An American in India

Stanley Brush in Lucknow, 1943

…Which brings me to the label of “American Indian”. Well, why not? My parents were American, but India was the land of my birth. I was conceived, born in 1925, and nurtured in the Bengal railway colony of Kharagpur, almost as a kind of affirmation by my parents that the family- which included my Pennsylvania-born older
brother- was now Indian as well as American. My brother had arrived in Kharagpur with my parents in 1923, as a four-year old. My sister rounded out our family roster with her birth in Kharagpur three years after mine. It was Indian air that filled my lungs as I inhaled and bellowed for the first time, and it was produce of the Indian soil that nourished me through infancy and childhood. My Indian ayah watched, bathed, dressed, fed, and put me to sleep under mosquito net with Indian lullabies, and it was in her arms that I spoke my first word, chand, an Indian word, while pointing at the moon. The passport amendment bearing my name in my parents’ passport said “American,” but in so many other important respects, I was Indian.

A 5-month old Stanley Brush held by his first ayah, Marrimma

So what is my label? Probably not any one of these. It depends upon how one feels at any given time. But there was one revealing experience at the outset of my teaching career at Forman Christian College in Lahore, formerly in India, now in Pakistan. It was the first day of class at the opening of the fall term. I entered the room. The students, most of whom were wearing the dark-blue FCC blazer, all stood until I took my place at the front and gave them permission to sit. I called the roll without too much difficulty. The boys listened with what seemed to be a flattering degree of attention. All went well and the class ended. At that point I was surrounded by a circle of smiling young Punjabi and Anglo-Pakistani (formerly Anglo-Indian) men, one of whom said, “Sir, we are so happy. You are the only American we can understand!”

What better endorsement of my identity could there ever have been than this?…

Text source: American Indian in Kharagpur: Exploring a Personal Brand Name by Stanley E Brush, published in The Way We Were: Anglo-Indian Chronicles
Images source:
Note: According to After Stanley completed graduate work in sociology and religion, and Beverly [his wife] finished her nursing degree, they moved with their two young daughters, Cynthia and Victoria, to Lahore, Pakistan in 1952. Stan taught English and History at Forman Christian College and Punjab University. Beverly worked at United Christian Hospital. In 1963, Stan moved with his family to Berkeley, California where he earned his PhD in History at the University of California. He then joined the History faculty of the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he taught until his retirement in 1990.

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