William Dalrymple is one of the best travel writers about. His book "THE AGE OF KALI" is a collection of essays written during his many travels over the years through India. Don't be deceived by the title, although Dalrymple talks about the ancient Goddess Kali, this book is not about her; it is in fact about the transition that India is going through, "the age of Kali" a time when change takes place, often not for the best. In this book he shows a side of India that perhaps many would like to avoid discussing. He talks about India's dark side, the violence, religious intolerance, the abject poverty of many people, a stronger than ever caste system along with the pain of a country struggling to find its feet in the 20th century. This is not a depressing book, far from it, Dalrymple shows the reader, that despite all the problems India has to contend with, she is a country of great beauty, great compassion and many wonders, admid all the tragedy,...
It is amusing that some of the most interesting and veridical commentantary on the cultural and political anarchy that is India should come from a non-Indian raconteur. Beautifully illustrated by Olivia Fraser, The Age of Kali offers a compassionate view of a nation struggling against forces both modern and ancient. William Dalrymple has written a book that is required reading for anyone interested in India's emerging role in world affairs. Hindu cosmology divides time into four great epochs, or yugs, which represent the movement from perfection toward moral and social disintegration. Many Indians today believe that they live in the Kali Yug, or Age of Kali, a period of rapidly advancing darkness marked by chaos, corruption, and decay. Not until the world is cleansed by fire will the cycle repeat itself, restoring balance. "In the Age of Kali," writes Dalrymple, "the great gods Vishnu and Shiva are asleep and do not hear the prayers of their devotees. In such an age, normal...
Dalrymple's work is a real surprise. To be honest, I hadn't even heard of the author until I read (on this site) a rather poisonous reader's review of Jason Elliot's excellent book about Afghanistan (An Unexpected Light) that included a statement like, "He's no Dalrymple..." Dalrymple's travels in India are masterfully recorded. He manages to meet and talk with major figures in India's fast-changing society, including a variety of notorious and violent characters. Dalrymple investigates the slow erosion of the caste system, the increased awareness of women's rights (and the fissure that the issue has opened between urban and rural populations), the corruption and the squalor, and India's newly emerged wealth and power in a way that is both direct and sympathetic. In the earlier sections of the book (which is really a loose collection of long journalistic essays) Dalrymple investigates the subcontinent's increasingly corrupt political system and the resulting rise...
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