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'Bent': A Colonial Subversive and Indian Broadcasting Author(s): Joselyn Zivin Source: Past & Present, No. 162 (Feb., 1999), pp. 195-220 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/651068 Accessed: 17/06/2010 14:31
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In the August heat of 1935, a middle-agedman very tall, thin and elegantly dressed-disembarks in Bombay, relieved to be away from his tedious English shipmatesand their gossip about hill stations and promotions. Scanning with veiled interest the crowd of Indian men milling about the gangway, he is resigned that it is one of the older ones, in a shoddy derivativeof his own impeccable suit, who will be his contact. He has come on loan from the BBC to make Indian radio into a modern concern in five years a bright, shiny service that will whip undisciplined and franklytoo Indiantastes into shape, and maybe elevate some segmentof the hopelessmassesat the same time. (Is there a slight air of hostility radiatingfrom some of their numbernearby?)He is no fan of the deathly dull and retrograde British imperial governmentto be sure, and plans to thwart the officialswho will undoubtedlyfeel some entitlement to broadcastsince the Raj is financingit; surely eliminatingthis bother will requirebut a few private chats with those at the very top, fellow Etoniansand the like. The firstorderof businessis to establishcontactimmediately Gandhi, Jawaharlal with those who really matter in India Nehru and the other clever young nationalists.Put them on the radio, mix in edifying cultural programmesand some Indian music with the orchestra!If those bores on the boat hate it, what does it matter?They are a dying breed anyway. What India and Indian radio really need are more visionaries, and who better than Lionel Fielden? Nehru, by then Fielden's Less than two years later, Jawaharlal with interfering friend, respondedto Fielden'sterriblefrustration
* This article was first drafted at a 1996 National Endowment for the Humanities seminar, 'Rediscovering the British Empire', directed by William Roger Louis in Austin, Texas. It benefited greatly from readings by the seminar members, particularly Roger Louis, Cary Fraser and Louise Williams and, at a later stage, from comments by Richard G. Fox, Dane Kennedy and Deborah Symonds. The Drake University Center for the Humanities provided funding for research and translation.




imperialists,Indian critics, scanty audiencesand a seeming universal disregardof his project. 'I am afraid you are a misfit in that job, or in India: but then all of us are', Nehru wrote. 'You blame others but does not the fault lie . . . in circumstancesthat are bigger than individuals, in the unhealthy relation between India and England, in the topsy-turvy world itself?'l Fielden embodied that 'topsy-turvy world'. His story of how a 'bent', iconoclastic,anti-colonialaesthetemade his way to the centre of the British establishmentin New Delhi and came to be viewed as the founder of Indianbroadcasting his Indian by successors is surelyone that challengesconventionaldepictions of the 'Servants of Empire'. Most of these valorize the civilservice class, men imbued with 'initiative,fortitude, courageand a profound sense of duty'.2 As India's first Controller of Broadcasting,Fielden came in from offstage and disdainedthose who measuredtheir worth by an outdated imperialyardstick.A member of a cynical generation of First World War veterans, scornful of his own upper-class Englishness and 'allergic to respectability',Fielden was perfectlyat home in Bloomsburyand Florence, but nothing short of a subversivein colonialIndia. Yet it was the last that gave him the role of his life: his story illuminates the intersectionbetween the new century'scosmopolitanism and the previous one's empire. Indeed, the very instrumentof modernitythat Fielden brought with him posed great dangersto imperialprerogatives.The distancesthat broadcasting could cover and the boundariesit could transgress,the mass society which it was expected to cultivate, andthe novel expertiseit demanded(from outsiderslike Fielden) all violated what little was left of the 'ImperialIdea'. This was the claim that colonial governance- by virtue of the firm hand
TheNatural Bent (London,1960), 198. Fewerthan 1 in 350 in Indiawere 'domestic

l 'Jawaharlal Nehruto LionelFielden,Allahabad, Jan. 1937',in LionelFielden, 5

listeners' late as 1939,as compared the 73 out of 100households as to with radiosin England: figuresfrom G. C. Awasthy,Broadcastingin India (Bombay,1965), 259; Asa Briggs,The Historyof Broadcasting the UnitedKingdom,5 vols. (Oxford,1995), in ii,235-6. 2 T. H. Beaglehole, 'FromRulersto Servants: ICSandthe BritishDemission The ofPowerin India',Mod. Asian Studies, ii (1977).Most studiesdealexclusively with the covenanted Indian colonial services, emphasize assume) remarkand civil and (or a able unanimity withwhichthe selectadhered the serviceethos.A classiccollective to biography PhilipMason[pseud.Woodruff TheMen WhoRuledIndia (New York, is ], 1954). Recentscholarship maintained stance:see CliveDewey,Anglo-Indian has this Attitudes: The Mind of the Indian Civil Service (London,1993);JohnCell,Hailey: A Studyin British Imperialism,1872-1969 (Cambridge, 1992).






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by AIR station managers. second from right) surrounded left. Lionel Fielden (front row, Zulfaqar Bokhari is on his right; Ahmed Bokhari is on Fielden's of Broadcastingin India on the Progress Government of India, Report (Simla, 1939) (up to the 31st March 1939) of The British Library) (By permission




of the districtofficer,a liberalcode of law thatpermittedmoderate dissent, closely supervisedcivic and legislativeforums was the sole conduit to India's appropriate politicaland social maturity.3 Broadcastingadvocates like Fielden entertained very different notions of progress; they had ideas about how to elevate and unify mass tastes, how to liberate listeners from parochialism, andhow to engineera more immediatelyinclusivekind of popular politics basedon the world of informationlearnedfrom the radio. These were not possibilitiesthat most stability-mindedofficers of the BritishGovernmentof Indiahad any interestin facilitating. The fact was that by the 1930s Indianpublic opinion was almost entirely nationalist,in the sense of being 'for Indian self-rule', even if it fragmented along prescriptive, religious and other divides. This hegemonyexplainswhy imperialconservatives were deeply leery about associationsbetween the radioand mass politics. For them, the implementation of state broadcasting,an expensiveand technologically dauntingprojectin underdeveloped India, was at best a strategicdefence. The radio was a potential weapon of war, and not just of foreign war-already Germany and Italy had startedup short-wavepropaganda servicesdirected towardinternational audiences but of the domestic war being fought with the Indiannationalmovement. In the lattercase, the possibility that the government's opponents might control the etherseemed, if not exactly an immediateconcern,than a potentiallycatastrophic one.4As Fielden put it in an anonymousarticle in the Timesin 1937, the Governmentof India was 'acting from dutyrather than pleasure'and intended to develop broadcasting mainlyfor fear of unwelcomeinterlopers.(Fielden's identity was hardly secret, as it was writtenwhile he was on leave in England; a it was exactly the kind of stunt that Delhi officials loathed in him.)5Yet, characteristic the Government'sattemptsto act as of

Enemies: Study in British Pozl)er A (London,1959).

The termandits significance fromA. P. Thornton,The ImperialIdea and its are

4 Constitutionally Government Indiawas not the of empowered, exceptby direct authoritarian action, to prohibitbroadcasting provincial local governments. by or Tardily recognizing wisdomof a centrally the controlled statenetwork with sufficient provincial stationsto discourage local alternatives, Governor-General the (Viceroy) inCouncilgrantedforty lakhsof rupees(about?300,000,a very smallsum for the task) towards capitalexpenditure an Officeof Controller. 1934-7 notesand and See memoranda BritishLibrary, in London,IndiaOfficeLibrary Records(hereafter and Brit. Lib., IOR), Information Department L/P&J/8/118. file 5 See two-part article by 'a Correspondent': 'Broadcasting India', Times, in 27-8July 1937.



if it were initiating, rather than reacting to, India's evolving public culture, officialsintendedto control tightly what might be broadcastwhile still actingas if the radiowas evidenceof imperial progress.In what it deemed a 'self-denying ordinance',the government pledged not to use the radio for the explicit defence of Britishrule, on the groundsthat grantingequaltime to nationalist opponents would allow politics to dominatewhat should instead be an educationalservice. The result was that Fielden came to be chargedwith institutinga mass mediumthat could not address 'political or industrial controversy', thus eliminating virtually every topic that matteredin India.6 The job of managingof such contradictions not unlike being chargedwith publicizingthe 'benign' aspects of apartheidin the 1980s-made the role of India'sfirst Controllerof Broadcasting a sensitive one. The very last person the Governmentof India wanted was someone like Lionel Fielden. But the choice was made in London, since, in the absence of suitable candidatesin India, the BBC was to send one of its men on a five-yearcontract. For the Home Department, the government's political nerve centre, the BBC itself was problematic.In a memo to his colleagues, the Director of Public Informationexpressed concern about the 'politicallyrather "advanced"tone' of the BBC staff, and emphasized the need for 'a man whose general attitude of mind toward political and kindred problems is innocuous'.7To his counterpartin London he was more direct: the BBC expert would have to be a supporterof empire, a 'concealeddiehard'.8 If Fielden proved to be exactly the official's feared 'thorn in the side of the Home Department', much was due to his fatal personalindiscretionsand constantfloutingof authority.His was the furthest from the 'civil service personality', respectfully obedient to the hierarchyand content to act as the humanvehicle of state policy. Early in his adult life Fielden had rejected this ethos. Though he passed the highly selective civil-service examination in London, he was so irked by his Foreign Office interviewers that he ended by deprecating the Balfour Declaration and announcingthat Englandhad sold the PalestinianArabsout
6 National Archives of India, New Delhi (hereafter NAI), Home Political Dept, Govt of India [hereafter Home (Pol.)] 240/27, 119/1/34. 7 Memo by Ian Stephens, n.d.: NAI, Home (Pol.) 119/1/34. 8 Copy of letter from Ian Stephens, Home Dept, to Hugh MacGregor, India Office, New Delhi, 17 Sept. 1934: BBC Written Archives, London, EI/896/2.




to the Jews.9 Yet, even had he been a better diplomat, Fielden would still have become stuck in the quagmirein India. He was to find himself trapped on one side by governmentalobduracy, a moribund bureaucracy,paltry financesand abysmaltechnological conditions;andon the otherby nationalist hazing,communal jealousiesand the corruptionof Indianpublic life. In his autobiography,he recalledhis first encounterwith the Britishagent who had been in charge of the fledglingBombayheadquarters. Why, Fielden asked, did the man call India 'God-awful'?'"Because", bawled Belton . . . "think you're coming to put everything . . . not a thing, I tell you . . . blue eyed boy at first . . . frustration, madness . . . not a thing done'''.l? II
Suchwas my natural bent, bornwith me and inescapable.

One indicationthat Fielden is a man worth investigatingis the animosityand suspicionwith which fellow officialsreferredto him in their internalcorrespondence. Tact about one's peers, at least when it cameto the writtenrecord,held an unassailable placein the codeof behaviour governedIndia'shighachievers. that ThatFielden was betrayedwas not only a sign of his outsiderstatus,but also an indicationthat his personality a criticalfactorin his fate. This was last would be elusive were it not for his colourfulautobiography, writtenin 1960in Italy,wherehe diedafterdecadesas an expatriate. The Natural Bent, like all autobiographies, revisionist.Fielden is remembered experiencesof Indiaand the BBC from a distance his of a quartercenturyand appliedfar too adept a literaryhand witness 'Belton'above for it to be a true recording.There are frustratingsilences, particularly regardinghis relationshipswith homosexual suspectedhomosexual) (or friendsand associates.llHe
9Fielden,Natural Bent, 68. Fielden'sblitheanti-Semitism revealedat other was points his autobiography, in particularly a comment in thatthe reported numbers of Jews killedin the Holocaust probably was inaccurate not worthmanytimesthat and number gentilesin any case:ibid., 218. of ?Ibid., 167. 1lSomeof theseomissions maybe discretionary. Fieldenis elliptical regarding the nature his longrelationship cohabitation Zulfaqar of and with Bokhari, who wasalive andmarriedat the time of its publication. Othersare more perplexing.Fielden entirely leavesout his association the writerJ. R. Ackerley, instance, with for though Fieldenhelped Ackerleyobtain a post in the BBC Talks Department and they remained friendsthroughout 1940s.See PeterParker,Ackerley: A Life of 38.R. the Ackerley(London, 1989), 122, 279-80. For the quotationswhich follow section subheadings, Fielden,Natural Bent, 73, 155, 186, 326. see


sparedhimselfno unflattering remembrances, even these bear but the mark of retrospectiveexaggeration.The result is marvellous self-parody;ample evidence of what even his detractorsacknowledgedwas his shareof 'genius'. 12 None the less, Fielden's memoirs reveal him to have been a kind of stock character in interwar England: the disaffected upper-classcosmopolite.He took the phrasewith which he titled his memoirsfrom Kipling, using it to signifyhis sexualorientation and, more fully, to evoke a post-Victorianinconstancy,a rejection of the Whiggish logic with which respectablelives were remembered: 'I was comicallyunfittedto be a soldier, an administrator, a reformer, a civil servant, or a member of any hierarchical organization . . I slid from one to another,not quite discontented . yet never dedicated'. To be a dilettante, to have the requisite advantagesto be one, and to confess to it with a self-abnegating cynicism was an option open to those of Fielden's echelon, particularlyin the decadesof his young adulthood.The grandsonof a distinguished Lancashire ownerand reformerin parliament, mill and the son of a 'Masterof Foxhounds', Fielden was raised on a Surreyfamily estate that he called one of the last 'isolatedislands of respectablefeudalism'.Unfortunateenoughto be born in 1896, he sufferedthe bullyingmilitaryenthusiasmsof Eton and finished just in time to take his class-dictated placeat the leadof a gunners' regiment in the trenchesat Gallipoli.His was not a distinguished service;interactionswith senior officersinspiredin him 'a pathological hatred of all Little Men in Authority' that did not bode well for his future public service.l3 Fielden's cynicism about the war was, of course, very fashionable among Britain's 'cultivated elites' in the 1920s and 1930s. So also was his homosexuality(not the leastbecauseit was illegal), and his wanderlust. His wartime travels through the near, 14
12 Fielden's'genius', see Leo Amery, Secretary State for India, to Duff On of Cooper,Minister Information, of London,1 June 1940:Brit.Lib., IOR,L/PO/3/3D; SirFrederick Puckle,Director-General Information, of Govtof India,to SirFindlater Stewart, Permanent Under-Secretary Stateat the IndiaOffice,New Delhi, 26 Mar. of 1940:Brit. Lib., IOR, LII/1/785. 13 Fielden, NaturalBent, 335, 29, 49-50. John Fielden had guided throughthe 'Ten Hours'(workday) legislation 1847. in 14 See Noel Annan, OurAge: English Intellectuals between WorldWars A the Group Portrait (New York, 1990), esp. chs. 7-8, discussing 'The Cult of Homosexuality'. The term 'cultivated elites' is D. L. LeMahieu's refersto 'a and
(cont. on p. 202)




Islamicworld had enthralledhim.ls Made restless by the disciplines of military service and demobilization,and settled with a future heir's allowance, Fielden toleratedonly a very brief stay at Oxford before seeking opportunitiesto set out again. He spent most of the next decade abroad in glamorous appointments, includinga stint tradingEnglishlessons for Frenchwith a retired generalin Algeriaand anotherconferenceplanningfor the League of Nations secretariatin Geneva. Finally tiring of this itinerant existence, in 1927 Fielden returned to England and manoeuvredhimself into a position at the BBC. For someone who described himself as 'that uneasy misfit, the artist without talents', yet well-versed in the best of the fine arts and literature,graced with elevated tastes and, perhaps most importantly, impressive personal connections, the young BBC was a very congenialinstitution. This was particu16 larly the case in the Talks Department, where he was hired as assistant to its chief officer, Hilda Matheson. Pioneering 'the technique, or art, of the talk', Matheson made broadcasting attractiveto the literatiand the 'youngerdons at the High Tables of Oxford Colleges'. She became Fielden's mentor, instilling in him the programming expert's sense of creativeentitlement.But Matheson'sreign at the BBC, though influential,was relatively short-lived. In the climate of Establishmentsuspicion that prevailed by the early 1930s, Matheson'sdepartmentand her schedule of speakers regularly provoked accusationsthat the BBC's roster of talent was elitist and possibly subversive. After 17 Matheson quit, Fielden suffered, as the liberties of the experimental phase at the BBC vanished under bureaucraticmanagement, political interference and middle-brow taste. Sir (later Lord) John Reith, founder and Director-Generalof the BBC, was 'presbyterian';his underlings were 'broadcastingbores'. Worse was the introduction of the 'hellish Listener Research
(n. 14 cont.)

deliberately ambiguous, category fluid embracing writers, artists, musicians, academics and other educatedindividuals', who held themselvesthe adjudicators cultural of accomplishment: L. LeMahieu, Culturefor Democracy:Mass Communication D. A and the CultivatedMind in Britain betzveen Wars(Oxford,1988), 103. the 15 He experienced the 'man-made beauty'of Alexandria, 'glittering the possibilities of Constantinople' even a shipboard and encounter with T. E. Lawrence: Fielden, Natural Bent, 54. 16 Ibid., 98. On the elitist climateof the BBC in its early years and its later 'popularization', LeMahieu, see Culturefor Democracy,chs. 5-6. 17 Briggs, History of Broadcastingin the United Kingdom,ii, 124-5, 142.


Department' which threatenedto cram the schedule with 'rednosed comediansand the WurlitzerOrgan'.l8 Eight years into his radio careerand taintedwith the fallout of the Matheson era, Fielden jumped at the possibility of going to India to be its first Controllerof Broadcasting.Significantly,he had not been invited to applyfor what was considereda privileged opportunityon the broadcasting frontier.Indianbroadcasting was a special interest of Reith's, who had long pressed the Indian governmentto undertakeit. 19Probablyawarethat Fielden lacked the diplomaticskills for the job, Reith discouragedhim, pointing out that he was a 'programmeman' ratherthan an administrator. Yet Fielden's perseverance,his access to the Old-Boy network, his strategically deployedcharmandhis grandioseideasfor Indian broadcastingevidently won over the Indian High Commissioner in London, Sir Bhupendranath Mitra.20 Reith's warm and personal congratulatory letter was laden with admonitions:
I don't know that anyone not excludingthe Viceroy-can do for Indiawhatyou can . . . It is your temperament whichwill in due course, make a triumphant success.But do remember that it's also- quite as much that very same temperament which, in a minute or a week, can producedisaster.2l

Fielden's motivationsfor going to India were undoubtedlycomplex. Professionally,India held out the opportunityto fulfil his creative mission, the one deeded to him by Hilda Matheson:it gave full discretionto programmers determinewhat constituted to qualitybroadcasting, along with the expectationof a grandmeasure of personalauthority.Where better to exercise this than the empire-where, as Fielden remembered,he could be 'a Saviour, speeding to the rescue of poor black people, to whom I should be most frightfully nice (so long, said Reason, as they are most frightfullysubservientto you)'.22Yet Fielden's cynicismafter the fact should not disguise his genuine sense of purpose. Two years into bitter reality he still claimed that broadcasting,'skippingas
18 Fielden,Natural Bent, 116, 142, 1os. 19The Reith Diaries, ed. Charles Stuart(London,1975),330-1. 20 Considering the expectations Home Department of the BBCdesignate, the had it is notable thereis no evidence inquiries Fielden'scharacter the Delhi that of into in files,or thoseat the IndiaOfficein London.Apparently MitraandReithweretrusted with this appointment, befittedtheir statureand relationships as with the Indian government. 21 'Sir JohnReith to LionelFielden,London,13 Aug. 1935', in Fielden,Natural Bent, 147-8. 22 Ibid., 146.




it does both illiteracy and distance', was 'the ideal medium for the task . . . of instructingand enlighteningthese vast masses'.23 The austere, colourless London of the 1930s clearly piqued Fielden's desireto explore the 'exotic East'.24 Homoeroticrepresentations of relationshipsbetween white and Indian men were ubiquitousin his milieu and Fielden had close contactwith those who perpetuatedthem. ThroughBBC and Bloomsbury circles he knew both E. M. Forster, who broadcastregularly, and J. R. Ackerley,who had also worked for Matheson.In 1932, Ackerley hadseen into print his racyHindoo Holiday,a fictionalized account of his term as companionto the Maharaja of Chhatarpur, which recountednumerousattemptedseductionsof boy servants.25 The influenceof this genre is clear in Fielden's autobiography. When choosing his personal bearer in Delhi, Fielden found himself facing two tottering old men: 'Had I not pictured to myself somethingso vastly different?Slim, intelligent youths, with the eyes of gazelles, worshipping me with silent, but so effective, service?'Similarly, Fielden's first encounter with the man who would become his second and intimate, Zulfaqar Bokhari, so closelymirroredFielding's with Aziz in Forster's A Passageto India(1924) that one wonders if Fielden had choreographedit. In both cases, the young Muslim aspirant entered the white officer's house while the latterwas in post-bath undressand they formed friendship on the basis of the officer's ease and a good fellowship under such awkwardcircumstances.26 There is no evidence that Fielden had any particular interest in Indianpolitics before he went to India, nor did he declare any 'politics' all in ideologicalor partyterms:clearlyhe felt at himself above them. He did, however, have strong responses to other people's politics. In the 1930s, they includedan attractionto the aesthetic vitality of anti-liberalexperiments, particularlyItalian fascism. toured Italy, Germanyand Russia after He gaining his appointment India ostensiblyto acquainthimself with their to
'Broadcasting India',Times, July 1937. in 27 On gay travellers, especially literary ones, who madepilgrimages Middle East, see Joseph A. Boone, 'VacationCruises:or, The to Asiaandthe Homoeroticsof Orientalism', PMLA,cx (1995). 25 Chhatarpur was a smallprincipality central in India:Parker, Ackerley, 26 Fielden,Natural Bent, 168, 183. This storyis backedup in Zulfaqar160. Bokhari's own autobiography: Zulfaqar Bokhari, Sarguzasht (Karachi, 1991),10. Selected translations fromthe Urduby Shahid done Refai, 1997.
23 24



broadcastingsystems and left with 'a feeling of impatience,a sense of disappointment'in England:
In Rome, Berlin, Moscow, eyes might flash with sinister intent, still, they flashed attractively . . . If, as our propagandahad it, the apparent vigour of these European nations was prompted only by revolvers, were the fishy eyes and listless faces of England so much more to be commended?27

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Fielden was looking for some new material for his jaded imagination. The people he would have wanted to know in India, indeed anywhere, were those like him: the 'cultivated elites'. In India these included globe-trotting Indian aristocrats,many of whom were also the leadersof the nationalmovement, but also their opponents, such as the pro-PakistanMuslimelites. With rareexception, this group did not include members of the Anglo-Indianestablishmentan establishmentwhich an upper-classcontemporary Fielden's of called 'artificialand imitative' for the pretensionsof its middleclassmandarins.28 Fielden would come to resenttheir impositions. For him, India in the 1930s presented an opportunity to be in the middle of a happening:the happeningwas the sinking of the British Raj. III
The success of my mission . . . the end of my fun.

Within months of his arrival, Fielden was getting his trousers dusty in Gandhi'sashram,treating Nehru and his sister to latenight scrambledeggs, and sharingbonmotswith his 'fast friend', the poet and political leader, SarojiniNaidu.29His access to this exalted Indian National Congress circle was through his position-imagine the coup of having the top media man of an enemy government solicit a personal friendship but was assured by a shared class backgroundand polish. Unfortunately for Fielden, the friendships did nothing for his broadcasting aspirations.The nationalistluminariessympathizedwith his predicament, even appreciatedthe possibilitiesof radio, but despite his insistence that he was promotingprogressive'Indian'broadcasting, the bottom line was that he was instituting what they
Fielden, Natural Bent, 142, 141. The quotation is from Allan Arthur, scion of an esteemed Anglo-Indian family, in Dewey, Anglo-IndianAttitudes, 204. 29 Fielden, Natural Bent, 195, 197, 181.
27 28




could only assumewas intendedto serve as a mediumfor imperial propaganda.Gandhiwrote to Fielden that his frustrationswere 'inevitable in the circumstancessurroundingus' and repeatedly urged a mutual friend to 'persuade[him] to give up the job and go back to England'.30 Fielden was not supposedto be issuing invitationsto nationalists in any case. Later, he would be reprimandedfor scheduling programmeswith literary figures and performerswho had any political connections at all, or who even had suspicious associations. The same restrictionsapplied to those hired to work at the All India Radio headquarters Delhi and at the provincial in stations. As Hugh MacGregor, the India Office Information Officer, put it bluntly to Fielden, the best course would be to avoid giving Indiansany influence in broadcastingoperationsat all: 'You have of course to associate Indians with you in every way. The difficultywill be so to arrangethis associationthat the real power and the final decisions remain with you and your successorswho, presumably,will alwaysbe Englishmenengaged by the Governor-General'.3lThese were rather unrealistic expectations (MacGregorwas replaced by a younger and more forward-lookingcolleaguein the following year), but they evidenced a deeper contradiction the logic of colonialbroadcasting. in What kind of Indians would have agreed to man an institution designed, however obliquely, to sustain the legitimacy of British rule? The answeron one level is clear those who wanted to build a careerin the new medium. For this, All IndiaRadio (AIR) was the only option, and there was no end of applicants.The rewards of obtaining a place were great, even if the salaries were) by British standards,small. They included prestige, a secure place in government service and, for the top ranks, a trainingstint at the BBC.32Indian newspapers and the AIR magazine, Indian Listener, regularlyreportedon the status of positionsto be filled.
30'Mahatma Gandhi LionelFielden,Segaon,Wardha, Jan. 1937',in Collected to 3 Worksof Mahatma Gandhi, 100 vols. (New Delhi, 1958-88), lxiv, 205; 'Mahatma Gandhi Rajkumari to AmritKaur,Segaon,Wardha, Sept. 1936',ibid., lxiii, 301; 21 also'Gandhi Kaur,Segaon,Wardha, May 1937',ibid., lxv, 166. to 4
31 Hugh MacGregor to Lionel Fielden, London, 17 Feb. 1936: Brit. Lib., IOR/I/1/445. 32 Govtof India, Reporton the Progressof Broadcasting India (up to the 315t March in 1939)(Simla, 1939), xii. The reportwas submittedand written,in the main, by Fielden.



In each round there were thousandsof applicants,cut down to a hundredor more interviewsfor less than ten positions. This vast pool suggests that, at this early juncture, almost anyone might have consideredhimselfa potentialbroadcasting expert. The avid pursuit of a position with the British government was, in any case, rarely a sign of political allegiance to imperial rule. The 'Indianization'of the key instruments of governance, the civil service and the army, had been preceding apace since the First World War, with the likelihood that Indians would eventually inherit real power in a post-colonial government evident by Fielden's period. Only truly activist nationalists shunned the possibilitiesin government service.33Nor could India be neatly divided into anti-colonialCongressnationalistson one hand, and stooges of Britishrule on the other. Most Muslimshad no reverence for the imperialconnectionbut preferredBritishrefereesto the possibilityof an Indialeft in the handsof a Hindu-dominated regime. The British governmentfamously played on these divisions, and Fielden lamentedthe energies he was forced to spend satisfying'model rotation'requirements the affirmative-action quotas of the day-at the AIR stations.34 It did not help in these rather delicate personnel matters that Fielden was openly intolerantof the nepotismand obsequiousness that he felt permeated Indian public life. These were very old traditions that British rule had done nothing but perpetuate; however, Fielden could not abide them in his studios. Insisting againstall evidence to the contraryin Indiathat broadcasting was an art, not a bureaucracy, was determinedto prohibit 'the rise he of clerks who knew nothing about Programmes'.Those he found alreadyemployedat the broadcasting officeswere, in turn, 'gross', 'ignorant','shifty', 'slow' and 'fatedto be bullied'.In his autobiography, if not in the instance, he nicknamedthe Bombay station engineer and his brother 'Gog and Magog', after the inhabitants of the biblical 'anti-society'.35 Consequently,he set about hiring
33 The typical candidate wouldhavebeena malewith a collegedegreeor certification, from a middle-class family, with a father in commerce,the professions or government service.AIRapplicants, then, wereof the sameilk as thosewho aspired to a place in the IndianCivil Service,thoughprobably with lesser pedigrees(and talent)than those who successfully competedfor the latter.See Beaglehole, 'From Rulersto Servants'; DavidC. Potter,'Manpower Shortage theEndof Colonialism: and The Caseof the IndianCivilService',Mod. Asian Studies, vii (1973). 34 Fielden, Natural Bent, 182.Fielden's frustrations thisarepalpable Home with in Department files:see, for instance, NAI, HomeDept (Est.) (S) 199/36. 35 Fielden,Natural Bent, 200, 161-2.




his own men and took to issuing admonitionsagainst 'Indian' methods of job-seeking. The Indian Listenerchastised 'aspiring candidates,not to speak of their fathers and uncles, [who] continue to write to, or bear down in personupon, the Controller'.36 As part of Fielden's habit of regularlydiscoursingon the progress and philosophyof broadcasting, which he felt was necessary to educate Indian audiences to a minimum standard of 'good listening', he gave a talk from the Delhi station on 'Broadcasting as a Career'.It is a perfect example of his style of unapologetic condescension.He first dismissed all technical hopefuls: skilled technicianswere in good supply and it would not do to beg for trainingor apprenticeship.With respect to programmestaff, he noted that excellence was largelya 'matterof taste and opinion', but that a programmerneeded 'a special type of creative imagination'. Unfortunately, 'this type of constructive ability' was 'especially rare in India'. 'Don't let us argue about causes', he added, 'but let us agree that independent thought is at a low ebb.37 The reality was not as bleak as Fielden suggested in his talk. It could not but be in those times, he later asserted, that 'the qualityof the Britishwas deteriorating: qualityof the Indians the was improving'.38 while he hired a wide range of promising Yet young Indians,ultimatelythe 'type' he prized becamethe signature of his own brandof nepotism. His Director of Programmes at Delhi, K. S. Mullick, concludedthat he 'proved himself to be a poor judge of men', surroundinghimself with an 'inner circle of opportunists and sycophants masqueradingas virtuosi'. A 'caste system' prevailed that favoured young Muslims who had been educated at the Government College in Lahore and had knownone anotherintimatelyfor years.39 The 'caste system' grew from Fielden's relationshipswith his closest professional associates, Zulfaqar Ali Bokhari, and his brother, Ahmed Shah Bokhari. The Bokharis were elegantly manneredAnglophiles who alternated between a Persianized 'Hindustani'and the King's English (languages eminently suitable,in Fielden'sidealization,for the Indianbroadcaster.) Ahmed
Indian Listener,22 Mar. 1939Fielden thought this broadcast of 1938 so useful that he reproduced it in his Report the Progressof Broadcastingin India, 142-4. on 38 Fielden, Natural Bent, 176. 39 K. S. Mullick, TangledTapes: The Inside Story of Indian Broadcasting (New Delhi, 1974), 105, 107.
36 37


was Professor of English at Government College, a published poet and translator when Forsterrecommendedhim to Fielden.40 Zulfaqar, the younger brother, was a translatorat the Army Headquarters a post whose colonialist implications he later recalled with disinterest but not discomfort when Fielden made him Assistant Station Director at Delhi.4l Within a few months both had been promoted and All India Radio was nicknamed the 'BBC': for 'BokhariBrothersCorporation'. In their urbanity and erudition the Bokharis were clearly Fielden's fellow travellersand, if the 'real' BBC was known for its distinctivestyle the cadenceand accents of its announcers, its elitist literaryand musicalculture then the Bokharis,alongside Fielden, were architectsof the Indianvariant.Their influence led to predictablecharges of anti-Hindu sentiment in the press and from Indian politicians, but the broadcastingorganization's chauvinismwas in actualitythoroughlyclass-based:neither religious differencesnor those of politicalallegiancematteredmuch against the mandate of good breeding. The Bokharis simply believed, as did Fielden, that broadcastingshould convey what they knew to be the most elevated of aesthetic forms: an Islaminfluenced Hindustani; Bengali poetry in Tagore's tradition; translationsof English classics, including the Shakespeareand Marlowe that Ahmed had taught; and broadcastsby Forster, Eliot, StephenSpenderand other contemporary Britishauthors.42 The internal culture of All India Radio was steeped with Fielden's and the Bokharis'professionaland sartorialstyle. Nirad Chaudhuri, later a famous critic of the Indian politics of his generation, remembered the headquartersreplete with young men uniformly outfitted in Austin Reed suits, 'handsome,welldressed,well-groomedand urbane. . . not particularly clever but
40 Impressions aboutAhmedBokhari's 'Englishness' otherfacetsof his personand alityand careeraregleanedfrominterviews tributesin AnwarDil (ed.), On this and Earth Together: Ahmed S. Bokhari at the UN, 1950-1958 (SanDiego, 1994). 41 Zulfaqar Bokhari refersto his post with the Armyand his own preoccupation with adoptingan Anglo lifestyle includingenrollinghis very 'native'wife in a missionary schoolto learnEnglish English and ways in his autobiography: Bokhari,

42 On the Bokharis' language policy,see DavidLelyveld,'The Fateof Hindustani: Colonial Knowledge the Project a National and of Language', C. Breckenridge in and P. van der Veer(eds.), Orientalismand the Post-ColonialPredicament:Perspectiveson South Asia (Philadelphia, 1993).




attractive'.43 The climate of hero worship fed speculationsabout Fielden and Zulfaqar's relationship; less-favoured AIR staff resented Zulfaqar's meteoric rise and privileged access to the chief. Rumours seeped into the Delhi press, staffed by cognoscenti who undoubtedly knew the AIR chiefs socially.44When Zulfaqar left India to join Fielden at the BBC in 1940, the CongressnationalistHindustanTimes fired partingshots based on widely held suspicionsaboutthe natureof their partnership: 'The All India Radio itself has been built from 'very slender'material, the only obvious theory of its constructionbeing that, in the eyes of its creators,queernessis equivalentto brilliance'.Both Fielden and Zulfaqar were tall and slim and 'queer', at least for sophisticatedreaders,was blatantenough.45 Indiancriticslambasted governmentbroadcasting Fielden's and position as part of a broader campaign against the continuing dominanceof Englishmenin officialpositions.MohanLal Saxena, a member in the Legislative Assembly, plagued the Viceroy's representativewith questions about why British experts were running Indian radio at taxpayers' expense. Saxena 'revealed' that Fielden was unqualifiedand redundantat the BBC, but that because he was 'influentiallyconnected', he had been given a place in India, the 'dumping ground for British refuse'.46The CriminalIntelligenceDepartmenthelpfully shared with Fielden a packet of interceptedletters from influentialIndianscirculating criticismsand gossip about him. Fielden decried the practice of opening privatemail and returnedthe letters, 'but the poison did
43NiradC. Chaudhuri,Thy Hand, GreatAnarch!India, 1921-1952 (London, 1990),749. 44In Mullick'swords, the 'intenselypersonalrelationship' betweenFieldenand Zulfaqar 'wentfarbeyondthe normsof officialbehaviour, betweenthe headof an as organizationand a local functionary':Mullick, TangledTapes, 111. Lahore Programmes' Director, R. Luthra, H. remembered the relationship that 'evokedsome adverse comment higherofficialcircles,in newspapers in occasionally, in private and gossip':H. R. Luthra,Indian Broadcasting (New Delhi, 1986), 157. 45 'MereGossip by Super',Hindustan Times, Feb. 1940.According the OED, 26 to xii, 1014, the word 'queer'signifying'homosexual' in regular was literary usageby the late 1930s;it certainly wouldhavesignified to 'Super'andhis elite readers. this 46 Questions and commentary reproduced MohanLal Saxena,'The All-India in Radio', Mod. Rev. [Calcutta] (Oct. 1937), 447. The legislator'smajorgrievance concerned 'nomination' Britishrecruitsto the IndianCivil Servicewho had the of not passedthe competitive examination. 1936 Indiansvastlyoutperformed By and outnumbered Britishcandidates the examsheld in LondonandAllahabad. in Potter 'Manpower Shortage the Endof Colonialism', and 64-5.


its work'. He understoodthat the broad public would never see him as anything but a collaborator.47 Yet these attacks by no means represent the whole of the impression that Fielden left on his Indian colleagues. 'Fielden was interestedin Indian culture and was broadlysympatheticto India, much more than the usual run of Englishmen in high official positions at that time', recalled Lahore Programmes' Director, H. R. Luthra.48 What Luthraand othersprobablymost appreciatedwas Fielden's preferencefor Indian friends and colleagues, a preferencewhich could also be seen as British-baiting. Mehra Masani, whose work for governmentradio evidently did not interfere with her nationalistcommitments her brother was a 'prominentleft-wing politician' characterized Fielden's friends as 'people who were certainlya bad lot from the British point of view. But of course, this made him exceedinglypopular with his Indian staff'.49So did his mockery of the British establishment. An oft-recounted story tells how Fielden 'tricked' the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, into changing the radio network's name from the very official 'Indian State BroadcastingSystem' to Fielden's chosen designationof All IndiaRadio, with its catchy acronym. Anticipating that the unsympathetic Viceroy would deny him this prerogative, Fielden reportedly manipulatedthe conversationbetween them so that it seemed as if Linlithgowhad come up with the new name himself.50 Fielden no doubt encouraged the wide circulation of such anecdotes to show that he was, with his Indian co-workers, a conspirator against the colonial humbugs; his maxims about broadcastingwere meant to broaden the conspiracy to include the entire listeningpublic. Mullick listed among Fielden's golden rules not only '[b]e fair and frankin your dealingswith broadcasters', but '[t]ake the listener into confidence'.SlThis last Fielden followed with a vengeancein his first years in India, particularly in the editorialpages of the IndianListener.Here he and his staff wrote frankly about the contradictionsof government broadcasting:'Broadcasting must . . . above all other things, be imparFielden,NaturalBent, 179-80. Luthra,Indian Broadcasting, 150. 49 Quoted in Zareer Masani,IndianTales theRaj (Berkeley,1987),48. of 50 Fielden's versionof the storyis reproduced virtually in everymemoir history and of Indianbroadcasting: Fielden,NaturalBent, 193. The point of my retellingthe storyis its popularity amongIndianbroadcasters, its basisin fact. not 51Mullick,Tangled Tapes, 110.
47 48




tial; it must also be ... agile, elastic and adaptable... But a Government Department in any country in the world can be

In programming matters,however,Fielden was less unilaterally India-centred. Whilehe broughtinnovative methodsand an apparently open mind to Indianaestheticforms, he would not shed his chauviniststandards. was, after all, the violationof these in the It transition a more 'popular'BBCthathad sent him packingin the to first place. Fielden'sambivalence was most evident in his attitude towardIndianmusic. On the one hand, he committedhimselfto a full understanding its styles and performance, of essentialfor the taskof adapting Indianmusicto the new medium.Here, he took on real challenges: and his staff had to cultivateartistswary of the he broadcasting studiosand deal with the public'sassociation some of musicaltraditionswith courtesansand other marginalfigures. On the other hand, he never consideredthe music outside his own Westernclassical frameof reference.He complained aboutthe lack of complex harmonyin traditional forms puttingIndianmusic 'verymuchin the samepositionas European music400 yearsago' and about what he saw as the indiscipline Indianmusiciansand of their stubbornreluctance learnorchestration.53 to Whether the scorn and suspicion with which Indian critics greeted his enterprise were 'inevitable' and 'circumstantial',as Gandhi and Nehru suggested, or were the result of Fielden's hubris, is not finally a very productivedebate. Fielden was able to acknowledgeboth in his autobiography. became 'as Indian He officialswere apt to do an intolerantlittle dictator'.In explanation he offeredhis own contribution the philosophyof authority to in India. Like Kipling, he was at once cognizantof the power of Indian collective sentiment and unable to avoid essentializingit:
Rule Indiawith a rod of ironandan tremendous swagger Indialiked and it: love India genuinelyand humblyand India loved you: but put on pinstripetrousersand write judicially impartially files and India and on knifedyou rightly.Or, pretendlike me to be awfullynice andbroadminded,andIndiamadeyou knowin the end, with somediscomfort, that you were sittingon a lonelyfence. 54
52 53

'On the Air', Indian Listener(7 Jan. 1937). Report on the Progressof Broadcastingin India, 21-3. See also David Lelyveld,

'Upon the Subdominant: Administering Music on All-IndiaRadio', in CarolA. Breckenridge (ed.), ConsumingModernity: Public Culture in a South Asian World (Minneapolis, 1995),52-5. 54 Fielden,Natural Bent, 193, 155.



IV with Authority. I now beganto skirmish

Fraught interactionsin the Indian public sphere were nothing comparedto the consequencesfor Fielden in the British official one. Here his social, political, sexual and racial transgressions were unforgivable;but, of course, Fielden was no unsuspecting victim. He set the tone for mutualcontemptoutrightby rejecting Anglo-Indiansociety in its entirety, opting not to live in official housing (though his rooms, by all accounts, well-befitted an Etonian), staying away from Simla, declining membership in Europeanclubs and habituallyrefusingbridge and dinner invitations. This posture, like his enthusiasmfor the nationalistpoliticos, was not quite original; the heroes of the artful imperial Days, Forster'sPassageto novels of the day Orwell's Burmese India- were men on the marginsescapingthe stultifyingconfines of colonialsociety well past its prime. Nor was Fielden'sa particularly principled defiance. Like Nehru and others of their class standing, Fielden quite comfortably socialized with the truly aristocraticof the Anglo-Indianset. He dined privatelywith the Viceroy and Lady Willingdon on numerous occasions, for example. It was simply that those lower down in the Britishranks providedno socialor artisticcapital.It was one thing to be known to 'sit upon the floor and talk to prostitutes or stay at Wardha with Mr. Gandhi', but quite another to be locked up in stuffy drawingrooms with 'the younger sons of Claphamand Surbiton, plus their suburbanwives'.55In quintessentialFielden fashion, however, he insisted on due deference, demandingan elevation He to the front of the official 'order of precedence'.56 snubbed offence. the snobs an unpardonable This is not to make light of real conflictsover Fielden's broadcasting agenda and his opposition to government policy, nor to suggest that there were clear lines demarcatinghis social and concernswere intensely professionalpredicaments.Broadcasting personal for him and the government'sdefensive stance toward radio compromisedhim deeply. While the BBC was providing opportunitiesfor political debate and news in Britain, an AIR listener would have heard no acknowledgementthat there were any politicalpartiesat all in India. It was not enough that Fielden
55 56

Ibid., 154, 177. Luthra, Indian Broadcasting,147.




and his colleagueswere allowedto developculturalprogramming. Outside the matrix of politics, culturalprogrammingseemed to advance little beyond the familiarimperial rhetoric about India as a land of diverse 'peoples' with ancient religious, musical and philosophicaltraditions. As far as Fielden was concerned, AIR would not be a truly modern broadcastingconcern until the prohibitions were lifted; anything less than modernity was a shamefulfailure. Fielden persistentlyused liberal claims for a free information system against his conservativesupervisors.Only if the broadcasting system served as a forum for political debate could it maintain its integrity, he argued, both in the ethical sense of making a positive contributionto the life of the nation, and in the structural sense of discouragingcompetitors; otherwise, it would always be viewed as a forum for official propaganda.57 With his Indian colleagues, Fielden sought to challengethe ban on politics in cases whose legitimacy the government would be hard pressed to deny. An importantopportunityarose with the implementationof reformsthat devolved significantadministrative powers(not includingthe rightor meansto overthrowcolonial rule, of course) to elected Indianministriesin the provinces. The elections, to be held in 1937, were by democraticstandardsfarcical: carefullyselected voters comprisedsomewherebetween 11 and 14 per cent of the population.58 The symbolic importance was far greater.Indianswould go to the ballot boxes and declare their loyaltiesto theirchosen, not government-appointed, leaders. Though popular political sentiment was undoubtedly what Fielden wanted to broadcast,he arguedinsteadthat, as a government sanctioned activity of concern to the Indian public, the electionsdemandedAIR coverage.For the government,the problem was that the Indian National Congresswas expected to win in the majority of provinces (as it did). Faced with providing their enemiesan exceptionallywell-microphoned podium, India's high command preferred to jettison a chance to demonstrate governmentgood faith. Fielden doggedly pushed the issue, and was put down haughtily.S9

LionelFieldento HughMacGregor, New Delhi, 7 Apr. 1937:Brit. Lib., IOR,

L1U11445. 58 D. A. Low, 'Emergencies and Electionsin India', in his Eclipse of Empire (Cambridge, 1991), 154. 59 Copy of a demi-official letterNo. S. 4544/36-Poll, dated5th August1936,from the Govtof India,HomeDept, to LionelFielden,Esq., Controller Broadcasting, of appendedto an internalnote by H. G. Hallett:NAI, Home (Pol.) 52/10/36.The
(cont. on p. 215)


Such acts of 'insubordination' alienated the diehards and goaded them into closer surveillance. In late 1936, a list of speakerswho had been invited to the Calcutta,Bombayand Delhi studios was circulated in the Home Department. It included Congressmembers, notably SarojiniNaidu, as well as recognized Communists,socialists, trade unionists and an accused Bengali terrorist. It was no excuse at all that they were to broadcaston cultural and educationaltopics about which they were experts: Naidu, after all, was a poet; others were academicsand authors; there was even a major industrialist. The Intelligence Bureau believed the list should promptthe conclusiverepealof Fielden's Conservatives 'unfettereddiscretion'to make up programmes.60 could not accept what Fielden knew to be self-evident, that the Indianswere, vast majorityof the most talentedand accomplished in one way or another, affiliatedwith anti-colonialpolitics. Lists of programmesduring Fielden's tenure provide evidence talks featuredofficial of his forced capitulation.English-language and semi-official British agents in India, including Miss Norah Hill on 'Round India with the Red Cross', Professor Percival Spearon 'ForgottenDelhi', and Lady Grigg on 'Some Problems of the Central Advisory Board of Education'. Indian language programmesjudiciouslyalternatedbetween religious interests:a Bengali talk, 'From the Vedas'; a debate between two Muslims on the question 'Should Carsbe used Instead of Bullock Carts?' inherentin the mediumobtruded Ironically,the cosmopolitanism none the less. BBC Empire Service programmeswere detailedin but the IndianListener, so too were schedulesfrom Italian,French and German wavelengths as late as 1938. Listeners were not allowed broadcast discussions of Indian politics, but were informed when to tune in to Hitler Youth programmes,such as the one entitled 'We Wish the Master a Golden Table'.6l It did not matter in the end whether such programmeswere officially sanctioned, as the government discovered during the Second World War: despite elaborate and unrealizableplans for 'jamming' foreign signals, the radio always outwitted its regulators. Fielden disdainedthe Government'sparochialism,but by his own accountkept himself in check. 'Whatevermy politicalbeliefs

that it may be a formalreprimand. indicates language Bureauto the Home list submittedby Intelligence 60 NAI, Home (Pol.) 5219136, Dept, Sept. 1936. in listingsdisappeared October1938. 61 Indian Listener, (1936-9). Foreign




were, I could not use All-India Radio to further them. That would have been treason'.62 None the less, Fielden did everything else he was not supposed to do in grand style. When refused by his directsuperiors,Fielden took his claimsto the Viceroy'soffice until at last it refusedto see him. He was candidaboutgovernment policy with nationalistnewspapersand did not care when he was reprimanded,even severely with a 'letter of censure'. He interpreted increasinglywell-co-ordinatedinquiriesas a witch-hunt, and respondedas a combatant.'What businessis it of yours, if I do my job properly?',he recalledhimselfretortingwhen interrogated by officials about his homosexualityand the gossip in the scandalsheets. The head of the CriminalIntelligenceDepartment called him 'neurotic' and 'queer' when he presented evidence that his mail was being opened, and warned him that India was no place for 'left intellectuals'.Fielden believed, based on official documents he was shown by his staff, that a special committee had been establishedto have him declared of unsound mind.63 That there was a concertedeffort to 'get him' is partiallyborne out by a still-extant file at the BBC, which containscompilations of particularly damningexcerpts from his letters.64
V Good-bye forever to the non-glamorous East.

Artistic license in the telling of Fielden's story would have him banished from India in disgrace, but in fact the end is anticlimactic. Fielden stayed out his five-year contract,the last of it punctuatedwith a long home leave and recurrentillness tuberculosis, Fielden claimed, and a nervous breakdown or two. PerhapsFielden had posed, finally, no real threat. How else to explain why the Viceroy named him 'Companionof the Indian Empire', an honour given yearly to outstanding officials and civiliansfor their service to India?Or perhapsit was a matterof everyonesaving face; the water was tested beforehandto ensure that designees would not refuse the award and Fielden, apparFielden,Natural Bent, 214. 187, 189, 191. 64 This file, BBC EI/896/3,also contains note that a confidential materials have beenremoved.
62 63



By ently, could not resist the lure of the Viceregalsilverplate.65 1940 in any case British rule in India had bigger problems than radio renegades,and negotiationsfor a post-war settlementwith the nationalistswere alreadyunderway.Back in England,Fielden and ZulfaqarBokharitook up positions at the BBC's Hindustani short-wave service, itself a product of the war. If their personal motivations were to sustain an inter-racial and homosexual romance doubly reviled in India, then the move only partially worked. Though they lived togetherfor the duration,their reputations from India followed them, and Fielden's stint at the BBC was a short one. He quit after six months in the midst of a departmentalfeud and yet anothernervous breakdown.66 Grudgesagainstthe BBCand the Governmentof Indiacertainly contributedto Fielden'ssubsequentbrief careeras a propagandist for Indian independence; his 'former official position' vested his opinion with a 'spuriousimportance',wrote an enragedofficial in India when Fielden's anti-imperialisttract, Beggar My Neighbour,appeared in 1943.67Fielden was recruited by the Labour leader and 'championof lost causes', Fenner Brockway, who asked him to stump on behalf of the 'Indian Freedom and Campaign'. was a role Fieldenfound embarrassing undigniIt fied. Lecturing in Granthamand Stoke-on-Trent, being put up in commercialtravellers'hotels ratherthan with 'the working class, which might have been amusing' he felt himself 'falling rapidlyin the social scale'.68 Salvagingwhat he could from this, Fielden based BeggarMy As Neighbouron the speeches he delivered for Brockway.69 a political analyst, Fielden was hardly original. His argumentsfor immediateindependencewere that Britainwas in no position to claim legitimacyto rule, that the war had little to do with India and everythingto do with the fight for masterybetween equally
for descripto Bent,232. I am grateful MarkJacobsen sharing 65 Fielden,Natural fromViceroyReading's1923papers,IOR, MSSEur E238/25. tionsof the Honours Fieldenfor the Hindustani of 66 The Government Indiano doubt recommended to Serviceas a payback the BBCfor sendinghim out to them. The BBCrefusedto that appointFieldenas headof the service.Fieldencommented he had 'not realized of that I was so hated':Fielden,NaturalBent, 216. In turn, the Government India awayfrom officialcircleswhile he was on askedthe IndiaOfficeto keep Zulfaqar leavein Delhi:Brit.Lib., IOR, L/I/1/784. 67Note by G. C. Ryan, IntelligenceBureau, 11 Dec. 1943: NAI, Home (Pol.)
68 69

Fielden,NaturalBent,227. (London,1943). My LionelFielden,Beggar Neighbour




power-hungryopponents, and that Indianleaderswould have to work out the communalissue amongthemselves.Like most other western commentators,Fielden entangled discussionsof India's politicaldestiny with commentaryon its spiritualessence and the condition of its alien masses. Here, he was squarely Gandhian, condemningthe toxins of western materialismand demandinga return to the rudiments on behalf of the rural majority, with whom he had little contact in India in any case. In this his allegiancewas to Gandhihimself, underwhose spell he had fallen. His other allegianceswere evident as well: Fielden dedicatedthe book to Zulfaqarand included a chapteron the just expectations of the Muslim minority, who 'preserve in their blood the pride of a conqueringrace'. If the intent of the book was to needle his old colleagues, it worked. The Governmentof India promptly bannedit as 'unadulterated pro-Congressand pro-Gandhipropaganda'. An Indian National Congress bulletin declared it 'The Book of the Year!'70 The most damningcommentaryon BeggarMy Neighbour came from George Orwell, whose recent work arrangingprogrammes for the BBCIndianService(nominallyunderZulfaqar)had borne a strong resemblanceto Fielden's duties at his ignominiouscolonial post. Deeply compromisedby the censoring of his literary talks and war commentaries, Orwell's scathing review in his friend Cyril Connolly's journal, Hori2ron, likely an exercise was in distancing himself from his BBC experience.7lDespite their joint conviction about India's rightful claims to independence, Orwell excoriated Fielden, arguing that Fielden's position on India approachedfascism because of Fielden's cultural essentialism his concurrence with Gandhithat Indiawould be better off protecting itself from, rather than embracing, the modern world and what Orwell read as a suggestionthat India might negotiate a peace with Japan. Fielden's anti-materialism,his avocation 'spiritualism' 'ensurethat [the Indian]will always of to remaina coolie', as Orwell describedit, did not 'come well from
79 Note by G. C. Ryan, Intelligence Bureau, 11 Dec. 1943; Congress Bulletin 'Ninth August', no. 8, 24 Nov. 1943: both in NAI, Home (Pol.) 4917143. 71 Orwell's biographer interprets the attack on Fielden as primarily intended for Zulfaqar: Michael Sheldon, Orwell: TheAuthorizedBiography(New York, 1991), 349. Orwellwould not have worked directly with Fielden at the BBC. On Orwell's BBC work, see ibid., ch. 18; also C. Fleay and M. L. Sanders, 'Looking into the Abyss: GeorgeOrwell at the BBC', ZI Contemporary Hist., xxiv (1989); Orwell: The War Broadcasts, W. J. West (London, 1985). ed.


someonewho is in a comfortableand privilegedposition'. Fielden was a hypocrite and an easy mark for political manipulators the self-anointedwestern 'intellectual',bitter from being 'in the position of a young man living on an allowancefrom a fatherthat he hates'.72 Certainly Fielden's Indian career would have rewarded him more had Orwell's characterization him as a naive convert to of others' causes been correct. Had he simply believed with his colonialpeers in the altruismof Britishgovernanceor, conversely, with his famousfriendsin the unalloyedjustnessof Indiannationalism, he would not have sat, as he put it, on the 'lonely fence'. Gandhihad said as much at their first meeting, Fielden conceded in BeggarMy Neighbour, when he warnedthat unless Fielden was to choose one side or the other 'both will throw stones'.73 But in their iconoclasm and contempt for simplistic prescriptions, Fielden and Orwell were kindred. Having gained his options by embracingthe experimental1920sand cynical 1930s, Fielden had no inclinationto mute the chaos of the twentieth century. This was most apparentin his consumingpassion,his singularaesthetic enterprise:the radio was for a time its handmaiden.Fielden had chosenamongthe politics, culturesand artsarrayedin the cosmopolis before him, orchestrating often contradictory an synthesis continentalscepticismand Hindu mysticism,modernistverse and Mughal courtly music, anti-imperialcalls-to-armsand Raj ceremonial with which he, as despot, had meant to colonize Indian broadcasting. Considering scope of his vision, it is no wonderthat Fielden the called the AIR that he left behind 'the biggest flop of all time'.74 This is unmerited.One need only read his comprehensiveReport on the Progressof Broadcastingin India (1939) (still the best broadcastinghistory of the period) to realize how much he accomplished.Though broadcastingaudiencesremainedlimited through the 1940s, post-colonial Indian radio would not have taken off without Fielden's groundwork.Under his leadership, AIR successfullyestablishedmore than a dozen new stationsand substantially overcame numerous technical, bureaucratic and
72 George Orwell,'Gandhi Mayfair', in Horizon, viii (Sept. 1943),216. Fieldenwas given equal space to rebut two months later: Lionel Fielden, 'Toothpastein Bloomsbury: Replyto GeorgeOrwell',Horizon, viii (Nov. 1943). A 73 Fielden,Beggar My Neighbour,54. 74 Fielden,Natural Bent, 204.




social obstacles. Mehra Masani, then Deputy Director of AIR, recalled giving Lord Reith a tour of BroadcastingHouse in the 1950s: to his admiringremarksshe responded, '[i]t was Lionel Fielden who did that'.75Masani was just one of the Fielden proteges who perpetuated his protocols in the upper ranks of state broadcastingin India and Pakistan. ZulfaqarBokhari was the best known of them. As Radio Pakistan's first DirectorGeneral,he inspired his own personalitycult.76Ahmed Bokhari left broadcasting after his stint as head of AIR followingFielden's departure,but appearedin similarguise as the head publicistfor the United Nations a decadelater;a job whose primaryresponsibility, as he evidentlyinterpretedit, entailednumerousinterviews with the New York press in which he featuredas a multinational savant (Fielden, uncharitably,said after Ahmed's death that he wished he had left him an English professor).77 As for Fielden, he seemed to retreat with the empire he had so ambivalentlyserved. Exiling himself to Tuscany at the war's end, he occupiedhimselfrestoringcrumblingvillasand lamenting the post-war order. He loathed its Cold War patriotisms, its technocracy,its easy answersto social questions. On a final trip to India in 1956, he found his friend Nehru as imperiousas his predecessors, his 'court' as bloated and politics as corrupt as usual. Broadcastinghad become nothing but the tool of such regimes and of vulgar homogeneity. By the time that Fielden wrote his autobiographya few years later, he had renouncedit entirely: 'The essential leaven of individualvariety . . . may be swept away by mass emotions, conditionedand controlledby the technicalpower of communications'.78 During his last years, bedridden from an accident, he must have thought often of those tumultuousand vital decadesbetween the wars. Then there had been an empireof possibilities,a brief interludebeforehe believed for certainthat they were to be squanderedby the unimaginative who ruled the world. Drake University ffoselyn Zivin

75Quotedin Masani,IndianTales theRaj, 50. of 76Reminiscences Bokhari'sRadio Pakistancolleagueswere collectedin the by weeklymagazine the LahoreEnglish-language of newspaper, Dawn, 16 Apr. 1997. My thanksto AndyMcCord directing to this source. for me 77'Lionel Fielden[to AnwarDil], 8 Feb. 1968',reproduced Dil (ed.), On this in EarthTogether, 249. 78Fielden,NaturalBent,325, 334.