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Mark Twain India
Mark Twain India
At the age of 60, Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, faced financial ruin. In 1895, in an ambitious plan to recover his business losses, the famous American author, public speaker and humorist, embarked on a round the world lecture tour. His year long journey took him to Hawaii, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, South Africa and England.
In 1896, he spent eight weeks in India, exploring the length and breadth of the country. He travelled by train to Delhi, Agra, Gwalior, Khajuraho, Bandhavgarh, Varanasi, Lucknow, Bombay, Poona, Allahabad, Calcutta, Lahore (then part of India, now Pakistan), Jaipur and Darjeeling. Regardless of the hustle and bustle of the typical Indian train journey, to Mark Twain, the train journeys offered an amazing glimpse into the Indian culture. From the diverse attire of its people, to the mystery of its many religions, the beauty of Indian architecture and the spectacular variation in terrain, he reveled in the multifariousness of India.
Twain was clearly captivated by India. Nearly half of his travelogue Following the Equator is dedicated to his reflections on the country.
In an expression that captures his Indian experiences, he wrote, “So far as I am able to judge nothing has been left undone, either by man or Nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Where every prospect pleases, and only man is vile.”
He also wrote, “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!”
Twain traveled with his wife, daughter and a colleague. India’s color and ancientness inspired him to write later, “This is India! the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the moldering antiquities of the rest of the nations–the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien persons, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined. Even now, after a lapse of a year, the delirium of those days in Bombay has not left me and I hope it never will.”