From Ahmed Ali’s [1] last letter from India.

“Here is a little bit of old Delhi which might interest you.

“In a busy street a newsboy was shouting in Urdu: ‘Pandit Jawaharlal [2] saying his rosary the other way round’. What he meant was that he had changed his attitude towards the Government. Questioned he said: ‘You can never be sure of him, today he says side with the Government and help in the war effort, tomorrow just the opposite’. He turned away from me and began shouting his cry, adding: ‘Jawaharlal has given a challenge to the Government’. I could not find this ‘challenge’ in the papers.

“Other newsboys selling Urdu papers: ‘Germany has smashed Russia in the very first attack’. Needless to say I read just the opposite in my English papers the next morning. Obviously the Urdu papers had repeated what Berlin had said. No one stops the newsboys shouting what they like.

“One day going in a tonga I heard the driver shout to his horse as he shied: ‘Why do you get back like our Sarkar! Go forward like Hitler!’ and he swore”.

[“Its rather fun going out to the bazaars and markets and listening to the loud gossip – provided, of course, it is not unbearably hot. I shall tell you more from time to time, if you are interested.”]

[1] Ahmed Ali (1910-1994), Pakistani writer and Professor of English, Bengal. Served as Listener Research Director for the BBC in New Delhi, 1942-45. Worked for the Government of Pakistan, 1949-60. He was co-editor of Indian Writing (London, 1940-45) and Tomorrow Bombay (India, 1942-44). He published in Urdu and English and works in the latter language include Twilight in Delhi (1940) and Ocean of Night (1964), which reflect on the Muslim heritage in India. A critical work, Mr Eliot’s Penny-World of Dreams, was published in 1941.

[2] Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), General Secretary and then President of the Indian National Congress, was educated at Harrow and Cambridge. After the massacre at Amritsar in 1919, he joined the fight for independence and was particularly associated with Gandhi, although at times they opposed one another’s policies. Frequently imprisoned by the British, he became India’s first prime minister when independence was achieved in 1947.  

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