The Age of Kali: Indian Travels & Encounters

The Age of Kali: Indian Travels & Encounters

by William Dalrymple

William Dalrymple has proved himself to be one of the most perceptive and enjoyable travel writers of the 1990s.

Yet it is India that Dalrymple continues to return to in his travels, and his fourth book, The Age of Kali, is his most reflective book to date.

The result of 10 year's living and traveling throughout the Indian subcontinent, The Age of Kali emerges from Dalrymple's uneasy sense that the region is slipping into the most fearsome of all epochs in ancient Hindu cosmology: "the Kali Yug, the Age of Kali, the lowest possible throw, an epoch of strife, corruption, darkness, and disintegration." "The brilliance of this book lies in its refusal to reflect any cultural pessimism.

Dalrymple's love for the subcontinent, and his feel for its diverse cultural identity, comes across in every page, which makes its chronicles of political corruption, ethnic violence, and social disintegration all the more poignant.

The scope of the book is particularly impressive, from the vivid opening chapters portraying the law caste violence of Bihar, to interviews with the drug barons on the North-West Frontier, and Dalrymple's extraordinary encounter with the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Travel
  • Rating: 3.98
  • Pages: 394
  • Publish Date: April 1st 2000 by Lonely Planet
  • Isbn10: 1864501723
  • Isbn13: 9781864501728

What People Think about "The Age of Kali: Indian Travels & Encounters"

I started reading what I thought would be an unprejudiced holistic third-person view of India, unaffected by patriotic sentiments, yet aided by a depth of understanding of the subcontinent and its culture. For William Dalrymple is eligible on both accounts- an Indophile Scotsman who has lived in India for many years to understand it's people, history and the cultural nuances. The book has elicited plenty of reactions on Goodread to the effect of what a wonderful insight it is into this fascinating land, even to the extent of calling the book a must-read for those who want to travel to India for the first time. If this were the only book a first time traveller to India reads, it would be unfortunate.

3.5/5 This was my second book by Dalrymple and I was quite impressed by his ability to find stories and narrate them interestingly with great perception and empathy in "Nine Lives".

The topics covered range from the political ascent of Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar, to Rajmata of Gwalior, Kingdom of Avadh, the sad story of Bhavri Devi in Rajasthan, caste wars and the practice of Sati Mata, the gradual progression of Bombay into a city of dreams, Bangalore's initial retaliation to foreign takeover in the form of protests against KFC and Miss World, Lucknow's immensely sad history and death of culture, to the Goddess Parashakti in the South. I am basically in awe of the writing and the fact that Dalrymple has such immaculate observational skills. So Dalrymple held on till the time their prayers were done just to go and observe what were the prayers about. My favorite passage however was the below, where Dalrymple takes us through some realities that India hasn't been able to shun thus far - They destroyed all the equipment, all the medicines. The Harijans the people we used to call Untouchables used to come a hundred miles for treatment. What difference does it make to them if you educate the Untouchables? The lower castes have always been the slaves of the higher castes, replied Tyagi. And if the higher castes come for you again? If you are not really a non-fiction reader and yet you want to read stories of travels, I think Dalrymple is the author you got to check out for. The stories narrated are so vivid and interesting, not once would you feel you are reading non-fiction.

What struck me about this book was that there was not a single positive remark on India or any of the other countries discussed.

An eye-opening read, fascinating just like India and Pakistan.

The book is overwhelmingly opinionated but the author makes sure that both sides of the story are heard, thereby empowering the reader to form his own views. In the last part where author travels to Pakistan, he has simply presented the picture as it is refraining from inculcating his own opinions in the narrative. Even though it might seem that the tone is overly critical but no author will travel across lengths and breadths of the country just to be cynical. At the Indian Ocean: 11) At Donna Georgina's: Interview with a lady who follows Portuguese culture and looks down upon other Indians as uncultured. Pakistan 14) Imran Khan: Interviews with the mercurial Imran Khan who hopes to reverse his country's fortune by contesting elections.

In the chapter about Awadh Dalrymple goes on a nostalgia overdose and portrays Awadh as the best kingdom in the entire history of India.

It is a good read for anybody who is from India, or is interested in knowing how a nation plunges into the Age of Kali.

The book won the 1990 Yorkshire Post Best First Work Award and a Scottish Arts Council Spring Book Award; it was also shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize. From the Holy Mountain, his acclaimed study of the demise of Christianity in its Middle Eastern homeland, was awarded the Scottish Arts Council Autumn Book Award for 1997; it was also shortlisted for the 1998 Thomas Cook Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize. In November 2007, William received an Honourary Doctorate of Letters, honoris causa, from the University of Lucknow University for his outstanding contribution in literature and history, and in March 2008 won the James Todd Memorial Prize from the Maharana of Udaipur.