Halide Edib’s “Inside India” was first published in 1937 by George Allen & Unwin Ltd, but remained unnoticed for many years. Then in 2002, Oxford University Press reprinted it with an introduction by the eminent historian of India, Prof. Mushirul Hasan, who also served as vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia (translation: Community Islamic University), in New Delhi, from 2004 to 2009.
It also was published in 2014 in a Turkish version as “Hindistan’a Dair” by Can Publications with a epilogue by Hülya Adak, who is a Faculty Member in Sabancı University. The Turkish version is not an exact translation of the English version, because Halide Edib had written it again according to her Turkish audience in her own mother tongue by omitting some of the parts she deemed irrelevant and it was published serially in a newspaper, Tan, in the years 1940-1941. But then it remained in darkness until Hülya Adak, whose areas of interest include autobiographies, brought it into a book form with Can Publications.
Halide Edip says in the introduction of the book that she finished writing this book to fulfill her promise to her friend Dr. Mukhtar Abbas Ansari, who had passed away before she had finished the first part of the book. Otherwise she would have asked to take her promise back from him she says, because of the immensity of the task which she had started to realize after starting it.
But she did finish the book and it got published just after two years of her visit to India in 1935. This very confession of the writer gives you a glimpse of her sincerity which only gets better with the passage of the pages you turn. And I can assure you it is a page-turner.
It is a very honest description of India and the Indian people through the eyes of a foreigner who was just curious about its people and their thousand-years-old cultural and intellectual heritage.
She met with many of the leaders of that time like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Abdul-Gaffar Khan and many others. She visited many cities of India like Delhi, Mumbai (then Bombay), Hyderabad, Lucknow, Lahore, Kolkata (then Culcutta), Peshawar and Aligarh.
Throughout the book you can see that no matter whomever she met, wherever she went, she was just a person, a woman, and a seeker of knowledge. You feel like you are travelling with her. You get to see India and you get to know the logic behind the complex or inexplicable situations (from a foreigner’s point of view) of daily life of Indians -situations which are true to some extent for today’s India, as well.
For this reason, one can think of reading this book to get an idea of India. It definitely mentions the political situation of India and Turkey of that time as well – which can have different interpretations by readers of different perspectives. But, what makes this book valuable to me is the very lucidity it has, of a seeker of knowledge meeting new people and making true friends by trying to understand them by talking and discussing on different topics of the world and about daily life with them, observing live with them, and sharing her own knowledge and experience of life with them.
The book “Conflict of East and West in Turkey” consists of the eight lectures she gave in Jamia Millia Islamia (translation: Community Islamic University) in 1935 on varied topics regarding contemporary Turkey. She spoke on Ottoman Turks, The Turkish Republic, literature and culture, Turkish women, revolution, war and the future of Turkey. The lectures were first published immediately in book form with an introduction by her friend and host, Dr. Mukhtar Abbas Ansari. Now you can find this book’s new print in the Classic Reprint Series by Forgotten Books.
Review by Mubassir Anjum
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2002
‘Conflict of East and West in Turkey’
Publisher: Forgotten Books
Publication Date: June 2012
Mubassir Anjum is from Delhi, India. He graduated from Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi where he studied sociology. Currently, he is studying Turkish Studies at Istanbul University in Istanbul on a Turkish Scholarship that is open to all International Students.