Mulk Raj Anand arrives at National Archives, ready to unpack in his room
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At midnight on June 9, trucks from Khandala arrived at the National Archives, breaking the normal stillness at such a time. The police had been informed, and special permission taken to unload the trucks after dark, part of what was an unusual yet important task.
The material the trucks brought — 88 sealed boxes of papers, letters, books, jottings, literary material and a copy of Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof — belonged to Mulk Raj Anand. Shepherded by a team of archivists led by Raj Jain, these were deposited into the National Archives, which will have a room dedicated to the legendary writer.
Anand, who died in 2004, was among the first Indians to write in English. In a writing career of 75 years, he won international acclaim — besides Sahitya Akademi awards — well before Indians writing in English became a trend.
The papers acquired by the National Archives cover a long period in India's recent history. They include Anand's "original sketch" of Indira Gandhi, drawn four days after her assassination, his pictures with Mujibur Rahman, his collection of books, notings on the books he wanted to write, and letters that virtually cover the history of the world, including a whole set between him and Mahatma Gandhi.
"The full extent of what we have managed to get here in the Archives will not be known till we complete the air-cleaning of the boxes, sealed for years, then the fumigation and then finally the unbundling and reclassification," says Raj Jain, who led the team to Anand's house in Khandala and, despite some resistance from his granddaughter, managed to get the collection with police help and an authorisation letter from the Archives.
Says Mushir ul Hasan, Archives director general: "We have set out space we will use to have a Mulk Raj Anand room here... There is so much here about the Afro-Asian conference, the debates of this crucial period, which we can get from Anand's papers."
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