its grip) some mysterious process of contamination would set in, and their faith in their own superiority and in their right -- their moral, intellectual and biological right -- to rule others would be sapped.

It was a neurotic attitude, very different from that of earlier times when men like Sir John Malcolm, Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone and, later, Lord Ripon and Lord Reay, took it sublimely for granted that England's duty -- once she had brought peace, unity and prosperity to India and had taught its peoples the secrets of liberal government -- would be in the fullness of time to depart. There was no talk then of Dominion status, but the precedents of Canada and of the rapidly growing colonies of Australia and New Zealand were clear to see. But by the nineties all ideas of this sort had been thrown overboard as inimical to the security of the Raj, disloyal and seditious.

I recall a breakfast party which I gave in Bombay for some senior British officials. Another guest was a cousin of mine -- a devoted and loyal subject of the Queen and profoundly pro-British. But he was a student of history. He discoursed on the fact that an Asiatic race, the Arabs, had ruled Spain for five hundred years and, after their departure, had left indelible and splendid marks of their civilization all over southern Spain; and on the fact that another Asiatic race, the Turks, had established a major empire in the Balkans and around the Eastern Mediterranean and were still ruling it after several centuries. My British guests took this as an affront.

"We will not have such comparisons made," they said. "Our rule is permanent, not something that lasts a few centuries and then disappears. Even to think as you think is disloyal." Ideas like these seem strange indeed now in the 1950's, when we have seen British rule in India dissolve and pass away like early morning mist before strong sunlight. But this was the atmosphere in which my later boyhood was spent, with its unhappy, brooding awareness of deepening difference and of growing misunderstanding and hostility.

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