Rule Britannia Summary Notes
Rule Britaniya Author
Kamala Das (1934 – 2009) was recognized as one of India’s foremost poets. She wrote novels, collections of poems, and short stories in both Malayalam and English. Her name in her writings in Malayalam was Madhavi Kutty. Her works in English include Alphabet of Lust (1977), a collection of short stories, Summer in Calcutta (1965), The Descendants (1967), The Old Playhouse and Other Poems (1973), and Only the Soul Knows How to Sing (1996) – collections of poems. She was honored with the Sahitya Academy Award and many more awards. She was also nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature in 1984. Her books have been translated into various languages including French, Spanish, Russian, German, and Japanese.
Rule Britannia Summary
‘Rule Britannia’ is an excerpt taken from the autobiographical book written by the Indian author and poet Kamala Das. Here the author recounts her childhood life in colonial India and her experiences in the British missionary school in Calcutta where she and her brother had to face racist discrimination.
The author recalls that some British Indian families treated the Indians as their equals and were friendly with them. Her father worked in an automobile showroom and his superior Mr. Ross was very friendly and often visited their house for dinner. The authors’ family cook had learned the art of cooking European cuisine and would exhibit it at their house.
The author says that her mother was indifferent to them and spent most for time composing poems in Malayalam and that their father was not affectionate to them. Being neglected children, the author and her brother developed a strong relationship and were emotionally dependent on each other.
Kamala Das was bold enough not to tolerate any injustice or discrimination. She and her brother used to attend a missionary school in Calcutta. Her brother was plump and dark. Although he was the cleverest in the class, the white boys made fun of him and tortured him by pushing a pointed pencil up his nostrils. One day his white twill shirt was covered with blood. He was stunned by cruelty while William the bully, a white boy exclaimed, ‘Blackie, your blood is red’. Kamala Das could not put up with such insult and scratched his face in made rage.
The Principal of their school was a prejudiced white lady The children were made to sing the British National Anthem, ‘Rule Britannia’. Whenever foreign dignitaries visited the school the brown Indian children were segregated and hidden in the corridor behind the lavatories under the watchful eyes of the school ayahs.
The author recalls that a Scottish girl named Shirley was always given the honor of presenting a bouquet to the visiting dignitaries at the school.
She gives an instance of abject racial discrimination where Shirley was asked to recite a poem composed by the author in front of the visiting Governor. Although the poem was composed by the author, Shirley was given the credit for composing it.
Rule Britannia Glossary
Rudiments : basics
Culinary : related to cookery
Sophistication : refinement / modernization
stew : food made of boiled meat
Twill : Woven cloth
Plumage : feather
Alight : get down
Lure : attract/ draw
Swansong : the last song/death
Rage : a fashion
Ringlets : hair (curly) falling on the forehead
Shirley Temple : a Hollywood actress
Moppet : a pet word for a child
In good humbor : to keep one pleased
August Personages : respectable persons
Rule Britaniya Questions & Answers
What was normal for British families in those times?
It was normal for a British family to have one or two close friends among the Indians with whom they were on visiting terms.
What did her father’s superior call him?
Her father’s superior called her father ‘My good friend Nair
Who taught their cook the basics of European cookery?
Mrs. Ross, taught their cook the basis of European cookery.
How did the children enjoy their food?
The children ate western meals with their little brown fingers, licking their hands, enjoying all that was served on their plates.
The cook’s reaction to their style of eating was :
(c) stiff face
What kind of visitors came to their school?
The school would get distinguished visitors such as the governor’s wife, an admiral, or a relative of the Royal family of England.
Which song did the children sing?
The children sang the British National Anthem, ‘Rule Britannia’.
The people walking in the street ignored the song being sung. True / False?
Did the song really signify the strength of Britain?
No, the song did not really signify the strength of Britain as they were about to leave India.
Who was the model for the girls of the school?
What was done to the brown children when visitors arrived?
When visitors arrived at the school the brown children were always discreetly hidden away and were ordered to wait in the corridor behind the lavatories under the watchful eyes of the school ayahs.
How did Louis behave?
Louis, the black Anglo – Indian behaved like a real English child by imitating the British children. He would follow them all day while he tried to keep them in good humor.
Who had composed the poem? Who got the credit for it?
The author, Kamala Das, had composed the poem. The white British girl, Shirley of Scottish descent got the credit for it.
What did the other boys call her brother?
The other boys called the author’s brother ‘Blackie’.
What was the atmosphere in the author’s house?
Kamala Das’ father was a busy salesperson at an automobile showroom which sold Rolls Royce cars. The author’s mother was vague and indifferent and she would spend her time lying on her belly on a large four-poster bed while composing poems in Malayalam. Their family cook was entrusted to escort them to school and back home in the afternoon. The cook was not of an affectionate nature. Hence they grew up neglected. Being neglected by their parents, the author and her brother developed a strong relationship of love, the kinda leper may feel for his mate who pushed him on a hand cart when they went on their begging rounds.
What did the cook learn? How did he behave?
The cook learned the rudiments of European cookery. He learned to prepare soups, cutlets, and stews. When he looked at them eating with their fingers and gorging on all the food that was served on their plates he stood by and frowned at them He thought that they were savages.
How did the other children torture her brother?
The white boys made fun of the author’s brother, tortured him by pushing a pointed pencil up his nostril. The other boys called her brother ‘Blackie’.
What steps did the Principal take when foreign dignitaries visited the school?
When the foreign dignitaries visited the school the Principal ensured that the brown children were always discreetly hidden away. They were ordered to wait in the corridor behind the lavatories under the watchful eyes of the school ayahs.
Explain the colonial atmosphere that had been set in school as well as at home.
In her autobiography, the author Kamala Das writes that her father’s superior, Mr. Ross family visited their house often. Mr. Ross addressed his father as ‘My good friend Nair’. Her grandmother sent their cook to Mrs. Ross so that she could teach him the rudiments of European cookery. EventuaHythe cook became an expert at cooking European food and the author’s family had to alter their eating habits when he started cooking European food for the family. Instead of cooking the usual rice and curry, the cook would prepare soups, cutlets, and stews for the author’s family. The author’s father started to imitate the European’s by eating with a fork and knife. The author and her brother studied at a European school just a furlong away from their house.
Describe the Principal’s prejudice for the Europeans.
The author’s school had a Lady Principal. They called her Madam. She managed to lure foreign dignitaries to visit the school. At school, all the children sang the National Anthem, Rule Britannia, every day in. the morning and the Principal accompanied them on a grand piano. The photograph of the royal family was displayed on the piano.
There was a white Scottish girl called Shirley at school. She had pink cheeks and yellow ringlets. When special dignitaries visited the school, Shirley was always given the honor of carrying up the bouquet to the guests.
The author narrates an incident to highlight how the Principal discriminated against the Indian children by favoring the European kids. One day, the principal asked Shirley to read a poem that the author had composed. When the visitor asked who had written it, the principal said that Shirley, herself had written it, and praised Shirley as a combination of beauty and brains. The movement’s wife kissed Shirley to show her appreciation.
Whenever visitors came to the school, the brown Indian children were always discreetly hidden away and asked to wait in the corridor behind the lavatories under the watchful eyes of the school ayahs, because they did not appear as pretty as the white children.
There is an enemy beneath our feet – an enemy more deadly for his complete impartiality. He recognizes no national boundaries, no political parties. Everyone in the world is threatened by him. The enemy is the earth itself. When an earthquake strikes, the world trembles. The power of a quake is greater than anything man himself can produce. But today scientists are directing a great deal of their effort into finding some way of combating earthquakes, and it is possible that at some time in the near future mankind will have discovered a means of protecting itself from earthquakes. An earthquake strikes without warning. When it does, its power is immense. If it strikes a modem city, the damage it causes is as great as if it has struck a primitive village. Gas mains burst, explosions are caused and fires break out. Underground railways are wrecked. Buildings collapse, bridges fall, dams burst, and gaping crevices appear in busy streets.
If the quake strikes at sea, huge tidal waves sweep inland. If it strikes in mountain regions, avalanches roar down into the valley. Consider the terrifying statistics from the past 1755: Lisbon, capital of Portugal – the city destroyed entirely and 450 killed. 1970: Peru: 50,000 killed. In 1968 an earthquake struck Alaska. As this is a relatively unpopulated part, only a few people were killed. But it is likely that this was one of the most powerful quakes ever to have hit the world. Geologists estimate that during the tremors, the whole of the state moved over 80 feet farther west into the Pacific Ocean. Imagine the power of something that can move an entire subcontinent! This is the problem that the scientists face, they are dealing with forces so immense that man cannot hope to resist them. All that can be done is to try to pinpoint just where the earthquake will strike and work from there. At least some precautionary measures can then be taken to save lives and some of the property.
Earthquake – The Great Destroyer
Earthquake is mankind’s deadly enemy. Earthquake strikes all without a distinction of nationality or political affiliation. The power of a quake is greater than that of any man-made weapon of destruction. An earthquake strikes mankind without a warning. A modem city when struck is reduced to rubble. A quake strikes plains, seas, and mountains causing all-around destruction. A quake struck Lisbon in 1755 killing 450; Peru in 1970 killing 50,00; Alaska in 1968 moving it 80 feet into the Pacific Ocean. Scientists are trying to find out means to combat earthquakes and to predict the origin of the quake so that precautions can be taken to save man and property from destruction.