Under Something of a Cloud spans a lifetime of Dom Moraes’ work to select the very best of his travel writing. Featured in this volume is a vividly recollected childhood tour of Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and Australia with his father, Frank Moraes, and his mother, Beryl, who was then rapidly sliding into madness; a darkly comic account of a trip to the Sikkim-Tibet border, amidst rumours that the Chinese would soon attack India; and a thrilling adventure among the Dani tribe in Indonesia who, at that time, were reputed to be cannibals.
Also included here are Moraes’ sojourns among dacoits in the Chambal valley, one of whom, Lacchi, he helped spring from police custody; the account of a heartwrenching meeting with a man in Bhagalpur in Bihar who had acid poured into his eyes by the police; and encounters with women victims in Ahmedabad, soon after the riots in 2002, which left him shattered.
With a keen sense for atmosphere, colour, understated wit and unfailing empathy for the underdog, Dom Moraes brings to life people and places like few other writers anywhere can. Not only will fans of the author love Under Something of a Cloud, it will also appeal to readers of world-class travel writing and connoisseurs of timeless prose.
Dom Moraes was not only one of India’s greatest poets, he was also an extraordinary journalist and essayist. He could capture effortlessly the essence of the people he met, and in every single profile in this sparkling collection he shows how it is done.
The Dalai Lama laughs with him and Mother Teresa teaches him a lesson in empathy. Moraes could make himself at home with Laloo Prasad Yadav, the man who invented the self-fulfilling controversy, and exchange writerly notes with Sunil Gangopadhyaya. He was Indira Gandhi’s biographer—painting her in defeat, post Emergency, and in triumph, when she returned to power. He tried to fathom the mind of a mysterious ‘super cop’—K.P.S. Gill—and also of Naxalites, dacoits and ganglords.
This collection is literary journalism at its finest—from an observer who saw people and places with the eye of a poet and wrote about them with the precision of a surgeon.