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October - November 2008
Book Review: INDIA The Peacock’s Call
After writing three books on India, Aline Dobbie, the well-known travel writer and an Indophile from Scotland, has relaunched her first book by adding Part II, an update covering the latest decade of high economic growth and soaring ambitions of young India.
Born in India in the dying days of the British Empire, Aline’s father Colonel Frank Rose was a British officer in the IX Jat Regiment of the Indian Army, at Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh.
Aline left India at the age of 16 and went back to her ancestral land Scotland. After 35 long years in Britain, accompanied by her husband, Graham, a veterinary surgeon in Scotland, she returned to the land of her birth. In her book ‘India: The Peacock’s Call’ Aline chronicles her experiences, emotions, frustrations, romance and vision of the land she has always loved, even in absentia. Her yearnings of a life time could not be satiated by one visit, a pilgrimage. This is how she described her visit to Uttar Pradesh: “Crossing the Ganges and Jamuna was for me almost spiritual. Those two rivers had been part of my life for the first sixteen years and I still catch my breath when I see the Ganges. There is something timeless about great rivers in all continents, but for me this time it was a feeling Land of my Birth, lifeforce, Mother Ganga”.
Aline’s book may be read as a travelogue or autobiographical diary of a highly sensitive person. In fact, it is difficult to categorise the book in any section. The author has great empathy for India which perhaps is natural as she lived the first sixteen years of her life in that land. But the India of the ‘90s is much different from the India of the ‘50s and ‘60s, as any NRI (non-resident Indian) will grumblingly tell you. To Aline, India has changed, but in essence it is still the same. Hospitality and the affection of the people have not changed. The ethos of the Indian army, one of the most professional armies of the world, is engrained in the young officers and soldiers of today’s India. The book takes the reader on an adventurous tour of North West India, Central India and also provides a glimpse of the ‘City of Joy’ Kolkata. It is not as much a sight-seeing tour but rather a reminiscence of one’s long-lost lover to a stranger. The reader gets a three-dimensional picture of the different tourist attractions of India. The beauty of the ancient land of Rajasthan, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Jaisalmer and Bikaner, are described within the context of their glorious past, the present independent India and the prosperity that the future is going to, or ought to bring. The depth of the author’s love for India can be gauged from the fact that even when she criticises India, as she often does, it is more like the laments of the long lost daughter of the family who has been away for so long in her prosperous in-law’s house (Scotland); and is now back at her old mother’s home meeting again her cousins and relations after decades.
Aline’s love of nature, her description of the flora and fauna of India and her sensitive approach to the religions of India enhances the reader’s interest in the book.
Peacock, the national bird of India, is ubiquitous in India. After the hot summer, the Monsoon clouds bring the temperature down and nature awakens to the ‘peehoo, peehoo’ of the peacock. The blissful rainy season is not far. The author successfully gives a graphic description of the changing season in India. A poet at heart, Aline pines for many more holidays in India, “Beloved Bharat, land of my birth, there is so much yet to explore and experience”: Indeed! Her book conveys to the potential tourist the most appropriate months in the year to visit different parts of the country. The book can be recommended to any European who is planning a long holiday in India. I only wish the book is made a required reading for the employees of the Tourist Board of India, so that they feel proud of the product they are marketing all over the world.
The revised addition, with aother chunk of pleasant reading about India in the first decade of the 21st century, has another attraction of a free DVD with the book. Moreover, Aline Dobbie, while herself enjoying the pnoramic scenes, takes the reader with her, pointing out the beauty and heritage of every histoical place she visits. In the midst of all her tight schedules she does not let the reader miss the enchanting beauty of the wild.
The book is available from www.melrosebooks.com or