Pukka Sahib is a slang term taken from Hindi words for “Absolute” (“first class”, “absolutely genuine” for English users) and “master”, but meaning “true gentleman” or “excellent fellow”. Used in the British Empire to describe Europeans; more usually to describe an attitude which British administrators affected, that of an “aloof, impartial, incorruptible arbiter of the political fate of a large part of the earth’s surface”.
From Chapter 5 of George Orwell’s first novel, Burmese Days:
It is a stifling, stultifying world in which to live. It is a world in which every word and every thought is censored. In England it is hard even to imagine such an atmosphere. Everyone is free in England; we sell our souls in public and buy them back in private, among our friends. But even friendship can hardly exist when every white man is a cog in the wheels of despotism. Free speech is unthinkable. All other kinds of freedom are permitted. You are free to be a drunkard, an idler, a coward, a backbiter, a fornicator; but you are not free to think for yourself. Your opinion on every subject of any conceivable importance is dictated for you by the pukka sahibs’ code.
In the end the secrecy of your revolt poisons you like a secret disease. Your whole life is a life of lies. Year after year you sit in Kipling-haunted little Clubs, whisky to right of you, Pink’un to left of you, listening and eagerly agreeing while Colonel Bodger develops his theory that these bloody Nationalists should be boiled in oil. You hear your Oriental friends called ‘greasy little babus’, and you admit, dutifully, that they ARE greasy little babus. You see louts fresh from school kicking grey-haired servants. The time comes when you burn with hatred of your own countrymen, when you long for a native rising to drown their Empire in blood. And in this there is nothing honourable, hardly even any sincerity. For, au fond, what do you care if the Indian Empire is a despotism, if Indians are bullied and exploited? You only care because the right of free speech is denied you. You are a creature of the despotism, a pukka sahib, tied tighter than a monk or a savage by an unbreakable system of tabus.
The Nineteen Eighty-Four is already strong in this one. Burmese Days is a blindingly colourful, hilarious, scathing and brutal look at English colonial Burma, its people and their prevalent attitudes. All those bastards and scheming political louts, and that poor little dog, Flo.