About The Author
Vikram Seth is an Indian novelist and poet. He has written several novels and poetry books. He has received several awards including Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi Award, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, WH Smith Literary Award and Crossword Book Award.
Vikram Seth was born on 20 June, 1952 in Kolkata, West Bengal. His father, Premnath Seth, was an executive of Bata Shoes and his mother, Leila Seth, a barrister by training, became the first female Chief Justice of Delhi High Court.
He studied at St. Michael’s High School, Patna and at the The Doon School in Dehradun. He also studied at St. Xavier’s High School, Patna. Later he moved to London and studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He then pursued a Ph.D. in Economics at Stanford University. After graduating from Doon, Seth went to Ton bridge School, England to complete his A-levels.
Having lived in London for many years, Seth now maintains residences near Salisbury, England, where he is a participant in local literary and cultural events, having bought and renovated the house of the Anglican poet George Herbert in 1996, and in Jaipur, India.
Vikram Seth has published six books of poetry and three novels. In 1986, Vikram Seth wrote The Golden Gate, his first major work. The publication of A Suitable Boy, a 1,349-page novel, propelled Seth into the public limelight and won the WH Smith Literary Award in 1993. An Equal Music, published in 1999, deals with the troubled love life of a violinist. He was awarded the commander of the order 3 of the British Empire CBE on February 2001.
In 2006, he became a leader of the campaign against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a law against homosexuality. His mother has written about Seth’s sexuality and her coming to terms with it in her memoir.
Vikram Seth recalls the memories of his visit to Kathmandu. It is the capital of Nepal. He visits the famous Pashupatinath temple of the Hindus and the Baudhnath Stupa of the Buddhists. He notices that there is noise and confusion around the temple but the Buddhist shrine is full of peace. He also describes the scene around many small shrines of Kathmandu. He also reveals how we thoughtlessly pollute our rivers washing clothes on its banks, cremating corpses, and dumping rubbish in them. He conveys that the purity and serenity of the holy places must be maintained.
On his way from China to India via Tibet, the narrator reached Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. He describes two famous temples of that city. The first is the Pashupatinath temple of the Hindus and the other is the Baudhnath Stupa of the Buddhists. At the Pashupatinath temple, there is an atmosphere of confusion. He finds priests, hawkers, devotees, tourists, cows, monkeys, pigeons and dogs roaming there. There is a crowd of devotees and people push one another to make their way to the Lord.
Only Hindus are allowed to enter this temple. A group of Westerners struggle for permission to enter. But the policeman at the gate does not allow them to go in. The author finds monkeys fighting each other. The holy river Bagmati flows by the side of the temple. He sees washerwomen at its banks.
A corpse is being cremated on its banks. From the balcony, devotees drop flowers and other offerings into the river. There is a small shrine also on the river bank. Half of the shrine is submerged into the river. It is believed that when the whole of the shrine comes out of the river, the goddess inside will come out. Then the evil period of Kaliyug will end on earth.
In contrast to the Pashupatinath temple, there is a sense of stillness at the Baudhnath stupa of the Buddhists. The author does not find crowds here. It has a big white dome. The shrine is surrounded by a road. There are small shops on its outer edge. Many of these shops are owned by Tibetan immigrants.
Kathmandu is a crowded place. Apart from the two famous shrines, there are a number of small shrines in the narrow and busy streets. The author finds fruit sellers, flute sellers, hawkers of postcards, shops selling western cosmetics, films, chocolates, etc. He roams about in the market aimlessly. Then the author makes up his mind to return home. He enters a Nepal Airlines office and buys a ticket for Delhi.
He comes back to his hotel. In a corner of the square near the hotel, he finds a man selling flutes. These flutes are made of bamboo. From time to time, the flute seller plays on flute. The author likes his carefree style. He remarks that flute has a place in almost every culture, though with a variation in form and kind of music produced. The music of the flute leaves a deep imprint on his mind and he carries it with him when he returns home.