The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Oct 10, 2009

Dalrymple Again

It's been a year since I last saw William Dalrymple, our favourite Scotsman-in-India. He is in the middle of a grand promotional tour for his latest book, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, and I attended his talk a little while ago. It is gladdening to see that he is balder than last year, but hasn't lost any of his fidgety energy. He gambolled up onto the stage, plonked himself down on a chair, and for the ensuing forty-five minutes of his talk, continuously undid and redid his shoelaces, unwrapped and wrapped and re-arranged his scarf, and spoke animatedly about not wanting to produce yet another tome about the Westerner-in-India's-Spiritual-Market.

(Although it has to be said that critics such as Rohit Chopra say he continues to exemplify the Orientalist mentality.)

Dalrymple spoke movingly of the Bauls, troubadours of Bengal, and about the Devadasis of Karnataka, and about a cowherd in Rajasthan who had maintained a long oral tradition of a forty-thousand-line song that died with him when he succumbed, untreated, to cancer, because he was too poor to afford treatment.

A couple of Baul friends of Dalrymple's have accompanied him on his tour - they will travel with him to present their songs and music and dance in the UK and Australia and the USA, and possibly other countries as well. When he saw their passports in India, he said he had spoken a bit condescendingly about their impending trips abroad. But they had surprised him. It seems they had already travelled to England several years earlier. Dalrymple was amazed to learn, he said, that they had performed at a house-warming party - for Mick Jagger, no less.


Szerelem said...

Willy D was here yesterday and told us pretty much the same stuff. He read while guzzling beer.

Fëanor said...

Yup, not surprised he reprised the talks from earlier in his tour. Dots all i's and spares stutters and blushes.

I see you're settled in nicely!

Szerelem said...

I feel so ridiculously at home it's like there was no settling in to do. I love it. Really. Love. Though the studying bit is sucking - I have forgotten how to write essays, but I love my lectures

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