Raising South Asian Voices

Cynthia Dettman:  Author

A Dalrymple documentary! – St. Thomas the Apostle in India

I found this documentary fascinating.  This well known British journalist, who has studied India and other countries and its religions, thinks that St. Thomas may very well have come to the west coast of India after Jesus died.  Perhaps St. Thomas bones are really buried just down the street from me at the Thomas Cathedral (the story is that he was killed and buried here on the East Coast of India)-   This is an excellent product of the BBC and a great example of India’s melting pot history.   Pope John came here and made this local church a Basilica!

My novel protagonist has a Hindu mother and a Christian father.  The Mother “converted” to marry her father, but in her heart she is a Hindu.  “Appa”, the father, comes from several generations of poor and outcaste Christians, easily converted by 19th century Christian missionaries (the predecessors of the United Church of Christ, a very liberal mainstream US denomination) because the missionaries offered equality, services, education and uplift of women.  Most Indians never converted, but the early Catholic and later Protestant missionaries did well among tribal and low-caste communities, who had little to lose and much to gain.

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I think we ‘outsiders’ can learn a lot from Dalyrmple. The White Mogul; The Last Mogul; and other novels by this outsider-observer reveal much about the heart and soul of India…. especially as Outsiders (like Dalyrmple himself and many of the rest of us… missionaries, seekers-after-truth, and wanderers of various kinds) enter into this Vast Culture, trying to find meaning for themselves and others. India welcomes all of us, I think…. and India is also open enough to assimilate us… or to dispose of us if some Deep Muse disapproves. Dalyrymple is sometimes a bit arrogant, I believe…. but India seems to have welcomed him with open arms.

Dalrymple is definitely a character- smart, an excellent writer, and loquacious. My favorite book of his is The Age of Kali, a series of essays about various encounters he has had across the Indian subcontinent. It gives one a taste of the immense variety of Indian cultures and characters! Cynthia

Yes, India was indeed a crossroads for commerce way back in history, including during Roman times. It seems plausible that Doubting Thomas made it to India! Cynthia

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