By Khushwant Singh
IT took European artists to open the world’s eyes to the beauty of Indian women. Some were able to capture them in their sketch books or on canvas: by riversides while bathing, drawing water from wells or going to temples. A few managed to enter harems by pretending to be doctors; others went to kothas of prostitutes to enjoy nautch and mujra. Quite a few maintained harems of their own which they bequeathed to their successors; some married them and had children through them. All this continued from the time the first European put his foot on Indian soil till the middle of the 19th century. Then white women started arriving in India and put an end to the fun and games between men of their skin and native women.
Pran Nevile, a former diplomat, has opened up this gold-mine of inter-racial sex from libraries of rare books and paintings in England. His latest is a coffee-table book, Beyond The Veil: Indian Women in The Raj (Nevile Books). It is evident that what attracted European men most towards Indian women were their beautiful eyes and full bosoms” both woefully lacking in their own women. They also found Indian women’s rich, brown complexion more attractive than the raw ham-like skin of their women. The plethora of paintings of Indian women from different sections of society have been compiled in one book for the first time.