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Chronicles of Wasted Time: Part 2: The Infernal Grove by Malcolm Muggeridge

By Malcolm Muggeridge

Half 2 of Malcolm Muggeridge's autobiography

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Typewriters hard at work, Indian clerks and minor officials clustered together like bees in a hive, the senior officials still mostly Sahibs, and, at the centre of it all, the Queen Bee, or member of the Viceroy’s Council, responsible for the department in question. Mooning about in these departments, waiting to see someone I didn’t want to see in order to ask him questions I didn’t want answered, I used sometimes to think of India as I knew it. The dusty roads, the teeming bazaars, the lurid paddy fields, the sluggish rivers, the women carrying water from the well in pitchers on their heads, the brown bodies sweating in the sun as they followed behind the lumbering oxen and steered their 42 The Infernal Grove wooden ploughs; the innumerable villages, and feet endlessly padding little processions, a man leading, then a woman with a baby on her back, and a child barely able to walk, clutching her hand, other children trailing behind.

Sat on the Government front bench in the style of the masters he had served in Whitehall; red-faced, feet up, osten­ tatiously sleeping through vituperative sessions - a second-string tour­ ing company performance. , I soon lost interest in the Simla scene, of which I was supposed to provide the Statesman with a day-by-day report. M y communications to the Calcutta office grew ever shorter and more occasional, as did my responses to queries from London, where I had one or two stringer connections.

Though in a sense I was in the same case, it was at least a home-produced gold brick that I was landed with; whereas, what they had acquired at such great trouble and expense was an imported product. Sudhin called the elegant fragment of auto­ biography he left behind him ‘ The Twilight World’. No one has described this no-man’s-land between a dying Indian culture and a debased western one more subtly and delicately than he. It was the habitat of all my four friends, and, in somewhat different terms, my own.

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