“Always A Foreigner” by Ashwini Devare

The Indian Foreign Service has always been considered a highly prestigious organisation, especially when I was growing up in the 1950s and the 1960s. It was said that this branch of the All India Civil Services was the first choice for successful candidates. It was also believed that the children of IFS officers lived a most luxurious life, traveling all over the world.

Always A Foreigner: A Memoir ” by Ashwini Devare puts at rest the myth about children of IFS officers. She writes of how actually the frequent transfers came in the way of a steady education. While the exposure to different countries of the world brought many benefits in its wake, it could also result in children getting disoriented through having to unlearn and relearn all the time in a new environment. In her own case, she had lived in six different countries by the time she was fifteen so, as you can imagine, she is best qualified to write about these experiences.

Ms Devare’s memoirs are delightful! They capture how she and her family coped in different lands where her father represented India in various capacities, over the decades from the 1960s till the start of the 21st century. What makes the book more interesting is her interspersing her personal memories with major events that took place at that time. She describes, amongst other incidents, how the Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri passed away in Tashkent when they were in Moscow; how the Chogyal and the Gyalmo- their Royal Highnesses The King and Queen of Sikkim – fled Gangtok when they were there; and when they were in New Delhi how horrible events traumatized the city following the assassination of Prime Minster Indira Gandhi.

In addition, we are treated to rich slices of her family life. She has captured her characters so well that we feel we have met them in person. Her father, deeply committed to his country and his responsibilities; her mother, who first went abroad as a young bride barely days after her marriage ; and her sister who grew up with her, and how they shared many experiences while they were quite different from each other by way of personalities.

In the course of the book, Ms Devare captures the highpoints of her career as a broadcast journalist, an on-air reporter and producer, and later as a writer. She studied and worked in different countries and experienced many challenges in each of them.

I enjoyed the elegant yet simple writing style which is a characteristic of this book. I also appreciated the high degree of candor and honesty displayed by the author. I would highly recommend this book to those interested in travel and history. Indeed, I would recommend this to anyone looking to enjoy some good writing !

“Hostages To India” by Herbert A Stark

From my last post on “Lachmi Bai, Rani of Jhansi” you will know that I am fond of history and old books. Having studied at The Lawrence School, Lovedale ( originally set up by Major-General Sir Henry Lawrence way back in 1858 for the children of soldiers in the British Army of those times) , it has been my good fortune to have had many Anglo-Indian friends over the decades.

It was with great delight therefore that I read, ” Hostages To India: The Life Story of the Anglo Indian Race” by Herbert Alick Stark. This book was first published in 1926 in Calcutta. The version I read was published thanks to the Internet Archive. Continue reading ““Hostages To India” by Herbert A Stark”

Authors I Admired: Manohar Malgonkar

I am not too sure how many of today’s generation would read or would have read Manohar  “Mac” Malgonkar or for that matter even heard of him. As a kid I was very fond of his writing and even today I consider him one of India’s finest writers. This is a small tribute to him as his death anniversary dawns on June 14. He passed away at the ripe old age of 97 in 2010. Continue reading “Authors I Admired: Manohar Malgonkar”