Historical Weightlessness: Writing The Secret Vindaloo


  • Keith St. Clair Butler


I offer a personal essay on the formative influences of The Secret Vindaloo (2014); why I wrote it, and the personal and literary issues that arose in a work of fiction that foregrounded Anglo-Indians. Not the least of the challenges that emerged was the sobering realisation that I, as an Anglo-Indian, had only a passing knowledge of my community, and by extension that, perhaps, Anglo-Indians, faultlessly, possess a cursory grasp of their history. ‘Historical Weightlessness’ is an organising metaphor I coined to reflect the sense of a collective inner historical gap and it’s used to drive this essay which explores issues at the intersection of racial science, illegitimacy, marginality, stereotypes, and post-colonial theory. The heartbeat of The Secret Vindaloo, its voice, authorial position, genre, form, and strategies such as metaphors, appropriation and abrogation – are also commented upon. For the readers benefit I include a summary of the novel at the start of the essay and provide extracts from the work to illuminate points being made. Finally, noting Frank Anthony’s 1943 observation that the teaching of Anglo-Indian history was being ‘completely ignored’ in our schools and that Anglo-Indian educationalists were ‘utterly ignorant’ of the subject (Charlton-Stevens, 2022, p. 112) and my sense that possibly nothing much since then has changed in the homeland, I wonder at the impact of cultural impoverishment on Anglo-Indians over time. As a result of all these reflections I plea for the prioritisation of a comprehensive Anglo-Indian course of studies starting with the Portuguese in the 15th Century up to India of the 21st Century – da Gama to Brahma – for the education of Anglo-Indians and others.