Unlocking Nehru: The Rudolphs Innovate, 1963

Lloyd Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, a few years before their interview with Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi.

Lloyd Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, a few years before their interview with Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi.

My sister Susanne met her husband, Lloyd Rudolph, at Harvard and they embarked on a unique joint career as political scientists.  They wrote and taught together, specializing in political development in the then newly-independent India.  They were 32 and 35, respectively when they took their second research trip to India in 1962-63.  On this occasion they settled in the capital, and shortly after their arrival asked with intrepid directness for an appointment to interview Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.  They were pleased and somewhat amazed when their request was granted.  The invitation, in an oversize parchment envelope and typed on impressive stationery, was hand delivered by a uniformed messenger in an elegant car to the Rudolphs’ house at 44 Lucknow Road. The interview was scheduled for Tuesday, February 13, 1963.

The house at 44 Lucknow Road, Delhi, where Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph lived at the time they interviewed Nehru.

The house at 44 Lucknow Road, Delhi, where Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph lived at the time they interviewed Nehru.

Recognizing that this was a rare opportunity, Sue and Lloyd devised a singular scheme for making the most of their time with Nehru:  they decided they would take no notes, so that neither he nor they would be distracted by their writing.   Sue and Lloyd prepared for days.  They read articles and newspapers and began drafting a set of questions for the Prime Minister.  These they revised again and again to make them simple and direct, with the intention of being both respectful and provocative.  When they were finally satisfied with the questions they had formulated — they memorized them. Their determination was to be with Nehru with no paper or writing instrument visible.

Prime Minister's Secretariat Building, New Delhi, where Sue and Lloyd Rudolph met Prime Minister Nehru, February 13, 1963.

Prime Minister’s Secretariat Building, New Delhi, where Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph met Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, February 13, 1963.

On the appointed day, Sue and Lloyd drove their little green Fiat to the imposing Prime Minister’s Secretariat in New Delhi.  There they were ushered into Nehru’s private office, where they were able to question him intently for more than an hour.  He was cordial and frank, though guarded on certain issues as Sue and Lloyd had anticipated.  In an amusing aside, Sue took out a cigarette at one point (everyone smoked then) and Lloyd and the Prime Minister both lit a match for her at the same time.  Sue looked at Lloyd but turned and accepted a light from the handsome Nehru.

Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, 1947-1964.

Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, 1947-1964.

Already while driving home,  Sue and Lloyd talked rapidly as Sue furiously scribbled down notes of what the Prime Minister had told them   As soon as they returned to the house on Lucknow Road, they hastened into their study and closed the door.  With the prepared list of questions before them as an aid, they spoke into the microphone of their little tape recorder and dictated Nehru’s responses. Each reminded the other of what they had heard, using their collective memory to recall with precision what Prime Minister Nehru had said during the interview.  Sometimes during the dictation, one of them would start a sentence and the other would finish it, a rhetorical characteristic that would become one of their habits in subsequent years.  They turned the tape over to their secretary to transcribe and later edited the typed transcript before having it typed into a final version with an original and five carbon copies.

The transcribed interview came to a dozen legal-size pages.  The candid responses they had been able to elicit from Nehru were a testament to their methodological inventiveness and unique teamwork. Sue and Lloyd used the information they gleaned in numerous articles and books over the ensuing years, and made the transcript available to other scholars.  It was cited as recently as last year in a history of the Indian Army since Independence.

Sue and Lloyd's study at 44 Lucknow Road, Delhi, in 1963. That's me on the right holding their daughter, Jenny.

Sue and Lloyd’s study at 44 Lucknow Road, Delhi, in 1963. That’s me on the right holding their daughter, Jenny.

I know the details of this story because I was the secretary who typed the notes of the interview along with many others they conducted with government and political officials that year. In 1962-1963 I took a year off between my second and third years as an undergraduate at Columbia University to work for them in India.  It was quite an adventure.

Sue and Lloyd were unique scholarly collaborators. Through decades of writing and teaching they made an indelible imprint on the field of political science and enriched the lives of countless students and scholars around the world. Their emotional, personal, intellectual and professional bonds made them inseparable life partners for 63 thrillingly adventurous years. Susanne died in her sleep on December 23, 2015.  Lloyd slipped away equally peacefully on January 16, 2016, just 24 days after Susanne.

Susanne Hoeber Rudolph and Lloyd Rudolph, India, 2012

Susanne Hoeber Rudolph and Lloyd Rudolph, India, 2012

 

 

For more on the Hoeber Family go to  http://againsttimebook.com/.

 

 

 

Advertisements

4 Comments on “Unlocking Nehru: The Rudolphs Innovate, 1963”

  1. Leigh eastty says:

    So fascinating and yet so beautiful at the same time. Thank you Frank. Your blog is always a joy to read. (And loved the unexpected twist that you were the secretary. It would have been great without that, but it elevated it even further.)

  2. Patrick Hennessy says:

    Interviewing a head of state without note pads or anything else–that’s trusting your powers of recall in a big way!

  3. […] them and transported them — and the sand — to the house in Barnard, Vermont, where she and her husband Lloyd worked and wrote in the summers for many years. And there they have remained until now.  The […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s