On August 24th ,1608 the British East India Company landed in the port of Surat,
Gujarat. They came into the country as traders of spices and other commodities. At that
time, no one could have fathomed the impact that these traders and the British would
have on the sub-continent, effects of which can still be seen in India today – be it in the
way we talk, what we wear or even the way we perceive the world, and the way the
world perceives us.
At first, the British came into India as simple merchants. But the longer they stayed, the
more they realized the richness that India had to offer, and how they could easily exploit
it. India has always been a land rich with resources and culture, the former the British
loved and the latter they didn’t really care for. The East India Company had one simple
goal, and that was to make maximum profit with minimum loss and the way they best
saw that they could achieve this goal was through commercially exploiting the country,
even if that was at the cost of the locals of this land.
Over the years, the British engaged in many heinous crimes attacking both the people
and the culture of India so as to ensure that they remained oppressed and abided with
what the British wanted. One such act being changing the Indian Education System,
they encouraged and promoted the English language, or rather completely obliterated
the existing local languages and replaced them with English, as that was more
convenient for them. They could now hire Indians at low posts and lower salaries,
therefore, increasing their profits. This however, proved to do more harm than good for
the British, as now Indians were able to share their ideas of freedom, revolution and
breaking free from British Rule with one another in a common language. The change in
the Education System also made Indians aware about the different struggles of
Independence that various other countries such as France had and how they had
persevered through it and eventually overthrew the monarchy and became an
The introduction of English as a common language in India actually turned out to be a
boon in disguise for Indians. English had an extremely positive impact on India,
especially in the modern world. Post-independence India was able to use English as a
language for many official purposes as it was understood by most people but was still
alien enough to ensure that no particular region or linguistic group had an unfair
advantage over any other group in India.
Post-independence when India again opened its doors and markets for foreign
investment, we received an extremely positive response from foreign companies and
investors. This was mainly because they realized that it would be easy for them to
set-up their companies in India. Since most Indians spoke and understood English it
would be easier for these foreign companies to be able to communicate and get tasks
done in our country. This helped the Indian Economy grow, and recently India has
become the 5
largest economy in the world, which is one position higher than that of
our colonial oppressors.
Also, during the Cold War period, many Indians who had chosen to migrate to foreign
countries to seek out better opportunities, decided to move to the United States of
America (US) as opposed to a country like the Soviet Union, which was equally
powerful and provided just as many opportunities as the United States. It was also
closer to home, unlike the US. Yet most Indians chose the United States mainly
because the most common language in the US was English, a language that we Indians
were already well versed with, courtesy to our British oppressors.
Now, due to this migration of Indians from India to foreign countries, the world got to see
and learn about a whole new side of India and Indians. Indians were no longer being
viewed merely as a group of people who were once oppressed by a foreign Imperial
regime, but we were now being seen as a group of smart and intelligent young
individuals, who with their knowledge and skills had so much to offer to the modern
world. Today, some of the biggest companies in the world such as Google, Microsoft,
Twitter, Starbucks and so on are being led to greater heights by Indian CEOs.
Even in some of the most powerful countries of the world such as the United States of
America, their Vice-President, Kamala Harris, is a woman of Indian Origin. Ironic as it is,
one of the most prominent politicians in the United Kingdom today is Rishi Sunak who is
also of Indian Origin.
Introduction of English in India back in the 1800s did not just help form a new
independent country but also helped in improving the modern economy of our country
as well as foreign countries, where even today Indians are seen as model minorities
greatly contributing to the growth of these countries.
The British are often credited for initiating railroads in India. However, what’s less
spoken about is the fact that they did not do this to better the conditions of India or
Indians but rather to further their own commercial and economic interests. You see,
during this era, India barely had roads let alone any sort of transportation system. This
made it extremely difficult for the British to be able to make huge amounts of profit as
most of their money was going into transporting their goods from one part of the country
to another. Therefore, to reduce costs of transportation and increase profit margins, the
British decided to build what we now know is one of the most elaborate railway
networks in the world, the Indian Railways. But with time these railway systems too
proved to do more harm than good to both, the Indians and especially the British.
Now almost all the grains and spices produced were being transported to ports and
harbors so that they could be shipped away to foreign countries where they could be
sold at exorbitant prices. As a consequence, there were barely any grains left in India
for Indians to consume which led to many famines and caused many deaths of Indians.
With time, soon the railways were used for not just transferring of grains and spices, but
also to move troops easier and faster to and from remote parts of India so as to
suppress any sort of revolts or mutinies in their nascent stages before becoming a
bigger headache for the Company. What the British failed to take into account is that
when they were transporting troops from one part of the country to another, they weren’t
just moving soldiers across states they were also moving people who had their own
ideas and had heard about the ideas of the people who were revolting. They were
unintentionally spreading ideas of independence and freedom from one part of the
country to another. This is what would eventually lead to the downfall of the British
Empire in India and give birth to a new independent country.
Now after more than sixty years of Independence and the British leaving India, the
Indian railways have turned into the second largest employer in the country, producing
millions of jobs and helping many Indians provide food to themselves and their families.
When the British laid down railway tracks in India back in the 19th Century, they never
could’ve imagined that these railway tracks would not just connect one region to another
but also unite the people living in different parts of the country, and eventually this unity
is what would lead to India gaining its independence and the fall off the Great British
Empire in India.
In 1608, when the East India Company first landed in India, no one could’ve imagined
the damage this small group of traders would cause, and if it wasn’t for the direct and
indirect oppression that the British caused, be it in the form of railways or replacing our
colloquial languages with English, you would probably not even be reading this article in
English right now, and more importantly we would definitely be living in a very different
country and an even more different world today.