29 November, 2009



India is a very religious country. I have often been bewildered by  the intensity of their beliefs. Even the well-educated follow holy men. I don't mean to say that educated people can't be religious, but it is the intensity of the following that amazes me.

When we lived here in the 1970s, I used to joke that if I wore a blue sari and rode a donkey from Delhi to Agra, I would have a large following and be considered a goddess by the time I reached my destination. That is not so far from the truth.

One year in the early seventies a professor of philosophy spent a year in India teaching at the university and to groups outside the university. Some friends asked if he would give them a photo of himself and, being flattered, of course, said yes. A few years later, when he returned, he found that he was being worshipped and his lectures were now booklets to read when his followers needed guidance. Admittedly he was shocked.

William Dalrymple relates in his new book Nine Lives that outside Jodhpur a man was killed in a mortorcycle accident and an Enfield Bullet Motorcycle was placed as a memorial to him at the site. Since then the cycle has become a shrine, and pilgrimages of truck drivers from all over Rajasthan come to this site looking for miracles. Many claim to have increased their fertility after the pilgrimage.

During our stay here, Dick became sick with yellow jaundice and spent many weeks in bed. After the illness, I went on a five week vacation to Europe to see friends.When I returned I found small photos of me cut out in different parts of the house with rice and oil and a candle in front of the pictures. I knew they wanted me to return, because Dick could be difficult and I ran interference. But-- frankly-- finding these sites unnerved me.

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