“An American’s account of India’s Partition”November 14th, 2007 - 2:01 am ICT by admin
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 given by the institute, he thought, was an “exposure” and would “set him on the road to becoming a foreign correspondent”.
This accidental break in the career turned out to be a historical opportunity for the young reporter, who was selected by the Institute director, Walter S Rogers for his “enthusiasm”.
Since 1939, when Phillips landed in India and till he left the country in 1950s, a new history of the Indian subcontinent came to be written. 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 into 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 and for those who watch events.
The interesting parts of the book are Talbot’s perceptive profiles of Indian leaders - Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Jinnah and others whom he met. He had his first glimpse of Gandhi at the Ramgarh Congress in March 1940 and was amazed at the spell he cast on an audience, which Talbot estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000.
Talbot came to India at a time when there was no American contact with the country.
“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 “writes the author in the book’s preface.
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 here this week, more than the book Talbot was the object of curiosity of the intelligentsia. Here was a man who had interacted directly with Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and seen Jinnah working.
The question answer session reflected the sense of historical curiosity by the audience.
“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 “so partition was in the air”.
He, however, blames the failure of the Cripps Mission as one of the reasons for the partition of the Indian subcontinent.
The book “An American Witness to India’s Partition”, touches all these aspects in the form of a diary devoid of any subjective emotion.
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. Rare is the book on India in which the past illumines the present”. (ANI)
- "An American's account of India's Partition" (Update) - Nov 14, 2007
- Netaji subject of political appropriation: New biography (With Images) - Jun 14, 2011
- Jaswant Singh goes ga-ga over Jinnah in Pakistan - Apr 15, 2010
- RSS disapproves of Jaswant Singh's views on Jinnah - Aug 17, 2009
- Partition 'most traumatic event' of 20th century, India-Pak should accept reality:Singh - Apr 17, 2010
- Indian Americans are influential players in US media - Mar 18, 2012
- Comic book to tell story of India's Birdman Salim Ali - Apr 24, 2012
- Jaswant's views on Jinnah not ours, says BJP - Aug 18, 2009
- An absorbing partition saga through eyes of an American - Apr 13, 2008
- CPI leader Subramaniam dead - Sep 18, 2011
- Jinnah was a great Indian, says Jaswant Singh - Aug 16, 2009
- History should not block path of South Asian peace and stability: Zardari - Apr 15, 2010
- Nation must accept Netaji's death: Biographer (Interview) - Jul 24, 2011
- Nehru-Edwina's love not physical but intellectual: Alex Von Tunzelmann (Interview) - Jan 24, 2011
- Jinnah, a bugbear for the Bharatiya Janata Party? - Aug 19, 2009
Tags: b r nanda, british imperialism, current world affairs, deftly, director walter, eminent historian, european capitals, foreign correspondent, gandhi, India, indian leaders, institute director, jinnah, new history, partition, phillips talbot, s rogers, scholar, young reporter