This Article First Appeared In Scroll On Dec 17, 2022
On a warm morning in Madras in November 1915, theosophist Annie Besant saw a new employee enter the office of her fledgling newspaper New India. The 43-year-old Irishman, who had just arrived in India to work as the paper’s literary sub-editor, was dripping in sweat. It was his fourth day on the job and on each of those days, he had decided to travel the 14.5 kilometres from his house to the office in his “well-worn bicycle from Birkenhead”.
James Henry Cousins described the moment that ended his “career as a cyclist” in India. “I arrived at the office with the daily lather of perspiration overlaid by a shining surface of shower,” he recounted in We Two Together, an autobiography co-written with his activist wife Margaret. “When I made my salutation to the Editor, she sent her light blue eyes up and down me with the look of an art critic at an offensive portrait. ‘You look wet,’ she said. I could not deny the obvious. My brow was wet with fairly honest sweat. My clothes stuck to me closer than a brother. My eyes glistened, though not with tears. The Chief ordered me to be taken somewhere and wrung out.”