Afternoon now, and the train's shadow
racing behind us. Sunset, evening, night; station after dimly-lit station.
It was an Indian railway journey, but everything that had before seemed
pointless was now threatened [by the advancing Chinese in the '62
Sino-Indian war] and seemed worth cherishing; and as in the mild sunshine of
a winter morning we drew near to green Bengal, which I had longed to see, my
mood towards India and her people became soft. I had taken so much for
granted. There, among the Bengali passengers who had come on, was a man who
wore a long woolen scarf and a brown tweed jacket above his Bengali dhoti.
The casual elegance of his dress was matched by his fine features and
relaxed posture. Out of all the squalor and human decay, its eruptions of
butchery, India produced so many people of grace and beauty, ruled by
elaborate courtesy. Producing too much life, it denied the value of life;
yet it permitted a unique human development to so many. Nowhere were people
so heightened and rounded and individualistic; nowhere did they offer
themselves so fully and with such assurance. To know Indians was to take
delight in people as people; every encounter was an adventure. I did not
want India to sink; the mere thought was painful.
[--VS Naipaul, An Area of
Darkness, pp. 263, 1962-64]