Battle of Plassey

Clive

Robert, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey

On this day in the year 1757 Robert Clive led his army of 3,000 soldiers against an Indian and French army of 50,000 at the village of Palashi, north of modern day Kolkata.  On the morning of this day the British position in India was highly uncertain.  The French or the Dutch could easily have ended up as paramount European power in India.

After the battle of Plassey the French were neutralised.  Two years later the British were able to consolidate their position by defeating the Dutch at the battle of Chinsurah.

The Battle of Plassey was won by two secret weapons; bribery and tarpaulins.  Clive negotiated a deal with Mir Jafar and a group of senior Indians.  Jafar commanded the left wing of the Indian forces at Plassey, and defected to the British for a bribe.  There was also an issue of two different sets of treaties that were drawn up to hoodwink certain of the conspirators.  Sadly this type of double dealing is all too common in the history of British diplomatic dealings.  Beware perfidious Albion.

On the military side the victory was not assured.  The early stages of the battle were a stalemate as the French and English artillery pounded at each other with little strategic effect.  Then the rain came down.  The French and Indian artillery saw their powder drenched.  Their fire rates plummeted.

This was the signal for the massive Indian cavalry contingent to sweep the British from the field.  They charged the British guns only to be decimated by a hail of grapeshot.  The British had tarpaulins and they deployed them to keep the powder dry.  This simple expedient turned the course of the battle and gave the day to Robert Clive.  The ennobled Clive built his Estate in County Clare in Ireland and named it Plassey Estate.

Across the Shannon River Thomas Maunsell, scion of another General of the British Army on the day named his Limerick House after the battle, Plassey House.  These lands now house Limerick University.  Students nickname the building “The White House”.

 

Bucket List #4

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These are the collection buckets we used to raise money for the Hope Foundation.  Gavin, Jerry, Esha and I have variously waved these buckets at the very many generous people of Cashel, Thurles and various Tipperary townlands.  We brought them to Rugby matches in Dublin and Limerick, and to Hurling games in Semple Stadium.  They have seen the warm days of summer and the cold dark days of winter.

They have earned a proud position in my “Bucket List” as they contain many great memories of a good year.

Four years ago my oldest son Jerry participated in the trip to Kolkata with Rockwell College.  He documented his journey on his blog:

https://jerrytocalcutta.wordpress.com/about/

This year it was all about my younger son, Gavin, who made his own trip, which he recorded on wordpress, twitter, snapchat, etc.  His fundraising exploits are on his  wordpress site:

https://gavinclancykolkata.wordpress.com/

PLEASE DO NOT SEND THEM MONEY.  They have finished their trips and made their visits to Kolkata.  But if you would like to support the fabulous work of the Hope Foundation feel free to do so at their site:

http://www.hopefoundation.ie/

What I like about the Hope Foundation is that it is a charity that strives to make itself useless.  What do I mean by that?

Some charities operate in a way that perpetuates dependency.  Their business is to “help” disadvantaged people.  But if they are “too successful” there will be no poor people left to help and they will effectively be out of business.  Self-perpetuating charities are not things I like, or appreciate.

I am very much of the mind to take people out of dependency.  This is where Hope operate.  They focus on educating kids to escape the cycle of slum living.  They help the parents to escape the cycle by supporting small enterprises, and by freeing up the parents to work by caring for the kids in crèches.  The greatest day for Hope Foundation will be when they can happily close down their facilities in Kolkata because their job is done.

That is not a pipedream.  It can happen.

As my son Jerry reminds me frequently “Give a man a Hamburger and he eats for a day.  Teach him to Hamburger, and that metaphor only works for Fish”.

The Fish:  by William Butler Yeats

Although you hide in the ebb and flow
Of the pale tide when the moon has set,
The people of coming days will know
About the casting out of my net,
And how you have leaped times out of mind
Over the little silver cords,
And think that you were hard and unkind,
And blame you with many bitter words.

Fish

 

 

 

Food is social capital

pancakes

The first thing I taught my kids to cook was pancakes.  On this pancake Tuesday it comes to mind, Louise having a Sunday morning lie in.  Me with three rugrats at the kitchen counter, getting them to beat eggs and flour.  Cooking up the pancakes.  Having fun tossing them.  Letting them drown them in syrup as a treat.

Years pass and tastes change, but they still love those pancakes.

You seem to spend a lot of your life having mini-battles about food.  “Try this, you’ll like it.  Go on, just three bites, just one bite, anything”.  As parents we worry if they are eating enough.  Then we worry if they are eating the right things.  Then we worry they are eating too much.

Food is an education.  Food is social capital.  We learn all the most important things over food, our societal mores, our family values, our means of transacting and interacting with others.

When children go out into the world they carry this social capital with them.  A knowledge of food is an entry into society.  It demonstrates the type of home you grew up in.  The truth is we judge people every day by what we see in their shopping baskets.

Then our children come back from their exposure to the wild world and can surprise us.  Esha fell in love with Burritos from Boojum up in Galway on work experience.  Our youngest, Gavin, just returned from Kolkata, India and said in the quiet way he has that he has become mostly vegetarian.  I came across this poem which sums up how I feel about the way kids express their maturity through food.

 

For the Love of Avocados ; by Diane Lockward
I sent him from home hardly more than a child.
Years later, he came back loving avocados.
In the distant kitchen where he’d flipped burgers
and tossed salads, he’d mastered how to prepare
the pear-shaped fruit. He took a knife and plied
his way into the thick skin with a bravado
and gentleness I’d never seen in him. He nudged
the halves apart, grabbed a teaspoon and carefully

eased out the heart, holding it as if it were fragile.
He took one half, then the other of the armadillo-
hided fruit and slid his spoon where flesh edged
against skin, working it under and around, sparing

the edible pulp. An artist working at an easel,
he filled the center holes with chopped tomatoes.
The broken pieces, made whole again, merged
into two reconstructed hearts, a delicate and rare

surgery. My boy who’d gone away angry and wild
had somehow learned how to unclose
what had once been shut tight, how to urge
out the stony heart and handle it with care.

Beneath the rind he’d grown as tender and mild
as that avocado, its rubies nestled in peridot,
our forks slipping into the buttery texture
of unfamiliar joy, two halves of what we shared.

 

 

 

First impressions

You know the old saying, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!  Dale Carnegie, in his book “How to win friends and influence people” figured we interact with the world in four ways.  What we do.  What we say.  How we say it, and How we dress.

Of these I have no doubt that the most important is what we do.  We are what we do.  Look it up at wearewhatwedo.org if you don’t believe me.  Change the world for a fiver 🙂

My son flew out to Kolkata this week and it is very funny to read the first impressions of a 16 year old upon reaching a third world environment.  Here it is (edited for punctuation).  It took two flights to get there, stopping in Dubai:

I didnt get any sleep on either flight so I’m exhausted now.  Today we did loads.  On the first plane, I sat just a couple of rows behind first class so lots of leftover luxuries (biscuits, drinks etc) were given to me.  Dubai airport was huge but we were only there for an hour.  The next plane was horrible!  It was dirty, the seats were smaller and were really uncomfortable compared to the earlier flight and we couldn’t watch anything we wanted on demand, there were 20 channels with different things on. Calcutta airport was shabby and dirty.  On the flight to Calcutta they had to fumigate the plane during the flight so they sprayed chemicals throughout the plane.  I also had to fill in a card saying what I had to declare ( fish, seeds etc) it was the same as Australia on tv.  The hotel is great and everyone gets their own bed.  Calcutta is much worse than you could imagine.  There are slums next to skyscrapers and half of the city is under construction!  Instead of scaffolding they use bamboo.  Every car is honking its horn all the time and today we saw the aftermath of a car that went up in flames after tonnes of fire burst out of a manhole!!!  We visited a school for young girls whose parents can’t take care of them.  They were very excited and they performed plays, skits and dances for us.  Cows wander through the city and people take no notice of them.  Tomorrow we will be visiting a home for boys and on Sunday will will be given a full tour of Calcutta.  The food isn’t great.  It was nicer on the plane.”

The Cow; by Robert Louis Stephenson

The friendly cow all red and white,
I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
To eat with apple-tart.

She wanders lowing here and there,
And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
The pleasant light of day;

And blown by all the winds that pass
And wet with all the showers,
She walks among the meadow grass
And eats the meadow flowers.

 

Dignity

As babies we have none of it, as children we want it not and as we age and grow weak and decrepit it slips away from us as our bodies let us down.  But for most of our lives we value our dignity.  If die we must at least let us die with our dignity intact.

Sadly this was not allowed to one young Indian woman who died in a hospital, a long way from home. Savita Halappanavar died from childbirth complications in a modern western hospital.  She was, as least in part, the victim of the medieval and sexist influence of the Catholic Church dominance of schools and hospitals in Ireland.  The chaotic state of abortion guidelines for the medical profession in Ireland is a throwback to the misogyny of a church which does not permit priests to marry, but tolerates their abuse of children.  Where is the dignity in that?

Half way around the world another Indian girl died in a hospital a long way from home.  Victim of a brutal gang rape and a subsequent assault designed to kill her in the most undignified way possible.  To add to her misery the police, instead of caring for her, argued with each other over juristiction at the scene.

And what of the rapists?  Products of a Delhi slum.  Do they have dignity?  Did they ever?

How can we protect dignity in others if we have never known it ourselves?  For this reason I am very proud of my 16 year old son, who is travelling to Kolkata in February.  His mission is to bring dignity to the street children of that city.  That is a gift that will last a lifetime, and more.  Once you give dignity to a child they will want to pass it on to their own children.

If you would like to know more about his trip you can follow his blog on wordpress:

http://jerrytocalcutta.wordpress.com/

and if you are moved to help him reach his target, press this link.  He is over three-quarters of the way there, so please help him make his target.

http://www.mycharity.ie/event/raiseforcalcutta/

As for those two Indian ladies who died in such tragic circumstances, I offer a poem out of respect.  May they rest in peace and live long in the hearts of their loved ones.

Break, break, break ; by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Break, break, break,
         On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
         The thoughts that arise in me.
O, well for the fisherman’s boy,
         That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
         That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
         To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand,
         And the sound of a voice that is still!
Break, break, break
         At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
         Will never come back to me.