This cartoon is taken from an 1874 edition of Punch. Here, Punch is playing on stereotypes by portraying a Sahib drinking his evening "chota" (small) peg or a "burra" (large) peg of whisky with his servant standing over him. To many in Britain, this image would have reaffirmed their ideas about how the Anglo-Indian conducted his life in those foreign climes. Their image of him would have been a complex one of power and dominion over the locals, a certain amount of ignorance, some financial success, but all the while he was being whistful and pining for returning to the green fields of England. This image plays on these ideas by showing the condescending attitude of the white officer to his servant. He is obviously about as interested in the caste system as he is in lighting up a new cigar. What is more interesting is how Punch portrays the servant's riposte to these unsubtle and culturally insensitive comments. The snide comments of the servant show an independence and sense of spirit that seem strange in such an unequal power relationship. What should be remembered, is that, however badly masters talked to their servants, at the end of the day, the ruling classes had an immense respect for the people who served and worked for them. A relationship is still a relationship, and if you treated your servants with contempt then they could easily make life uncomfortable for you. If you treated them with respect then this respect would usually be reciprocated. The readers of punch would have been taken from this ruling class, and would have been amused and pleased by a servant with the confidence and ability to stand up to his master whilst still appearing to maintain his station in life.

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by Stephen Luscombe