The Chronicler

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LUCIAN’S CALL for a historian to be one who calls a fig a fig and a spade a spade seems to have resonated with Bipan Chandra, master chronicler of Indian history. He may have nurtured one ideology over another but remains unshackled. The civil service was never an option for Chandra. “The British controlled it and I was staunchly nationalist,” he says. After a few years in Stanford and newly Marxist he returned to India. An argument with his editor ended an embryonic journalistic career and began Chandra’s tryst with academia.

Bipan Chandra
Bipan Chandra
Age: 81
Profession: Historian and Chairman, National Book Trust
Writing: Three books: an autobiography, a book on Bhagat Singh and a third one on Gandhi Photo: Anay Mann

Today, when he of the slightly unsteady gait but stead purpose is not busy with his own “pipeline projects” – Chandra spends time with his former students.

“In the US they consider people in the 60s middle aged. In India you’re old at 50. But my wife and I just assumed we’ll go on forever,” says a heart-broken Chandra whose wife Usha passed away recently. Chandra has no doubt it was their “deeply pleasant” companionship that added years to his life. Now sorrow fuels his drive but luckily the work is enjoyable. It keeps him coming into his Delhi office for full working days to keep adding to the annals of Indian history.