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Bitten by the Indian bug

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ANITA JOSHUA

Sahibs Who Loved India,compiled and edited by Khushwant Singh, Penguin,

Rs. 325

Purely by coincidence, all three books mentioned in this column have something to do with India’s colonial past. To begin with, there is Sahibs Who Loved India and why. Compiled and edited by the man who writes “with malice towards one and all”, Khushwant Singh, the 22 articles included here were first commissioned for the Illustrated Weekly of India in the early 1970s. As editor of the Illustrated Weekly, Singh had invited gora sahibs who had lived in India after the sun set on the British empire to write about “What India Meant to Me”. Most of them were known personally to the editor and he fondly recalls his association with them in his brief preface.

Though largely a collection of fond memories of India, there are exceptions like Lionel Fielden — who set up the All India Radio service and spent five years here. He is on record stating that he hated India while admitting to having made some good friends during his stint in the country.

All — Fielden included — found India a learning experience. “India is my alma mater, the university of my middle age”, is how Escott Reid, High Commissioner of Canada to India, describes it, and this is a common thread that runs through the walk down memory lane for these sahibs and memsahibs; some of whom like the Mountbattens fell in love in India and with India.


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