Years ago, I scored a ticket to the first cricket Test match to be played in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat: India versus a West Indian 11 that included the peerless Viv Richards. I had expectations of an epic match as I joined other fans pushing into the brand new ground. But by the end, it was the performance of the spectators, not the players, that had staggered me. As the West Indians took the field, loud monkey-whoops filled the air, and banana skins rained down from the stands. The pelted players – probably the greatest West Indian team in history – stood there in their flannels, stunned. Indians are rightly sensitive about racism directed at them; an Indian student beaten up in Australia, say, will swiftly become national news. Yet some Indians can be unthinkingly at ease with their own contempt for people of darker skin – a contradiction that warps both our present and our sense of the Indian past. As I travelled across India exploring the contemporary afterlives of 50 important historical figures spanning 2,500 years for Incarnations, my new book and 50-part BBC radio series, I heard dozens of young Indians extoll the bravery of Shivaji,… Read full this story
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