What is Frozen in Amber

She waits for him, tapping her hand against the walls. She almost wants to knock them over. He enters and looks almost surprised to see her.

"India," he says, walking over and running a hand through her long black hair. "You wanted to see me?"

"Don't touch me," she snaps. He looks worried – good. They have fought so many times recently. She is furious with him, sick of him. The current situation has only made things worse.

"...Very well," he says, adjusting his suit – it's been awhile since she's seen him out of uniform; he must be trying to make this special. "What is this about, then?"

She sighs. "I need to talk to you. About Bengal."

He frowns. "Then where is she? Don't you think she should have a say in this?"

"Believe me, I would have brought her with me if her legs were strong enough to stand anymore. A personification represents it's people."

England looks away. "Not this again."

"Oh, I'm sorry!" she says sarcastically. "I didn't know that our people starving to death was annoying to you. I won't mention it."

"India," he says, looking like he wants to stroke her hair again. She tenses up and steps back, just in case. He doesn't try.

"England, we need help," she says. "You have done so many things... that have not helped this. My people are fighting your war for you, but so many more are dying here – you owe us."

England's eyes go cold. She sees the Empire in him, and cringes. She knew she was on the backfoot to start, but...

"It is happening to Bengal, not to you. And a bad harvest is not my fault. What do you suggest I do?"

"Bengal is a part of me! Stop buying all the rice! No-one can afford the prices anymore!" she says. "Let Bengal import food from other parts of our country again! Give my people back the equipment and supplies you took, or at least distribute rations of fish or something. England, you can't just ignore all this. Please."

"And what happens when Japan comes?" he asks. She stares.

"...He has nothing to do with this!"

"He's everything to do with this, dammit!" he insists. "I won't have him invading you and gaining all your supplies. That's why I have to do these things; you have to understand."

She shakes her head. "What country would you expect to understand the 'necessity' of their citizens starving?"

He sighs. "I don't want to lose you, India–"

"And you will never have me, if you treat me like this," she says.

"India," he snaps. "It is the war effort. Sacrifices are going to be made. In my land, in yours, in hers – it happens. Germany is evil; it's worth it."

"I thought it was Japan we were scared of?"

"They fight together, it's the same thing!"

She takes in a shaky breath. "I agree with you, on the actions of your enemies. They are wrong." I know how it is to be taken over; have you culture suppressed and turned into a harvesting field for another power. "But England... your people need to win your war. Our people... we need fish and rice to eat, England."

His eyes go cold. "No," he says. "If food is so scarce, why is Gandhi still alive? You don't need this; I am doing the best I can, India."

She steps back, shocked. Her stomach churns.

"Is that what this is? Revenge?" she asks. "Some of my people want independence, so you choose to kill them?"

Will you kill me? Because I agree with them so much it hurts.

"No, of course not–"

"Then what is it?"

He stares at her, then steps forward and puts one hand on either one of her shoulders. "It is what must be done."

When he kisses the bindi on her forehead, she wants to vomit.

"The jewel of the British Empire," she whispers to herself as he holds her, as if she is his to hold.

"Indeed." He smiles down at her now. How dare he?

"Don't act like this has never happened before," she shoots at him. "Remember 1770? This is not just part of the war."

"That wasn't me; that was the company."

"It was your company!" she says. "Do you think that many people will die again? You haven't even seen Bengal."

"I've seen you, and you seem just fine," he says. "I have important things to do, India. Goodbye. Thank you."

She doesn't know what he is thanking her for, but she can't bring herself to call him back. She doesn't find herself sobbing, a little to her surprise. Then again, it's not like she didn't guess he just wouldn't care.

For, even when she is 'the Jewel of the British Empire', he will only ever care about her for what she can do for him. And she is on her own.


Historical Notes:

The Bengal Famine of 1943 occurred in 1943, in Bengal (modern-day Bangladesh and West Bengal), part of British India. The exact causes of the famine are rather disputed; the rice production for that year was lower than 1942, but not outside the normal pattern of variation (and higher than in 1941, when there wasn't a famine). British policy is usually considered an important factor is causing the famine to be as severe as it was.

The UK feared Japan invading India (as they had conquered Burma, which bordered onto Bengal), and undertook many policies to prevent Japan acquiring supplies if they invaded via Bengal. This included: the rice denial scheme, which stopped grain and rice being imported from other parts of India into Bengal. They also authorised free merchants to purchase rice at any price and deliver it to government storage, driving the price of rice up (too high for many in India to buy it anymore) and delivering it to British soldiers in the war effort. Also, the army confiscated transport vessels (including boats, motor vehicles, carts and even elephants) they feared the Japanese commandeering to advance into India. Inhabitants used these for fishing and to take food to the market, and the army failed to supply rations of fish and food to replace was was lost through the stopping of commerce.

Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery; and Vicheroy of India, Archibald Wavell, urgently requested Prime Minister Winston Churchill release food stocks for India. The Prime Minister was flippant, answering a telegram Wavell sent him on the matter by asking if food was so scarce, why Gandhi hadn't died yet.

The Bengal Famine of 1769-1773 occurred when the British East India Company was in control, and not the British Government. Crops began failing in 1768, worsened in 1769 and by 1770 people were starving to death. The British East India Company did nothing to help. Also, the raised Land Tax by up to 50% prior to the famine, and a further 10% as the famine was reaching its peak. They destroyed food crops to make way for plantations of the opium poppy. They forbade the 'hoarding' of rice, preventing traders and dealers from having the reserves that would usually ease the population through lean times. Approximately 10 million people died in the 1769 famine.

The 1943 famine finally ended when the British government agreed to important one million tons of grain into India, reducing food prices.

'The Jewel of the British Empire' is what India was frequently called.

The exact death toll of the Bengal famine is unknown, but is usually approximated to be somewhere between 2-4 million. This is more Indians than were killed in the two World Wars, the independence movement and widespread carnage following the partition of India.

Author's Notes: I was really not sure how to deal with Bengal as to whether it'd be in India, whether it'd be a separate entity etc. (since it is separate to India now, although now it's multiple country). Eventually, I decided to give Bengal a personification, but treat her somewhat like a part of India (which she was then).

My title was inspired by the 'Jewel of the British Empire' name, as amber is a (sort of) jewel that holds things inside it, and India is a 'jewel' whose importance is what is inside her (that she can provide). Does that make sense?