Beauty of Indian Culture: William Dalrymple on his Experience Living in India

William Dalrymple calls Delhi a city with a “tangible sense of history”

William Dalrymple on how living in India has changed him
William Dalrymple is the author of numerous travel and popular history books about India. National Geographic

India is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse nations with the oldest culture in the World. The Indian culture varies like its vast geography and is often labeled as an amalgamation of several cultures.

India is the birthplace of many religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Religion has played an extremely important role in shaping Indian culture.

The diversities, religions, and languages present in India never fail to amaze people from all around the world. Many outsiders come to visit India and then fall in love with the nation. Many of them decide to stay back in India for the rest of their lives.

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William Dalrymple on how living in India has changed him
It’s been thirty years and William is still living in Delhi. Pixabay

One such outsider is William Dalrymple who came to India from Britain. Mesmerized by the architectural, geographical, and cultural beauty of India, William chose to live in India. William Dalrymple is the author of numerous travel and popular history books about India. It’s been over 30 years since William has been traveling and living in India and he still feels that there is at least a quarter of the country that he hasn’t covered and he’s yet to see. He is currently residing in the national capital, Delhi.

Talking about his initial journey in India, William says in his article with National Geographic-

“I never intended to come to India. I originally set out to be an archaeologist in the Middle East, but the dig I was assigned to in Iraq closed down — purportedly due to a nest of British spies. So, I joined a friend who was heading to India. I had no particular connection to the country, but when I arrived, it was one of those moments in life when everything changes. Thirty years later, I’m still here. A constantly changing kaleidoscope of things has kept me attached, and a whole variety of careers have been facilitated by being here. My first job, teaching, took me from the Himalayas down to the far southern tip of the country. By the time I was two stops in, India had unveiled itself in all its complexity and beauty — I was addicted.”

William believes that he is a changed person now and that is all because of India. Everything from his looks to his thinking has changed. William came from a Catholic Scottish background and went to monastic schools. His uncle was a priest and later on, his brother became a priest too.

William witnessed that in India everyone believes in different things and talking about the same, he says “Even within Hinduism, there are a million ways of practicing, different gods to worship, and a choice of festivals to observe. India is so vast and varied in a way that Britain isn’t for me.”

William is convinced that India has made him more open-minded than living in Europe would have.

“India is a true multi-culture — it’s massively pluralistic in every sense: racially, religiously, climatically, geographically. It’s a living lesson against dogmatism.”
William Dalrymple on how living in India has changed him
“India is a true multi-culture — it’s massively pluralistic in every sense” says William. Pixabay

According to him, Delhi is very underrated, both in and outside India. Many times it is regarded as a difficult place to live in, he says.

“For me, as a historian and a writer, Delhi is fascinating. It has such a tangible sense of history, with monuments lying around on roundabouts, and tombs, palaces and old city walls wherever you turn. The Delhi Archives is also located here — housing a lifetime of documents that have barely been read — and when I need a break from my research, there’s plenty going on elsewhere. It has amazing classical music and dance scene. I’m never bored here. In England, on a dreary winter’s day, things can feel pedestrian. Delhi never feels pedestrian. It always feels bonkers. “

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William tells that there are major monuments and mountain ranges in the Himalayas which he hasn’t visited yet. He believes that India is a continent rather than a country and one could never run out of things to explore here. Speaking of India, he says ” I feel like a child in a sweet shop or a miser in a bank vault sometimes. There’s an almost infinite amount to take in, see and understand.”