THE LIVES OF FREDA: THE BLOG
The hosts of the launch, the Oxford Bookstore, have posted more photos of the event on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BxpVm2TnWx2/?igshid=1cis7b54lax0j
Here's the review of The Lives of Freda in the news magazine India Today. Geeta Doctor is the reviewer:
'This well-written, extensively researched work — interviews with friends and family (including her son Kabir Bedi, the actor), combined with the scrutiny of correspondence, tape recordings, newspaper archives— makes for an insightful, riveting tale of a life extraordinaire.'
That's from a review of The Lives of Freda in today's New Indian Express: http://www.newindianexpress.com/lifestyle/books/2019/apr/21/woman-extraordinaire-1966289.html
This was truly a labour of love. When romance stirred between B.P.L. Bedi and Freda Houlston, fellow students at Oxford, their joint endeavour to track down Karl Marx's newspaper articles about India cemented their relationship. They spent many hours in the reading room of the British Museum seeking out and copying down Marx's writings.
A couple of years after moving to Lahore, the couple undertook the first publication in book form of Marx's articles on India. It was a conspicuous contribution towards the growing interest in Marxism in South Asia.
My own copy of Letters on India - I can't remember how I got it, but I think from a second-hand bookshop in Gurgaon - bears the ownership signature of Rajani Palme Dutt. He was a prominent British communist who had particular responsibility for guidance - intellectual and strategic - of the Indian communist movement. There's some underlining in the text, mainly in red crayon, but no waspish comments or other sotto voce marginal notes.
At the time the Bedis brought out Marx's Letters on India they were publishing a particularly impressive progressive quarterly. Contemporary India also touched on Marx and Marxism. There's a complete set of the journal in - of course - the British Library.
The news magazine The Week has just published a favourable review of The Lives of Freda, describing the biography as a 'vivid portrayal of [Freda's] life and choices' - the link to the piece is here: https://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2019/04/12/the-lives-of-freda-review-vivid-portrayal-of-a-remarkable-life.html
The Millennium Post has published a sizable extract from The Lives of Freda - with an enticing array of images.
Here's Freda Bedi in her own voice. In the mid-1970s, while visiting her son Ranga in Calcutta, Freda - by then Sister Palmo - sat down with a cassette recorder and told the story of the first three decades or so of her life. This is a two minute extract from those tapes, describing how she first met her husband-to-be B.P.L. Bedi more than forty years earlier, when they were both students at Oxford.
There's no trace here of a regional accent - indeed, if anything Freda has an 'Oxford' or establishment accent. She wouldn't have grown up speaking in this manner, so I imagine that at Oxford - as with so many northern students at this time - she tutored herself our of her East Midlands lilt.
It is wonderful to be able to hear her voice - it's such an insight into character. And even though this is a brief extract, with the sound quality touched up to make it more clearly audible, you do get a sense of Freda's personality.
Here I am talking about Freda Bedi's journalism - and the possibility that she was the first Indian woman journalist writing a regular column about women's issues. That column 'From a Woman's Window' appeared in the Lahore daily the Tribune for a year or so in the early 1940s. I was talking to Krishna Prasad, former editor of Outlook magazine, and he's posted this on YouTube.
This review has appeared on the books page of the Telegraph in Calcutta.
I'm not sure what I think of being called a 'veteran' journalist - but I suppose I've been called worse. And at least the reviewer likes the book - and indeed has highlighted Freda's championing of 'the voices of women in the struggle for Kashmir'.
The website The Print has carried a chunky piece from The Lives of Freda:
And the Sunday Guardian has published an extract from the book's introduction: https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/culture/british-birth-indian-cultural-affinity
A real thrill at the weekend - a chance to talk about Freda Bedi and The Lives of Freda in the wonderful setting of the Madras Literary Society. It's India's oldest lending library with a history stretching back over 200 years and the Society has been in its current, spectacular, premises on Chennai's College Road for well over a century.
An attentive and well-informed audience came along to the event, which was co-hosted by the MLS and the Chennai chapter of INTACH, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage. The photo above is a birds-eye view of proceedings - taken from the highest level of the library's vertiginous book stacks - as I am being introduced by Sujatha Shankar of INTACH.
These photographs were taken by Nandan Sankriti Kaushik - many thanks Nandan for permission to post them here.
Quite the most exciting moment was when I heard that a network of women's reading groups across Tamil Nadu had bought eight copies of the biography, which has been sent to different groups with an informal translation of key points of the biography into Tamil. I was told that the groups has been enthusiastic about the story of a woman who challenged convention and moulded her own life.
And I'm adding a couple of other photos - group photos - from the weekend event at the MLS:
The Lives of Freda
- a blog about my biography of Freda Bedi