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On The Edges

On The Edges

The idea: To walk through India is to walk along edges. This is fascinating, vertiginous and tragic. This book is an account of the walk.
Social, political, geographical and ontological edges do similar things to the people who live on them and near them. Edges define the shapes of continents, societies and individuals. Trace the edges, and you’ve mapped the place or the person. But this is almost never done. Writers and politicians try to get to the centre of things – to the cores of cities, issues and personalities. Yet these centers are uniquely unrevealing. They say nothing about the relationship with the wider world of the entity that is being examined, and there is a law of centripetal greyness that makes all centres of everything similar to each other. But edges, quite apart from anything else, are a lot more interesting than actual or metaphorical Government buildings. 
‘You need to get out to the edges to see shapes, perspective, relationships and the real colours of things’ – says Charles. It is often at the edge of our vision, and in the dusk at the edge of the day, that we see the strange but most characteristically native creatures. It is at the edges, too, where we encounter the Other: sometimes that results in new syntheses, sometimes in violence, and sometimes in sclerosis. Rarely does it make us less ourselves. 
In this book Charles Foster explores India’s edges, hoping to see what has been missed by the hysterical concentration on the central. ‘I am a foreigner’ says Charles. That is an advantage. Whenever I’m in India I’m dangling scarily over the edge separating the usual and the unusual. Living like that attunes your ear to the language shared by all the edge people. There are obvious dangers in my foreignness’... but these are dangers that, I hope, I’ve seen and sidestepped in my previous writing about India. I plead not guilty to literary colonialism, voyeurism and a romantic love of misery. The book is a collection of conversations, not a treatise.’    
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