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February 4, 2009 > An American in Gandhi's India

An American in Gandhi's India

Submitted By Asha Sharma

This biography of Satyanand Stokes was published in July 2008 by Indiana University Press and has a foreword by the Dalai Lama. The book chronicles the remarkable life of an American who went to India more than a hundred years ago and left an indelible mark on the economic and social lives of the people among whom he settled.

A scion of a distinguished family of Philadelphia Stokes went to India in 1904 to work in a leper home in the Simla Hills. During the following years he worked in a devastating earthquake, in small-pox camps and in plague stricken villages. He finally settled in Kotgarh, a village deep in the Himalayas and a 60-mile walk from Simla, and spent his life in fighting social injustices and working for the economic uplift of the local people.

In 1919 he joined India's struggle for freedom. He became a close associate of Gandhi and actively participated in his non-cooperation movement against the British and was a member of the decision-making All India Congress Committee. In December 1921, Stokes was arrested along with other national leaders, refused to defend himself and was sentenced by the British to six months 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."

Stokes' most lasting legacy to India are the Delicious apples which he brought to the Simla hills from America in 1916. Often called the Johnny Appleseed of the Himalayas, Stokes distributed free saplings to poor farmers and helped them grow and nurture them thereby transforming the entire economy of the Western Himalayas. Even today Himachal with its flourishing horticulture-based economy acknowledges Stokes contribution to its progress.

Saturday, Feb. 8
'An American in Gandhi's India. The Biography of Satyanand Stokes.'
Book Reading and Signing by author Asha Sharma
2 p.m. - 3 p.m.
Borders, 39210 Fremont Hub, # 211, Fremont
(510) 797-9799

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