In India the British Raj was actually quite a bit the Scottish Raj.
There are Scots lurking in our midst we might not even be aware of because they slyly have names that don’t begin with Mac. William Dalrymple, for example. Tom Alter is of Scottish ancestry though born in Mussoorie by way of America, As was Hunterwali Fearless Nadia again by way of Australia. And there are a hordes of Indians with Scottish connections. You just have to go to the Glasgow Auld Students of Kolkata reunion to discover that.
Though the referendum rejected independence, the very fact that Scotland was pondering its ties with England means the time has come for us in the ex-Empire (and its last outposts like the Bengal Club and Gymkhana Club) to separate our Scots from our Brits.
Here’s the Firstpost guide to everything Indians know about being Scottish that is not Macbeth, who will hands down remain the most famous Scotsman everywhere because of English literature class.
Scottish Church everything: This bit’s historical but it has Scottish in the name so it’s an inescapable reminder that the British came with a whole lotta Scottish baggage. The first three governor-generals were Scottish. There’s a Scottish Church College in Calcutta and Bombay Scottish School in Mumbai. In fact there were so many Scots running around the Empire, there was a need for a Scottish Cemetery in Calcutta till the 1950s. Those Scots – wanting their own spot even in death!
Whisky: Scotland is where real whisky comes from. Johnnie Walker, from Kilmarnock, Ayrshire in Scotland is an Indian ritual of adulthood. It was also one of the main reasons to suck up to an NRI uncle or auntie going through duty-free. In the glorious days of liberalization we have expanded our Scottish horizons and discovered single malts. They are mostly unpronounceable words starting with Glen.
Kilts: We imagine Scotland to be full of men in tartan skirts walking around saying Bonnie this and Bonnie that while doing whatever they do with their sporrans and ghillies. And thanks to all those Scottish missionaries who came to India, we still have quite a bit of tartan left over here even though those missionaries might be long gone. Tartan skirts survive happily in school uniforms in India. Thankfully not that many bagpipes do.
Shortbread biscuits: Every Indian with an auntie in England ate shortbread biscuits oozing with butter out of a tin with a tartan pattern. Actually those biscuits came from far afield including Denmark but Walkers Shortbread Ltd was THE name to watch out for. Shortbread proved that with correct marketing and some colonial clout you could make a legend out of basically flour, sugar and butter. As long as there was lots of butter.
Braveheart. He’s actually William Wallace, a 13th century Scottish warrior who led his people against Edward I of England. But we just know him as 5-Oscar Braveheart including one for all that blue make-up. Of course as John Oliver points out on Comedy Central the Braveheart we know is actually an Australian anti-Semite millionaire. But Mel Gibson is for better or for worse our face of Scottish independence.
Beam Me Up, Scotty: Scotty on Star Trek, the hot-headed third-in-command was the one character that was all about being Scottish. He said things like “cannae take it no more” while he kept beaming everyone up onto the Starship Enterprise. Turns out not only did no one actually say “Beam me up, Scotty” in the television series, James Doohan who played him was Canadian with a penchant for accents and just chose Scottish because he thought they made good engineers. The Scots are probably getting a little tired of being represented most famously by outsiders. At least they’ll always have Sean Connery, an actual Scottish superstar. Sadly he’s most famous for playing an English spy.
Robert Bruce: Try, try and try again. Robert Bruce was the exiled Scottish leader holed up in a cave who apparently got inspiration to fight another day as he watched a little spider doggedly spin a web. And off he went to win the Battle of Bannockburn. It may have been an entirely made-up story since Sir Walter Scott wrote it some 500 years after Bruce was dead but its lesson is still drummed into the heads of schoolchildren everywhere as they struggle with their algebra homework.
Alistair Maclean: We might not have thought of him as Scottish but he’s a bonnie fide Mac. Every Indian has grown up on dog-eared copies of Guns of Navarone and Ice Station Zebra and Where Eagles Dare. Unlike James Bond thrillers they barely had a whiff of sex in them and Indian parents thought of them as rugged adventure stories of granite-faced tough guys good for building characters without adding naughty thoughts into hormonal teenaged minds. For that we had to wait for an American named Harold Robbins.
Andy Murray: And you thought he was just a tennis champ. Andy Murray became the 11th hour advocate for Scottish independence by tweeting his support for it. “Left it a wee bit late there,” responded a fan. Of course Murray does not even have a vote because he lives in Surrey. But what the heck, he remains Scotland’s most famous nationalist ambassador having even said according to The Daily Telegraph he’d support “anyone but England” for the 2006 World Cup.
Loch Ness monster: Nessie, the famous Loch Ness monster has sucked up a lot of precious tourism foreign currency without giving anyone a glimpse. She’s been talked about since 1933 which means if she’s still around Queen Elizabeth II is just a young lass. The pleiosaur might be a hoax but has become part of books, a song by Police and even a Werner Herzog mockumentary. The irony is the most famous Scot in our imagination is probably entirely fictional. But hey, Scots will probably take mythical Nessie any day over Mel Gibson when it comes to a brand ambassador.
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Updated Date: Sep 19, 2014 19:07:17 IST