India is a country that celebrates the diversity, the variations in life, different shades of skin colour, different art-forms and many different tongues. But, every time an outsider, a foreigner extends his arm to learn the exceptional culture, this country has always embraced that person wholeheartedly. Actors, historians, writers, dancers and singers made India their abode. I take pleasure in writing about five such authors.
A man from Scotland came to Delhi in the year 1989 at a tender age of 22, after successfully writing his first book, ‘In Xanadu: A Quest’. This history scholar from Ampleforth and Trinity College, Cambridge won the 1990 Yorkshire Post Best First Work Award and a Scottish Arts Council Spring Book Award for his first work. The book was also shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize. He researched for three years in the capital city for his second book, ‘City of Djinns’, which won the 1994 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award. ‘From the Holy Mountain’, his third book spoke about the demise of Christianity in the Middle Eastern homeland and then his third, ‘The Age of Kali’ illustrates Dalrymple’s journey in India. Dalrymple traversed from the travel genre to his most beloved, history genre. ‘White Mughals’, ‘The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857’, ‘Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India’ are some of his notable works. Apart from writing, Dalrymple has also curated many CDs that celebrate Sufism and many paintings of the ancient India. William Dalrymple is often credited as the important window into the land that is India.
Every Indian born before the millennium struck have a nostalgic connect with a young brown boy running around with a pack of wolves, a black panther and a big brown bear in a brown ‘chaddi’. ‘Jungle Book’, one of the gems of Rudyard Kipling still holds India and its ethnicity together. Born in 1865 in Bombay, Kipling became famous for his short stories, poems that celebrated the nooks and corners of India. He worked in many newspapers, where he was often credited for his ability to weave the words to paint the most difficult picture in simple letters. Studied in England, came back to India, settled in Vermont with his wife, Kipling received 1907 Nobel Prize in Literature. The colourful local markets, the various traditions and culture fascinated Kipling who roamed around the small streets of the busy city of Bombay with his sister Alice and his nanny. ‘The Jungle Book’ (1894), ‘Kim’ (1901), ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ (1888), ‘Mandalay’ (1890), ‘Gunga Din’ (1890), ‘The Gods of the Copybook Headings’ (1919), ‘The White Man’s Burden’ (1899), and ‘If—‘ (1910) are some of Kipling’s most notable poems and short story collections. Even with his travels around the world, India still remained in Kipling’s warm heart.
Born in Kasauli in Royal Air Force officer Aubrey Alexender Bond’s house, Ruskin Bond spent his childhood in Jamnagar and Shimla. Winning literary competitions during his schooling in Bishop Cotton School in Shimla and his experiences in his grandmother’s house in Dehradun, made him write one of his first short stories, ‘Untouchable’. In 1957, Bond won John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for his work, ‘The Room on the Roof’, a semi-autobiographical work speaking about an orphaned Anglo-Indian boy Rusty living in the foothills of Himalayas. ‘Flight of Pigeons’, ‘The Blue Umbrella’, ‘Ghost Stories from the Raj’ and the whole collection featuring Ruskin Bond’s famous fictional character, ‘Rusty’ are some of his most notable works. Sahitya Akademi Award, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan are the most colourful feathers that decorate Bond’s beautiful crown of awards. From doing odd jobs for living to become the most loved childrens’ author, Bond has come a long way in making India and its experiences his abode.
A young four year old boy born in Tollygunge, Calcutta, Mark Tully started his schooling in a boarding school in Darjeeling. He moved to England at the age of nine to pursue his further studies in Twyford School, Marlborough College and theology in Trinity Hall, Cambridge. For a brief period of time, Tully wanted to be a priest in the Church of England, but then said his sexuality did not budge in. In 1965, Tully moved back to India as a correspondent to the BBC. He worked on many issues in the Indian sub-continent like the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, Operation Blue Star, Assassination of Indira Gandhi, Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, Babri Masjid Demolition. Tully was also barred from entering the country during the period of emergency when the media was under censorship. His first book about India, ‘Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi’s Last Battle’, which he co-authored with his colleague in BBC about Operation Blue Star. He then went on to pen many such journalistic articles like ‘Raj to Rajiv: 40 Years of Indian Independence’, ‘No Full Stops in India’, ‘India’s Unending Journey’ have received many accolades. The Padmashri, Padma Bhushan the knighthood in the New Year Honours 2002 are some of the awards Tully has received for his exceptional work. ‘The Hindu’ rightly says ‘Tully Sahib’ is truly India’s own.
Gregory David Roberts
From being a heroin addict, a smuggler, a gentleman bandit, a convict and a man who fled the prison to being ‘Shantaram’, Gregory David Roberts has come a long way in life. Born in 1952 Australia as Gregory John Peter Smith, Roberts was inspired by the events that happened in his life and being in prison to write and publish his first book named ‘Shantaram’. Roberts lived in Germany, France, Melbourne and then moved to Mumbai and started working for the poor and their health care in India. ‘The Mountain Shadow’ is a follow up novel to his first book which is also a best-seller. Going through a lot of experiences, Roberts has embraced India, its lifestyle and its name.
In Rudyard Kipling’s words,
“Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate,
Between the palms and the sea,
Where the world-end steamers wait.”
Just like that, India and her diversity have always welcomed all her admirers and have accepted them as her own.