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'India has shown that it's possible to live with diversity'

Questions and Answers: Lloyd I Rudolph & Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, Authors

Q. What led you both to undertake a journey from Europe to India in 1956, as detailed in your memoir and travelogue, Destination India?
A. It was the era of decolonisation and new nations. We were students of comparative politics and wanted to expand its horizon from Western Europe to Asia, specifically India, a newly independent country with a great ancient civilisation.

Lloyd I Rudolph & Susanne Hoeber Rudolph

We travelled through The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan over the Kybher pass into Pakistan and then India, where we spent six months in Jaipur, then six months in Madras (Chennai). We went on to spend 11 years doing research in India. The book starts with a chapter based on our day-to-day diary of our drive over land from London to India followed with two chapters on what we learned there.

A file picture of the Land Rover at Jai Mahal Palace Hotel
A file picture of the Land Rover at Jai Mahal Palace Hotel that Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph used to travel to India Destination India: From London Overland To India, Lloyd I Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, Rs 450, Oxford University Press. Available at leading bookstores.

Q. What was your goal and what were the challenges you faced?
A. Our goal was to drive to India for our first year of research under the Ford Foundation Foreign Area Training grants. Figuring out the route was a challenge as the route after Greece was unknown. But we had acquired British army maps for guidance. During the journey, we fought to be the driver because the driver could hold on to the steering wheel but otherwise we got along fine. We have been married for 62 years, so, I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Since then, there have been so many changes; it is impossible to say in a few words. We are optimistic of the future because India has shown that in a world being torn apart by ethnic and religious conflict, it is possible to live with diversity. Such a road journey today might not be likely though, given the raging conflicts in the Middle East.

Q. How did you feel when you were awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2014?
A. We were deeply appreciative about the recognition it showed towards our 50-year career consisting of writing on and teaching about India.

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