Monday, May 17, 2010

Spiritual Quickie

Nine people, nine stories. That’s what William Dalrymple’s ‘Nine Lives’ is all about. While on the surface it might seem like a ‘short stories for children’ kind of a book, but it actually has something more. Being a travel writer is certainly not easy but Dalrymple handles it with ease, making every story as interesting as the previous one.

The book opens with the story of Prasannamataji, a Jain nun from a monastery that is unkempt and grotesque in Sravanabelagola. Her story unfolds with an introduction to Jainism which underlines moksha as the highest form of liberation one can attain. It ends with the nun fasting to death. The second story from Kerala is about a Dalit prison warden who for two months of the year, is transformed into a theyyam dancer and is worshipped as a deity from December to February. Following these two starters, the next story is about Rani Bai, the Devadasi who at the outset resisted her own initiation into sex work, but later pushes her own daughters into the trade.
Sufism comes alive as Dalrymple explains to the readers how the religion brings together people and for once does not separate them. Sufism differs from orthodox Islam as it absorbs Hindu ideas and practices. The chilling tale of a monk who took up arms to oppose the Chinese invasion of Tibet and later spends the rest of his life trying to atone for the violence by hand printing the best prayer flags in India is one of the beautiful stories in the book.

This book explores the lives of nine different people Dalrymple comes across while traveling through the length and the breadth of religious, spiritual yet mysterious country that is India. His style is simple but erudite, compelling the reader to get lost in the book. A beautiful read, Dalrymple goes into the depths of spiritual and ancient India to get in touch with the modern one.

4 comments:

Kals said...

Lovely review! Love the last two lines especially. I didn't know this was a collection of short stories, actually. I haven't read Dalrymple's shorter stories.

He's got a keen eye for religion and the people it affects, so I'm sure this will be exciting to read! :)

crackhead said...

the review makes me want to read the book =) was the intention to write a review or to make us read? - I wonder =P well written I must say though =D

the world is not enough said...

@Kals: Thanks :) Not exactly like short stories, like a continuous journey!

@Crackhead: Lol no intention as such :)But do read this book!

niru said...

gr8..i want the book:)