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Book review: Thank You Mr Crombie: Lessons in guilt and gratitude to the British by Mihir Bose

21 June 2024

John Pritchard reviews the life of a sports writer with Indian roots

MIHIR BOSE could choose. Either he could stay in India and be a wealthy businessman with servants and a chauffeur or he could go to England and be a poor writer living in a small bedsit in Maida Vale. He chose England and is glad that he did.

In this entertaining autobiography, Bose examines the reasons for his decision. He was close to his family and its traditions in Hindu life and culture, but he was drawn to the intellectual riches of Britain and has remained perplexed that its inhabitants don’t make more of them or of its “wonderful creative genius”.

Mr Crombie in the title of the book is the person who signed Bose’s letter from the Home Office confirming his right to permanent residency. Mr Crombie still has the author’s gratitude because he has made a highly successful career as a journalist, writer, and BBC Sports Editor. His early days were difficult. There were landladies who refused him a room, young white women who feared having a baby of mixed colour, and football hooligans who assaulted him.

After some false starts, Bose qualified as an accountant, but at heart he wanted to be a writer, and he was endlessly industrious in pitching ideas and seeking posts in journalism. He would write on finance, sport (especially football and cricket), India, food, biography, or anything else that caught his eye. He became the editor of magazines on pensions and finance, but eventually settled into sport for national newspapers and then for the BBC.

The book is full of anecdotes and inside stories, as he began to mix with influential people in British life and its sporting hierarchy; but the main interest for readers of the Church Times might well lie in the author’s various observations as an outsider/insider on Britain’s relationship with its colonial past, which he sees as fraught. He has become more comfortable with his Indian roots, seeing himself as a Bengali and a Hindu, but he is dismayed at the way in which world history is seen through European eyes, so that the lived experience of cultures that suffered under the imperial umbrella is not taken seriously.

Bose is blunt about the shocking things said in the past about India and its people by significant politicians, especially Churchill, but he is puzzled by the current desire to apologise and compensate for actions taken by previous generations. He believes that people should acknowledge what happened rather than offer reparations.

This is an enjoyable and readable life-story interspersed with personal reflections about Britain’s past and present through friendly but not uncritical eyes.

The Rt Revd John Pritchard is a former Bishop of Oxford.

Thank You Mr Crombie: Lessons in guilt and gratitude to the British
Mihir Bose
C. Hurst & Co £25
Church Times Bookshop £22.50

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