Yasmin Khan, whose Great Partition is highly recommended, has an excerpt up on Random House India site*, The Ghost of Udham Singh:
But the story of his life poses interesting challenges for the historian interested in ‘facts’ – for the stories about Singh are fragmented and seem sometimes only to take sustenance from their repetition. Some say he fraternised with members of the Ghadar party – the ambitious revolutionary movement started in North America which struggled for India’s liberation from British imperialism during the First World War – and met members of the IRA in Britain. In 1927 he was jailed in Amritsar for keeping illicit ammunition in his possession. He was given a passport nonetheless and travelled widely in Europe, arriving back in Britain around 1934. In the 1930s he moved from place to place, perhaps earning his keep as an itinerant peddlar of hosiery and lingerie, and he may also have worked as a handyman, driver and mechanic. He knew Indians in Coventry and Southampton, appears to have liked going to bookshops and to Indian restaurants. He also made some cash as a film extra in crowd scenes. But in the conditions of depression-era England, it was probably far from a glamorous existence.
This assassination, then, was not a straightforward story of nationalist heroism in conflict with British imperialism. By 1940, the political picture was too complex to allow that.
Read the whole thing as it hints at issues of memory and history that are near and dear to my heart. The case of Udham Singh is particularly intriguing because he is now part of the mythos of martyrdom in Sikh hagiography – see, Bhagat Singh. I am using Louis E. Fenech’s “Contested Nationalisms; Negotiated Terrains: The Way Sikhs Remember Udham Singh ‘Shahid’ (1899-1940), Modern Asian Studies, 2002 in my Memory/History seminar. So this will be a good addition.
*There is another excerpt written in some creoly roly poly patois that is someone’s idea of hybridity and code-switching. Avoid that one.