Traveling opium roads with award-winning author


Award-winning author Amitav Ghosh will discuss traveling on the opium roads as a 19th-century Indian trader on Thursday at the Asia Society Texas Center.  |  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The India Studies Program has invited award-winning author Amitav Ghosh to deliver a lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Asia Society Texas Center.

For the lecture, entitled “From Bombay to Canton — Traveling the Opium Route to the 19th-Century China,” Ghosh will focus on the journey of opium travels and explore the city of Canton as an Indian trader might have seen it in the 19th century. The event is free and open to the public.

Humanities professor Meera Jagannathan, who has read Ghosh’s literary works, anticipates the lecture.

“I am a fan of Amitav Ghosh, who effortlessly combines many genres in his writing — autobiography, travelogue, adventure and ethnography, thus defying easy categorization of his writing,” Jagaannathan said.

Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy traces history and adventure aboard the colonial Indian ship Ibis, which carried men and goods across the vast Indian Ocean, becoming a significant player in the Opium Wars that convulsed China in the 19th century, Jagaannathan said.

“Ghosh’s talk is intriguingly titled,” Jagaannathan said. “I think he will expound on this fraught history that makes for such a wonderful canvas for his fiction.”

Ghosh has written books including “The Circle of Reason,” “The Shadow Lines,” “In An Antique Land,” “Dancing in Cambodia,” “The Calcutta Chromosome,” “The Glass Palace,” “The Hungry Tide” and the first two novels in the unfinished Ibis trilogy, “Sea of Poppies” and “River of Smoke.”

Ghosh’s publications have achieved praise and won numerous awards, including the Sahitya Akademi and Ananda Puraskar awards in 1989, the Prix Médicis in 1990, the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1997, the International e-Book Award at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2001 and the Crossword Book Prize in 2005.

“I think it’s great that UH makes an effort to expose students to the Indian culture,” said mechanical engineering junior Smiraj Pillai.

Pillai, an Indian, expressed her feeling that it’s always good to have pride in her roots and knowledge of her community and the powerful people within it.

“Events like the Holi celebration coming up and the India Studies Program inviting award-winning author Amitav Ghosh coming to speak really help with that,” Pillai said. “I’m amazed by all of (Ghosh’s) awards and accomplishments. He’s traveled all over the world and has an extremely impressive background. It’s an honor for UH to have him visit.”

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