Nayan Chanda Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley
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Nayan, welcome to Berkeley.
Tell us a little about your background. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in India, and I did my post-graduate studies in India. And then I continued doing post-graduate studies in International Relations at the Sorbonne, in Paris. From there, I moved to journalism.
Let's talk a little about your early years. How do you think your parents shaped your character, in retrospect?
I think, as it's true of almost every child, parents do have a tremendous influence. My father is a teacher. All of his life he was a teacher, and he was a historian by training. He was also an extremely learned man. He wrote about twenty-five books on various subjects, and so his library and his interest in a variety of subjects from archaeology to history was very inspiring to me. I followed his footsteps by majoring in history. So, certainly, he had a great influence on me.
What about your mother?
Mother was always a very self-effacing person who looked after our welfare, but quietly. She had a very strong character.
Why did you choose journalism? Did you want to be exposed to the world and travel to different places?
No, I was studying history, Asian history, especially in the seventies, when the Vietnam War was at its height. I was very curious to find out why the Americans were fighting this war, thousands of miles away from home, and I was studying history to try and understand why this is happening. That led me to think it would be, perhaps, much more interesting to see history being made in front of your eyes and have a front row in the room where history is being made, rather than read about it in a library years later.
Were you a student at the time of the Vietnam War?
I was a post-graduate student, yes.
Did you have a position on U.S. policy in Vietnam? Did you oppose U.S. conduct of the war?
Yes, I was appalled by the war because through images and articles, one saw only the suffering and destruction. It was kind of mystifying to me as to why this could be happening.
And so were you at the Sorbonne in the sixties?
In the early seventies, '71 to '74.
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