Or, to use the title of one of Twain's books, "The Damned Human Race".
People that know me know that I am huge fan of Mark Twain and am interested in everything about him.When I recently spotted a book called "Chasing the Last Laugh" which tells of his speaking/comedy tour around the world to pay off his business/investment debts, I had to pick it up.
I had been enjoying it immensely until we get to his stay in India. My previous book reading and listening had been on the Soviet Gulags and Nazi Concentration Camps. Very depressing stuff. I thought this book would be much lighter and entertaining and somewhat comedic, which it was until now.
I am ignorant of India and Indian history.I am more so ignorant of religious practices there. I knew some stuff about the Ganges River and how it was used for multiple purposes as described in school books. Boy, did they conceal alotta stuff. It was a dumping grounds for everything.
Twain did sightseeing while visiting India and saw many of the temples of the different religions. One such place was a dumping grounds for dead believers. Their families would put the deceased into this place that was inhabited by vultures. The vultures job was to eat off completely the flesh of the dead that were brought there. Lovely, eh?
Cremation was also a popular way of disposing of bodies.One the subject was ashes many people took the remains and spread them in the Ganges where people bathed, got their water for cooking and a multitude of other uses - all down stream from the dumping of human remains This section of the book is grotesque and not funny in the least.
Twain loved India. He loved the vibrant colors everywhere, was intrigued by local and regional customs, and soaked in many of the landmarks, historical buildings, battlefields, and the history surrounding them. Since he was world renowned and India was controlled by the British, he was often invited to stay at the mansions of the wealthiest of the wealthy and the high ranking British viceroys and governors. Sometimes these hosts were former British military men who had reached the upper echelons of the British government. On one occasion Twain and his family were taken to a famous battle sight of a rebellion by the locals from an entire state/region. Twain's host had first hand knowledge of this particular battle thirty years previous. His knowledge came from the fact that he had rescued his surrounded troops and famously won the battle. Twain's host said that the resistance were of the religion that believed they would come back reincarnated at a later time. To discourage them from fighting in the belief they would come back, they put individual prisoners in front of a cannon and blew them to bits. Yes, they positioned these prisoners directly in front of cannons and BAM!!!! strewn into a million pieces. No reincarnation for you, Jack.
According to the author of this book, Twain's personal notes on the chivalry and honor of the British Empire's military and what Twain wrote in "Following the Equator" are quite different in context and content.
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