Tan interrupted. “But the British have held India by their guns for over a hundred years.”
“You are mistaken,” said Poya. “The British hold India down by their charm.”
“What charm?” said Tan, gulping with surprise.
“By being handsome,” said Poya, to provoke him.
“You are twisting the facts,” said Tan. “What do the Hindus care for British handsomeness? They hate the English as much as the Koreans hate the Japs.”
“Yes, they hate them and they respect them – or fear them, I should rather say. That is their charm, the charm of appearing like natural masters. The charm of a snake, if you like. The charm of confidence and bearing and going about in their own costumes and eating their own food and talking their own language and expecting everybody to talk theirs, too. Don’t forget: the British keep about as many soldiers in the whole of India as the Japanese have had to keep in tiny Korea after almost four decades of conquest. How do you suppose a handful of English men and women are able to live in some outpost Indian village and keep themselves from being murdered by the natives? Not by guns and aeroplanes, but by their British sun-helmets and shorts and their impossible worsted stockings, and their ladies’ muslin dresses and their croquet parties, and by talking to their servants in the natural confident tone of masters. The charm of a snake, I say.”