"While the West often likes to imagine the religions of the East as deep wells of ancient, unchanging wisdom, in reality much of India's religious identity is closely tied to specific social groups, caste practices, and father-to-son lineages, all of which are changing very rapidly as Indian society transforms itself at speed."
-- William Dalrymple
The Reading Response: The Assignment -- Write a reading response based upon your reading of Nine Lives (approximately 750+ words) adopting either Option #1 or Option #2 below. In either case, you should incorporate particular details from the book and perhaps a couple of quotations as well into your analysis.
Option #1 -- The Integrated Mini-Essay: Write an integrated reading response to Nine Lives in which you introduce the different stories and characters in a way which connects them together and explores common themes. The questions below may serve as useful prods but you do not need to answer them directly.
Option #2 -- Some Questions To Consider: Answer the sets of questions below in paragraph form. You should draw directly from the book in developing thoughtful, well-constructed, and analytical answers to the questions in a way which demonstrates that you have read the book with care. Do not hesitate to expand an answer beyond a single paragraph if there are questions that seem to merit a lengthier response.
Some Questions To Consider
Provide capsule analytical overviews of two or more characters featured in Dalrymple's book, combining descriptive detail with your own commentary. Who is this individual and how does his or her religious beliefs and life intersect? What do you find to be interesting about this particular person, and why?
How would you begin to make connections between the different individuals interviewed? What common themes emerge? What holds the book together?
What strikes you as most distinctive about the sacred in modern India? How would you compare and contrast Indian religions with those of the Abrahamic tradition?
How would you make sense of Dalrymple as editor and author? Why do you think he wrote this book? To whom does he seem to be drawn, and why? To what extent are we introduced to "sacred India" through his particular lens? What are the strengths and weaknesses of his book?
Do you think that Dalrymple is chronicling a disappearing world? Analyze the collision between the traditional and the modern as portrayed in Nine Lives.
Some Extra Resources
*** I have provided some reviews and other materials as optional extras to help provide you with added context about Dalrymple's book. You do not need to read or listen to any of this additional material. Whether you do access any of the materials below, the heart of the assignment should be your direct engagement with Nine Lives itself. Reading some of these reviews is not an appropriate substitute for reading the book itself, and you should only consider sampling reviews after you have finished reading the book and perhaps also finished your own reading response.
William Dalrymple: The home page of the author, with a link to an Apple ibooks Edition for $10.
William Dalrymple, "Road Tripping With Sufi Mystics," Daily Beast, June 18, 2010: Dalrymple himself writes about travelling with some of the individuals featured in his book on a promotional tour.
"In Search Of The Sacred In Modern India," Frost Over The World, Al Jazeera English, October 9, 2009: A 15-minute video interview with the famed British journalist.
"India's Diverse Faiths, As Told Through 'Nine Lives,'" NPR Morning Edition, June 24, 2010: A short feature from American public radio.
"Dalrymple's Indian Odyssey," Spirit Of Things, ABC Radio National, June 13, 2010: An in-depth radio interview from the Australian national broadcaster.
"William Dalrymple -- 'Nine Lives: In Search Of The Sacred In Modern India,'" Bloomsbury Publishing, October 20, 2009.
"William Dalrymple's 'Nine Lives,'" Jaipur Literature Festival, November 6, 2012.
Marie Arana, "William Dalrymple's 'Nine Lives: In Search Of The Sacred In Modern India,'" Washington Post, August 1, 2010.
Colin Thubron, "Believer's Bazaar," New York Times, July 16, 2010.
Jonathan Sidhu, "'Nine Lives,' By William Dalrymple," SFGate, June 20, 2010.
Robert Messenger, "Everyday Devotions," Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2010.
Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar, "'Nine Lives: In Search Of The Sacred In Modern India,'" Christian Science Monitor, June 17, 2010.
Rory MacLean, "Rory MacLean's Travel Book Of The Year: William Dalrymple's Nine Lives," Guardian, December 16, 2009.
Peter Parker, "'Nine Lives: In Search Of The Sacred In Modern India' By William Dalrymple," Telegraph, October 19, 2009.
Ruaridh Nicoll, "Nine
Lives By William Dalrymple,"
Observer, October 4, 2009.