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A Forgotten Ambassador in Cairo: The Life and Times of Syud Hossain

Shortlisted | Book Awards 2021 | English Non-fiction

A Forgotten Ambassador in Cairo: The Life and Times of Syud Hossain

Author: N.S. Vinodh
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Award Category: English Non-fiction
About the Book: 

Amongst the multitudes of tombs in the City of the Dead in Cairo, there lies buried a lone Indian — an eminent scholar, writer, debonair statesman and a leader of the Indian freedom movement. Who is he? How did he get there?
For a man who used both the lectern and the pen to devastating effect in the cause of the Indian Independence movement led by the likes of Gandhi, Patel and Nehru, very little is known of Syud Hossain. Born to an aristocratic family in Calcutta, he started a career in journalism early in life and became the editor of Motilal Nehru’s nationalist newspaper, The Independent. After a brief elopement with Jawaharlal Nehru’s sister, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Hossain, under immense pressure from Motilal Nehru and Gandhi, annulled the marriage and was asked to stay away from the country for a few years. Thus began several years of exile.
Eventually, he landed in the United States where he imparted Gandhi’s message far and wide across the country. Gathering a group of Indian freedom fighters around him, he fought for India’s freedom from afar, decrying British oppression and garnering support in the United States for his cause. Flitting from one place to another, making homes of hotel rooms, Syud Hossain inspired and irked in equal measure. With every speech he delivered and every editorial he penned, he sent a shiver down the spine of the colonial ruler.
Adding to his formidable list of causes, Hossain also took on the fight for Indian immigrant rights in the United States, one that successfully culminated in President Truman signing the Luce-Celler Bill into an Act in 1946. He returned to India to witness the triumph of her independence as well as the tragedy of Gandhi’s assassination. He was appointed the first ever Indian ambassador to Egypt, where he died while in service and was laid to rest in Cairo.
A Forgotten Ambassador in Cairo offers an illuminating narrative of Hossain’s life interspersed with historical details that landscapes a vivid political picture of that era. Through primary sources that include Hossain’s private papers, the British Intelligence files, letters of his friends and contemporary newspapers, N.S. Vinodh brilliantly brings to life a man who has been relegated far too long to the shadows of time.


About the Author: 

N.S. Vinodh, is a civil engineering graduate from IIT, Madras, and a M.B.A. from IIM, Lucknow. In a corporate career spanning twenty-five years, he has held senior positions in corporate real estate with leading multi-national financial services companies such as ANZ Grindlays Bank, HSBC, and Fidelity Investments. He opted for early retirement to start his own boutique real estate company, as well as pursue his passion of traveling and history. He is married to Sheela and they have two sons, both based in the United States. He is based in Bangalore.


Excerpt: 

THE BRITISH EMPIRE in India was at its zenith in the last two decades of
the nineteenth century. Queen Victoria had celebrated the Golden Jubilee
of her reign in June 1887 marked by a grand function in London where
a host of Indian Maharajas and rulers paid obeisance to The Empress of
India. The presence of the Maharajas of Baroda, Cooch Behar, Indore,
Bharatpore and many others in their ostentatious Indian attire added
lustre to the celebrations hitherto unseen in London. The event had been
celebrated earlier with equal pomp in the Delhi Durbar of January 1887
presided over by the Viceroy, Lord Lytton. Even though Calcutta was the
capital of the British Empire in India, the holding of the Durbar at Delhi
was a symbolic proclamation that Queen Victoria was now heir to the
Mughal throne.


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