Remembering the British Raj - Penned by Rita Ghey

Rita Ghey

I was born in Nagpur in what was then Central India in 1933 and left India in 1947 after partition. We were the fourth generation on my father's side and third generation on my mother's to have lived here. My great grandfather was Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen who, ss part of the Great Survey of India, was the first person to survey in the Karokaram Range near Kashmir. The second highest mountain in the world was named after him - Mt. Godwin-Austen. Today it is also known as K2 (K for Karokaram and 2 for the order in which it was surveyed). He married my great grandmother, Kudiji, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, and she was with him on his surveying treks. She died in her second childbirth while in the mountains (When Kudiji died, the 2nd baby also died).

It was 1857 and the Indian Mutiny had just taken place, and a mixed blood offspring would not have been well received amongst the English gentry in England who had lost so many of their sons in the Mutiny. So he gave his first son, Edward, to be adopted by a family, the Milners, who decided to remain in India. However, he paid for Edward's schooling right through Engineering College in Roorkee.

Godwin-Austen was also a very notable water-colour artist and is listed among the ten best of this genre in England. His grandfather, Henry Godwin, was commander-in-chief of the Burma Expeditionary Force and fought in the battle of Pegu which resulted in Burma being annexed to India and becoming a part of the British Empire.

Leaving India in 1947 was a terrible wrench for our family. We went to England and then to Canada but always our dearest friends have been those who have shared our Indian background and memories. With them we can still use our Hindi (as best we remember it! ) and there is so much to talk about and even more that is just simply understood. Coming back after nearly 50 years, I feel the pain of our departure is finally being healed.

Rita Ghey