Troubador Dancing to an Indian Tune

Released: 28/02/2021

ISBN: 9781800461376

eISBN: 9781800468306

Format: Paperback/eBook

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Dancing to an Indian Tune

An Education in India


Dancing to an Indian Tune; an Education in India tells the story of an English woman’s life-changing experiences as a student of Indian Religion and Philosophy at the Hindu University of Banaras (in Varanasi) between 1963 and 1965. Mary Searle’s decision to take a step into the unknown initially seems to have backfired when people in India express disapproval of her culture, and she struggles to adjust to her new life. The young innocent seeks relief from dry study by exploring the ancient city where she meets renowned holy men, predatory Romeos, a man who was tortured by the British and an eccentric Irish woman. She learns to spin wool, grind millet and watch over cattle in a Gandhian community. Later travels take her to tribal regions of central India, and to Nepal, where she treks with two Sherpas towards the Tibetan border over passes of 17,000 feet, sleeping rough under rock overhangs. Mary sees history being made when she is present at the ceremony for the scattering of Nehru’s ashes. By the time she returns to Britain, her values and habits have changed so much that everything appears alien, demonstrating that so much of what we know is influenced by our perception of our surroundings. 

An intense experience of cross-cultural engagement, perfect for readers looking for a different kind of autobiography and travel narrative. 

My previous books are academic studies related to India and anthropology (see below). This does not mean that my writing is grimly academic all the time. Three of my comic pieces (nothing to do with India) were shortlisted in in the Women in Comedy Festival Comedy Writing Competition in 2017; I perform comic monologues at local venues, and in an earlier phase of my life, broadcast humorous travel pieces on BBC radio, Woman’s Hour. I have also published travel and opinion pieces in the national press.

My grimmer publications include Reversible Sex Roles: the special case of Banaras Sweepers, Pergamon, 1981; Contextualising Caste (ed.), Blackwells, 1994; Religion, Language and Power (ed.), Routledge, 2008.

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Mary Searle-Chatterjee

Mary Searle-Chatterjee is a retired Social Anthropologist, author and editor of academic books on India, including Contextualizing Caste. She has also published travel, opinion and humorous features. Her cross-cultural interest has always been combined with exploration of her own social and historical roots. Hence this personal narrative, Dancing to an Indian Tune.

Born in London in 1942, on ‘Empire Day,’ inspired by the ascent of Everest in 1953, the young innocent dreamed of Tibet. Ten years later she began studying Indian philosophy and religion for two years at Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi. A return journey overland alone by public transport in 1969 (the first of three) led to a dramatic change in her life.

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