It is said don’t judge a book by its cover, but there are certain books which live upto their cover page…The cover page of Nine lives I bought in 2011 had eyes of a Kannur dancer wearing a red head gear with silver serpent heads on it, a very intriguing picture exuding immense energy.
|That's the cover of my copy|
The look said it would not let me keep the book down without finishing it, it would stare back at me to remind every single day that the nine chapters based on nine characters needs my attention.
What is fascinating about these characters is that they are not fictional, they are real people just like us, but as I navigated through the chapters the line delineating facts and fiction blur, every chapter left me with a collage of images which look stranger than fiction.
I could not continue reading two chapters back to back...I would leave the book for a day before I began a new chapter every time. It felt as if I would be denying every character its due if I moved on to the next immediately.
William Dalrymple talks about nine different characters following different paths but there is a common thread running through each of these characters, all these characters have immense faith in life irrespective of the path they have chosen for themselves. And somewhere on the way all of them have found their share of happiness.
The author takes the reader through the travails of a Jain nun, a Kannur dancer, a Devadasi, a Rajasthani epic singer, a Sufi, a Buddhist monk, an Idol maker of Tanjore, a Tantric practitioner, and a Baul singer.
For example, in the Singers of Epic chapter he talks about an Epic Singer Mohan Bhopa and his wife Batasi. While a small part of the story is about Mohan, rest of the story revolves around the history and evolution of bhopas-the singers. The detailing and the attention to nuances makes it fascinating.
He has covered the length and breadth of India and has brought to the fore the stories behind many of those characters whom we know superficially, the story of their lives we never bothered to find out because to us they seemed too trivial. Each of these stories shows a different India, an India caught in a time-wrap, a country where different worlds co-exist side by side, visible worlds which remain invisible.
The finesse with which he intertwines the story of practices and the lives of practitioners leaves you mesmerised and you are simply gripped by the narrative.