Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan

Ruchira Paul in Accidental Blogger:

Khan_1In 1912, a flamboyant “oriental style” dancer with the exotic name of Mata Hari (mother of god in Hindi) was the toast of Paris night clubs. A traveling musical group from India, The Royal Musicians of Hindustan was in Paris that year. Mata Hari performed with this group. The group’s lead singer was a handsome and serious young man named Inayat Khan. He belonged to an accomplished Indian musical family from Baroda and was trained in Indian classical music and the sufi philosophical tradition. The glamorous and famous Mata Hari later went on to become a French spy (some say, a German double agent) during World War I – not the most sensible career choice for someone who sought publicity relentlessly. Little did the gentle Inayat Khan know that one day his own daughter would follow in the footsteps of the notorious Mata Hari and meet an equally tragic (but more honorable) fate.

Inayat Khan traveled the world with his musical group and introduced the pacifist sufi philosophy to western audiences. During a tour of the United States, he met, fell in love with and married Ora Ray Baker. In 1914 their oldest daughter, Noorunnisa Inayat Khan (Noor) was born in Kremlin, Moscow. The family lived in England and France. From all accounts, Noor and her siblings were brought up in a household bearing both eastern and western traditions. Despite European influences on the children’s upbringing, the cultured and conservative lifestyle of the Khan family was in keeping with Indian Muslim tradition.(Her American born mother had converted to Islam and adopted the name, Amina Begum.) Noor was trained in classical Indian and western music, playing the sitar, piano, cello and violin. She studied child psychology in Sorbonne and music at the Paris Conservatory.

More here.  [Photo shows Noor Inayat Khan.]

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