Viceroy’s House: A Divided India

Did you know Pakistan has only existed for 70 years, and Bangladesh is only 46 years old?  Why and how these countries came into existence forms a fascinating and often-forgotten part of 20th century history which began with events that the 2017 movie Viceroy’s House brings to light.

Viceroy's House group
Lord Mountbatten and his wife and daughter with Gandhi

British historical drama Viceroy’s House depicts the rule of the last viceroy of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten, who is appointed to oversee British withdrawal from India and the establishment of an independent Indian nation.  Granting independence is not an easy task, however, for India is divided by race and religion, and its Muslim minority fears oppression under a Hindu majority rule.  Mountbatten attempts to negotiate a satisfactory compromise between three political giants: Jinnah, Gandhi, and Nehru.  Muslim leader Jinnah seeks a separate nation for Muslim Indians.  Gandhi desires a united India, even at the cost of offering Jinnah and the Muslim minority full power in the new Indian government.  Nehru disagrees with both propositions.  As Mountbatten and his family adjust to life in India and struggle to achieve a peaceful conclusion to the crisis which confronts them, conflict breaks out across India, and tensions rise.  In addition to focusing on the main storyline of India’s political problems, the movie highlights the struggles that the people of India face during this time by depicting the lives and relationships of the Indian staff which serves in the viceroy’s house.  At first, some of these side characters seem like filler to introduce extra conflict and romance.  Nevertheless, these characters serve an important purpose, for they reveal how India’s political problems affected individuals and everyday life.

Viceroy's House staff
Lord Mountbatten and his family (in the center) with their staff at the viceroy’s house

While a quick perusal of a history book or encyclopedia page will quickly tell the end of the story, Viceroy’s House does more than just narrate events, for it also provides insightful perspectives into what life may have been like for the viceroy, his family, and all the people of India who were affected by the events leading up to and succeeding India’s Independence Day.  The movie thoughtfully touches on the divisions that religion and race wrought in India as Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs saw each other not as united Indians, but as divided races.

Although the film undoubtedly takes liberties with the true story, the fact that the filmmakers consulted Lord Mountbatten’s daughter Pamela and that the director’s grandmother lived through the tragedies following India’s independence lends the film credibility and a sense of personal connection which sets it apart from many historical dramas.  Viceroy’s House vividly brings to life an incredible story with gorgeous details in costumes, sets, music, and cinematography.  More importantly, though, the movie treats its subject seriously and sensitively, as this chapter of history deserves.



College Caroler


The songster carols every morn

To welcome in the day newborn

As day’s first light and sunbright rays

Enter my room through branchy maze

And weave around my window shades

To stripe my floor in bright cascades.


And now as evening falls, again

I hear that happy song begin,

A lullaby to close the day

And bid the sun to go away

Until the moon has come and gone,

Then to return with break of dawn.

Note:  Listening to a little songbird singing outside my dorm room window one morning and evening this past week inspired me to write this short tribute.  After months of silence during my time at school, the birds have suddenly emerged and begun to carol everywhere on campus.  I would have expected them to be active in the late summer and fall, not in the middle of winter with snow and freezing temperatures, but who can know the mind of a bird?

Back to School

Stepping out into the cold, Emilia shoved her gloved hands into her coat pockets and scrunched further into her scarf.  The silence surprised her.  No one was out on the university’s sidewalks in the early evening dark.  No cars, no doors, no shoes, no animals, no leaves sounded around her.  The world felt muffled in a thick layer of cold quiet.  Even when a car did roll by, it too seemed muted and distant.  The night was beautiful in its unusualness.  Emilia smiled and would have stayed outside a little longer to enjoy the wintry wonder of the silence, but she was shivering and already late for her normal suppertime.

As she entered the warm cafeteria, Emilia fumbled in her pocket and pulled out her ID.  She smiled and said hello to the worker at the front desk.  When she held out her ID for him to swipe, he waved it away.  “Go ahead.  The system’s down,” he explained.  In the cafeteria, the workers were already wiping down tables and stacking chairs as Emilia cut up her slice of ham.  Her meal seemed to take forever thanks to a whistle-like beep every thirty seconds.  Was a fire alarm battery going out?  Should she be concerned?  No one else reacted, so neither did she.  Did it really take her a minute and a half (three beeps) to cut up a slice of ham?  Probably so, she admitted a little reluctantly.

Finishing up her meal, she left the cafeteria and stopped by one of the many public restrooms on the way back to her dorm.  The beeping from the cafeteria was mimicked here by a softer, electric beeping that was less concerning but still annoying.  How can there be four soap dispensers and still no soap?

Back in her dorm room, whose deceitful thermostat read eighty degrees, Emilia kept her coat and scarf on, hoping that either she or the room would warm up.  She also hoped the showers would be hot.  After all, this was college life after the Christmas holidays, the day before classes resumed.  Even the little things are successes on days like this, and not to be taken for granted.  Everything would be back to normal in a day or two.  Or wait.  Emilia’s phone chimed, and she saw an alert from the campus police about an armed robbery.  Well, that wasn’t particularly normal or reassuring.  But at least she was inside for the night, and apparently the university warning system was functioning.  Good to know.

A Children’s Christmas

As in previous years, I’ve compiled a list of the latest Christmas books I’ve discovered.  This year, they’re all children’s books, but I think even older audiences will find them fun.  Happy reading, and Merry Christmas!

Christmas TapestryPatricia Polacco’s Christmas Tapestry is a touching story that highlights the wonders of God’s designs as he uses people, places, and events to bring about his will.

On Christmas EveOn Christmas Eve by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Nancy Edwards Calder is a beautiful word picture, even though it isn’t strictly speaking a poem.  Brown details a brief scene on Christmas Eve as curious children tiptoe through their house.  Her descriptions are well-chosen and breathe life into the scene, and in this book, the words enhance the story even more than the pictures.

The Christmas StoryAn unusual type of picture book, The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda contains some amazing pop-ups accompanying paraphrased Nativity passages (see the featured image of this post for an example of one of the illustrations).

Stopping by WoodsRobert Frost’s famous winter poem comes to life with Susan Jeffers’ lovely illustrations in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  While some people might argue that pictures are superfluous because of the descriptive nature of poetry, I think artwork like Susan Jeffers’ in this picture book enhances the poem and offers a new viewpoint on how one might imagine the scenes the poem portrays.

A Northern Nativity

In A Northern Nativity by William Kurelek, 12-year-old William dreams of what it would be like if the Holy Family came here and now (in the 1930s).  Would people recognize Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and if so, would strangers welcome them or refuse to help them?  By placing the Holy Family in unexpected contexts across North America, Kurelek teaches his audience about Christ and the Bible.  He also reminds readers of the far-reaching extent of Christmas and the good news it proclaims to all people of every race in every time and place.

An Unlikely Lineage

Genealogies form some of the hardest passages of the Bible to appreciate.  For a long time, I saw them as boring lists of hard-to-pronounce names that I would have to struggle through when my family took turns reading Scripture aloud.  Then, during my pastor’s sermon series on Genesis, I began to realize the meaning and value of these recitations.  Just like the rest of God’s Word, genealogies point to Christ and the Gospel.  In particular, God’s grace and providence shine forth in Jesus’ unlikely lineage as described in Matthew 1:1-17.

Many names stand out in Matthew 1, and Jesus’ genealogy is indisputably full of faithful, godly, and kingly men.  Nevertheless, it is also a list of sinners and people with surprising backgrounds.  Abraham lied out of fear (Genesis 12:10-19; Genesis 20:1-2), and his sons Isaac and Jacob showed favoritism toward their children and tried to override or control God’s plans (Genesis 30:37-43).  Judah committed incest with his widowed daughter-in-law Tamar, and their son Perez was the ancestor of Boaz.  Boaz’s mother Rahab was a Canaanite and former prostitute, yet her faith led her to help and then join with God’s people.  Boaz’s wife Ruth was a Moabite; however, she faithfully stayed with her widowed mother-in-law Naomi and made Israel her home.  David committed adultery and murdered Uriah, yet his son by Uriah’s wife became part of the lineage of Christ.  The books of Kings and Chronicles detail the lives of Solomon and his descendants, the best of whom were imperfect and the worst of whom committed abominable deeds.

While focusing on the worst aspects of these Biblical characters’ lives paints a dark and disheartening picture of sin, I see in it hope and grace.  Christ came to save sinners just like these people.  Their stories of brokenness remind us why they and we need redemption, why Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection are necessary.  This lineage also reminds us of the mightiness of God, who chooses to use sin-broken men and women to accomplish his purposes, and who can use what is meant for evil to accomplish good (Genesis 50:20).  Studying Christ’s genealogy reminds me of 1 Corinthians 1:26-28, where Paul writes, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.”

Christians are part of a mighty throng of people, full of faith, sin, strengths, and weaknesses, who needed their divine descendant and his redemptive work just as much as the rest of the world needs him.  Deeper comprehension of the reality and weightiness of sin is not something we should shy away from, for the more we realize the darkness of the world, the more we grow in our appreciation of what the LORD has done.  Only once we acknowledge the darkness in which we walk, will we recognize our need for the Light.  As we read of Jesus’ birth, let us not pass over his lineage and its redemptive message.  As we burn candles and light Christmas trees, may these be reminders of the Messiah who declared himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12), and let us also remember Zechariah’s words: “The dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79) and “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (1:68-69).

Works Cited

The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: Oxford Edition: 1769; King James Bible Online, 2008.


Rainy days have so much potential, but all too often we focus on what we can’t do instead of what we can.  In the picture book Druthers by author and illustrator Matt Phelan, a little girl named Penelope is bored because it’s raining.  Druthers coverSo her daddy asks her what her “druthers” are, and…if I told you anymore, I’d give the whole story away, so I’ll leave it up to you to see where it goes.  Druthers has a sweet story and lovely watercolor illustrations which are full of expression and detail.  Phelan is a talented artist, and I really enjoy how his paintings meld with the simple narration.  Druthers has a clever premise, and I like how Phelan uses the book to define and expand on the term “druthers” while also telling a story about a little girl, her daddy, and a rainy day.

If you’re interested in more books by Matt Phelan, I have reviewed his graphic novels Bluffton and Snow White on our sister site Flint and Bone Comic Reviews.

A Halloween Scene

Who needs the orange Jack-o-lanterns, plastic spider-webs, and cheap décor that students are taping to their windows and doors in my dorm?  A free and more convincing Halloween scene can be found in the autumn scene outdoors.

My college campus is ready for Halloween.  Dry leaves rustle in the trees and on the ground.  Bad luck cracks zigzag the sidewalks.  Scrawny black cats alternately hover for scraps and dash away in alarm, crossing paths with dozens of doomed students daily.  At night, the new dorm that is under construction exudes the presence of a haunted house.  The glassless windows gape deep black in the dusk, and sheets of plastic fly loose from the plywood frame, rustling, whispering, and flapping in the wind as I walk by at night.  Bony trees finger the sky, the final tatters of leaves barely clinging on.  Dark grey clouds smother the fat half-moon and splash the sky with dark and light blotches like a predator’s pelt.  Spiders encroach on classrooms and dorm rooms, prowling on the floor or skittering across notebooks and desks.

The real Halloween scene is all around me, not confined to dangling Kleenex-like ghosts or strings of plastic eyeball lights.

Combined and described, these scenes create one creepy and doubtful compilation.  Yet, I have actually observed all these animals, objects, sights, and sounds over the course of my month back at college.  When I realized how all these observations reminded me of Halloween, I decided to describe them and spin them all together into one unified scene.  In spite of the picture I have been able to paint with these moments of reality, I am the first to admit that my campus is in fact quite pretty and welcoming, and the spiders are really the only part of the Halloween scene that has given me the creeps.

A Roman Wedding in One Act

Cast of Characters:

Silvius—Heir of the house of Valerius, a rich Roman family

Gaius—Friend of Silvius

Aurelius—The paterfamilias of the Aureli home

Jullina—Aurelius’ wife

Aurelia—Aurelius’ daughter

Nomenclature of Aurelius

Act I

Scene 1:  The light of early morning is peeping over the rooftops of the houses that crown the Caelian Hill of Rome, tinging the roofs in gold and the shadows in gray. Clients are already gathering in the vestibulium of the house of Aureli.  Silvius is about to enter when a friend on the street recognizes him.

Gaius:  Good morning, Silvius!  What brings you here?

Silvius:  Some personal business with Aurelius.

Gaius (with a wink):  Not in debt with him, I hope?

Silvius (seriously):  No, I’m here to ask for his daughter in marriage.

Gaius:  Well, you’re a rich, promising gentleman!  You deserve Aurelia, and I bet her father will think the same.  The gods be with you.  Bring your news to the Campus Martius this afternoon.  I’ll be there.  (Silvius looks embarrassed.)  Is anything wrong?

Silvius:  Whenever I have visited Aurelius before, he never seems to remember me!  He always consults his lurking nomenclature when I show my face in the atrium.

Gaius (waving his hand dismissively):  Oh, I doubt he cares what his future son-in-law’s name is as long as it’s that of a rich aristocrat.  Can’t wait to hear your happy announcement!

(Gaius exits, leaving Silvius pacing in the vestibulium.)


Scene 2:  Silvius enters the atrium where Aurelius sits with his nomenclature standing next to him.

Aurelius (aside to nomenclature):  Who is that man?  He looks familiar.  Is his name Julius?

Nomenclature:  No, sir.  It’s Silvius Valerius.

Aurelius (sotto voce):  Oh, yes!

Aurelius (aloud):  Silvius, welcome!  What business brings you here?  Not debts, I think!  (laughs heartily, for the Valerius family is famously rich)

Silvius:  I’m here to sign a contract with you.  I would like to marry your daughter Aurelia.

Aurelius:  I could not find a happier choice in a son-in-law.  You have my happy blessing, Julius—

Nomenclature (in an urgent whisper):  Silvius!  His name is Silvius, sir!

Aurelius (turns slightly red and clears his throat):  That is Silvius.  Lapsus linguae!

(Silvius does not appear convinced, but he does look happy as he and Aurelius bid farewell.)


Scene 3:  Jullina prepares Aurelia for the wedding.

Jullina:  Today is the day!  The omens are favorable, and all is prepared.  You look beautiful, Aurelia.

Aurelia (smiles):  Thank you, mother.

Jullina (placing the flame-colored wedding veil on Aurelia’s head):  The perfect color for you, my beautiful daughter!

(Jullina and Aurelia embrace affectionately.  The noise in the house grows louder.)

Jullina:  We must go down.  Silvius will be here soon.

(They exit.)


Scene 4:  A crowd waits outside Silvius’ new house as Silvius and Aurelia complete the wedding ceremony inside and light their hearthfire.  At last, they emerge into the sunlight, smiling.

Silvius: Thank you for sharing in our joy, friends.

Gaius (yells from the crowd): I was right!

(Silvius smiles and winks at Gaius as everyone else becomes distracted.  Too late, Gaius sees the wedding torch Aurelia tossed.  It knocks him down, but a moment later he pops up, torch in hand and grinning.)

Silvius (mouths to Gaius): You’re next.

Gaius: Hope you’re as right as I was!

(The End.  Curtain falls.)

“High Flight,” or “A Squirrel’s Sonnet”


Oh, I have skipped the grasses green and sailed between

Tree boughs which bounce and wildly spring beneath

My little nimble paws, and then I lean

And crouch, and sail again, leaving a wreath

Of falling leaves to crown the distant ground.

Oh, I have played a year of hours and days

With my comrades, till we have curled and wound

Above, below, through every tree and maze.

Oh, I have scampered, scuffled, skipped through

Each tree and leaf and hill and stuck my nose

Down holes, till summer’s old and autumn new,

And then I gather nuts the fall wind blows.

But when the winter comes, I eat and sleep

Until spring shines:  then I shall dance and leap.

Poems for All Nations: Part IV

This week, Caroline Bennett concludes her four part research paper on the symphonic poem cycle Ma Vlást composed by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana.


The premiere performance of all six symphonic poems in Ma Vlást was on November 5, 1882, in Prague. It was conducted by a close friend and associate of Smetana’s, Adolf Čech.[1] The premiere of Ma Vlást came at an opportune time, as Czech nationalism was gaining momentum with each passing year. In addition, Smetana’s audience was becoming more accustomed to and accepting of his Wagner-like sound and thus enthusiastically applauded the richly textured and beautifully orchestrated Ma Vlást. Though Smetana could not hear the performance, he was extremely pleased by both the attitude of the orchestra as well as the approval of the audience. He wrote to Čech shortly after that:

Adolf Cech
Adolf Čech

“I saw that the achievements of the players were realizing my dreams to perfection and that you were leading them…You gave me back my confidence that the mysterious sounds in the innermost depths of my heart will again make themselves heard.”[2]

Smetana was not the only critical listener pleased by Ma Vlást. Eduard Hanslick, a prominent music critic, was also delighted by Smetana’s ode to Czech life and culture. This is rather surprising since Hanslick, although a Czech, was very much a German nationalist. Accordingly, in his review, Hanslick twisted Smetana’s purpose for the piece to be nationalistic to Germany through constant references to German writings or people.[3] Hanslick recognized that Smetana was attempting to inspire his Czech audience to be patriots, but did his best to dismiss this important aspect of the piece.[4] As a result, Hanslick unintentionally revealed how poignant and applicable Ma Vlást is to people of all nationalities and ethnicities. The overarching story of the cycle—one of love for home and a desire for freedom—are themes that transcend time and space. In addition, all audiences have an appreciation for beauty, and it is clear throughout Ma Vlást, but especially in Vltava, that Smetana’s symphonic poem cycle is a masterpiece.

Without a doubt, Smetana was devoted to establishing and creating Czech music that could compare with the music of other European countries like Germany and France.[5] Czech musicologist Vladimir Helfert, however, notes that,

Bedřich Smetana

“…Smetana is not a figure wholly limited by the boundaries of his own country. He belongs to the art of the whole world, for his works have worth for all humanity. His idea of nation and country does not rest upon mere jingoism or racial hatred, but on respect for the culture of others and on a positive and kindly love for all mankind. Here we come upon a trait which is deeply rooted in the Slavonic soul, as is shown by the names of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy: it was because Smetana loved mankind that he also loved his own nation.”[6]

Smetana was a well-rounded composer who was inspired by the music and society he experienced throughout his life, first through his study of the music fundamentals and later through his sojourn in Sweden. He desired to create distinctly Czech music, but was unafraid to use elements from other countries, as demonstrated by the main theme in Vltava. And though his main goal with Ma Vlást was to celebrate his beloved homeland and inspire other Czechs, Smetana understood that his music was not just to be appreciated by his countrymen, but also by audiences all over the world. Its beauty and power have ensured that Ma Vlást has become a staple in the classical music world, and promises to remain so for many years to come.


[1] Bartos, Letters, 267.

[2] Ibid., 268.

[3] David Brodbeck, “Hanslick’s Smetana and Hanslick’s Prague,” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 134, no. 1 (2009): 29-30, accessed September 20, 2015,

[4] Brodbeck, “Hanslick’s Smetana,” 27.

[5] John Clapham, “Smetana: A Century After,” The Musical Times 125, no. 1694 (April 1984), 4, accessed September 20, 2015, doi: 10.2307/963564.

[6] Helfert, “Bedřich Smetana,” 14-15.


Bartos, Frantisek. Bedřich Smetana: Letters and Reminiscences. Translated by Daphne Rusbridge. Prague: Artia, 1955.

Brodbeck, David. “Hanslick’s Smetana and Hanslick’s Prague.” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 134, no. 1 (2009), 1-36. Accessed September 20, 2015.

Brown, Jim. “The Role of Folk Consciousness in the Modern State: Its Efficacy, Use and Abuse.” Storytelling, Self, Society 6, no. 1 Special Issue: Bhutan National Storytelling Conference (January-April 2010), 39-57. Accessed September 20, 2015.

Clapham, John. “Bedřich Smetana.” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Edited by Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan Publishers Limited, 1980. xvii: 391-408.

———. Master Musician: Smetana. London: J. M. Dent & Sons LTD, 1972.

———. “Smetana: A Century After.” The Musical Times 125, no. 1694 (April 1984), 201-205. Accessed September 20, 2015. doi: 10.2307/963564.

Dowling, Maria. Czechoslovakia. London: Arnold, 2002.

G. A. “Review of Smetana by John Clapham.” Music & Letters 54, no. 1 (January 1973), 85-86. Accessed September 20, 2015.

Helfert, Vladimir. “Bedřich Smetana.” The Slavonic Review 3, no. 7 (June 1924), 141-155. Accessed September 20, 2015.

Large, Brian. Smetana. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970.

Newmarch, Rosa. The Music of Czechoslovakia. Great Britain: Oxford University Press, 1942.

Smetana, Bedřich. “Vltava.” In Má Vlast. Leipzig: Eulenburg, 1914.