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'Going Dutch' in Sumatra

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Farewell to India
Brian Aldiss Writer
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Things in India became rather more difficult than they were. Before, everyone under the British Raj seemed to have been very obliging. But then, a deal had been done between heads of state that if the Indians fought on the British side, then India would be returned to the Indians. And the people that did that deal were not actually Gandhi, although he was a prime mover, I think, but by the heads of state, whose names elude me at the present.

So, I was in... there was one particular bit of India that I liked very much. This had a large open space, buildings all around it, but two book shops. One book shop on one side and, rather opposite, a slightly smaller one on the other side. Now, the one on this side was run purely by an Indian, and on the other side, the chap was a Muslim Indian, and he was not as friendly as the pure Indian. And I often used to go there, and used to buy books from him, and talk to him. And he was very friendly, he had a very good command of English, and the English were getting out. And so I said to him, 'Well, I suppose this time had to come, and you'll be pleased about it'. And he looked me in the eye and he said, 'You see that man over there, with that other book shop? As soon as the British go, I have to fight him and he has to fight me, so I'm not so happy'.

And it came out that the guy understood the situation; that was what happened. But the British had said they would get out, and as I was crossing this square, a number of Indians came rushing out from somewhere with large stones and hurled them at me!

I ran the faster and at the far side of the square, there was a British lorry and it was revving up to go and so I ran like the devil and managed to cling on to the tailboard, whereupon two guys, who were in there, came and helped me and got me in, and these cobbles hit the side of the vehicle as we left the square.  And that was 'adios' to the British.

Brian Aldiss (1925-2017) was an English writer and anthologies editor, best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. He was educated at Framlingham College, Suffolk, and West Buckland School, Devon, and served in the Royal Signals between 1943-1947. After leaving the army, Aldiss worked as a bookseller in Oxford, an experience which provided the setting for his first book, 'The Brightfount Diaries' (1955). His first science fiction novel, 'Non-Stop', was published in 1958 while he was working as literary editor of the 'Oxford Mail'. His many prize-winning science fiction titles include 'Hothouse' (1962), which won the Hugo Award, 'The Saliva Tree' (1966), which was awarded the Nebula, and 'Helliconia Spring' (1982), which won both the British Science Fiction Association Award and the John W Campbell Memorial Award. Several of his books have been adapted for the cinema. His story, 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long', was adapted and released as the film 'AI' in 2001. His book 'Jocasta' (2005), is a reworking of Sophocles' classic Theban plays, 'Oedipus Rex' and 'Antigone'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: India, British Raj

Duration: 3 minutes, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015