American in Gandhi's India
"An American in Gandhi's India. The Biography of Satyanand Stokes", was published by Indiana University Press. It
has a Foreword by the Dalai Lama and advance comments by Rajmohan Gandhi and
Dr. Shashi Tharoor.
The book is the life story of an American, Samuel Evans Stokes who went
to India in the early part of the last century and left an indelible
impact on the social and economic life.of the people among whom he
settled. Often called the Johnny Appleseed of India, Stokes is a legendry
figure in North India. He brought the American delicious apples to India
all the way from Pennsylvania in 1916, distributed free saplings to poor
local farmers and helped them grow and nurture them thereby transforming
the entire economy of the Western Himalayas. And even today Himachal with
its flourishing horticulture-
based economy, acknowledges Stokes contribution to its remarkable progress.
A scion of a distinguished family of Philadelphia, Stokes, went
to India in 1904 at the age of 21 to work in a leper home in Subatu in the
Himalayan foothills. During the following years he worked in the
devastated Kangra earthquake of 1905, in smallpox camps and in cholera
infested villages. He also started a Franciscan Order, "The Brotherhood
of Imitation of Jesus."
He finally settled in Kotgarh, a village deep in the Himalayas beyond
Simla, and spent his life in fighting against social injustices and
working for the economic uplift of the local people. The 1919 Jallianwala Bagh
massacre in the Punjab drew Stokes into India's struggle for
freedom from the British. He became a close associate of Gandhi and actively
participated in the non-cooperation movement and was a member of the
decision-making All India Congress Committee.
In 1921, he was arrested along with other national leaders, refused to
defend himself and was sentenced by the British to six-month imprisonment. He
was the only American who went to jail for his role in India's freedom
struggle and led Gandhi to remark," As long as we have an Andrews, a
Stokes, a Pearson in our midst, so long it will be ungentlemanly on our part
to wish every Englishman out of India."
The book was first published in India in 1999 by Penguin Books under
the title, "An American in Khadi." It was received very well
and there were several reviews in the Indian Press by eminent
journalists and authors.
The book was a landmark for while Stokes' name continued to be
associated with the prosperity of the hill regions, little was known of his
other contributions to India.