About the same time Nehru died. There was an Indian
graduate student living in my house at Harvard by the name
of Ashok Khosla. I got to know him in the dining room and
began to ask him questions about India.
About that time I decided I didn’t want to go to medical
school. I needed a break. So, I decided on a whim that I was
going to go to India.
I told my parents and my mother nearly passed away. On
the night before I left for India, in August 1964, she was in
bed weeping inconsolably. I said: “Mom what’s the prob-
She said: “When you were a baby I stood in line and
bought you lamb chops to make you strong and now you are
going to go to India and will starve.”
Thus began my adventure with India.
When did you go back after that first trip to India?
I completely dropped the idea of medical school. What I
really wanted to do was to come back to the United States
and try to make sense of this amazing experience I had had
— a life-transforming experience.
To console my parents I applied to law school. I never had
any intention of going to law school. I got a scholarship to do
my master’s in South Asia studies at the University of
Pennsylvania. Along the way I met and married my wife.
She grew up in India. She is American. People often ask if
we met in India when they hear about our lives. We say no —
we met in a course on Indian civilization at the University of
Her grandparents and parents were medical missionaries.
Her grandfather (Hugh Harrison Linn)came to India in
1904 and wound up setting up a pharmaceutical industry to
manufacture and supply at cost very basic medicines —
aspirin, eucalyptus ointment — stuff like that to hospitals all
over the country.
He started his practice as a physician in 1904 and was living in a rural area. (When he discovered the desperate need for
pre-dosed medicines in India) he wrote to a friend who was
then working for the Upjohn company (a Kalamazoo,
Michigan-based company, now part of Pfizer) to send (him)
cast off tablet-making machines. He started making tablets
for his own practice.
Then all the doctors around said we want some of those
too. So, he got another two or three tablet-making machines.
He was making tablets all the time. He set up a little industry. Started out near Vikarabad in Andhra (west of
Hyderabad) and eventually he moved the (All India
Missions Tablet) industry to a little town called Bangarpet (it
was originally Boweringpet) 5 miles from the Kolar gold
My wife’s father took over the industry and ran it. He got a
PhD in pharmacy in Purdue University and he moved back
to India. He grew up in India, of course, and went to the
Kodaikanal School (the 102-year-old Kodaikanal
International School) as did my wife. My wife was in India
until she came to college (in the US).
Why did you return to India?
December 1971: An elderly refugee is pushed aside by Indian troops advancing into East Pakistan, later Bangladesh, during the war.
According to Marshall Bouton, during this time ‘the Nixon administration was tilting to Pakistan in its infinite stupidity.’
CEN TRAL PRESS/GETT Y IMAGES
I decided I wanted to go back to India to do my dissertation research in Tanjore on the impact of the Green
Revolution on agrarian politics in India, using Tanjore as the
My wife gave up her job (in Chicago; Bouton was doing his
PhD and teaching at the University of Chicago under Lloyd
and Susanne Rudolph). We gave up our apartment and
moved to North Carolina to spend a couple of weeks with my
mother before we went to India. Then the Bangladesh crisis
The Nixon Administration was tilting to Pakistan in its
infinite stupidity. Mrs (then Indian prime minister Indira)
Gandhi decided, amongst other things, that there would be
no more visas issued to Americans coming to India to do
So, we were stuck in North Carolina. I worked as a carpenter’s helper on a construction crew that was building a
Holiday Inn along an interstate highway.
As the crisis developed and American policy became such
a big factor, Ralph Nicholas, an anthropologist specializing
in Bengal, then at the University of Chicago, decided to
organize graduate students around the United States, who
were working on India, to go talk in any forum they could
find on why US policy was mistaken and how we should be
supporting the liberation of Bangladesh, India, and not
Pakistan and its very ruthless suppression of the Mukti
Bahini liberation movement (in then East Pakistan).
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