a brief introduction to historyMeera Syal´s Anita and me is a semi-autobiographical contemporary British novel, published in 1996, that relates the struggle of Meena kumar, a second-generation indian child born in Britain, to develop her own cultural identity within a gap in between two contrasting cultures; her Indian heritage, on the one hand, and the british experiences (influences) she receives from the society (surrounding her) where she grows up on the other hand.
Before introducing the literary context of this novel which means the discussion of terms such as postcolonialism and black British literature, I consider (think) essential to provide a brief insight into the precedents in history that prompted (allowed) and promoted (encouraged) the development of these literary productions. Focusing, specially, on those history facts related to India as a former British colony and the consequences of such processes of colonization, we can achieve a deeply comprehension of the themes dealt in Syal´s work and a fully understanding of what was happening in the time and place in which Anita and me is set. From 1858 to 1947, a period known as the Raj, India was one of the colonies which composed the British Empire, which meant to be under the rule of the British crown. During this time many British citizens migrated to India to work in the different options offered by the Raj, as it is related in the novel by the character of Mr Topsy/Turvey, who expresses to have “served” in India for ten years (p.222). Although at first the relationship between both countries was good enough, it was brought to an end (ceased) when, influenced by Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), the Indian people began to feel that they should be ruling themselves instead of being ruled by a foreign country. The Indian Independence Act, signed in 1947, not only concluded the British sovereignty in India but, more importantly, divided the country. It separated the Muslim majority areas in the northwest and northeast of India to create the independent Muslim state of Pakistan while the rest of India became a Hindu-dominated state.
This split, known as Partition, caused that many people felt confined in the wrong side of the frontier, since many Muslims felt trapped in India and so felt Hindus trapped in Pakistan, creating a violent environment that erupted in serious conflicts as the two groups met. these conflict were particularly frequent in the Punjab province, where Meena´s parents were born, reaching over 250.000 deaths because of religious clashes. It was not easy to find many Indians established in Britain by the 19th century but the number of immigrants coming from India began to increase in 1948, particularly from the Punjab province where the tensions were higher, as the British Nationality Act was passed and enabled people born in any of the British colonies to come to Britain to live and work without the requirement of a visa.