Nehru’s pride, Indo-American relationship and the Indo-China war

Pic courtesy ibnlive.in.com

Gurcharan Das, in his book India Unbound, makes a pithy statement. When individuals make blunders, it’s sad but when leaders make blunders, it’s a tragedy. He was referring to Indira Gandhi but the statement applies equally to her father too. Nehru’s socialist leanings are well-known. What’s less known is that he was more attached to his personal ideology than the national interest. This letter from John Kenneth Galbraith (to JFK), in Ambassador’s Journal, illustrates that clash.. in the midst of the Indo-China war when India fervently requested (and the US obliged) with timely military aid. Nehru’s reluctance to publicly acknowledge America’s/JFK’s help is shocking and tragic.. especially when there was absolutely no anti-Americanism on the ‘Indian street’.

New Delhi, India

November 13, 1962

Dear Mr. President,

I have been waiting for the past ten days to give you a more detailed and intimate account of our affairs here. I have been sending rather full dispatches to the Department, some of which you have doubtless seen. But as you will have discovered, few Ambassadors have ever been completely candid in such reports. There is truth and there is also what one must have believed. I merely try to minimize the difference.

These past three weeks have brought great change here – no doubt the greatest change in public attitudes since World War II. The most treasured of preconceptions have been shattered. The disillusion with the Chinese is of course total. So, save at the top, is that with the Soviets. And the other unaligneds are not very popular. Nehru remains an exception. Even he is now hoping only for friendly neutrality from the Soviets rather than actual support. But with him there is another factor. All his life he has sought to avoid being dependent upon the United States and the United Kingdom – most of his personal reluctance to ask (or thank) for aid has been based on this pride. Now nothing is so important to him, more personally than politically, than to maintain the semblance of this independence. His age no longer allows of readjustment. To a point we can, I feel, be generous on this. …[Footnote#1]

One thing much on my mind these last days has been the American press. We have had a great influx of correspondents plus a large itinerant delegation covering the arms lift. … Were they bottled up here, the Indians would  get a bad press and so, inter alia, would we. I have now pretty well broken through on this, though I had to go to the Prime Minister himself. There will be many stories on the infirm character of his leadership, but that is not our business. I think Nehru is still playing down our role to protect the sensitivities of the Soviets and perhaps, more especially, to protect his own feelings. I have told him this was something we couldn’t take and have pictured the repercussions in the American press. We cannot decently help someone who is afraid to be seen in our company. There will be some damage along these lines, I fear.

…..

long paragraphs on what China intends to accomplish with the war, followed by paragraphs on opportunism showed by Pakistan/Ayub.. Ends with comments on America’s Kashmir policy.

…..

[Footnote #1]: There followed a long discussion of Indian political personalities which, along with some later references, I have deleted for reasons of taste. Another change has been made in this letter. In the private language of the State Department, the Pakistanis are sometimes referred to as “the Paks.” It is not, I think, an agreeable usage.

 

Saigon and its women

Saigon, 1961 (Pic courtesy Life/flickr.com)

Saigon has a curious aspect. It is a rather shabby version of a French provincial city – say, Toulouse, as I remember it. Life proceeds normally and it has the most stylish women in all Asia. They are tall with long legs, high breasts and wear white silk pajamas and a white silk robe, split at the sides to the armpits to give the effect of a flat panel fore and aft. On a bicycle or scooter they look very compelling and one is reminded once again that an ambassadorship is the greatest inducement to celibacy since the chastity belt.

Saigon, 1961 (Pic courtesy Vimeo.com)

Restaurants, nightclubs and hotels flourish as they seem always to do in cities in extremis. Yet one moves around with an armed guard and a group of gunmen following in a car behind. The morale of the Americans seems to be rather good although I wonder a little bit about our technical assistance program. The people assigned to the country are confined almost exclusively to Saigon since travel has become too dangerous. I can’t imagine that the agriculturalists, for example, are of much value under these circumstances. The Ambassador there, a decent man who is trying to obey orders, has been treated abominably by the State Department. He first heard of Max’s mission on the radio. I would reluctantly tell you who is responsible for this management were steps taken to overcome my natural grace and charity.

The above extract is from a Nov 28, 1961 letter — from John Kenneth Galbraith to President John F. Kennedy — a few weeks after Galbraith’s visit to Saigon. This, and many other interesting stories, recounted by Galbraith in Ambassador’s Journal about his tenure as US Ambassador to India.

Prime Minister is like the great banyan tree…

No – not the current ‘great’ Dr. Manmohan Singh.

In Ambassador’s Journal, John Kenneth Galbraith writes about many interesting things during his tenure as US Ambassador to India. The journal entry from Jul 1961 captures a slice of the Nehruvian Prime Ministership.

July 26 – New Delhi

….

Mr. SK Patil (Food & Agriculture Minister, Nehruvian years) – Pic courtesy jollyboard.com

Later in the day I saw M. J. Desai who asked me what the “personal” invitation I had given to Indira Gandhi to accompany her father meant. I said the personal was in effect superimposed on official. He warned me in a friendly way to warn Chester Bowles (US Ambassador to India – 1951-53 and again from 1963) to pay a visit to Pakistan while her. Someone else should have thought of that first.

Finally tea with S.K. Patil (then Minister for Food and Agriculture) who gave me an exuberant and valuable account of his trip to the U.S.S.R., US and South America. I reproached him for saying in London that India had solved her food problem. He denied saying it. Or anyhow the papers had quoted what he didn’t want quoted. He recalled an earlier press interview in England when he was asked who would be the successor to Nehru. He had replied, “No one can say. The Prime Minister is like the great banyan tree. Thousands shelter beneath it but nothing grows.” He told me that, in consequence, his relations with Nehru had been strained for weeks.

Only “weeks”, I wondered. Had Patil been a minister in any recent Congress administration and committed a similar affront to the ‘Family’, he would probably been finished.

 

 

Why Paul Krugman studied economics

Isaac Asimov and Hari Seldon fans – rejoice! Meet the most famous Asimov/Seldon fan – no less than Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman. And he’s no ordinary fan – he studied economics because it was the closest thing to psychohistory.

If you are NOT an Asimov fan or, for some bizarre reason, you failed to read the Foundation series, I earnestly urge you to complete your education by reading the gripping Foundation trilogy.

The wikipedia psychohistory page had this intriguing line – At the 67th science-fiction world convention in Montreal, Paul Krugman, the Nobel laureate in Economics, mentioned Hari Seldon, a central character in Foundation who was a psychohistorian, as his inspiration to study Economics since it’s the closest thing to Psychohistory.

The longer story from the 67th science-fiction world convention is captured wonderfully by The Newyorker in Mar 2010. Relevant excerpts below:

Paul Krugman & his wife (Robin Wells) with their cats – Doris Lessing & Albert Einstein

Last August, Krugman decided that before he and Wells departed for a bicycle tour of Scotland he would take a couple of days to speak at the sixty-seventh world science-fiction convention, to be held in Montreal. (Krugman has been a science-fiction fan since he was a boy.) At the convention, there was a lot of extremely long hair, a lot of blue hair, and a lot of capes. There was a woman dressed as a cat, there was a woman with a green brain attached to her head with wire, there was a person in a green face mask, there was a young woman spinning wool. There was a Jedi and a Storm Trooper. Those participants who were not dressed as cats were wearing T-shirts with something written on them: “I don’t understand—and I’m a rocket scientist,” “I see dead pixels,” “Math is delicious.” Krugman has always had a nerdy obsession with puns. (He is very proud of a line in one of his textbooks: “Efforts to negotiate a resolution to Europe’s banana split had proved fruitless.”) He also likes costumes. Once, he and Wells gave a Halloween party where the theme was economics topics—two guests came as Asian tigers, several came as hedge funds, one woman came as capital, dressed as a column. Sitting up onstage at the science-fiction convention, Krugman looked happy to be there. It seemed that these were, in some worrying sense, his people.

“Hi, everyone!” he called out.

“Hi!” everyone called back.

Krugman explained that he’d become an economist because of science fiction. When he was a boy, he’d read Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy and become obsessed with the central character, Hari Seldon. Seldon was a “psychohistorian”—a scientist with such a precise understanding of the mechanics of society that he could predict the course of events thousands of years into the future and save mankind from centuries of barbarism. He couldn’t predict individual behavior—that was too hard—but it didn’t matter, because history was determined not by individuals but by laws and hidden forces. “If you read other genres of fiction, you can learn about the way people are and the way society is,” Krugman said to the audience, “but you don’t get very much thinking about why are things the way they are, or what might make them different. What would happen if ?”

Hari Seldon (founder of psychohistory) – Pic courtesy thediagonal.com

With Hari Seldon in mind, Krugman went to Yale, in 1970, intending to study history, but he felt that history was too much about what and not enough about why, so he ended up in economics. Economics, he found, examined the same infinitely complicated social reality that history did but, instead of elucidating its complexity, looked for patterns and rules that made the complexity seem simple. Why did some societies have serfs or slaves and others not? You could talk about culture and national character and climate and changing mores and heroes and revolts and the history of agriculture and the Romans and the Christians and the Middle Ages and all the rest of it; or, like Krugman’s economics teacher Evsey Domar, you could argue that if peasants are barely surviving there’s no point in enslaving them, because they have nothing to give you, but if good new land becomes available it makes sense to enslave them, because you can skim off the difference between their output and what it takes to keep them alive. Suddenly, a simple story made sense of a huge and baffling swath of reality, and Krugman found that enormously satisfying.

You can catch the rest of the Newyorker article here [Page 5 or from beginning].

 

Searching for Clara W. Huling – a digital archeology dig

Clara Myrtle Grey Bird (1900-1988), photo taken in 1917. No relation to “Clara Huling” but most relevant Google Images ‘period’ match

When my second batch of friends arrived a few months ago, the most interesting book was The Complete Works of O. Henry. O Henry, which happens to be the pen name of William Sydney Porter was an American writer (from the late nineteenth century era) who mostly wrote short stories, stories known for their wit, wordplay, and clever endings.

I’m yet to read the hefty omnibus that I’ve been recently reunited with. The book bears my tell-tale calligraphic signature. Right below is scrawled “April 1995” which means it was from my Chicago years.

In faded black ink, higher up on the same page, a clearly feminine flourish had rendered the following:

Clara W. Huling

4434 Volta Place N.W.

Washington DC

1938

 Wow. Fifty-seven years after Clara W Huling’s purchase, this book had made its way from Washington DC to Chicago. Three years later, the book traveled to the Western California coast – first to Mountain View, then Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, back to Sunnyvale for five years before spending nearly 4 years in ‘solitary confinement’ (in my cousin’s attic in South San Jose). Then it traveled by air (in a suitcase) ferried by my kind brother-in-law to Chennai. The final leg of its journey (Chennai to Bangalore) was facilitated by my friend and ex-colleague Sathish.

I had in my possession the closest thing to a rare edition. Getting more specific, it’s a Deluxe Edition from Garden City Publishing Company and it was published in 1937. The copyright lines suggest that this book was originally published by Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc. in 1899.

Armed with a modern search engine, I began my search for “clara huling”. Top matches are from ancestry.com and names.whitepages.com but this esoteric match (a 1875 ruling Clara N. Huling v. Robert Bennett) from Lycoming-Northampton County PA Archives Court caught my attention – The final determination is that Bennett (aged 67) is a lunatic. Clara N. Huling is listed in the court documents as his daughter so let’s estimate her age in 1875 to be 40. If she had survived until 1938, she would have been 103. Not implausible but what’s highly unlikely is her buying a small-print edition of O. Henry at that age. Moreover, this daughter of Michael Bennett was Clara N Huling, not Clara W Huling.

Digging into the ancestry.com and whitepages.com listings seemed like “too much hay” so I did some address searching using Zillow and Trulia.

According to Zillow the house was built in 1931 and it’s a condo. Trulia disagrees slightly – pegging the built-year at 1933 and calling it a townhouse. They seem to agree on other attributes – lot size of 3,242 sqft and size of 2,320 sqft. The current owners (Llyod and Mardan Zand) bought the house from Jason and Mariana Zand in Nov 2002. Sadly the prior sales history is missing on both Zillow and Trulia. This DC-area Blockshopper page has an aerial map and some more information – though none relevant for my archeology dig.

I returned to Whitepages and Ancestry.com but the trail went cold. Or maybe this post wants to be read now.

Closing Note: Washington DC area friends & acquaintances, if you find yourself in the Washington-Foxhall area (specifically the Foxhall Village historic district), feel free to walk over to 4434 Volta Place and relate this story. If anyone locates a descendent of Clara W Huling and if they are interested in retrieving a bibliographic family heirloom, they can leave a comment on this post. 🙂

 

 

 

When Margaret Alva called Verghese Kurien an MCP

[Editor’s Note: In Verghese Kurien’s autobiography (I too had a dream), he recounts his first encounter with Margaret Alva in 1984, when she accompanied the Queen of Netherlands. The Queen wished to visit Anand, meet Kurien and find out the truth behind the torrent of accusations that were being thrown at NDDB and him — in the wake of a series of anti-Operation Flood publications.]

Margaret Alva (recently sworn in as Rajasthan Governor) – Pic courtesy wikipedia.org

When a head of state travels to our country the government generally attaches a minister to the visiting dignitary. In this case, as the dignitary was a woman, Margaret Alva escorted the Queen. I had never met Margaret Alva before. As our meeting commenced, she came and sat next to me on the Indian side of the table, as it were. The Queen of Netherlands began her cross-examination. Clearly, she had done her homework well and grilled me for a long time. At the end of it, when she was finally satisfied that she had left no questions unanswered, the Queen said, ‘Dr. Kurien, you have convinced me. Now I know what you are planning to do. My worries and the worries of the people in my country are certainly not justified and from now on we will be your strong supporters. In fact, Dr. Kurien, when you next come to Europe, do come and visit us and I will arrange for you to come and speak at the Institute of Social Studies.’

When the Queen of Netherlands said this, Margaret Alva suddenly piped up and said, ‘Your majesty, whatever you might think of him, I think Dr. Kurien is an MCP!’

I was astounded. This was the first time ever that we had met and she was accusing me of being a male chauvinist pig. I looked at her questioningly. Then she said, ‘ Please allow me to explain. Do you see the crest of the NDDB? It is a bull. It should, in fact, have been a cow. After all, NDDB is about dairy development. Doesn’t that prove my point?’

I thought this was getting a bit out of hand and the time had come to say something in my defence so I looked at the honourable Minister and said, ‘Madam, no bull, no milk.’ The Queen burst out laughing. Margaret Alva was dumbfounded. She knew she could say nothing more. But after this incident we became good friends.

 

When Bokaro Steel Plant and America almost had a date…

Bokaro Steel Plant main gate (Pic: courtesy sail.co.in)

In Ambassador’s Journal, John Kenneth Galbraith writes about many interesting things during his tenure as US Ambassador to India. The snippets on Bokaro Steel City (where I was born) caught my attention. All Bokaro residents are aware of the Russian collaboration and the ‘many things Russian’ about Bokaro (stations inside City Park, Russian Colony, etc.) What will be news to most is that, during the Kennedy years, American aid and collaboration — for Bokaro Steel Plant — was a distinct possibility.  Below are relevant extracts from Galbraith’s various journal entries.

April 21, 1961 – New Delhi

I had my first press conference yesterday morning.

Then we did get into economics. I put the fourth government-owned steel plant at Bokaro within the range of American aid. I had no instructions but one should use what freedom he has, for it is evidently a rare blessing.

(Within the footnote, Galbraith adds the following) This became a highly controversial matter. My position — that public sector plants could be financed by the United States and that this one was eligible in principle — was strongly supported by President Kennedy, strongly opposed by Republicans and a source of great nervousness in the US bureaucracy which, at one time, reversed the President’s approval on the grounds that he was running undue political risk. This is discussed on several later occasions.

May 26, 1961 – New Delhi

Later we saw Swaran Singh, the Steel, Mines and Fuel Minister. I had indicated our possible willingness to finance the new Bokaro steel plant in the public sector. The Indians, as I have told, had then laid down a variety of conditions under which we might be allowed to do so — technical direction by Americans and management of projects by Indians and other interesting dualities. This is a hangover from the day when we seemed so anxious to help that we agreed to anything. I made clear that if we were providing the money — if we do — we must be able to ensure that a good job is being done. Today at the meeting we got a paper indicating agreement on this point. Diplomacy is easier from a strong bargaining position. The harder test would have been to make these arrangements if we were not the prospective source of the money.

Inside look at Bokaro Steel Plant (Pic: courtesy indianetzone.com)

Sep 13, 1961 – Washington

From lunch, I went to see Frank Coffin (Former Congressman from Maine. Then Deputy Administrator of AID and the Managing Director of the Department of State’s Development Loan Fund. Now a Federal Judge.) to weigh in on Bokaro – evidently they thought I was getting too far ahead. I urged its importance; the unwisdom of letting the Russians get the jump  on us; and the diffused and anonymous nature of our aid in the absence of such projects. I believe I made an impression.
I forgot to say that I had tea with B.K. Nehru last evening. He showed me a letter describing the Nehru-Khrushchev talks. Nehru asked Khrushchev if he would guarantee our access to Berlin.; K. said he would. He was agreeable about Kennedy, thought he had been handicapped by his small majority and attacked Adenauer.

Sep 23, 1961 – New Delhi

By a combination of persuasion, threats, blackmail, promises to resort to higher authority, appeals to patriotism and promises of what the Soviets will do, I seem to have a provisional approval of our financing of the fourth steel mill at Bokaro. Now we must find a way of building it with competence and distinction.
This project is very important. It is needed, useful and symbolic. Many of the things we are doing are rather anonymous — we provide copper and other nonferrous metals which are needed and useful but not very dramatic. And our past help to private-sector plants, such as Tata’s, has evoked the comment, “The Americans help the Tatas and Birlas who are already rich. By contrast, the Soviets or British build plants that belong to the people.” Now we are in the same league — provided that we can perform.
Oct 24, 1961 – New Delhi
Ty Wood has returned from Washington with a proposal for getting U.S. Steel in on the Bokaro mill as a private enterprise operation. Of the $500 million required, $100 million would be subscribed in common stock and the rest as a loan, possibly guaranteed, from the U.S. and India. One-third of the $100 million of common stock would be held by each of U.S. Steel, private Indian capitalists and the Indian Government. Half of U.S. Steel’s investment would be cash, the rest in technology and “know-how.” This means they would get control of a $500 million firm for ten years — their control is guaranteed for that time — for an investment of $16.7 million. A real bargain.
Jun 23, 1962 – New Delhi
Yesterday I met with the U.S. Steel team which is investigating the Bokaro steel mill and had them to lunch. Their appearance here is a ritual. (In the footnote, Galbraith later mentions “This was not so. Their work proved valuable.”). One or two good men could have gone over the engineering and clerical data and passed upon the plausibility and need for the mill in a couple of weeks.
Oct 8, 1962 – Chandrapura-Raipur
At six this morning we stopped at Chandrapura and picked up a covey of Damodar Valley Corporation and Hindustan Steel (what came to be known as “SAIL”) officials, the latter headed by J.M. Shrinagesh, the Chairman and one of the distinguished tribe hitherto encountered which functions in various parts of Indian life with additional members in the United States and Germany. The train then proceeded to the proposed site of the Bokaro steel plant, a half-hour distant, where we disembarked. The air was fresh and almost cool and the countryside, which is gently rolling, was a bright lush green. After an introduction to the various young engineers who are being assembled for the project and a lecture on plant layout, sources of raw material and the like, I went with Shrinagesh to a flight strip whence we took off for a half-hour trip over the site and the Damodar Valley. The Valley is underlain with coal and scarred by open cast pits, tipples and piles of waste but nonetheless rather attractive at this time of year. We circled an adjacent mountain about 5,000 feet high, the back and saddle of which are spotted with tiny white temples.
Oct 20 – Nov 20, 1962: Sino-Indian war
(Dates inserted here only for completeness. I haven’t read Galbraith’s account of the war yet. Don’t believe this war had any bearing on the Bokaro American aid decision.)
Feb 7, 1963 – New Delhi
General Clay is heading a committee to review the AID program. He has decided that there must be no assistance to Bokaro as long as it is in the public sector. In other words, for blatant ideological reasons, he is going back to the policies of the Eisenhower Administration. These were a grievous failure. Nothing substantial was done to advance private investment; and they talked about it enough to cause everyone to suppose our concern was to sustain capitalism rather than help the Indians. I have shifted to a purely pragmatic policy of whatever works. This even relaxes the tension on private enterprise.
I have written a careful rebuttal to Clay making it clear that he would lose sadly in any effort to carry his case to the public. I sent the message unclassified so that he won’t be in any doubt as to my willingness to do so. He has just joined Lehman Brothers in New York and will not want to start his banking career there with a public brawl. As for me, I would welcome it.
Feb 20, 1963 – New Delhi
The last three days have been intensely busy, much of the time with superficialities. I got off a long airgram to the Department putting General Clay right on Bokaro which I again sent unclassified so that it would have the greatest possible readership with every possible threat of leakage. I noted again that the previous administration had talked about supporting private enterprise while financing the public sector. They thus got the worst of both worlds. We were stopping the talk, cooling the debate over private and public enterprise, and had done very much better as a result.
Apr 15, 1963 – Ahmedabad-Baroda-Veraval-New Delhi
My life is currently divided between Kashmir and Bokaro, two problems inherited and on my hands for nearly all of these last two years. Today or tomorrow I’m seeing Nehru for the climactic session on Kashmir. I have prepared the way in every possible fashion, and I have some hopes of a fairly generous and forthcoming proposal for the Valley.
On Bokaro, my problem is Lucius Clay. He has come out against aid to publicly owned enterprises. So over the weekend I issued a statement to the American press that there was no such commitment and that the issue should be decided on its merits. I left no doubt what I believed these to be.
I have written a long memo on the subject which I would also like to have Washington release. Their hope, as always, is that the controversy will blow away. I can’t see why people are so afraid of a little fight. It does wonders for my disposition.
May 10, 1963 – New Delhi

The other occurrence of the week was much more pleasant. The President came out strongly on the side of helping the Indians build the Bokaro steel plant and he said it should be supported in the public sector. It was a marvelous no-nonsense statement. For weeks, the AID people have been worrying about Congressional reaction. Characteristically they have been seeking to protect the President on matters where he doesn’t need or, one gathers, especially want protection. Now he has moved in and settled matters. He made the statement in a press conference. I followed it up here with a brief press conference in which I drew attention to the President’s answers. I also noted that the Congress still had to act and there were many technical and administrative details to be worked out. The papers this morning are full of it.

For the last few days, Blitz, Link and the left generally have been busy assuring India that the U.S. is seeking to undermine Indian socialism. The President’s action is an unfair blow to these constructive thoughts

*******************************
The previous (May 10, 1963) entry is the last Bokaro-specific journal entry in Galbraith’s memoir. Galbraith’s term ended on Jul 12, 1963 and the new ambassador’s (Chester Bowles) term started on Jul 19, 1963. I’ve tried to cobble together a few other article links relevant to this story.
Jun 28, 1963
Time article on American aid: Foreign Aid: The Bokaro Issue
Nov 22, 1963: Assassination of JF Kennedy
May 27, 1964:- Death of Jawaharlal Nehru
Aug 13, 1965
Time article (one of 3 articles that match “Bokaro” search query – requires TIME subscription)  India: Pride & Reality
From this SAIL web page, the Soviet collaboration seems to have been announced sometime in 1965. It will be interesting to fill the gaps in the Bokaro-America/Soviet narrative from 1963 to 1965.

A Quiet Violence (view from a Bangladesh village) – an excerpt

Pic: courtesy Amazon.com

In Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s book, Poor Economics, they reference the following story from Betsey Hartman and Jim Boyce’s book – A Quiet Violence (view from a Bangladesh village).

The story describes two neighboring families, one Hindu and one Muslim, that were not particularly close to each other. The Hindu family lost its main earner and was starving; in desperation, the woman of that family would creep across the fence into the other family’s yard and steal some edible leaves from time to time. Hartman discovered that the Muslim family knew what was going on but decided to turn a blind eye. “I know her character isn’t bad,” the man said. “If I were in her position, I would probably steal, too. When little things disappear, I try not to get angry. I think ‘The person who took this is hungrier than me.'”

Let’s reflect on the quote by the Muslim man. This is, by no stretch of imagination, a justification for stealing. Rather, it’s a sign of humanity.

Second batch of friends arrived a few months ago

Bringing 15 boxes of friends home – the post that started it all off. This post recounts the voyage of our second batch of friends, henceforth dubbed as Part 2 of the series.

Pic: courtesy Amazon.com

In Dec 2011, my brother-in-law brought the second batch of books — to Chennai. So far so good. Since his parents were going to returning to US with him, I had a time window of two weeks to collect the books. Sathish, an ex-colleague and friend, (who has a home in Chennai) picked up the books. Two months later, he brought them to Bangalore. I finally picked them up in Mar 2012. A grand total of 9 boxes but they are all hardbound so quite heavy. I present the list below along with my commentary. As I accumulated these books over the years, I’ve been pretty religious about annotating when (and sometimes ‘where’) I bought the book.

  • Tintin in the new world
    • Bought at the Stanford Bookstore on Jul 27, 1998 (this would have to a week after moving to the SF Bay Area from Chicago – heady times!)
  • Ambassador’s Journal: John Kenneth Gailbraith
    • The paperback cover on Amazon is NOT the one I own. Mine has a green cover and it’s a hardbound. I’m currently reading this humorous and insightful account and transcribing my favorite bits – JK Galbraith has his very own Galbraith category on my blog.
  • Primal Leadership
    • Bought in Dec 2005. Seems interesting enough but still remains unread. Found a bookmark from The Lenox Hill Bookstore, NY though it doesn’t prove that this book was purchased there. For the longest time, I was incapable of walking out of a bookstore without  purchasing at least one book.
  • Mastering the Rockefeller Habits (by Verne Harnish)
    • 12 pages of testimonials, ghost writer
  • Hard facts, dangerous half-truths & total nonsense (by Stanford U Professors Robert Sutton & Jeffrey Pfeffer)
    • Professor Sutton was visiting Yahoo campus (2004/5) for a talk on “The Ambidextrous Organization” — this was a freebie book from the event. It’s a promising read.
  • The complete works of O. Henry
    • Bought in April ’95 (during my Chicago years) – this is arguably my first/only bibliophile book and warrants a separate post for one other reason – suspense!
  • All things bright and beautiful (by James Herriot)
    • Bought second-hand (undated).
  • The new industrial state (by John Kenneth Galbraith)
    • Bought in Mar 2000.
  • Bhagavad Gita (in Hindi)
    • Bought in Dec 2004 from the Birla Temple, Hyderabad. Went to Sunnyvale, CA – then a few years in a San Jose attic, a year in a Cupertino garage, a few months in Chennai and finally to our Bangalore apartment. Yes – a well-travelled hardbound indeed.

There’s more good news for the rest of our book friends in my sister’s garage. Another ex-colleague and friend (Ajay) is on a business trip to the Bay Area and has agreed to bring back a ‘significant number’ of books. How significant? I won’t answer that lest it jinxes things. Stay tuned… part 3 in this series is not too far away.