Superpower status permeating Indian minds

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New Delhi, Feb 20 (UNI) ''We are now a superpower and can destroy you,'' says an Indian taxi driver to an American travel writer.

Relating this incident, which took place almost 40 years after he took a trip by train from London to India, passing through Europe and West Asia, to write his best known work, 'The Great Railway Bazar', Paul Edward Theroux explains what time, money and development can do to a country and the psyche of its people.

''Almost 40 years after I went on that train journey, I revisited the places to enter Amritsar through the Attari Border.... I wanted to know what changes have taken place in India all these years, and asked a taxi driver.

''He said, 'we are now a superpower and can destroy you','' Mr Theroux told a gathering of Indians and Americans at the American Information Centre here last evening.

''These are the changes time, money and development can do to you,'' the noted author, whose latest novel, 'The Elephanta Suite', is also based on India, said.

These were also the reasons, he pointed out, why a travel writer should do time travelling in order to learn about the place and its people better.

And a way to judge the quality of a government, he said, was to visit the prisons of that country.

Recalling another journey, on the Trans-Siberian Train, Mr Theroux said he got down at Perm, a town which gave Russian author Boris Pasternak the idea for his Nobel Prize-winning novel 'Dr Zhivago'.

''I wanted to see the prison there to see how life has changed after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The once defamed prison was turned into a musuem.'' the American writer said.

He later found out that it was funded by the Ford Foundation of the US.

''So that is where the Ford Foundation's money is going, I told myself,'' he said to peals of laughter from the audience.

On Nobel laureate Vidya S Naipul, with whom his friendship broke after 30 years, Mr Theroux said Sir Vidya was ''an interesting monster'' who abused his own people and culture.

''During a trip to India, Sir Vidya went to a temple but refused to take off his shoes, saying the floor was more dirty that his shoes,'' he recalled.

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