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Cancelled trip gives rise to author's love affair with India

William Dalrymple believes his new home country will dominate global publishing

Gulf News

Dubai: Indophile William Dalrymple said the old world of India has not disappeared as is the case in the Gulf states and that it is still very much there beside the multiplexes and Microsoft offices.

The historian and travel writer told a large audience that Indians surprisingly are not anti-British despite the awful atrocities perpetrated by the Raj.

"There is hardly any interest in anything British today," said the writer who delved deep into the country's past and into the psyche of modern Indians. The best-seller writer of Scottish ancestry has made his home in New Delhi.

Unintended visit

Dalrymple said he never wanted to go to India and had no interest in that country, but an archaeological trip to Iraq was cancelled and he found himself accompanying his friend who had got a teacher's job in India.

He said his introduction to India earlier was not very auspicious when his brother came back from India sporting long hair like a hippie, making South Indian coffee and cluttering up the house with papier mâché deities.

Dalrymple said he worked as a correspondent on a British paper which immediately went defunct but thanks to the slow-paced bureaucracy of India was still registered as a correspondent for five more years. In conversation with BBC broadcaster Rosie Goldsmith in a programme sponsored by Gulf News, the raconteur had a captive and appreciative audience for the afternoon.

"It is a cliche that the journey changes you," said the writer, noting how a series of accidents took him to India and where he has lived since for the past many years.

His initial arrival was heralded by the loss of luggage belonging to his wife, who had given up her art scholarship to be with her husband. ("She's pretty good," he said of his wife, who has designed the cover of his books). Dalrymple also fell ill and felt he was dying — but it was a simple case of flu.

The writer feels that India will become the largest publishing centre in the world and that its economy will overtake that of the US in a couple of years.