In this book the author brings out beautifully the tales of nine Indian people, hailing from different cultures and tradition of India. William Dalrymple has subtly touched upon some grey areas of Indian tradition, religion, and a quest for one’s own identity amidst the economic and social changes of the regions in South Asia.
In the opening story, ‘The Nun’s Tale’, a jain nun called Prasannamati Mataji tells her own tale of how did she get detached from her home, family and material desires to become a jain nun but found great difficulty in detaching herself from her friend whom she also witnessed starving to death ‘ritually’. The following story -‘The Dancer of Kannur’- speaks of a prison warden from Kerala who, for two months, transforms himself in to an incarnate deity and a temple dancer; and for the rest of the months reverts back to the prison.
‘Daughters of Yellamma’ is a story of a temple prostitute who was once pushed to become a ‘devadasi’ or a ‘religious sex-worker’ but now invites her own daughters in to the flesh-trade. In the ‘Lady Twilight’, ‘Manisha Ma Bhairavi’- a tantric performing ritual at the cremation ground becomes nostalgic about her past when she lived with her family and worked in a jute factory. A Buddhist monk confesses that he conspired with his other mates in picking up arms in fighting for his motherland Tibet against the Chinese invasion.
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