the-south-asian.com                                                                                                                               SEPTEMBER  2001
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SEPTEMBER 2001 Contents

 Interview

 Arundhati Roy

 Heritage

 Cultural Heritage of  south Asia

 People

 Noor Inayat Khan

 Communities

 The Indo-African  Diaspora

 Lifestyle

 Delhi's First Ladies

 Films

 Beyond the Arclights

 Editor's Note

 Phoolan Devi

 

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Silk Road on Wheels

The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

Parsis-Zoroastrians of
India

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in Bangladesh

 

 

 

Page  1  of  5

 

'The Princess who would be Spy' 

World War II SOE Agent 

- Princess Noor Inayat Khan

1 January 1914 - 13 September 1944

by

Andy Forbes

noork.gif (15876 bytes) noorvinasmall.jpg (8329 bytes)

Noor Inayat Khan was one of the most romantic of the SOE agents and one whose suitability to be sent into the field has often been questioned. The great-great-grand-daughter of the legendary Tipu Sultan, the 18th century Muslim ruler who died in the struggle to stem the British conquest of Southern India. Her father was a leader of the Sufi mystic community. Her mother was an American related to Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.

Inayat Khan, Noor's father, took his family to pre-revolutionary Russia, where they were taken up by members of the Imperial Court and where a daughter was born in the Kremlin on New Year's Day, 1914. She was given the name Noor, meaning 'light of womanhood', and would be known by her father's name, the patronymic Inayat, and the title Khan, an honorific denoting aristocratic birth.

Inayat Khan moved the family to London shortly before the outbreak of the First World War but poverty and prejudice led to another move, this time to the outskirts of Paris. Gentle, shy, sensitive, musical, dreamy, poetic Noor lived by what her biographer called 'a different rhythm' from the other children.

familygroup.jpg (16574 bytes)When Noor was 13 her father died, leaving her, as the oldest child, the mainstay of her grieving mother and younger siblings. On leaving school Noor studied music for six years, composing for the harp and piano, and little by little becoming more European and less oriental in her habits and dress. She moved about more independently than the veiled women of the tradition out of which she had come. She wore make-up that made her skin lighter. She took a degree at the Sorbonne in child psychology, studied several modern languages, travelled on the Continent with her brother Vilayat, and began a career as a freelance writer. She became a frequent contributor of articles and stories to newspapers and magazines and her children's fairy tales were broadcast by Radiodiffusion Francaise. A book of her stories was published in England in 1939 and she was about to bring out a childrens newspaper in Paris when war broke out.

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