What does it take to create a world, which is unique, beautiful, completely believable and transports you to another realm?
Even more so, how does one create it from history, using that which once was to generate a place so real, you can taste the coarse wheat roti’s and smell the giddy stench of opium.
Amitav Ghosh has done the unexpected, he has taken me by surprise and caused me to read fiction once more. I began the book on my fathers recommendation but soon foud myself completely immersed in the lives of 18th century India, from the Bihari peasent Deeti to old faded Raja’s, in forgotten durbars filled with the new lords, the heathen Englishmen. The book has a back drop of the changing nature of Indian life, the oppurtunities that the British saw in this country and the Opium, the billions of tons of which was forcibly grown here in India, to be tpushed onto the unwilling Chinese by English Merchantmen who could care less about the Indian or the Chinese.
The book is the first in a trilogy involving the crew of the ship Ilbis and follows the long, twisted path taken by all the characters in reaching the ship.
Using extensive research and possesing a rare indepth knowledge about 18th century India we get a glimpse into a time when drugs were grown and used with casual indifference, where colonial spirit was much praised and the Pukka Shahibs were Pukka Shahibs, hellbent on profit and determined to stay in this land.
There is no freedom protest, no nehru and gandhi, nothing except the english masters and their opium. In the end, the author provides us with a tale that will not be soon forgotten.