Amitav Ghosh on #loyalty

It is December 1941. Arjun Roy is one of the first Indian (as opposed to British) officers in the Indian army. His battalion has just been broken in the Japanese attack on Malaya and he, with most of the battalion, is going to join the “Indian National Army” and fight on the Japanese side.

Was this how a mutiny was sparked? In a moment of heedlessness, so that one became a stranger to the person one had been a moment before? Or was it the other way round? That this was when one recognised the stranger that one had always been to oneself; that all one’s loyalties and beliefs had been misplaced? 

But where would his loyalties go now that they were unmoored? He was a military man and he knew that nothing – nothing important – was possible without loyalty, without faith. But who would claim his loyalty now? The old loyalties of India, the ancient ones – they’d been destroyed long ago; the British had built their Empire by effacing them. But the Empire was dead now – he knew this because he had felt it die within himself, where it had held its strongest dominion – and with whom was he now to keep faith? Loyalty, commonalty, faith – these things were as essential and as fragile as the muscles of a human heart; easy to destroy, impossible to rebuild. How would one begin the work of re-creating the tissues that bound people to each other? This was beyond the abilities of someone such as himself; someone trained to destroy. It was a labour that would last not one year, not ten, not fifty – it was the work of centuries.

(The Glass Palace, 2000)

soldier Calais Frethun 715.JPG(soldier, Calais, 2015)

Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

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