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India: The Elephant's Blessing

India: The Elephant's Blessing [Kindle Edition]

Aline Dobbie

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Product Description


Whether you have been to India or not, this is a gem of a book about a vast and successful country, the third by this author. Vivid memories of her early years enliven the travel stories and give a picture of rapid modernisation. Aline Dobbie was born in India and still speaks Hindi; what makes her journeys authentic, and what shines through every page is her love of the subcontinent and its people. She is not blind to the country's shortcomings and she has strong words about failings like the neglect of the tiger, child brides, female foeticide or trafficking in children. A map of India showing the routes taken by her and husband Graham together with many photographs help the reader to follow from a report on the Tsunami in 2004 to her return to Scotland in 2006. The DVD set to evocative Indian music included with this book gives the reader a huge visual feast. Young backpackers will enjoy the picture of the Aurobindo Ashram, a peaceful retreat with open courtyards and lovely gardens. She gives a fascinating history of this poet and philosopher, his friendship with Gandhi and the work with Mirra Alfassa, 'The Mother', who founded an international centre of education. To quote about the character of the ashram: 'The way of yoga followed here has a purpose different from others, for the aim is not only to rise out of the ordinary ignorant world-consciousness but to bring the supramental power of that divine consciousness down in to the ignorance of life, mind and body, to transform them, to manifest the Divine here and create a divine life in Matter.' Music in India is played on instruments like the sitar and she praises young players, who keep traditions alive. Local craftsmen still begin their work with prayers, and the thousands of temples show beautiful carvings of gods like Vishnu and Shiva. We are given a glimpse of the ancient wax method still used for casting bronze sculpture. Aline Dobbie loves Libraries and Museums which she enters with reverence for India's cultural past. Equally lively is her concern for wildlife and we are given pictures of national parks, the wealth of birds and animals, specially the elephants who actually can give blessing with their trunks. The experience of Ayurvedic healing has not changed in hundreds of years but is now practised in modern centres. In some hotels a foot massage can be made available for tired travellers upon arrival. Some patients travel far distances from other parts of the world to have consultations and treatment for chronic ailments at renowned Ayurvedic centres in southern India (see page 116). Each reader will find different highlights; helpful for all travellers is the detailed assessment of hotels from delightful home-from-home comfort to shabby neglect. Some strong language is reserved for a party of Russian travellers because of their noise and vulgarity, but the patience and kindness of Indians is praised throughout. People who wish to follow the trail are advised to bring enough money as one needs adequate places to rest in this hot subcontinent. --.

This book will be of particular interest to those contemplating the temple trail and visits to the historical and cultural sites of southern India. But it is much more than a travelogue since the author, Aline Dobbie, draws richly from her wide experience and love of India, stemming from happy childhood memories. It would be rewarding just to dip into it for perceptive insights into specific places, but it should preferably be read as a seamless whole. Only then can one gain the full flavour of the author s commentary on the contradictions, realities and potential of a significant area of India emerging somewhat breathless into the 21st century from a past steeped in traditional customs and attitudes. Aline Dobbie, accompanied by her husband Graham, covered similar ground in her travels to that traversed by the Society s tour of southern India in January/February 2006 (on which I reported in the July 2006 issue of Asian Affairs). She visits all the major tourist sites but follows a slightly different itinerary taking in various additional places of interest, including Mysore, and has more focus on wildlife. Her enthusiasm can be infectious but she has the priceless benefit of perspective from her earlier visits to the region and a broader experience of India as a whole. This book is, in fact, the third part of a trilogy of travel books on India which have been appropriately recognized through her reception last year of the prestigious Pride of India Gold Award. Although invited by the Indian Government s Ministry of Tourism and also the Tamil Nadu government following the Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day 2004, Aline Dobbie is by no means in thrall to her hosts. Generous praise is given where it is due, either to individuals or specific establishments and authorities, but she is not afraid to criticize. Indeed she found that even in planning the trip she had become a victim of the infamous Indian inertia and inefficiency . Many visitors will also relate to her comments on the contrast between the official glossy brochures and some of the less comfortable realities in the form of poor hotels, inadequate infrastructure and unimaginative management of cultural sites and wildlife conservation areas. The Malligi Hotel in Hospet comes in for particular censure and indeed it was not our favourite resting place on the Society s tour, especially after a bumpy 12 hour coach journey from Hyderabad. The fascinating World Heritage Site of nearby Hampi, the imperial city of the Hindu Vijaynagar dynasty, deserves better. It was, after all, visited and praised by ambassadors and rich merchants from foreign lands in the 16th century. It could be a huge asset to India s burgeoning tourist industry with improved access and appropriate tourist services. The author is also justifiably saddened by what she sees and hears of the social and economic after-effects of the tsunami. But she had more encouraging experiences elsewhere, particularly around Mamallapuram and in Kerala. Indeed she finds much to appreciate and devour in southern India s many cultural, religious and scenic splendours. As a Scot, her advice on improving facilities and practices, where appropriate, is down-to-earth and certainly well-intentioned, springing from a sincere desire to see India prosper. The book is very much a personal odyssey and, as such, has considerable charm, but her excursions into history, culture and local customs are always well-balanced and informative. It would have provided a valuable extra dimension had it been available fore the Society s tour. It is also well illustrated with an excellent set of colour as well as black and white photographs. A DVD is included in the package. --Royal Society for Asian Affairs

Product Description

India: The Elephant's Blessing follows the author's 2,500km journey through Southern India. The work has elements of the travelog but is infused with perspicacious insights into the people and culture of India. The point of departure for these insights is often the curious mixture of India's ancient culture and its current economic development, and the relative ease with which people blend tradition and the trappings of contemporaneity. As with her previous two books, a central focus for the author is wildlife and heritage preservation, or the lack thereof. India's wildlife is one of its most precious resources, but it has suffered in the past and present from poaching and a lack of competent conservation methods.

The work is narrated intimately, in the sense that the author's personality is everpresent, imbuing the work with a charm rare in travel literature. The reader views India at every level, from the poverty-stricken to the grasping rich, from the quiet beauty of its wildife parks to the humbling grace of its ancient temples. India: The Elephant's Blessing is a social commentary by someone with an honest and clear-sighted love of India which gives one the flavour of India while addressing the relevent concerns for its future.

This is a book that captures all the contradictions of India and its long history, the embracing of the modern in the landscape of the past. The importance of issues of national heritage are brought to the fore, as are the challenges for the politicians privileged to lead India into the 21st Century. The geographical regions of Southern India are described objectively and atmospherically, and although the work is far more than a travel guide, it would serve as such for the the intelligent and informed traveller, who seeks to learn about the culture as opposed to simply tour it.

This is a timely and relevant book with crucial insights to offer. The charm and readability make the physical journey of the author and the mental journey of the reader a rewarding and enthralling experience.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 5920 KB
  • Print Length: 253 pages
  • Publisher: Melrose Books (27 Sep 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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More About the Author

Aline Dobbie lives in Scotland but was born in India the last of two families who served, worked, lived & died in India for generations. She returns to India annually and writes of her experiences as a travel editor. Her three conventional books are India: the Peacock's Call, India: The Tiger's Roar and India: The Elephant's Blessing each sold with an inclusive DVD of her photography set to Indian music published by Melrose Books. The three books are now available on Kindle. Aline is married with sons and grandchildren and a passionate gardener, historian, cook and traveller. Her e-book on India is Quicklook at India which is also now available as a hard cover. She received The Pride of India Gold Award for her promotion of India in 2006. Aline still speaks Hindi and considers India is the Land of her birth and a second home. is her own website and is a link to her galleries.

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