This biography records the life of an unusual man-C.F. Andrews- who came to India as an Anglican priest in 1904 and was one of those very rare personalities respected both within Indian nationalist circles and official British ones.
A close friend of Gandhi, Tagore and other eminent Indians of the time, Andrews never ceased to champion the Indian cause for independence and, in a broader sense, the cause of all downtrodden people against oppression. Yet he was able to obtain a hearing from the British governments as well and, ultimately, played the part of mediator between the nationalists and the British.
Apart from analysing Andrews role in pre-Independence India and his fight against oppression in Africa and elsewhere, this biography bring to life the very human facts of Andrews’ extraordinary personality. Based on archival sources including Andrews’ voluminous correspondence, the study reveals a man abounding in love for all humanity, with a capacity for enduring human relationships and an utter guilelessness and simplicity.
This biography seeks to study Andrews’ life and work closely and view them in proper perspective for, with the passing of time, his relevance has grown rather than diminished.
Hugh Tinker taught politics at the University of Lancaster and has also been Director of the Institute of Race Relations, London, and Professor of Government and Politics in the University of London.
This book has two contrasting themes. The dominant theme is that of personal relationships: the growth of affection and love between people of different races, different cultures, and different classes. The minor theme is that of the penetration of circles of power and influence by an outsider, and his capacity to bring about change by persuasion, and sometimes by direct assault.
At the centre of it all stands Charles Freer Andrews, un-certain of himself, impetuous, at some times irrational, at all times vulnerable. After resigning from his missionary post in 1914 he never again occupied any recognized position (except that of Tagore’s deputy at Santiniketan, from which he soon resigned). Yet he moved easily, and with acceptance, in and out of organizations of vastly different kinds. He wrote books, pamphlets, and articles, which were read and discussed by thousands. He wrote an autobiography which was a best-seller, and was translated into the main languages of Western Europe and of India. But his greatest achievement was to create patterns of friendship and love which almost always endured unto death.
‘We will keep his memory green’, wrote one of his Indian friends after he died; and in the India of the 1970s C.F. Andrews is remembered with honour. In 197, the centenary of his birth was celebrated with special publications, meetings, conferences, seminars. His portrait appeared on Indian postage stamps (the only other Englishman so honoured was A.O. Hume, the founder of the Indian national congress). His name has been given to a locality of Delhi, the capital city: Andrews-ganj. Colleges, schools, and hospitals have been called after him. Every Indian educated in the English language knows about him.
Yet he has suffered somewhat the same fate as his great friend, Gandhi. He has become a superman, a saint, a ritual figure. He who failed and fell so often is remembered as a mighty saga. The humanity is sometimes missing from the Andrews of modern Indian myth, or, if it is there, it is super-human: a love that never fails a compassion that moves mountains.
All this is still much more admirable than his fate in contemporary Britain. Of course, there are circles where his name is known, and a somewhat ritualistic respect is accorded to the Englishman who won so much regard from Indian nationalists, Andrews is a name to encourage the western missionary, who today wonders if his calling makes any sense at all, or to assist Western humanitarians trying to penetrate into a suspicious Asia. Apart from a faithful few of an older generation, Charlie Andrews is not now a name to make hearts leap or to loosen tongues. When a Quaker admirer urged radio Birmingham- the local radio station of the city where he lived in boyhood and again in later life, a city with thousands of Indian and Pakistani citizen-to include a programme to mark his centenary, she received a blunt answers: We have never heard of him.
This eclipse has come relatively suddenly. In 1960, the BBC Third Programme produced a sensitive commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of Andrews’ death. During the 1940s, several biographical studies had been published in England. In part, the decline follows the waning British interest in India; it no longer seems so very important that independence was achieved in 1947 without a massive alienation from Britain. In part this may be just another sign of the dwindling importance of religion in British life. All of Andrews’ biographers have been committed Christians, writing to a Christians audience. Christianity has been minority belief in Britain for several decades.
Yet C.F. Andrews becomes more, not less, relevant as time passes-especially to the Britain of the 1970s. Almost alone in his own generation Andrews understood the damage done by White racism, and foresaw the growth of racism in Britain. He perceived that if White racism became more strident it would create a Black-and a Brown-backlash. Long before African nationalism was recognized as a coherent movement in the days when Africans were still generally considered as ‘primitive’, ‘natives’-he realized that colonialism had to give way to nationalism. He perceived that the dominance enforced by Europe and America, so assuredly, was coming to an end. He knew that unless the West practised co-operation it would inevitably be involved in conflict. Within the spiritual sphere he grasped the vital need for an ecumenical movement. The ecumenical idea has made astonishing advance since his death, and yet it still falls far short of the need, as he saw it, and as the survival of religion as a world force demands.
If one reads his books, or articles, one is constantly reminded with a shock that an idea he is presenting in an apparently mild and gentle manner is actually one of the imperatives of our times. Yet his importance as a man of ideas is not as great as the amazing example he provides of someone who lived out his ideals, often at great cost. He was unworldly- a close friend emphasized his ‘trait of non-possession’-but above all he personified the fullness of love. He did not just condemn White racism and race conflict in his writings; he also lived a life which demonstrated how futile and irrelevant the concept of White superiority (or any other superiority) is in inter-racial relationship.
C.F Andrews has been hovering on the edge of my consciousness for a great many years. He moved right into the middle of my awareness when, in the Cambridge university library on 16 February 1972, I first read his letters to Lord Hardinge, Viceroy of India. I suddenly realized how strong and moving and persuasive was this man who lived so completely outside the world of power yet who could impose his mark on the powerful. At that time I was making an intensive study of the Indian communities domiciled in the Dominions and Colonies of the British Commonwealth; Andrews constantly appeared, and I was deeply impressed by his ability to see further than those around him.
When I was nearing the completion of my book, separate and unequal: India and the Indians in the British Commonwealth, 1920-1950 (published 1976) I thought that perhaps I had written all I reasonably might about C.F. Andrews. Had I not demonstrated how his efforts were accepted-and rejected- in the rhetoric and the reality of a ‘multi-racial Commonwealth’?
To complete that study I worked in the National Archives of Indian in November-December 1973, especially upon the collection deposited by Benarsidas Chaturvedi. Reading the letters of Charlie Andrews to Mahatma Munshi Ram-‘Rama’ to Charlie- I discovered an entirely different dimension of the man. From that time onward I knew that I had to write his biography, and that time would be the most important literary task I should ever attempt. Some months later I was given the home address of Marojorie Sykes in south India, and I wrote to the women whose own biography had stood for a quarter of a century as the definitive study of C.F. Andrews. She was welcoming and generous to one who might have seemed a usurper. She told me something of the wealth of material deposited at Santiniketan, where I stayed during November-December 1974 and where I also met her in the course of a brief visit.
Sitting in the Rabindra-Bhavana, next to Tagore’s own school and University, I came to the most valuable collection of all, where one can enter into both Andrews’ mental and emotional development, from his missionary days until his death. There were many other important collection to be traced in archives and in private hands (these are discussed in an appendix), but at Santiniketen I was able to get to the heart of Charlie Andrews.
The reader may wish to be told how I see my own book in relation to existing work. The first important document on his life is his own spiritual autobiography, what I Owe to Christ. The title may seem to promise a conventional piety, but the actual work-simple, yet profound-is a most important key to understanding. Equally important in what may be called the ‘authorized’ biography, by Chaturvedi and sykes. The authors were intimately associated with the man; in addition, they were able to work from a very considerable body of documentary material. Their study drawn upon the personal reminiscences of dozens-perhaps hundreds-of people who knew Charlie Andrews at each stage of his life, from boyhood onwards. This was one of the great advantages of writing so soon after his death. Inevitably, there were disadvantages. Many important papers were closed to them. They had to exercise a proper reticence in discussing persons they wrote about, who would read their book. Moreover, though both were candid friends, they naturally wrote in a spirit of reverence about one who meant so much to them personally.
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