Nine Lives was brilliant. It covers nine lives (go figure) from a variety of different religious backgrounds in India. Mostly Dalrymple focuses on more random or fringe religious groups. Some of them I knew about, some of them I didn't know about. I actually found a few books referenced in this book that I added to my book list. It is mostly more background reading, but I am excited. I am kind of struggling to say anything about this book. I think the reason it is most important to my project, is the diversity it demonstrates. Religion in India is like animal and insect life in the Amazon Rainforest. It is unimaginably diverse and is everywhere. I probably will not consciously run into any of the nine religious groups mentioned specifically in the book, but the way that Dalrymple treats them and got to know them is probably very close to the model I will have to adapt when I get out into the field. This book shows how important it is to step carefully, I guess you could say, and be very sensitive to what people believe. People are fairly open about their religious beliefs in India, but if you are not trying to be aware of the nuances, it would cause problems, especially if you are trying to get people to open up and give you information. The book does not really have a central anything binding it together other than it is nine stories told primarily by the main characters. It does not really deal specifically with William Dalrymple himself.
And actually that is probably the route I need to take with my project. In the introduction Dalrymple (my goodness that name never gets easy to type) explains that unlike most travel literature, he consciously chose to eliminate himself as much as possible from the book. I think that is what makes it so effective. I think that is why I dislike Clifford Geertz so much. Nine Lives is not about what Dalrymple thinks about India. In fact, the only time I really felt like I could see Dalrymple's opinions coming through was when he was talking to the Wahhabi Cleric guy who wanted to blow up religious sites. It does not help with analysis. I mean, there is no analysis. However it does give a much clearer picture of what these aspects of India are really like. I think I will take that into serious consideration for my project. I mean, I probably will have to do some analysis, but I kind of like the idea of presenting things as they are. I am kind of uneasy with my place as a foreigner going in and trying to do anything with India. I still kind of feel like drawing conclusions or contributing to the scholarship of India is a privilege that should be reserved for Indians themselves. I don't know how comfortable I am coming into someone else's culture and drawing conclusions about something I have only spent a few months with.