Archive for October, 2005

The View from My Window

I received a letter today from a 92-year old uncle long retired from Indian Army Intelligence:

” My dear Ajit- I am sending herewith a cutting regarding the turf war between the KGB and CIA in the sixties. It is from a book, A Hack’s Progress by Phillip Knightley. I thought you must have missed this story because of your hectic schedules. It may be of interest to you as this ‘war’ was fought from different floors of the building you live in now, but forty years ago”.

Attached to this letter was the Deccan Chronicle, Madras Editionwithexcerpts from Knightley’s book:

“Sitting on the balcony (of Bhaktavar building where Knightley lived in the 60′s) one evening …enjoying a quiet beer, I became aware that someone in the next block was doing the same thing..we nodded to each other and raised glasses.Then he called across the gap, “What are you drinking?”. When I told him it was beer, he said ,”Come over and try vodka.” I went down the lift , across the courtyard, up the lift to the sixth floor where I noticed that a sign on the bell that I was about to ring said SOVEXPORT FILM.

Inside I met Igor- I never got to know his other name…ostensibly Igor represented the Soviet Film industry in India…”

Igor solicits articles from Knightley and gets them published promptly in Soviet magazine. Knightley eventually discovers that Igor is the KGB representative in Bombay.

“If I had been naive about Igor’s intenstions,” continues Knightley, “I was simply stupid about Imprint” ( a Bombay litereary magazine owned by an American couple and which was Knightley’s employer)….I look back now over the early copies of Imprint I see that many of the books we chose to condense lauded the American way of life and painted a grim picture of the lack of freedom in the Soviet Union….”

Twenty years later, working on a documentary on the spy Philby he has lunch in Washington with Harry Rositzke, the former Soviet Bloc chief of the CIA who was the station chief of the CIA in India in the 1960′s. Learning that Knightley was an old India hand ,Rositzke asks Knightley what he was doing in India at that time and Knightley tells him about his stint at Imprint.

“I knew it well,” Rositzke tells him.” It was one of my little operations. Shake hands with your ex-boss.”

“It was a shock to me,” writes Knightley, “that , however unwittingly, I had been an employee of the CIA. Now Igor’s attempts to recruit me made sense…he was after the employee of a CIA front…”

The accompanying photo is a morning view- not the evening one that Knigntley and Igor enjoyed

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