Victor Banerjee’s performance as Dr. Aziz in David Lean’s A Passage to India really stole my heart. He brings the lived experience of the Raj for Indian professionals into our living rooms, and he does it with a gentle charisma, giving us a point of view character who is at once vulnerable and guarded, even with his friends.
Banerjee doesn’t pull any punches in the emotional roller-coaster of a diligent professional’s daily struggles trying to come to his own terms with the casual and unthinking injustices perpetrated by English colonists – their class solidarity and shameless racism. This sonnet is in the voice of his Dr. Aziz, as a continuation of the letter he sends to Adela Quested in the final scene of the film.
Against the backdrop of the swelling plain,
our differences looked trifling and tame –
and now that all is said and done, this same
exhaustion with the world smacks of disdain.
What little motives brought us to this pass –
what rancorous assumptions and half-truths
our trial brought forth! Yet with the grace of youth,
you cast aside the lies of tribe and class.
Surrounded by my children and my friends,
I write to you with gratitude – despite
the foolish things you said, when you took fright
and kowtowed as a wind-whipped sapling bends.
The fears you faced down on the stand were real;
in facing them, you bought me time to heal.