A nostalgic ramble through 1960s India from an American perspective. Dimock, as raconteur, mixes the amused distance of an expatriate with the style of Indian storytelling and its mischievous delight in absurd reality. Clearly, Dimock (In Praise of Krishna,not reviewed, etc.) loves his adopted country, where he has taught as a college professor and received numerous honors for his scholarship. Well versed in classics of Indian and Western literature, the author is able to ground his pithy observations in a cultural context, but he hardly polishes off the edges. He recounts with humor the snags and frustrations that Americans bound by a different tradition would find infuriating. For instance, when he and his wife arrived at a train station with family in tow, hypercompetitive porters rushed away with their bags, including their new baby, so that, with panic in her eyes, Mrs. Dimock had to chase her disappearing child. In another chapter, he observes that living with monkeys and cobras as housemates seems incomprehensible to modern Americans, as does the hospitality of a maharaja who sends elephants to carry guests he doesn't even know to a ceremony. Western readers, who traditionally venerate from afar, may be shocked by Dimock's tale of an ancient Indian manuscript so revered by a local population that the people rubbed its vellum pages daily—until all but the last page were unreadable. As he reveals the utter frustration and the unexpected gifts of living in any foreign culture, Dimock captures the dilemma of being an expatriate anywhere: A person caught between two countries can never quite grasp either in an intimate way. This is perfect for the armchair traveler, though one might wish that Dimock would roll less shamelessly in nostalgia.
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