Tehmton S. MistryJun 21, 2022
The 24th Mile
An Indian Doctor's Heroism in War-torn Burma
The story of India and Indians in World War II has been overshadowed by other historical events of the 1940s, a busy decade that included such historical watersheds as Indian independence (and the anti-colonial nationalist movement that led to it), as well as the partition of the Indian subcontinent. Indeed, many in Europe and North America, and even many in India, probably know very little about how crucial India was to the outcome of World War II. India and Indians were a very important part of World War II, and it is not an exaggeration to say that the role of India and Indians was indispensable in securing the victory of the British and Allied powers against Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. The stories of Indians in World War II have often been forgotten in popular accounts and memories of the conflict, but that is now changing, as more authors and scholars cover this subject.
Through highlighting the remarkable life and career of Jehangir Anklesaria, a heroic Parsi (Indian Zoroastrian) doctor who lived in Rangoon at the outbreak of the conflict, Dr. Tehmton S. Mistry’s The 24th Mile: An Indian Doctor’s Heroism in War-torn Burma (Harper Collins, 2021) makes a major contribution to our memory of World War II with the unique story of one individual during the most devastating conflict in human history. When the Japanese invaded Burma in December 1941, Jehangir sent his wife and daughter by ship to India, but feeling duty-bound, he decided to stay back in Burma. He joined the war effort and worked tirelessly to quell a cholera epidemic. He then found himself one of thousands on the trek through the treacherous jungle and mountains towards safety in northeastern India. The book reminds us of the difference a single individual’s foresight and leadership can make in bringing about better outcomes, even amidst war and disease.
The 24th Mile is a work of creative non-fiction, which means that although the storyline abides by the historical narrative of the period and follows historical figures, the author has taken the creative license to create secondary fictional characters, write descriptions, and recreate dialogues among the characters. The author, Tehmton Mistry, is part of the extended family and next generation of the protagonist’s family, and he successfully and evocatively recreates the story of Jehangir’s grit and heroism in a death-defying journey to safety in a major theater of World War II.
Tehmton S. Mistry is a retired obstetrician and gynaecologist who practiced in St. Louis, Missouri. Born and raised in Mumbai (Bombay), Dr. Mistry moved to the United States from India in the early 1970s, together with his wife – whom he met when he studied at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. The protagonist of The 24th Mile, Dr. Jehangir Anklesaria, was his wife’s uncle and a key influence on their early life. Now retired and living in California, Dr. Mistry enjoys writing, among other hobbies.
Shatrunjay Mall is a PhD candidate at the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He works on transnational Asian history, and his dissertation explores intellectual, political, and cultural intersections and affinities that emerged between Indian anti-colonialism and imperial Japan in the twentieth century.