“An American’s account of India’s Partition” (Update)

November 14th, 2007 - 2:03 am ICT by admin  
New Delhi, Oct.11 (ANI): Very few get an opportunity to see history in the making. Not many become a part of history, and just a few have the privilege of witnessing it.

Phillips Talbot is one of them.

At the age of twenty three in 1939, Phillips was sent by the Institute of Current World Affairs in New York to India to “observe and report on the dynamics of contemporary India”.

For young Phillips, who was working as a local reporter with the Chicago Daily News and was aspiring to “be a foreign correspondent in a European capitals such as London, Rome or Berlin”, the fellowship set him on the road to becoming a foreign correspondent.

Phillips landed in India in 1939 . He left the country in 1950s and was witness to history being made in the Indian subcontinent . He saw not only the demise of British imperialism, but also the rise of two nations - India and Pakistan.

What he observed and wrote to the Institute of Current World Affairs in the form of diary has now been compiled and brought out as a book, titled “An American Witness to India’s Partition”.

Essentially, the book is not a reporter’s account, but a narration of a scholar-observer who was able to “deftly combine the roles of scholar, diarist and journalist”, writes the eminent historian B R Nanda in a foreword to the book.

Nanda described the book as “unique and useful” for policy makers .

The book contains perceptive profiles of Indian leaders - Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Jinnah and others whom Mr Talbott had opportunity to meet. He had his first glimpse of Gandhi at the Ramgarh Congress in March 1940 and was amazed at the spell he cast on the audience, estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000.

Talbot came to India at a time when there was no American contact with the country. He says:”"The decision at age 23 to take that fellowship transformed my life. Through all these succeeding decades, South Asia has been at the centre of my interest”

Perhaps it is this interest that brought ninety year old Talbot to India to release the book “An American Witness to India’s Partition” published by SAGE.

At a book release function Talbott answered questions on the impressions he had of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and Jinnah .

Did you realize India and Pakistan of today in 1947″? What was Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose relationship, what type of leader was he? Who is to be blamed for the partition - the Muslim League or the Congress? - These were the kind of questions that kept coming up.

Talbot said that the concept of partition was not something unknown in forties, Burma was carved out of India during that time, and boundaries in Europe were being drawn , and “partition was in the air”.

The failure of the Cripps Mission, he says , was one of the reasons for the partition of the Indian subcontinent.

Ralph Buultjens, former Nehru Professor,University of Cambridge and Professor,New York University termed the book a “magnificent work” that “brings alive India’s greatest generation and their achievements.”. (ANI)

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