Apr 9, 2015

Kaleidoscope City by Piers Moore Ede

Piers Moore Ede first fell in love with Varanasi when he passed through it on his way to Nepal in search of wild honey hunters. In the decade that followed it continued to exert its pull on him, and so he returned to live there, to press his ear to its heartbeat and to discover what it is that makes the spiritual capital of India so unique.

In this intoxicating 'city of 10,000 widows', where funeral pyres smoulder beside the river in which thousands of pilgrims bathe, and holiness and corruption walk side by side, Piers encounters sweet-makers and sadhus, mischievous boatmen and weary bureaucrats, silk weavers and musicians and discovers a remarkable interplay between death and life, light and dark.

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Piers Moore Ede is very happy with his chance to live in Varanasi for a year. He fell in love with India on earlier visits and he's excited to live there. For a year he explores the city. He meets with business owners, observes local customs and discovers many things about Varanasi and India. He makes new friends and almost every day he learns something interesting. Varanasi is the spiritual capital of India. Piers Moore Ede tries to find out what makes this city and its inhabitants so special.

Kaleidoscope City is a very well written report of Piers Moore Ede's year in Varanasi. He's met so many interesting people and writes about their encounters. Not all of these meetings are with men and women who have something happy and positive to tell. Even though the lives of some of these people are hard and sometimes miserable they aren't afraid, because they know that death will mean they're ready for something better. 

I loved the chapter about the Ganga. The river is so important and it's suffering, because it's polluted. Some people are very worried about that, but so far their battles haven't had much result. Piers Moore Ede talks about it with both the highly educated who are working from an office and those who use the river itself and whatever it has to offer as their main source of income. That's something I like about this book. It's mainly observational and because of the conversations the author has with a great variety of people the reader gets to see many different points of view. Another chapter I loved was the one about the weavers of India's beautiful intricate fabrics. Modern times are making it difficult for some of the weavers to keep earning money, but for others it's a golden opportunity.

Kaleidoscope City is a perfect read for those who like travel stories and who want to know more about India. Because the author stayed there for a year he had the time to get to know Varanasi quite well. I think the report is beautiful and honest and it's certainly interesting. I learned a lot from it and think it's a fascinating read.

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