February  
2009

Vol 8-No. 8


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BOOKS




An 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.
                      

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