Westward Ho! Anglo-Indian (Eurasian) Mass-Migration and the Role of Indian Ports in Mid-Twentieth Century Passenger and Steamer Culture


  • Rochelle Almeida


In 2011, Michael Ondaatje, The Cat’s Table, a memoir about his passage at age 11 from Sri Lanka to England in 1954. Ondaatje’s account mirrored, to a vast extent, shipboard experiences of Anglo-Indian settlers who had voyaged from port cities in India, to take up residence in England.

As part of my ethnographic research on Britain’s Anglo-Indians undertaken in Britain, I unearthed previously undisclosed information about conditions prevailing in Indian port cities as steamer-loads of Anglo-Indians left India.

This interdisciplinary paper combines literary evidence with first-hand immigrant narratives, uncovering information pertaining to Anglo-Indian trajectory from exit to integration. It emphasizes the environment prevailing at South Asian port cities in the lead-up to Independence and immediate aftermath. It comments on the development of a unique shipboard lifestyle and culture—a result of Westernized customs and Indian traditions—as well as their forays into port cities such as Mombasa and Aden en route to the UK.