Over the years, India has seen a lot of personalities and people come through and imbibe the culture and feel of the country. For some, it has a passing significance, but for others, the country has a profound effect on their being, convincing them to not just relocate but also to adopt the way of life of their Indian surroundings, and try and give back to a nation that they identify with so deeply.
Here are some foreign nationals who adopted India as their home.
1. Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa was born in Yugoslavia in 1910, at a time when it was still the Republic of Macedonia. She came to India in 1929 and became a nun in 1931, dedicating her life to the upliftment of the poor and helpless. It’s important to remember though that she wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, especially if you read a little bit about her views on contraception and abortion.
2. Annie Besant
Annie might have been British, but in her own words “I love the Indian people as I love none other, and my heart and my mind have long been laid on the altar of this Motherland.” She was a British socialist, women’s rights activist and staunch supporter of Indian self-rule. She even became president of the Indian National Congress in 1917.
3. Tom Alter
A Padma Shri award winning actor seen in a multitude of movies and TV shows, Tom is the son of missionary parents with English and Scottish ancestry. Apparently, Rajesh Khanna was the person to inspire him to become an actor.
4. Jim Corbett
Jim Corbett was born in 1875 and played the dual role of hunter as well as wildlife conservationist. He was a naturalist, and was infamous for his his hunting prowess, being called on to take care of man eating tigers and leopards in Indian villages. Later in his life, he fought for the need to protect India’s wildlife from extermination.
5. Mark Tully
Renowned author and one of the longest running former Chiefs of Bureau of the BBC, Mark Tully is known for his love of India’s traditions, heritage and rich culture. Born to a British businessman, Mark is known for his clarity and insight while writing about India.
6. Rudyard Kipling
This British novelist and poet is pretty much ingrained in Indian culture. He wrote ‘The Jungle Book’, consolidating his place in the minds of Indian children forever. He also wrote ‘The White Man’s Burden’ however, so he’s remained a bit of a controversial figure.
7. Romulus Whitaker
Romulus is known far and wide for his efforts on rainforest conservation and environmental activism. He grew up in New York City, later moved to India and is the founder of the Madras Snake Park, the Andaman and Nicobar Environment Trust and the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust.
8. William Dalrymple
William is a Scottish historian and writer, art historian and curator and is one of the co-founders and co-directors of the popular Jaipur Literature Festival. He is known for his interest in India and its history, and famously claimed “If I had five more lives, I’d live them all in India.”
9. Bob Christo
Bob was born in Australia in 1938 and is best remembered for portraying evil characters in Bollywood films during the 80s and 90s. He came to Bombay as a civil engineer, but after a chance encounter with Parveen Babi, got introduced to the world of Bollywood.
10. Gregory David Roberts
The notorious Gregory David Roberts wrote ‘Shantaram’, in case you were wondering. The Australian bank robber escaped from Pentridge Prison in 1980 and fled to India, where he lived for ten years, and which made the premise for his infamous novel. After serving his sentence, he moved back to Bombay, set up charitable foundations to assist the city’s poor and was named a Zeitz Foundation Ambassador for Community.
11. Ruskin Bond
Ruskin is famous for his contribution to children’s literature in India, possessing a reputation akin to everyone’s lovable uncle. He was born to British parents in 1934, and now lives in Mussoorie with his adopted family.
12. Mirra Alfassa or The Mother
The spiritual collaborator of Shri Aurobindo was, Mirra was born in 1878 in France to parents of Turkish and Egyptian descent. She came to Shri Aurobindo’s Spiritual retreat in Pondicherry in 1914. During the First World War, Mirra met Rabindranath Tagore in Japan, and returned to India in 1920, founding the Shri Aurobindo Ashram and becoming the spiritual guide of the community.
13. Sister Nivedita
Margaret Elizabeth Noble was a Scottish-Irish social worker, teacher and author who was born in 1867 and grew up in Ireland. She met Swami Vivekanand in London, and went to Kolkata in 1898, where she became his disciple and was given the name Nivedita. She was well known for her contribution towards the upliftment of Indian women, for fighting against caste distinctions and for supporting Indian nationalism. She passed away in 1911 in Darjeeling.
Even though some of these people were born in India, they spent time shuttling between different countries, yet always ended up settling in India.