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My Online Writings - 2004 - '07

Part 3
It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!
The compulsions of Robert Clive

I have an enduring interest in Robert Clive, for a variety of reasons. A Google search on him reached me at this link.

The article found there on Clive was strangely fascinating for its resounding meagreness of understanding, as well as its equally resonating mean imputations.

Two remarkable charges were there: one: “Yet the young Robert Clive was an uncontrollable tearaway who terrorised the people of Market Drayton, and who was only sent to India to get him out of the way”, a sort of ‘goonda’ or ‘dadha’ as in local (Indian) parlance. The second was that “And even more remarkably, he suffered from mental illness - now thought to be manic depression - a major handicap to anyone in the 18th Century”.

I am not in a position to comment on this newly brought out historical evidence on his ‘goodaraj’ in Market Drayton, but with my understandings on formal history, I do doubt its essential spirit of understanding; for there is a major possibility that the historian or the writer of that article in the aforementioned link could have been affected by seeing too many Hindi movies.

The second charge of being a victim of manic depression; well if the charge is from formal Psychiatrists, or psychologists, then it may be charged they themselves do have a major handicap, in that they do not have any information on many social and language systems, and their effects on Human psyche. Modern psychology does suffer from this major fault, so that it is my confirmed belief that many ordinary observations and mental spurring signals have gone unnoticed by modern psychiatry/ psychology.

It is like the urge of modern scientists trying to communicate with extraterrestrial life forms, when they have not still been able to communicate affectively with other life forms on earth itself. Nothing wrong in that first urge, yet the second also needs looking into.

What is great about Robert Clive? Actually his greatness can de dissected into minor pieces and examined in various proportions and from differing positions. Even formal history can look at him from various angles, one of being a great warrior like Julius Caesar, or as an Empire builder like Genghis Khan, or a great adventurer like Sir. Francis Drake, or as a man who chanced to be in a momentous position, when history was moving at significant paces, or simply as a man who really had an immensity of lucky breaks.

Yet, it is my belief that none of these definitions or delineations comes anywhere near to describing what propelled the phenomenon called ‘Robert Clive’. Actually he was a superb creation of the momentous amalgamation of certain factors and features, which may be listed here as English language, intersection of English and Indian language and social systems from certain specific positions, Indian languages, Indian social systems, and also of a lot of tumultuous historical incidences, all of them working on the psyche of a disproportionately intelligent person called Clive.

I am not an authority on Robert Clive; I have not read Macaulay’s dissertations on him, even though I have had the chance to see references to them in many other writings. Yet for the reader who may not know much about him, I may list out the few things I do know about him.

Around 18 years of age, he left for India, being distressed with schooling, in search of, presumably, activities that could match his mental capacities. When he reached India, as an employee of the East India Company, he found himself in a nightmare situation of being a clerk in a trading post where possibly his job must have been to weigh out and keep account of the various commodities like pepper, copra, other spices, and also to participate in their various processing like laying in the sun, drying, packing etc.

This was in an area in the erstwhile Indian state of Madras, in a place called Arcot (I think). The local language was (and is) Tamil.

Twice (on two different occasions) he committed suicide. Yet, it ended as only attempts. He put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. One time the gunpowder was wet and the other time, the bolt got stuck due to lack of proper lubrication. He did note that life had great things in store for him, for he couldn’t get any other explanation for these deemed failures, especially for a man who was to become a famous warrior.

Destiny started ticking when the French (with their ceaseless historical competition with the English) colluded with the local raja and laid siege to the British trade post. With the howling Indian mob surrounding them, the British were asked to surrender, safe passage being offered to them on conceding to it. The English couldn’t. Not necessarily due to their misunderstood bravery or courage.

Here I have to intrude with an understanding of India. In Indian language systems, the subordinate or surrendered man’s indicant words (as explained in my book) goes down. The various words connected to a man like ‘you’, ‘he’ ‘she’ and much else goes down. Now, it is a well observable thing in India that while a man with a higher indicant word is revered, the man with the lower indicant word is severely treated; he will be simply beaten up in the police station, unnecessarily rebuked, found fault with and much else. This was a phenomenon which the English administrators of India couldn’t understand much. For Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon (I think) did say that it was very dangerous to give power over one Indian to another Indian, for the former will almost use it with remarkable harshness, and cruelness.

Now had the English surrendered, they would have been literally beaten to a pulp, with the assurance of safe passage literally being thrown to the wind. This understanding may have much wider implications. For instance, look at the scenario of Saddam Hussein surrendering to the American forces. Imagine it being a surrender to an Indian or Pakistani or Russian or even the German or Italian forces (on their own). Only a terribly mad or a terribly brave man would do so. The theme extends to the fact had Hitler faced with the possibility of surrender to the British forces, he wouldn’t have contemplated suicide. Similarly Napoleon would have committed suicide had he faced the possibility of capture by a by an (enemy) French, Prussian, or Spanish ship.

Yet, an escape by ship for the English under siege in Arcot was loaded with historical significances. For, once they lose their face in India, re-entry would have been a sheer impossibility. For, once you lose your prestige here, you cannot even walk on the road, such being the force of language that nothing of yours is safe. You can be heckled, poked, looted, rebuked, simply harassed, and even molested, for the lower indicant words permit it, or even calls for such actions.

At the same time, prestige means higher indicant words. Everything of yours is safe. No one would dare to look at you with a jeering face. Other would admonish anyone who does; such being the force of the words.

The young clerk requested a chance to allow him to do something.

Now here one needs to go into the factor of why Clive attempted suicide. When the English came to Madras, their essential bearing was identified with that of the effeminate. The soft English communication systems, that included words like ‘thank you’, ‘sorry’, ‘apologise’, ‘I beg your pardon’, ‘Good Morning’, ‘May I’, ‘Can I’, and such things could have effectively added to lend this impression. It is not that similar words are not in Tamil, but then they are generally used only to the higher ups. Capacity to use graceless, sharp, insulting, taunting words to all, other than acknowledged superiors, is generally seen as the hallmark of manliness in Tamil. The English were considered as unfit for warfare. The concept of warfare here being that of an howling mob of hooligans converging on helpless groups.

Moreover, in Tamil usually for youngsters’ from lower professional classes, the lower indicant words were used. Generally in India, the trading class is seen as a subordinate class by the officialdom. Clive being an employee of a trading company must have felt the sharp piercing words of lower indicant levels being directed to him and about him. The affect of this is manifold; one being of a sort of helplessness leading to anomalous mental moods like that of suicide. The other being a sort of urge to ‘show off’; both these moods in their exact entirety is not available in English.

When shallow persons, with remarkable mediocrity, chance to define this as ‘manic depression’, it is a very dangerous thing. More so, when they don the attire of professional qualifications as of so-called psychiatrists/psychologists. I wonder if modern mental sciences have contemplated on these themes that I have proposed.

Here let me digress a bit. Feudal language words do have terrible power. Their cumulative effect can even design physical growth. Now that brain fingerprinting is available, it may be very, very easy to map the effect of each indicant word level on human psyche and body.

The impossibility of the social situation, where Clive is a small time employee in a company doing a lower level work, living and interacting daily with lower level Tamilian working class drove him to contemplate suicide. Not any manic depression. Even the highest government official India would literarily shiver at just contemplating a similar scenario for himself or herself.

Back to Arcot:

Clive offers to do the most preposterous. In many ways, it was a more easier thing to do than to bear the lower indicant level. He was given 200 men, of which around 180 were the local soldiers trained in English warfare and parade systems. The very moment he was offered, his indicant levels go up, in the word system. It is a very powerful mental mood and a social scenario. He has to live up to its expectations, or else he is doomed to rot on earth.

Under the cover of darkness, Clive and his 200 men jump the wall of their fortified trading post, and move around 20 kilometers (or maybe miles), and reach the now-unguarded French fort and headquarters. The French flag is goes down and the Union Jack flies over it. It is the work of a genius, not of a conqueror. No one is dead, not a bullet is fired.

The next six month is that of being under siege in this fortress, where again Clive faces the possibility of being starved into submission. Yet, it is historically recorded that the Indian soldiers went to Clive and requested that they be allowed to drink the liquid part of the rice porridge (locally called ‘kanjhi’) while Clive and other non-Indians could partake of the solid part of it. Now, what is it that endeared Clive to these Indian soldiers?

Here again may I digress. There is a tone in many English historians that the English Employees of the East India Company and later of the British Crown were merely stooges of the British colonial empire, staying on here by hoodwinking the Indians into submission. It is not true. There were many locals who saw them as the harbingers of exotic positive social systems, which were likable for their plain simplicity and politeness. The negative tone of English historians is seen in the aforementioned link article: ‘This helped cement the economic power that allowed the British Empire to grow—.’

Even the sense that England is rich due to the exploitation of the poor colonial countries is very, very wrong. Any social system that works in good English naturally becomes progressive and rich. I am reminded of a youngster who was training for Medical Transcription over here. He told me that when he saw the film ‘The Titanic’, he was totally amazed. For, he couldn’t imagine that such a ship was there in an English nation so many years back. He had literally swallowed the theme taught in local schools that while rest of the world was living in caves as uncouth barbarians, India were very, very civilised, possessing the best knowledge in the world.

Back to Clive:

Clive was again offered safe passage by the local raja. Again Clive’s rely was loaded with audacity. He wanted the raja to surrender to him, when he himself was in a siege. It was an audacity that was naturally propelled by the local language. It was bound to further raise his indicant level. For six month, the siege went on. Here the historians have missed a major point. Each day the local man’s first pondering would be, ‘Has Clive submitted’, and the sharp tom-tom of the same answer: No, he hasn’t!

What is it doing to British prestige? In a feudal language scenario, the prestige is literally expanding explosively in an exponential manner each day, by the magic contained in the weird world of indicant words. What happens? The social leadership is enwrapped and shifting rapidly to the British side, leaving the local feudal and of also, French, quarters. The British goods are safer, and their words of requests are taken as commands. This is the mood that captured India. Not a series of battles, as is understood by shallow historians. I quote again from the link: ‘Clive engineered British rule in India, fighting several key battles with the French for control of trade in the sub-continent.’.

The English came for Trade, yet the local language systems would not allow that; for a mere trader is a nobody in the indicant world. He has to capture the heights or else nothing of his is safe here. A very strange, anomalous mood sets in. Essentially this is not an English mood. Yet, it is the native English mood that wins the wars.

A few years later, again destiny had again started ticking. Almost similar events took place a few years later in Calcutta, where the Diwan died and his son took over the reigns of power. The son Sirajuldawallah on French request captured the British trading post. Women were sent to his harem.

When the weary survivors reached Madras, it was plainly seen that British had lost Calcutta. Only a perfect idiot would contemplate of going in a few sailing ships through the treacherous waters of the Bay of Bengal to capture a trading post, right inside an enemy state. Yet, the fact that it was only a matter of time, before the rest of the nation came to know about the British failure, must have been a real menacing thought. For again the tremendous question of prestige comes to everyone’s mind.

Something has to be done. Yet who would. It had to be Clive. He went and in action that could either be defined as that of audacious impertinence or as of cranky foolishness, he took back possession of the British Trading post, with a most unexpected landing.

I have to cut the theme short. Words are extending:

What took place may be dealt here in a few words. Clive had approximately 2000 men, of whom majority were native Indians, trained in English systems. Possibly Clive was younger to at least some of his officers.

On the other side, Sirajuldaullah’s and a minor French force totalled around 20,000 men. Yet, an aspect of what is known of Mugal armies may be mentioned here. They literally were like circus. In that there would be immense slaves to do the menial jobs, dancing girls for entertainment, which naturally extends through the nights. Sirajulldallah was technically a Mugal Diwan.

Clive had a trench dug and positioned his men in strategic positions. The other side was in a mood of almost certain invincibility. For the rules of number were heavily in their favour.

It was common knowledge that tomorrow the British forces would be attacked. Yet, when I say British, there is no sense that the British army is anywhere here. Only an army that possess an English aura. Nothing more.

Tomorrow, Clive has to face this fate and destiny. What is to be done? There is a council of war at night. ‘We are totally outnumbered. It is humanly impossible to win. We can leave by ship in the night’. It is sound suggestion and advice. Clive wants to ponder on this suggestion, which comes with the force of practical intelligence.

Naturally Clive is brave or he has to be brave. Yet, there would be another taunting thought in his mind. What happens when he comes home to Madras, vanquished? He would be aware of the deep canyons in the vernacular, where he would be pulled down and kept to bear the torment and delight of the local social system. These are thoughts only persons, who know the Indian psyche in its enwrapping entirety, would be able to contemplate on.

After meditating for sometime, he comes out and assembles the council of war again. His words are precise, and there is no mood for debate. It is orders: Prepare of battle. The attack starts at 5 O’clock.

I am writing from memory. What the exact words are I do not know.

It is pitch dark at 5. The mighty force on the yonder side cannot even imagine the audacity. Cannonballs pierce the darkness. Elephants run helter-skelter through Sirjulldaullah’s camp, frightened by the explosions, that shatters the darkness.

The famous battle of Plassey is over in half an hour. Actually there is no battle, no war. What happened was pure scramble in the darkness to escape in sheer panic. Even Sirajulldaullah jumped on a horse and escaped. Yet, it need not be imagined that he was of timid disposition. Yet, he was a victim of the enormity of his social situation. That needs explanation and expansion. Later.

Did Clive get proper attention from his nation? He was famous. Yet, he could have also brought in disturbing moods into England. For, he and his other fellow Englishmen who worked in India, would be afflicted by the aura of feudal mood that sets in unconsciously as they rode the heights of the Indian society.

How could the common man in England relate to such persons who were simply occupying the brahmanical levels of the hierarchical social system in India? In this aspect, what they established over here in India was not English rule, but colonial rule. Colonial rule was different in that it was simply the displacement of others in the social system and occupying their place. Only that, since they were English they took the position of cordoning the native moods from their inner circles, yet they were affected by it, since they were to interact and try to improve the systems here.

Clive has later to bear the torment of charges on pillaging India. He did not. He defended himself. Yet, in his defence, he stood alone, for there was a chasm of schizophrenic un-understanding between him and the native English society which couldn’t imagine Indian languages systems. Despite the fact that he deserted his schooling, he was of scholarly disposition as proved by his eloquent defence of himself in the parliament (I think). Yet, command of expressions did not suffice. For, what he tried to explain was simply beyond the parameters of English words and expressions. He tried suicide a third time. He succeeded.

I wonder if any reader has accompanied me till here.

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