Review of India: The Elephant’s Blessing by Sybille Alexander - 4th January 2007
Referring to the complexities of the historic relationship between India and Britain, Geoffrey Moorhouse in his book, India Britannica remarked "that Indians must speak for themselves about the relationship today, but they should know that their country haunts the British still, as nowhere else ever did, as no other place in the future possibly can".
The present title by Aline Dobbie is surely its living proof. This is her third book of travel in India. Her first two titles, India: The Peacock’s Call and India: The Tiger’s Roar were ample testimony of her love for the country. Born in India, she grew up there in the aftermath of Indian independence. Her father, a colonel in the Indian Army became what was commonly known affectionately as a ‘boxwallah’ in the world of Indian business.
Life was to take Aline Dobbie to South Africa, from where she and her vet husband Graham returned to settle in the sylvan setting of the Scottish countryside. But the call of India was never far from heart and mind, and she has become a frequent traveller to the land she once knew as a young girl. I have had the pleasure and privilege of reviewing Aline Dobbie before and it is with great enjoyment that I did a turn in South India in her company. Her eye and touch have lost none of their cunning. From booming high-tech Hyderabad, known also as Cyberabad, which she rightly perceives as India’s city of the future, she travels southward through Karnataka, taking in Bangalore, of which she is not terribly enthused, Mysore, and the noble ruins of Hampi, whose past she describes with great feeling.
Mrs Dobbie moves on to the magnificent sights of Tamil Nadu’s temple cities of Thanjavur and Madurai and the amazing Kannyakumari where the three waters meet. Thence they travelled to Kerala and its picturesque inland waterways, the superb beaches of Goa and the architectural glories of New Delhi.
The author’s introductory and concluding chapters broaden the canvas; India is very much a transitional society in which the past and present exist cheek by jowl with the future. Aline Dobbie’s book is one to treasure.