Travel writing is universal,” William Dalrymple told City Express during his recent visit to the city. “It’s present across cultures and I think it’s just that man needs to describe his journey. After all, we are a wandering species,” said the history and travel writer who has made Delhi his home for over two decades now.
He added that travel writing can take many forms. “Among the books that I have written, In Xanadu is a young man’s story in first person, In the City of Djinns’ is about Delhi, From the Holy Mountain is just reportage, it’s more political, and Nine Lives excludes me completely - it’s all about other individuals.”
It was with the last of the four that he got back to travel writing after a break. He said, however, that he believed that the two genres, as far as his works are concerned, are inter-related. “My travel writing has a lot of history and any kind of history writing too has to have a sense of place - which you could say is an element of travel writing. The opening page of Return of a King has a passage on travel writing,” says Dalrymple.
The shift in the kind of books he wrote was largely dictated by his personal circumstances. “After (From) the Holy Mountain, I had a child and two more followed,” he said and added that he couldn’t travel for a few years after that as he didn’t want to leave home when his children were young.
So what does he feel about Bangalore as a travel writer? “I don’t really know much about the city. But I love other places in Karnataka,” he said, adding that Hampi features near the top among his list of favourite places. “I think Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are among the most under-rated places in India when it comes to travelling,” he said.