THE LIVES OF FREDA: THE BLOG
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.
Last night, The Lives of Freda was launched in Mumbai. Kabir Bedi, Freda's son, talked movingly about his mother ... Malavika Sangghvi, whose parents were friends and comrades of the Bedis in Kashmir in the 1940s, hosted the evening ... and that's me on the left.
It was magical to hear from one of those who came along about living next door to the Bedis in Lahore's Model Town in the 1940s. Others spoke about coming across Freda and her family in the 1960s.
More than a hundred people attended and the event was organised by LiteratureLive!, with particular thanks to Anil Dharker and Amy Fernandes. And by my count a dozen or more Bedis were in attendance.
It was so nice that commanding figures in the BBC in India, Yogita Limaye and Sameer Hashmi, came along. Thanks guys!
The Lives of Freda is reviewed in today's issue of the Jammu-based paper the Daily Excelsior - the reviewer is Ramesh Tamiri, a very considerable expert on Kashmir and particularly the progressive strand within Kashmiri politics. As you would expect, the review focusses on Freda and B.P.L. Bedi's political activity in Kashmir, and the left-wing current within Kashmiri nationalism that they championed. Ramesh Tamiri is himself writing about the history of the Kashmiri left.
Here's the link to the review: https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/bedis-s-kashmir-connection/?fbclid=IwAR13pduAXotKJvsR4LFqU-bmxc3wLpqa4DJXtG2xapC7kzjn-O2jdZ7ZCh4
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
The Lives of Freda
- a blog about my biography of Freda Bedi