Gifts of Passage


Gifts of Passage


by Santha Rama Rau

Restless Women Travelers

“I have a suspicion that she is the best writer of travel literature in our time.”

—Pamela Frankau, author of The Willow Cabin

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About the Book

A vivid, varied account of a globally-minded woman’s intriguing adventures and evolving worldview, Santha Rama Rau’s “informal” autobiography covers a life defined by almost perpetual motion—from her birth in India to an upbringing in England and South Africa, from her education at Wellesley College in the United States to far-flung travel to China, Japan, Indonesia, Russia, Afghanistan, Kenya, Spain, and beyond.

Part memoir, part journalism, Gifts of Passage is at once intimate and expansive. Supplementing the narrative of a wayfarer’s return to her roots and portraits of Indian family life, the book provides firsthand accounts of pivotal historical happenings: repression in South Africa, the trial of Jomo Kenyatta, and the early stirrings of Indian democracy.


About the Author

Santha Rama Rau (1923-2009) was the first widely-read female South Asian writer in the United States. Born in Madras, India, into an elite Indian family—her father, a high-ranking civil servant, became ambassador to Japan and the United States, and her mother was a founder of International Planned Parenthood—she grew up in India, Great Britain, and South Africa and made the unusual choice of attending college in the United States rather than in England. She became Wellesley College’s first graduate from India. Between 1945 and 1970, she worked as a journalist for publications as varied as the New Yorker and the Reader’s Digest, writing mainly travel stories from Asia, Africa and the former Soviet Union. Many were collected as East of Home (1950), View to the Southeast (1957) and My Russian Journey (1959). Santha Rama Rau also wrote an autobiography, Gifts of Passage (1961), several novels, and adapted the E. M. Forster novel A Passage to India for Broadway and the London stage.