Speak, memory

Margaret Chatterjee's memoirs Sketches from Memory, written at the suggestion of a friend, chronicle "a tale in space and time, a journey from one culture to a completely different one. After the introductory sections dealing with the author's early life, the influences that were at work, and the interests developed, the focus shifts to people met in the course of unusually wide travels. They were so memorable that they are given centre stage.

The author arrived in India in 1946 and the book is incompletely autobiographical for it does not include a large part of her life -- her marriage to Nripendranath Chatterjee, originally a Professor of English, her experiences in a university in UP in which there were caste hostels, and her subsequent involvement in district and village life in Bengal after her husband became one of the first emergency recruits to the newly formed IAS. They were crowded years in which she raised a family and acquired a working knowledge of two languages. So the journey to Gandhi was prepared by what the author had already learnt about India through the years which she has not recorded lest the book become too long. She eventually met a number of senior people who in various ways had a link to Gandhi, or at least, to the Gandhian era. She was well on her way in her journey to Gandhi about whom she has written several books.

The second series of sketches begins with contemporary times, looking back at Gandhi and finding that, so far from being locked into a specific historical situation, he had much to say, and even more, to show, in his dealings with people and particular events, which address our own complex circumstances. In this way, the two series complement each other, the first, mapping the journey to Gandhi, and the second, providing an activity of recall which, paradoxically, brings Gandhi into today's world. The two sets of sketches are companion volumes to the author's six books about Gandhi's life and thought which show how a writer, whose basic discipline was philosophy, moved to historical studies, and found in Gandhi a key not only to India but to events elsewhere in the world. The general reader will also find in the sketches a gallery of personalities she met in different countries who are memorable in themselves and to whom she introduces us."

In our Biography and Gandhi Studies sections. In hardcover, Rs 300 each. ISBN: 9788185002958 and 9788185002965, respectively.