Friday, 3 July 2009

Seventh Week, The Sub-Continent

The recent weather with its combination of high temperature, bright sun and then torrential rain has made me think of India, or rather how I believe India to be. My impressions were formed over the years by books, films and the abiding love Britain has for the sub-continent, even if it had made the country its victim.

The integration of Indian culture in Britain has been going on since the 1840's. Jane Austen writing of the thrill of a Kashmir shawl or new muslins, curries in all their permutations, kedgeree, mulligatawny soup. IPA, gin and tonic. Yoga, the Beatles and the Maharishi, the vibrancy of Belgrave Road in Leicester or shopping at "The Bombay Stores" in Bradford. We are lucky to have a connection with this beautiful country.

What surprised me was what a range of books I had, from the teenage romance (Who didn't love "Far Pavilions" ?) through to the wistful art of Rohinton Mistry. The wild and definitely non pc romps of "Flashman" and the clear observation of William Dalrymple. This huge and diverse country has inspired so many authors, and each creates a different view.

Others who fell under the spell include E M Forster, Colin Thurbron, Greg Roberts and Rudyard Kipling, while their own culture gave us the Mahabarata, the Kama Sutra, Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Aravind Adiga and Tagore the Nobel prize winning poet. It is a rich and exciting heritage. Do not ignore it.

Mark Twain sums it up far better than I ever could

The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of traditions, the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see.

No comments: