I edited The Legacy of Nehru. Contributors included Bertrand Russell, Clement Attlee, Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Raja Rao, famous for his novels, Kanthapura and The Serpent and the Rope, suggested to me in New York in the spring of 1963 that a book of tributes be brought out to observe E.M. Forster’s 85th birthday on 1 January 1964. I was asked to be the editor. I wrote to Mulk Raj Anand, Ahmed Ali and Narayan Menon. Shanta Rau too agreed to contribute. Each of us knew Forster well. I approached Forster’s American publishers, Harcourt Brace and Ivanowich. The book appeared on 1.1.1964. It was reviewed in over 50 newspapers and magazines all over the United States including the New York Times, Saturday Review, The Washington Post, The New York Times Weekly Book review. It launched me on my modest literary career.

Jawaharlal Nehru died on 27.5.1964. His American publishers, John Day readily agreed to bring out a memorial tribute. The Legacy of Nehru came out on Jawaharlal Nehru’s first death anniversary. I edited it. Contributors included Bertrand Russell, Arnold Toynbee, Clement Attlee (former UK Prime Minister), Martin Luther King Jr, Pearl Buck, Nobel Laureate, Adlai E. Stevenson, twice candidate for US Presidentship.

Tales from Modern India was published by Macmillan’s, New York in 1966. As editor, it gave me immense pleasure to note that it was translated into Polish, Norwegian, Italian, Bulgarian, Czech and Slovak. In London it appeared as Stories from India.

My editing days were over.

In August 1977 I was transferred from London to Lusaka, Zambia. I was underemployed. I decided to write a biography of Maharaja Suraj Mal, 1707-1763. Who was Surajmal? He was the real founder of Bharatpur. In 1979, I visited London to fish out from the India Office library the forgotten history of Bharatpur and Surajmal. The book was published in London by Allen & Unwin. It was reviewed by Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Dr T.G.P. Spear of Cambridge University and by Prof Hugh Tinker in Times Literary Supplement. Rupa brought out a paperback edition. A Hindi edition was brought out by Radhakrishna Prakashan, Delhi 1985.

In 1984, Haranand published, Curtain Raisers. It rightly sunk like a stone in a shallow pond.

Between 1984 and 1998 was a literary dry run, although I did a column for Frontline—Book Chat—for several years.

In 1997, Sterling publishers published, Profiles and Letters in hard back. Rupa brought out a paperback print in 2003. The profiles are of C. Rajagopalachari, E.M Forster, Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Lord Mountbatten, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, R.K. Narayan, Han Suyin, Indira Gandhi, Zia-ul-Haq and Nargis Dutt. It is still in print.

My China Diary, 1956-1988 was in the bookshop in 2009. It is one of the favourite books. No similar book has been written by dozens of outstanding Indian diplomats who have served in China. The diaries of 1956-58 give a vivid picture of Mao Tse Tung’s very austere, vigorously regimented and claustrophobic China.

In 2010, appeared the unsaleable, Yours Sincerely. It sold a measly 900 copies.

My autobiography, One Life is not Enough, saw the light of day in 2014. It has sold more than 50,000 copies. I had expected a sale of 15,000. Why it did so well, remains a mystery to me. Strangers approach me at airports, in small towns to sign the book. I see passengers reading it on flights from Mumbai to New Delhi, Bangalore to Chennai.

It has been translated into Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati and Marathi.

Treasured Epistles came out early this year. It has a beautiful cover and the letters by ten celebrities are part of history.

Why have I written this piece? To emphasise that if one reads and writes books one can never be bored. I have never been bored in my life.

 

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