Book : Nine Lives (2009)
Author: Willian Dalrymple
Genre : Non-Fiction, Travelogue, Religion
Pages : 270
Cost : Rs.225 (Flipkart)
GR8 Meter: 7.5/8 YES
From long time I wanted to buy this book, and it was in my wishlist from long time, I don’t know what was there for me in this book, and I definitely know that its a kind of non-fiction, which is not my genre of liking, but still this book’s cover page, and the title attracts me(maybe like opposites attracts), I have never read this author before, but recently I got a chance to have my hand on this book, so here’s a review of a wonderfully written non-fiction memoir account book of author – William Dalrymple , the book is‘Nine Lives’ .
1. The Nun’s tale – A jain nun Prasannamati Mataji aka Rekha lives in Jain’s pilgrimage Sravanabelgola in Karnataka. This is the author’s account of meeting with a disciple of Jainism, and her thought, her living style, her sacrifices, and other aspects of Jainism religion, how there’re two different Jains in India, and how strict they’re in following their culture, their way of life. It also talks about Jain Tirthankars and Sallekhana(the self-giving up of life).
This book is all about various practicing forms of religions over India and neighbouring countries, esp the different and diverse ways of connecting with God, how different entities tries to appease their God, and try to be their best disciple.
2. The Dancer of Kannur – It’s a story/memoir of Hari Das , who is a famous Thayyam Dancer from Kannur, who is also happened to be a dalit(lower caste), he tells about how he works as a prison warder for 9 months but for 3 months he become a dancer, he also tells his own story of becoming this dancer, and also depicts the history behind Thaiyyam, how it is born from the injustice done to lower castes from Brahmin or top castes, and how they put out anger through dance, when they’re possessed by the deities themselves.
As per the author’s introduction in the beginning, these all stories are of real-life characters, but the name has been changed to protect the identities, plus many reference works has been used(given at bibliography at back of the book), and as per author, only the real accounts from the eyes of the characters has been told, with less or no interference by the author, means all thoughts presented in the book are only of the original characters, and it looks like that.
3. The Daughters of Yellamma – It’s story of 2 Devadasis Rani Bai and Kaveri who lives in the village near Belgaum Karnataka, and it tells the story of how they become a devadasi, infact there’s a village where family use to donate one of their girls in this factory(se* workers), and they pray their God through this work of them, and there’s a temple of Yellamma which they all pray to.
This book is published by Bloomsbury Publications, and it costs me Rs.225 on flipkart, the book goes on for around 270 pages for which I took 26 days in all. It have author’s introduction at the beginning, a glossary, index and a bibliography at the end.
4. The Singers of Epics – This story is based in Rajasthan, about Pabuji God’s singing tradition, followed by Bhopas of Pabusar. Mohan Bhopa and Batasi follows their faith through singing the praise of their local god Pabuji, how their phad(The textile painting hung at the back while performing) is their God, and how they respect and pray to that by singing the folklore of dying Bhopa tradition.
William Dalrymple is a British Indian writer of History, who lives in Gurgaon-Delhi and UK, he has written many bestselling books like’In Xanadu’, City of Djinns’,’From the Holy Mountain’ all of which are non-fictional accounts of different cultures and areas, This is my 1st read of him, and I’m surely buying another book from him.
5. The Red Fairy – This one covers Sehwan, the Sufi shrine in Pakistan, and it tells the history behind Sufism and its followers, how it derived from good things from different religions, from Hinduism, Islam and etc. How they enjoy and worship through singing the songs, Lal Pari Mastani and others singing song about Mast Qalandar, and how they’re facing extinction from extremists.
This book is very simple in language, and it’s a non-fiction, so for any reader who thinks that they can’t read it being it a non-fiction, must drop that thinking, because it is very well written, and with the aspects of the characters themselves, like they are themselves depicting their stories, and author at no point is preaching anything, that was the best thing(I can’t read preaching books, abhi tak to try nahi kiya ).
6. The Monk’s Tale – A monk Tashi Passong lives happily in his village in Tibet, which was invaded by China, how he faced extinction, how he remains truthful on his faiths, and how he had to pick arms for protecting his god and faith is told by his perspective here, how he’s been recruited by Indian armed forces, to help them, but later send to South India for other fights and how now he lives in Dharamsala the refugee land for exiled Tibetans, he throws lights on all the incidents and never leaving his faith on his God at any moment.
All 9 stories belongs to different characters from different backgrounds, and tell about different faiths, and it is just a normal book, also not being emotional everywhere, just the pure feeling, so a treat to read.
7. The Maker of Idols – Srikanda Stpathy is an idol-maker from a long idol making generation who used to make statues from Chola period, and he tells how he comes in the family business and what’s his faith in idols. He follows some rules, and as per his beliefs, God lives in the idol, when you make them lively, and they will always open the eyes of idols in the auspicious time of morning, he also tells that now his art is getting lost, since his children wanted to move in more-money-making business dealing with computers.
All the stories, all the lives are separate and good at its own explanation, but the last 2 stories linked with each other with common link, had it been not connected maybe gives more authenticity to the book, rest there is no negative points related. Since there is no interference by the author, all characters comes out in their true form.
8. The Lady Twilight – This story covers the tantric sadhana, and its beliefs, Manisha Ma Bhairavi get attracted to the Devi Tara, and she used to be possessed by her at times when her husbands beats her, so one fine day she moves to Tarapith and started following Tantric sadhana alongwith her mentor and guide Tapan Sadhu, and they worship Ma Tara at Tarapith, lives in cremation grounds, invoking the goddess through the use of skulls.
But if you’re not a non-fiction reader, you can avoid it(though I am also not a good non-fiction reader, I think this is my 1st non-fiction read), but if you want to try something new, go for it.
9. The song of the Blind Minstrel – This tells the story of Bauls of Bengal, and specifically of Kanai Das Baul, who becomes blind in the adolescence, Bauls are bengali wandering minstrels who used to sing songs and is welcomed by others, and there happens a fair in a year at Kenduli, where all Bauls gathered together and enjoy, sings. It tells the sad story of Kanai and his friends, how they becomes Bauls later on, and now they worship their God by singing and worshipping themselves, as for them God is inside you, just like some other dharmas tells.
I will strongly recommend this work of non-fiction, you should have it in your possession, and you should read it, one of the best travelogue with the different aspect. I rate it 7.5/8.
Jai Raam ji ki:)