Nine Lives by William Dalrymple

Nine Lives by William Dalrymple

Review by Venkatesha M

This is a collection of nine different stories, an honest attempt to throw light on various customs which are still in practice in Modern India.

Author Dalrymple travelled across India and Sindh region in Pakistan and tried to cover Nine different lives in this book. Stories include customs from Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism and also forms of Tantric practices. Each story in the book starts with introduction to a specific custom and runs into the biography of an individual.

Entire book is on the theme ‘Faith’ and ‘Principles’. I liked all the stories in the book. In a few stories, Dalrymple tried to show difficulties faced by some of the backward communities in India. I couldn’t agree with this part as many things about caste system are changed in Modern India. You can see that Author has done lot of research and travelled to different places for this book.

My personal favourites from the book are ‘The Nun’s Tale’, ‘The Monk’s Tale’ and ‘The Maker of Idols’. Author also explains how the Modern India is a threat to the continuation of these traditions. Most of the customs are hereditary in nature and the new generation is not interested as they are more intended towards alluring professions. Personally I have seen similar cases of Gen-Y not willing to continue the family business which is also affecting few traditions mentioned in the book.

There are few poems/songs translated to English. I will definitely suggest this book.

One of the poems:

“My soul cries out,
Caught in the snare of beauty,
Of the formless one.

As I cry by myself,
Night and day,
Beauty amassed before my eyes,
Surpasses moons and suns.

If I look at the clouds in the sky,
I see his beauty afloat.
And I see him walk on the stars,
Blazing within my heart”

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