I read this for the BookLikes-opoly game. Somewhere back in my blog posts is the history. . . .
Anyway, I got the Kindle edition free when Open Road Media was giving stuff away last year, and it fit whatever square it was that I landed on. So I read it. I knew nothing about author Norman Lewis, and not a whole lot about India, other than what I've picked up reading a few novels set there -- The Far Pavilions, Shadow of the Moon, The Zemindar, The India Fan, Blood Moon over Bengal and The Moonstone.
Lewis sets out in the early 1990s on an exploration of a part of India that the tourists don't see, where the indigenous tribes still live supposedly much the same way they have for centuries. I was expecting something like Margaret Mead or Bronislaw Malinowski, and I was even prepared to set aside what I expected to be Lewis's racist, colonial point of view in order to enjoy the book.
The racism and colonialism are there, but there wasn't much else. The hotels were bad, the food was bad, the phone service was bad, the roads were bad, and Lewis never got to see any animals. No tigers, no elephants. Every morning he and his driver set out in the fog, and there were such lyrical descriptions of the fog, as though some dramatic, evocative narrative was going to unfold. It never did.
Government was intruding on the tribes, tearing down their traditional homes and replacing them with concrete houses. That's the primary thing I came away with, other than the fog. Tribe after tribe - I've forgotten their names, which were often similar to each other -- with little in-depth exploration and virtually no personification.
Was there a goddess in the stones of the temples he encountered? Oh, I think so, but I'm not sure. Not enough of one to be memorable. The book just didn't live up to the title, or even the cover.
I finished it, because I truly wanted to learn. All I learned was that there was nothing there. Not even a tiger or an elephant.