By | 1 December 2022

The first Anglo-Indians were born in 1601, and as the seventeenth century
progressed, the East India Company’s directors encouraged their employees in India
to take local brides and convert them to Protestantism. A gold mohur or pagoda was
paid to the mother of every child born from such a union. The offspring became
known to the local Indians as ‘feringhees’ (foreigners), mesties, topases, or

If a group of people
is displaced from
their place of birth
in spirit in the churn
of soul song pulse

If a woman is displaced
from her community
in body and flesh
becoming an outcast
in her place of birth

If a birthplace is displaced
from itself within
the bodies of a group
of its people, deflected
by alienation from
ritual culture politics

If the offspring of inter-
marriage are coded to the culture of the coloniser

If a group of people
is both coloniser
and almost-

(her brown skin
disappearing in
her brother’s white
or the reverse
their identity culture-
coded, quilling

If the primary language
known to a group of people colonises their birthplace

(joyful borrowed phrases
wink on an amazed ceiling)

If you cross a subcontinent by marriage, you cross her deities


In the photograph
you are holding
a basket of flowers
in a lush garden
looking as if you belong
in Picnic at Hanging Rock
only this is northwestern India
and India surely lingers
in your features and attitudes
as you surely linger
in the body of India
your place of birth, of death

(as surely as your family
traversed the ocean
stepping away
from their home—
away from home)

But you were not Indian—
to have claimed this identity
would have suggested
something other than a name

There were so many languages of India you did not understand
(there were so many British spaces you could not enter)
there were the Anglo-Indian schools gathering your confession
in Western knowledge and Christian teachings

As the train wound into Jamshedpur … manganese ore poured into the furnaces lit up
the night sky for miles around.


Synthetic ochre
is a geological muscle on the verge of heat. Consider
raw yellow soil calcining radiating in the cadence of salt
a swarm of hues forms to carry the pioneers across the landscape
where earth is converted to burnt earth
As goethite becomes hematite, yellow darkens into red

As the hand’s tint or tilt palm lines earth lines
turn fold with a lilt toward the hills
so the angle at which a person enters history
may be altered by the material of desire. How grief forms in the rock surface
in wide willowy eyes. How quasi-
settlers place local news on hold
while servicing an Empire composed of several histories

only some of which rise to the surface

Tears wake the cornea, moistening
epithelial tissue. Visual information pools into blurred names reserved
for artificial natives. Someone born here is nonetheless
feringhee | foreigner mesties | the child of a mulat
and a white person where mulat means the child
of a black person and a white person

Many shades of person,
calling to each other over vast distances, are measured. Distinctions between
the British and the ‘countryborn’ Anglo-Indian are complex
The fair son may be sent to England to be educated. High adventure
ensues opening to a technique of preparing images
in wave upon wave
layer upon layer of lime plaster then milk of lime


There is this city within a city
in which you reside
there is this culture within cultures
in which you reside
there are these pigments within earth
in which you reside

If you stay, if you leave

Let the meaning of home rearrange itself

Rub each coat with a stone

Polish the surface with an agate stone

Sources: Gloria Jean Moore, The Anglo-Indian Vision, Australasian Educa Press, 1986 (including italicised quotes);
Anjali Sharma and Manager Rajdeo Singh, ‘A Review on Historical Earth Pigments Used in India’s Wall Paintings’, Heritage, 2021, 4(3), 1970-1994,;
Yvette Hoitink, ‘Dutch term – Mulat, Mesties, Casties, Poesties, Testies’, Dutch Genealogy, 17 April 2017,

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