Considering that I now have a lot of Indian readers (5, that’s a lot, and my favorite number! ;-)), I thought I’d tell my love-story with India in this brand new Friday series, also because it’s a very old story, maybe older than my love-story with Writing Fiction.
It all started during childhood, with the works of Emilio Salgari, a 19th century writer who never went outside of Italy but could paint vivid pictures of foreign countries, such as his Wild Frontier (western) trilogy, his Corsairs and the Pirates of the Malaysia, which had a spin-off set in (of course) India. I read the abridged version of The Mystery of The Black Jungle (illustrated version for children) and just loved those drawings (even if reading as an adult I found out the illustrations didn’t really follow Salgari’s descriptions, but never mind. I’ll look for the unabridged version some day, eventually). Along with it, we had a collection of fairy tales and stories and mythologies from all over the world which included what I called “The City of the Elephants” (from the first “chapter” title) and recently discovered was an abridged, illustrated version of nonetheless than the Mahabharat! Those illustrated books of gods and Thugs and giants and beautiful maidens in saris started a dream, fueled in the 1970s by a TV series called Maya that I saw both in French and Italian (and first in B&W because we didn’t have a color TV, then discovered it was in colors when we came back to Italy and bought a new TV in1978). I just loved Terry Bowen (Jay North), but mostly Raji (Sajid Khan – BTW is he related to any of the most famous Bollywood Khans? I doubt it, but you can tell me…) and his elephant, Maya (one of the reasons why I loved Duran Duran’s Save a prayer video with the elephant – I know, that one was shot in Sri Lanka, but still…). The first (and still the only one, I’m afraid) word of Hindi, “Namastè”, I learned it from that TV series…
Then there was Kabir Bedi as Sandokan (from Salgari’s book Pirates of the Malaysia), again late 1070s. Then I discovered Mira Nair and Kama Sutra a tale of love (1996, with Naveen Andrews long before Lost or Bride and Prejudice – and looking much better, by the way).
Fast forward to the new Millennium. Books of the Immortals – Air is set in a fictional world inspired by India and Persia, and the elephant character is called – uhm – Maya. A homage, not a rip-off, I swear. I still have to get close enough to an elephant to be like Raji (or my character Kumar), but there’s always time. I have added India to my “to visit” countries a few years ago, but haven’t managed to get there yet. I have met a couple of Indians at Day Job and lot more among you bloggers (hello, Jai, Hema, Shafali, Keshav, Ajay and the Karela Split guys, including my favorite ghost Gorakh Nath!), so curiosity is rising. And yes, I discovered Bollywood, but that’s another post (not for this series, even if it is another love-story. But I already told it).
So hopefully 2012 will see me set foot in India, unless in 2011, on my way Down Under, to break the long journey, I stop in New Delhi for a day or two… my friend says she “isn’t ready” to see India yet, so we’ll see. I welcome suggestions for places to see and also for the best time of the year for someone who has low blood pressure and can’t stand the heat. I’ve been told December and January are the best months, but you tell me now…
"Indian Tales" (Mahabharat) - illustrator unknown