V.S. NAIPAUL : Wanderer Of Endless Curiosity

A self-made man of many parts, the Trinidad-born and Oxford-bred writer V.S. NAIPAUL mirrors a world in constant social flux

Between Madras and the shore temple town of Mahabalipuram, the Tamil farmers spread their harvest across the road and wait for the traffic. Cars, buses and trucks burst through the sheaves; the rubber meets the rice, and the grains are pinched free from their husks. The vehicles move on, and women, children and Indian crows drop down through the exhaust fumes to gather in their share.

The scene delights the trim, crisply dressed man in the backseat of the Ambassador, India's doughty knockoff of the 1954 Morris Oxford. "Look at them doing their threshing," he says eagerly. "They're so happy threshing,...

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