For Your Eyes Only

Excerpts from a hundred-year-old pamphlet that came recently into my possession:

First, the cover page:

  • Confidential
  • [This pamphlet, when a British unit leaving the Indian establishment is relieved, will be dealt with in accordance with paragraph 710, Army Regulations, India, Volume II.]

Whatever paragraph 710 was, I can be sure that it was not designed to allow the pamphlet to fall into my hands. I am glad someone failed in their duty a century ago.

Here are a few more excerpts showing why I am glad it wasn’t destroyed:

  • It is essential that an officer in civil employment should be able to converse freely in their own language with the classes of Indians with whom he comes into contact, as this will add greatly to the interest of his life in India, to his efficiency as a servant of Government and to the confidence with which he is regarded by the people[…..] Next to a knowledge of the language, tact and sympathy are the most important qualifications for a successful career in India.
  • A sympathetic officer, who will listen to and can himself understand the people’s representations and takes a kindly interest in their welfare, will soon acquire an influence that can never be acquired by an officer who, though more capable, either cannot understand the people or will not extend his sympathy to them.
  • When touring it is a good plan to hold informal conferences at halting places and to listen to any verbal requests the people may have to make. They are much less prone to exaggerate their complaints and much more likely to adhere to the truth, when they are speaking in the presence of a large concourse of their neighbours, than when, tutored by a petition-writer, they appear in a Court or office […..]
  • It must be borne in mind that there are many matters which the generality of Indians do not view from the same standpoint as Europeans. Their social laws and their code of morals differ in many respects from those in vogue in the British Isles.
  • He should be shy of making promises, but, if he makes one, he should always perform it.
  • Almost every case of apparent rudeness is unintentional and due either to ignorance or diffidence.

It’s not what is said in this pamphlet that amazes me. It is the fact that it was said at all in something which, to all intents and purposes, is a mini-induction course for new British arrivals in India. The entire pamphlet, just 32 pages wrong, is probably worthwhile reading for any mid-ranking multinational exec moving to a new culture.

Soft hands.

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