It’s a damn fine day in McCluskieganj. The sun is sharp, the breeze is cool, the fish is fresh and the rum has been poured. There isn’t much to do but soak in the day, at least for Bryan Mendies.
But you, he says, are not welcome. You from the city, looking for the cliches, seeking the lost romance of being an Anglo Indian in this small, hilly town in Jharkhand.
Originally founded as a ‘homeland’ for the country’s Anglo Indian community, McCluskieganj was once a bustling town of about 400 Anglo-Indian families. Now, it’s home to just a handful of them. And those who remain are tired of being treated as “museum exhibits” for the world outside.
That’s why “Uncle Bryan” is livid. He knows you will plumb his memories — some happy, some painful — rake up his past, ask questions about his family history and maybe even scratch a wound or two. And for what? Nothing. Not even your company over a drink on a fine afternoon.
The day before, he says, he spoke to someone who is making a documentary on the last few Anglo Indians left in McCluskieganj. And before that too, many journalists and writers visited the town, all in search of the same story.
“And ya’ all always write what you want to anyway,” he says gruffly. “I don’t have time for this.”
Bryan moved back home to McCluskieganj after he retired from the Indian Air Force. The house where he now lives is small — enough for an old man and his cook — and stands next to the bungalow where he was born 78 years ago. Living in the bungalow was expensive, especially on a meagre pension. So, like many others in the town, he sold his childhood home.
Minutes from Bryan’s house are the Merediths — a father and a daughter who insist they would rather be left alone than speak about a bygone era. As we sit down to chat outside his house, a bungalow peeking out from a thick cover of trees, its roof draped in creepers, Dennis Meredith seems rather reluctant to discuss the town’s lost splendour, and his own Anglo Indian identity.
“Is there anything left to be said?” he wonders.