The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

The Siege of Krishnapur

In 1857, when Chapatis begin to appear mysteriously in the most unexpected of places, only Mr. Hopkins, the Collector for East India Company senses danger. His attempts to warn others fall on deaf ears. Yes, the British made a mistake in handling religious matters in India, but surely the native Indians wouldn’t want to reject a “superior culture” as a whole, so why bother about some practical joke, argue Mr. Hopkins’ peers. Because of this, by the time the Sepoys revolt against the British only Mr. Hopkins is prepared to withstand a siege, so it is to his residence the rest of the British retreat to save themselves from the assaults of the Indians.

I enjoyed The Siege of Krishnapur a lot more than Troubles. The Siege of Krishnapur is set in a fictional Indian town, and the story is based on the Indian Revolt of 1857, which is considered to be the India’s first War of Independence. Even though the outcome of this war was victorious for the British, the natives were just getting started with their Independence movement (which they would achieve 90 years later), so it was interesting to read a novel set around that time.

The Siege of Krishnapur is written from the perspective of the British. The native Indians (expect for Maharajas) appear mostly in the guerrilla war they fought, and their characters aren’t developed. However, I thought it is fitting given that the British anyway had no idea about the lives of ordinary natives they ruled. Also, since I’m familiar with the native point of view (Sri Lanka was also under the British, and gained independence only a year after India did), it was amusing for me to read the justifications given by the British for their cruelty and oppression of the native Indians.

Today, the effect of colonialism is a hot topic in the South Asian region. While I’m all for moving on, I’m of the view that colonization had a net negative effect on the British territories. If you are anti-colonial, this witty novel will reaffirm what you already knew, but if you are interested to know the full extent of the adverse impact the British had on its colonies, I suggest that you watch Shashi Tharoor debate articulately on the subject. 🙂

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