Great Danes

by Ritwik on July 8, 2009

Danish friends of a friend were recently in town.

They decided to go on a bus trip.

Just before boarding their bus, in Connought Place, they had their first encounter with poverty

poverty, of the killing kind

the one that kills you, and kills your dignity.

They were shocked, and moved to comment:

In denmark, we don’t have such things

In our country, we tax the rich

and give to the poor, and

thus nobody is really poor.

we have free education, world class hospitals

and no crime, grime and grimness.

my friend, listened, with envy

and also rattled, by jaw dropping naivete

small problem, he said,

really minor, indeed

the only thing is: you were never, in fact, a colony.


Haha.. I remember this comment.. It was brilliant.. and as you’ve said before, fucking apt.

by Rhea on July 8, 2009 at 8:15 pm. #

Hahaha! I know this story. Well put. People who weren’t colonized don’t seem to get the effects of colonialism. Very strange, considering most of the world was colonized at some point.

by Neelakshi on July 8, 2009 at 8:17 pm. #

@Rhea: you were very quick to check the blog once I told you boyfriend was involved.

by Ritwik Agrawal on July 8, 2009 at 8:41 pm. #

@ ritwik:

one of the effects of colonialism was a gradual shift away from traditional LANGUAGE.

some of us understand its effect really well. that’s why we forgot priyadarshini is a feminine. perhaps the laptop should have a name check as well.

by Utathya on July 9, 2009 at 4:21 am. #

no, i checked it the moment my internet decided to work again. I think you’re jealous of the love between me and boyfriend which is why the sarcasm comes fast and thick… heh.

by Rhea on July 10, 2009 at 4:41 pm. #

@Utathya: that comment is deliciously caustic.

by Ritwik Agrawal on July 12, 2009 at 8:29 pm. #

The in-your-face encounter with poverty by someone coming from Denmark may be understandable as a new experience. The notion that Denmark is somehow free from all social and economic challenges isn’t persuasive. As Denmark becomes more heterogeneous it may find India’s own history of sorting out multi-culturalism very instructive.

by Paul in USA on July 19, 2009 at 1:49 am. #


Thanks for reading. It’ll be great if you read the other entries as well.

by Ritwik Agrawal on July 19, 2009 at 3:13 am. #

The Danes were not colonised, but despite their helplessness before the Third Reich they dealt with the Nazis with much greater dignity than did Vichy France. There are different ways of dealing with the same predicament. Your blank verse implies that the gross inequalities, injustice, corruption & lack of accountability after 62 years of independence are attributable to the fact of being colonised. I find that unacceptable. We are responsible for how we manage our resources and conduct ourselves in the public realm. No light is shed on the matter by continuing to blame the British for everything.

by Dilip on July 19, 2009 at 10:42 am. #

Then why is that almost all former colonies in Asia and Africa find themselves in a pretty bad shape as far as human development indicators are concerned?

Nobody is blaming the British for “everything”, but equally they cannot be absolved entirely of the blame for India’s crushing poverty merely because “62 years have passed”. If the British can’t be blamed for everything, neither can the post independence leadership be solely held responsible for all our ills.

This blank verse was only meant to highlight the fact that for many, colonialism either never took place or with time, it has become a minor blip on the radar; the gross exploitation inherent to it is being forgotten.

by Ritwik Agrawal on July 20, 2009 at 11:33 am. #

Wonderful post Ritwik,

And I like the discussion even more. Poverty was very much part of our lives even before. In my opinion, Nationalism is one of the worst things that Colonialism produced. What do you think?


by ravikant on July 20, 2009 at 5:51 pm. #


I agree that poverty was part of our lives before the British came. But there is little argument about the fact that they orchestrated a flight of capital that made it more widespread.

As for nationalism, I agree that it reflects an extremely narrow view of the world and I hope the world is soon rid of rigid national boundaries. That ideal seems to be a long way off yet, unfortunately.

But I am not sure that colonialism is solely responsible for producing nationalism, after all non-colonized territories also witnessed massive nationalist movements. In my view, nation states are a phase of history, and even if India was not colonized, some or the other form of nationalism would surely have developed organically.

What do you think?

by Ritwik Agrawal on July 21, 2009 at 4:22 pm. #

I don’t really understand this. The western European countries and maybe Japan and Cuba are virtually the only countries in the world that have eliminated virtually all extreme poverty. Many other countries, whether formerly colonized or not, have not done so, even in cases where the per capita income is high (e.g. U.S., admittedly a former colony). It seems to me that being a former colony undoubtedly helps to explain a relatively low per capita income but doesn’t do much to explain extreme differences in income distribution (i.e. extreme poverty).


by David Lorenzen on August 7, 2009 at 3:45 pm. #

the sermons impregnated with this article that for the sake of maintenence of dignity in human life on the whole earth/world irrespective of the national boundary, existence of immpeccable mechanism imbued with monitoring & appraisal methodology for destitution-removal, equity of taxation, equitability of distribution of wherewithal amongst every nations would be highly laudable and may be imbibed at all costs without attributing the cause of poverty to colonialism or other factors.

by Bhupendra on August 11, 2009 at 4:47 pm. #

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