THE LIVES OF FREDA: THE BLOG
Do come along to the LSE on 29th November when I'll be talking about my biography of the remarkable Freda Bedi, an English woman who was jailed in India for supporting its claim to nationhood and who was later a pioneering Tibetan Buddhist nun.
The event is free and open to all - you are asked to register if you are coming. Details below.
(And if you can't make that date, there will be a book launch at the Nehru Centre in Mayfair on 9th December - more details in due course)
Nation, Gender and Religion: The Many Lives of Freda Bedi
Venue: Vera Anstey Room, Old Building, LSE
Date/Time: Friday, 29 November, 6.30pm
Participants: David Arnold is Emeritus Professor in History, University of Warwick; Katie Hickman is the author of She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen: British Women in India 1600 – 1900 (2019); Andrew Whitehead is a journalist and author.
Chair: Mukulika Banerjee is Director of the South Asia Centre, and Associate Professor in Anthropology at LSE.
This event is free and open to all but Registration is essential.
You can't win them all! The Lives of Freda has attracted a rather sour review in the pages of the Hindustan Times - here's the link if you want to read it for yourself.
The only consolation is that the HT have published this photo of the Misamari camp for Tibetan refugees in Assam which I hadn't seen before ... it doesn't feature Freda, but it is a very graphic indication of what life was like at Misamari sixty years ago.
And judging by the Amazon India rankings, the review seems to have given a spur to sales.
A chunky extract from The Lives of Freda has been published in the India edition of Readers' Digest. It had the title: Meet The Extraordinary Freda Bedi: An English Woman Who Fought For India's Freedom.
Here's the link: https://www.readersdigest.co.in/culturescape/story-meet-the-extraordinary-freda-bedi--an-english-champion-of-indian-nationalism-who-fought-the-satyagrahi-125057
The Live History website has posted an extract from The Lives of Freda - part of the section dealing with her involvement in Kashmir. They gave the extract the very appropriate title of 'Freda Bedi's Tryst with Kashmir'. Here's the link:
More than 45,000 people accessed the extract.
Chintan Girish Modi has reviewed The Lives of Freda for Teacher Plus, a teachers' website - with the apt headline 'Indian by Choice'. Here's an extract:
I am fascinated by people who defy conventional understandings of reality wrapped into little boxes with no room for individual agency. They destabilize our assumptions around what is possible, and push us to see how prejudice clouds our view.
Freda Bedi is the person whose story has done this to me most recently. Her new biography titled The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi would be of interest to those who study and teach the Indian freedom struggle but are a bit exhausted with the centrality of men in that narrative and would like to learn more about women who participated in efforts to decolonize India from British rule. ...
Whitehead has managed to offer a comprehensive picture of Freda’s rich and illustrious life, including inputs from people who were not particularly fond of her. His research is quite solid. Reading his book made me wish I had met Freda in person. England’s loss was India’s gain, one might say, but the irony was that her own friend, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, selected her to be one of 46 ‘foreign women’ who were awarded for their outstanding services to India. As someone who saw herself as Indian, she was upset but had to get over it. She was one among many who were not born on Indian soil but devoted themselves to India. Her story is worth celebrating at a time when we are becoming increasingly obsessed with narrow definitions of what it means to be Indian.
Such a nice mention of The Lives of Freda in the Hindustan Times - among five biographies recommended by top writers and historians. Aanchal Malhotra, who has written so tellingly about Partition, chose the Freda Bedi biography -
A really nice and sympathetic review of The Lives of Freda has appeared in Business Line, sister paper of The Hindu - here's the link: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blink/read/the-lives-of-freda-the-story-of-an-extraordinary-woman/article28197238.ece
And here's a taste of what the reviewer Melanie P. Kumar says:
'Biographies seldom occupy the high table in India. The lives of celebrities get written about, but the genre in itself is not accorded the importance it gets in many other parts of the world. It is on reading the story of Freda Bedi — who fought for India’s independence — that you realise the significance of her unconventional life and the need for documenting it.
'The eminently readable book by Andrew Whitehead brings alive the multifaceted personality of Freda and the many lives she could pack into a span of 66 years. Interestingly, the author bears some similarity with his subject. Both were born in Britain and married into India, which they made their home. Whitehead was the BBC’s India correspondent and his rich journalistic background shows in the crisp style and tenor of the writing.'
Humra Quraishi, who has real expertise in the modern history of Kashmir, has written in the National Herald about the session on Freda Bedi at the recent Khushwant Singh Literary Festival in London. Her account dwells in particular on the political tensions in Kashmir - and between Srinagar and Delhi - in the early years of independence as described in The Lives of Freda.
Here's the link: https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/opinion/the-remarkable-story-of-freda-an-indian-nationalist-english-woman
Humra Quraishi has also written about The Lives of Freda for the Kashmir Times: http://www.kashmirtimes.com/newsdet.aspx?q=91922
...and for Tehelka:
... and for Mainstream:
I've just spotted this - a lovely review of The Lives of Freda in the Statesman, among the most venerated of India's daily papers.
The reviewer is Bisakha Ghose, a considerable figure in literary and journalistic circles in Calcutta - and a veteran of the BBC World Service at Bush House: a 'fascinating' story - she says - and 'skilfully narrated'.
Freda Bedi was the subject of a well-attended session of the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival in London at the weekend. The venue was Khushwant's alma mater - King's College, London.
The panel consisted of - from left to right - the journalist Mick Brown moderating, who has written widely on Tibetan Buddhism; Norma Levine, a Buddhist and the author of a book about Freda's spiritual odyssey; and Andrew Whitehead, author of The Lives of Freda.
The Lives of Freda
- a blog about my biography of Freda Bedi