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Updated: July 27, 2011 20:46 IST

Traversing history

Sohini Chakravorty
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Renowned author, Amitav Ghosh in Hyderabad Photo: K. Ramesh Babu
Renowned author, Amitav Ghosh in Hyderabad Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

Event Amitav Ghosh talks about ‘River of Smoke', the second volume in the historical epic

From the banks of river Ganges and Kolkata, Amitav Ghosh's latest book – the second volume of the Ibis trilogy, River of Smoke follows the opium trade to China.

In the city for the launch of the much awaited sequel and for a book reading session, the author says during his interaction with the audience that he is amazed that both Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke have been received so well. “The books are fat and certainly not cheap and the story is not about cricket or Bollywood. It is always gratifying to know people are reading my books.”

After a brief introduction by Jyotirmaya Sharma of the University of Hyderabad, Amitav Ghosh read out an excerpt from the book following the journey of the protagonist Bahram Modi, a Parsi opium trader, from Mumbai. Calling Hyderabad an important reading city, the author expressed that he almost missed including the city in his book tour.

Introducing the characters of his book with absolute indulgence and familiarity, he explains that despite hardships, his characters remain happy and devoid of any existential angst.

“I have spent time in very difficult places like Sunderbans, the borders of Burma. The people there are full of laughter and hospitality,” he says. Ghosh has explored displacement and longing for motherland through most of his characters.

Talking about the opium trade during the Victorian era, Amitav Ghosh asserts that the opium traders cannot be put in a negative light. “India's past is a difficult one. We were the principal supplier of opium to China, we were poisoning our neighbours who never really harmed us. But on the other hand these opium traders were philanthropists too who contributed a lot to society.”

Traversing through history, it is not academic theories but stories of the people in the past that interests the author. “I don't expect the readers to go from point A to B in my stories. It is a journey,” says Amitav Ghosh.

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