Travelling thousands of miles and spending the next thousand days in a place where people, food, and culture are just opposite from where you belong was done by one such author William Dalrymple, who came all the way from a place of castles, abbeys and cathedrals, Scotland. What made him to come to the most populous and ‘troubled’ place on earth, the Indian subcontinent?! In his 4th book ‘The Age of Kali’, the author collects his memories from the places he travelled in the subcontinent.
Age of kali or the age of demons is the last stage of the world according to the Hindu mythology. Let us start the journey with places like Bihar which is burning in corruption and caste issues. The brutal massacre of the high caste people by the lower caste people. This book features some of the most interesting people in the world like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Imran Khan, and Benazir Bhutto among others.
In the year 1997, the author visited the land of ‘white widows’- Vrindavan, which is called the place where people come to seek Krishna’s protection from the evil society. While writing he remembered a conversation with a widow named kanaklata. She said that Krishna came in her dreams and called her to Vrindavan. Such was the devotion and love towards an idol that they spend their rest of the life in the name of an unseen protector.
As we read through the book we would come across places like Rajasthan, Bombay, Goa, Cochin, Bangalore, Gwalior, Hyderabad and Madurai and so on, talking about great things, meeting great and interesting people. Bombay being the city of dreams, has the largest film industry in the world. The author talks about an account with our very own desi rapper Baba Sehgal. The music industry is growing bigger with songs like ‘tanda tanda pani’ the songs of the movie ‘Sajaan’ which even suppressed Michael Jackson’s Thriller!
Dalrymple being a travelogue writer has written 18-19 essays in this book in which all the memories of the places and people are vividly remembered like the interview with the Nizam’s Prime Minister’s grandson, the talk about the fort, the wealth of nizam, the djinn, and palaces like the green palace, pearl palace and the discussion about the picture of Hyderabad as sort of fantastical Indian ruritania!
From the south to Indian Ocean, the journey was very exciting, fearful, surprising, sad and happy.
The account of Dalrymple about the subcontinent is incomplete if we do not discuss about Pakistan. An interview with legendary cricketer Imran khan gives us a wonderful piece about his country, his passion, and politics. There is also an account on railway retired employee who recounts the horrifying times of partitions of 1947. The bloodshed that happened years ago still haunts people. The politics of Pakistan is worth mentioning. The clash of the feudal families leads to the creation of the political dynasties like the Bhutto.
His book ends with such a deep thought about the Indian subcontinent, the different but amazing people of Indian subcontinent. As the name of the book suggests – ‘Age of Vices’, but it is not always the worst part that is to be noticed. The beautiful and new India can also be seen in this book. A must read for all the travellers!!
Contributed by Mayalu Boro