The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Inside India By Halide Edib, Oxford, Rs 395

T he political history of India in the Thirties and the Forties never seems to lose its charm. This book is a first hand account of India during the time by a foreigner, and more important, by a woman from Turkey. Mushirul Hasan, professor of history at Jamia Millia Islamia and a known author, is instrumental in bringing this prized document out of damp libraries and giving it pride of place. The importance of the reprint is underscored by the fact that the book was found in only three libraries in north India. Why there is no reference to it in major historical works of the period remains a mystery.

A writer and a nationalist, Edib records her journey in India. Her writings assume a special significance because of the importance she attached to it as a country. To her India was closer to her ďsoul-climate than any other country not my own.Ē Edib divides her writing into three parts ó India seen through Salam House, India seen on the Highways and Byways, and India in the Melting Pot. The second part mainly deals with the towns where Edib had put up during her stay in India. The other two merge into one another in the sense that they are part of her analyses of the political, social and cultural life of the times.

Edib critically evaluates the emerging ideas of nationalism despite the communal differences and shows how Hindus and Muslims together managed to counter the forces of colonialism. A remarkable study of Gandhi also emerges from her account. Among the other stalwarts who come under scrutiny are Nehru, Abdul Gafar Khan, Sarojini Naidu, Syed Ahmed Khan and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay.

What matters most is Edibís assessment of men, places, thoughts and even stray comments. She also demolishes many a myth. To add to the value of the book is Hasanís introduction where he not only gives Edibís biography but also a short history of Turkey for readers who may not be conversant with Islamic history. Hasan winds up with reference to the aftermath of the September 11 attack, making the book more topical. Although it is doubtful if the book will be taken up with interest by lay readers, it will certainly prove worth perusing for academics and students working on the period.

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