November 2009

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Richard Casey & Mahatma Gandhi

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz
Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

On 1 December 1945, as British rule of India entered its tumultuous final phase, Mohandas Gandhi arrived in Calcutta. That night, he held the first of a series of meetings with the Raj’s local representative, Richard Casey, the governor of Bengal.

Dick Casey was an Australian, a Cambridge-educated scion of the Queensland squattocracy. Treasurer in the conservative Lyons government, he’d run against Menzies for party leadership. In one of his first acts as prime minister, Menzies made Casey ambassador to Washington, effectively removing him from domestic politics for the duration of the war.

After Washington, Casey went to Cairo as British minister of state, a move that did not play well with the new Curtin government at home. When Churchill offered him the post in Calcutta, complete with a peerage, Casey accepted the job but not the title. With hopes of a political future back in Australia still alive, he thought a title would “much reduce my chances in my very democratic country”.

He found Bengal bruised by communal rioting, riven by nationalist agitation and devastated by a man-made famine that had left 3 million dead. And his nationality didn’t make his role any easier. Being ruled by a Brit was bad enough, but taking orders from a colonial Brit from a country built on racial discrimination was downright insulting.

Afflicted with boils and amoebic dysentery, and sharing his immense, run-down official residence with hundreds of servants, their extended families and various species of uninvited wildlife, Casey was appalled by the crude racism of the British elite. To the chagrin of the local memsahibs, he began entertaining on a lavish scale, with a high proportion of his guests being Indian.

By the time the mahatma arrived – just two months before Casey’s tenure expired – the imperial Australian had earned a reputation as a vigorous, pragmatic and even-handed administrator. Casey thought Gandhi “lively” for a man of 76, with “a good sense of humour”. But the future of the subcontinent was no joking matter. After a long talk, further discussions were scheduled. As Casey escorted Gandhi to his car through the long corridors of Government House, hundreds of servants emerged to watch their progress – Hindus, Muslims and others, each making “his customary salute”.

The two men continued to meet and correspond warmly, but Casey’s appointment was winding down. In January, Casey shot a tiger. In February, he headed back to Australia. Eventually, after serving as minister for external affairs throughout the 1950s, he got his peerage. In 1965, as Baron Casey of Berwick, he became governor-general. By then, many of Gandhi’s fears of a divided India had been realised.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

There is nowhere quite like The Monthly. We are told that we live in a time of diminished attention spans; a time where the 24-hour-news-cycle has produced a collective desire for hot takes and brief summaries of the news and ideas that effect us. But we don’t believe it. The need for considered, reflective, long-form journalism has never been greater, and for almost 20 years, that’s what The Monthly has offered, from some of our finest writers.

That kind of quality writing costs money, and requires the support of our readers. Your subscription to The Monthly allows us to be the home for the best, most considered, most substantial perspectives on the state of the world. It’s Australia’s only current affairs magazine, an indispensable home for cultural commentary, criticism and reviews, and home to personal and reflective essays that celebrate and elevate our humanity.

The Monthly doesn’t just comment on our culture, our society and our politics: it shapes it. And your subscription makes you part of that.

Select your digital subscription

Month selector

From the front page

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

U2 performing in the Las Vegas Sphere

Where the feats have no name: ‘U2:UV’ at Sphere

It’s no surprise it took U2 to launch post-stadium rock via a spectacular immersive show within the technical marvel of Las Vegas’s newest venue

Grace Tame running in the 2023 Bruny Island Ultra Marathon

Running out of trouble

How long-distance running changed the life of the former Australian of the Year (and earnt her a record win in an ultramarathon)

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Might as well face it

Lively discussions take place around the country every week on ethical non-monogamy, love addiction and how much sex is too much

In This Issue

Stockholm syndrome

Stieg Larsson’s ‘Millennium’ trilogy

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

A necessary idea

Animating spirits

Janine Burke’s ‘Source: Nature’s Healing Role in Art and Writing’
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Pirate politics


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Monash & King George V

John Howard & Uri Geller


Online latest

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

International Film Festival Rotterdam highlights

Films from Iran, Ukraine and Bundaberg were deserving winners at this year’s festival

Two women on a train smile and shake hands

‘Expats’ drills down on Hong Kong’s class divide

Plus, Netflix swallows Trent Dalton, Deborah Mailman remains in ‘Total Control’ and ‘Vanderpump Rules’ returns for another season

Image of a man playing music using electronics and the kora (West African harp)

Three overlooked albums of spiritual jazz from 2023

Recent releases by kora player John Haycock, trumpeter Matthew Halsall and 14-piece jazz ensemble Ancient Infinity Orchestra feel like a refuge from reality