With Prejudice

I have been a Eurocentric, heterosexual, white male ever since I was a little baby. An unreconstructed Marxist would say that this accident of birth—carelessly amplified of late by the sybaritic sojourn in a palazzo on the Grand Canal whose windows watch the West decline over the campanile of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari—is what has determined my consciousness for the remainder of my natural life; and, of course, the son of a b would be right. The thing about Marxism I have always thought unnerving is its directness, so reminiscent of New York dinner parties and conversations with your in-laws. Show me your bank statements, says Che Guevara between puffs on a Cuban stout, and I shall tell you what sort of verses you scribble.

Those who know me may find it difficult to believe that, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to join a friend of mine traveling to Bombay. I had no special reason for going, except that I was curious. In fact, ever since I began learning English as a child in Moscow—by the thrilling, though laborious, process of tracing the etymology of each new word down to its Sanskrit root and finding the semantic node where one golden bough of our tree of languages divided from the other—I have had some peculiar fondness for ancient India, which neither Kipling nor Indian singing movies did anything to suborn. I could read for hours on end about the worship of the Yoginis as the 64 manifestations of...

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