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Total posts in this category: 40

India

An unlikely Prince of Spies

Posted September 12, 2017

Times Literary Supplement

Spies, by definition, live in a world of grey, but the life of Bhagat Ram Talwar, alias Silver, seems to have been exceptionally shadowy. Born a Hindu Pathan in the North-West Frontier Province of undivided India, of nondescript appearance, armed with broken English but with a limitless talent for deception, Silver ranks with Garbo (Allies), Sorge (Soviet Union) and Cicero (Nazi Germany) in the pantheon of the great spies of the Second World War. Even among them he is unique: he belonged to a colony involved in a freedom struggle of its own; his theatre was not Europe but the tribal badlands through which he would make twelve hazardous journeys between Peshawar and Kabul; and he spied, with varying degrees of loyalty, for five powers ­– Italy, Germany, Britain, the Soviet Union and Japan – and survived.

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India has changed beyond recognition

Posted August 15, 2017

Evening Standard

 

 

 

70 years after independence, the India I know is losing its way

Posted August 2, 2017

The Guardian

 

As the country celebrates 70 years of independence, it seems to be turning its back on the secular, tolerant society I remember growing up in Mumbai.

 

In 1960, 13 years after India won freedom, the American writer Selig Harrison published India: The Most Dangerous Decades. He feared “the collapse of the Indian state into regional components” ruled by communists. Predicting that India would never be able to match China, he wrote: “The west confronts the unmistakable fact of a dominant central authority in China, it is possible that in an unstable India no outsider will be able to say with assurance where political legitimacy resides.”

 

Such views were not confined to foreigners. Three years earlier, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari – a confidant of Gandhi, and the first Indian governor-general of the country – had predicted that “the centrifugal forces will ultimately prevail”, bringing anarchy or fascism. And my most vivid memories of growing up as one of the midnight’s children generation – born as the union jack was hauled down from Delhi’s Red Fort at midnight on 15 August 1947 – are of listening to my parents’ generation, who had survived partition, mournfully surveying the country’s future, some even hoping the British would come back.

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A ‘Midnight’s Child’ reflects

Posted July 31, 2017

Asian Affairs

Mihir Bose, who is the same age as modern India, weighs up how far the country has come.

Salman Rushdie coined the phrase ‘Midnight’s Children’ in his Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name to describe those born as India regained its freedom.

Unlike his hero, Saleem Sinai, I was not born at the precise midnight hour. But I am part of the midnight generation, as I was seven months and three days old when the British left India, the first generation of free Indians for 200 years. I realised what a privilege this was when I had the good fortune to have coffee with Nelson Mandela at his home in Soweto, shortly after he walked free from 27 years of incarceration.

Mandela told me how, in January 1949, he and his friends went to Durban to watch South Africa play a cricket Test match against Australia. Under apartheid, black spectators were confined to a caged section of the ground, so they could not mingle with whites. Like all black South Africans then, Mandela and his friends wanted Australia to win, and his wishes were fulfilled thanks to the brilliance of the Australian batsman, Neil Harvey.

However, when I asked Mandela whether he congratulated Harvey, perhaps got his autograph, Mandela recoiled in horror. ‘No, no, we could not do that,’ he said. ‘We could not approach him. Had we tried, we would have been thrown out, maybe even jailed.’

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Letter to the Times

Posted March 29, 2017

Love of British Rule

Sir, Contrary to Victoria Bagshaw’s belief (letter, Mar 25), Ramsay MacDonald did not love India, he loved the idea of the British ruling India. In The Awakening of India he wrote: “For many a long year British sovereignty will be necessary for India . . . Britain is the nurse of India. Deserted by her guardian, India would be the prey of disruptive elements within herself as well as victims of her own too-enthusiastic worshippers.”

Not many Indians today would care for Theresa May posing as a “nurse” come to look after a sick India.

Mihir Bose, London W6

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