The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson download the Ebook: . In my novel THE YEARS OF RICE AND SALT, I started around the time of Tamerlane's . Read "The Years of Rice and Salt A Novel" by Kim Stanley Robinson available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get $5 off your first download. With the. The Years of Rice and Salt is an alternative history novel published in Year of Rice and Salt - Kim Stanley webtiekittcenve.tk, KB If you have an ebook reader or a site, check out our guide to using ebook.
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Plague had struck in India a few years before. Mongols rarely caught it, only a baby now and then. Turks and Indians were more susceptible, and of course. Editorial Reviews. webtiekittcenve.tk Review. Award-winning author Kim Stanley Robinson delivers download a site site eBooks site Unlimited Prime Reading Best Sellers & More site Book Deals Free Reading Apps site Singles. With the same unique vision that brought his now classic Mars trilogy to vivid life, bestselling author Kim Stanley Robinson boldly imagines an.
With the same unique vision that brought his now classic Mars trilogy to vivid life, bestselling author Kim Stanley Robinson boldly imagines an alternate history of the last seven hundred years.
In his grandest work yet, the acclaimed storyteller constructs a world vastly different from the one we know. But what if the plague had killed 99 percent of the population instead?
How would the world have changed? Probing the most profound questions as only he can, Robinson shines his extraordinary light on the place of religion, culture, power—and even love—in this bold New World. This is epic science fiction in the best sense of the term—thoughtful, provoking, and haunting. Louis Post-Dispatch. This is one of those questions no one can really answer, but it is interesting to contemplate anyway, because it brings into play all the possibilities for explaining history: One way of exploring the question is by way of the counter-factual; if there had been no Europe, what would have happened?
From then on, everything changes. My novel follows world history through the course of the centuries, by tracking the adventures of a group of characters as they are reincarnated into life after life—this is, after all, a Buddhist world. Would there have been a scientific revolution without Europe? I think so; everywhere people are equally clever, and science comes from people trying to make themselves more comfortable and secure, which is a universal impulse.
Without Europe, a scientific and industrial revolution might have started later, because of the absence of the intellectual foundations of the Renaissance; but the metalworkers and the mathematicians and alchemists of India and China were making great progress before Europe conquered them, and so eventually it would have happened, somewhere or other; in my novel, in Samarkand, on the Silk Road, where all the world cultures once met to trade.
After that, technological progress becomes part of the story. All these developments result in a world that is not dominated by one civilization, but divided among, and contested for, by three or four major civilization groups, constellating around the Chinese and the Islamic states.
It occurred to me that this might make the first big world wars even more devastating than they were in our history. Here, European powers fought each other and the world was devastated, even though they shared basic core values and assumptions.
What if the first world wars were between cultures radically different, thinking it was a matter of hegemony or annihilation? The results could be very bad. My book does not focus on this, but rather the possibilities for good—the reasons for hope, which keep springing up no matter what happens. Technological progress and social progress will happen in any possible world history.
Thus, in my novel, by the time seven hundred years have passed, great wars have happened, the world is fractured in a number of competing civilizations, populations are growing, the environment is being damaged by a brutal industrial technology, there are dangers and glories everywhere. In all possible worlds, there will come a moment when the superstitious fundamentalisms of old hierarchies make a reactionary stand against a world of scientific progress in which all people are equal.
In other words, although much in my book is very different from our world in its particulars, it is fair to say that much is also turns out fundamentally the same! Finally he gave in and agreed to make it a day ride, but outside the imperial city, by the river. As they were mounting the horses he exclaimed to his son, 'You have to learn to fit the punishment to the crime! People need to feel the justice of your decision! When the Board of Punishments recommended that Xu Pei yi be put to the lingering death, and all his male relations over sixteen put to death and all his female relations and children enslaved, I was merciful!
I lowered his sentence to beheading, sparing all the relatives. And so they say, "the Emperor has a sense of proportion, he understands things". When they returned, late in the day, he was still lecturing his son, sounding even more peeved than he had in the morning.
The people expect the Emperor to understand them, to be a man who rides and shoots as well as the Heavenly Envoy! Why do you think your governors will do what you say if they think you are womanly? They will only obey you to your face, and behind your back they will mock you and do whatever they like. The Heir sighed and slid from his mount. Bold caught the reins and calmed the horse with a quick hand while leading it towards the Emperor's mount, ready when the Emperor leapt off and roared 'Obey!
Your mother is wrong about that, like she is about everything else! They have their own ideas, and they won't support you when there's the least trouble. You need your own men. The Yongle Emperor stared at him. My eunuchs know they depend on my good will above all else.
No one else will back them. So they're the only people in the world you know will back you.
No reply from the prostrated elder son. Bold, facing away and moving to the very edge of earshot, risked a glance back. The Emperor, shaking his head heavily, was walking away, leaving his son kneeling on the ground.
They ride, they hunt, they laugh. One day they killed three hundred deer we had enclosed. While with the Heir Designate, the Emperor has to drag him out of doors, can't get him off the palace grounds, and spends the whole time yelling at him. And the Heir nearly mocks him to his face.
Comes as close as he dares.
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And the Emperor knows it too. I wouldn't be surprised if he changed the Heir Designate. The second born is the son of a courtesan. A low ranking courtesan at that. It only works when they all follow the laws together. If anyone breaks the laws, it can mean civil war, and the end of the dynasty. Bold had seen this in the Chinggurid wars of succession, which had gone on for generations. Indeed it was said now that Temur's sons had been fighting ever since his death, with the Khan's empire divided into four parts, and no sign of it ever coming together again.
But Bold also knew that a strong ruler could get away with things. But it isn't that simple. People make the laws, and sometimes they change them. Or ignore them.
And if they've got the swords, that's it. Kyu considered this in silence. Then he said, 'There's talk that the countryside is suffering. Famine in Hunan, piracy on the coast, diseases in the south.
The officials don't like it. They think the great treasure fleet brought back disease instead of treasure, and wasted huge sums of money.
They don't understand what trade brings back, they don't believe in it. They don't believe in the new capital.
They tell the Empress and the Heir that they should help the people, that we should get back to agriculture, and stop wasting so much cash on extravagant projects. He does what he wants, and he has the army behind him, and his eunuchs.
The eunuchs like the foreign trade, as they see it makes them rich. And they like the new capital, and all the rest. Again Kyu thought things over. He seemed to Bold to be happy, these days; but then again Bold had thought that in Hangzhou.
So it always made Bold nervous to see Kyu's little smile. Running back and forth with terrified horses, then with buckets of water, Bold kept an eye out, and finally, at dawn, when they had given up fighting the blaze, for it was useless, he caught sight of Kyu there among the evacuated imperial concubines.
All the Heir Designate's people had a hectic look, but Kyu in particular seemed to Bold elated, the whites of his eyes visible all the way around.
Like a shaman after a successful voyage to the spirit world. He started this fire, Bold thought, just like in Hangzhou, this time using the lightning as his cover. The next time Kyu made one of his midnight visits to the stables, Bold was almost afraid to speak to him. Nevertheless he said, 'Did you set that fire?
Finally he said calmly, 'An exciting night, wasn't it? I saved one of the Script Pavilion's cabinets, and some concubines as well. The redjackets were very grateful about their documents. He went on about the beauty of the fire, and the panic of the concu bines, and the rage, and later the fear, of the Emperor, who took the fire to be a sign of heavenly disapproval, the worst bad portent ever to smite him; but Bold could not follow the boy's talk, his mind filled as it was with images of the various forms of the lingering death.
To burn down a merchant in Hangzhou was one thing, but the Emperor of all China! The Dragon Throne! He glimpsed again that thing inside the boy, the black nafs banging its wings around inside, and felt the distance between them grown vast and unbridgeable. Kyu smiled grimly. Isn't that what you told me? Why should I fear dying? After that they saw less of each other than ever. Days passed, festivals, seasons. Kyu grew up. When Bold caught sight of him, he saw a tall slender black eunuch, pretty and perfumed, mincing along with a flash of the eye, and, once, that raptor look as he regarded the people around him.
Bejewelled, plump, perfumed, dressed in elaborate silk: Kyu was their pet, and perhaps even a spy in the Emperor's harem. Bold feared for him at the same time that he feared him. The boy was wreaking havoc among the concubines of both Emperor and Heir, many said, even people in the stables who had no way of knowing directly. The way he moved through them was too forward, he was bound to be making enemies. Cliques would be plotting to bring him down.
He must know that, he must be courting it; he laughed in their faces, so that they would hate him even more. It all seemed to delight him. But imperial revenge had a long reach. If someone fell, everyone he knew came down too. So when the news spread that two of the Emperor's concubines had hanged themselves, and the furious Emperor demanded an accounting, and the whole nest of corruption began to unravel before everyone, fear rippling through the court like the plague itself, lies spreading the blame wider and wider, until fully three thousand concubines and eunuchs were implicated in the scandal, Bold expected to hear any hour of his young friend's torture and lingering death, perhaps from the mouths of guards come to execute him as well.
But it didn't happen. Kyu existed under a spell of protection like that of a sorcerer, it was so obvious that everyone saw it. The Emperor executed forty of his concubines with his own hand, swinging the sword furiously, cutting them in half or decapitating them with single strokes, or running them through over and over, until the steps of the rebuilt Hall of Great Harmony ran with their blood; but Kyu stood just to the side, unharmed.
One concubine even cried out towards Kyu as she stood naked before them all, a wordless shriek, and then she cursed the Emperor to his face, 'It's your fault, you're too old, your yang is gone, the eunuchs do it better than you!
All that beauty wasted. And yet no one touched Kyu; the Emperor dared not look at him; and the black youth watched it all with a gleam in his eye, enjoying the wastage, and the way the bureaucrats hated him for it. The court was literally a shambles, they were feeding on each other now; and yet none of them had the courage to take on the weird black eunuch.
Bold's last meeting with him happened just before Bold was to accompany the Emperor on an expedition to the west, to destroy the Tartars led by Arughtai.
It was a hopeless cause; the Tartars were too fast, the Emperor not well. Nothing would come of it. They would be back when winter came on, in just a few months.
So Bold was surprised when Kyu came to the stables to say farewell. It was like talking to a stranger now. But the youth clasped Bold by the arm suddenly, affectionate and serious, like a prince talking to a trusted old retainer.
Kyu didn't answer at first. He was still clutching Bold's arm. Finally he said, 'Do you know the story of the eunuch Chao Kao, who caused the downfall of the Chin dynasty? Kyu smiled. The amputation across its middle was mortised; it was a tally, like those used by officials to authenticate their communications with the capital when they were in the provinces.
I'll keep the other half. It will help you. We'll meet again. Bold took it, frightened. It seemed to him like Kyu's nafs, but of course that was something that couldn't be given away. In our lives to come at least, as you always used to tell me. Your prayers for the dead give them instructions on how to proceed in the bardo, right? The expedition to conquer the Tartars was a miserable failure, as expected, and one rainy night the Yongle Emperor died.
Bold stayed up all through that night, pumping the bellows for a fire the officers used to melt all the tin cups they had, to make a coffin to carry the imperial body back to Beijing. It rained all the way back, the heavens crying. Only when they reached Beijing did the officers let the news be known.
The imperial body lay in state in a proper coffin for a hundred days. Music, weddings and all religious ceremonies were forbidden during this interval, and all the temples in the land were required to ring their bells thirty thousand times. For the funeral Bold joined the ten thousand members of the escort, Sixty li's march to the imperial tomb site,.
Northwest of Beijing. Three days zigzagging To foil evil spirits, who only travel in straight lines. The funeral complex deep underground,. Near the end of the edict, the reader in the palace proclaimed to all assembled there before the Hall of Great Harmony,.
All the ships moored in Hangzhou are ordered to return to Nanjing, and all goods on the ships are to be turned over to the Department of Internal Affairs, and stored. Officials abroad on business are to return to the capital immediately; and all those called to go on future voyages are ordered back to their homes.
The building and repair of all treasure ships is to stop immediately. All official procurement for going abroad must also be stopped, and all those involved in downloading should return to the capital.
When the reader had finished, the new Emperor, who had just named himself the Hongxi Emperor, spoke for himself. The capital will return to Nanjing, and Beijing will be designated an auxiliary capital. There will be no more waste of imperial resources.
The people are suffering. Relieving people's poverty ought to be handled as though one were rescuing them from fire, or saving them from drowning. One cannot hesitate.
Bold saw Kyu's face across the great courtyard, a little black figurine with blazing eyes. The new Emperor turned to look at his dead father's retinue, so many of them eunuchs. The Yongle Emperor thought you were on his side. But you were not. You have betrayed all China. Kyu spoke up before his fellows could stop him. They are trying to be as regent to you, and make you a boy emperor for ever! With a roar a gang of the officials rushed at Kyu and some of the other eunuchs, pulling knives from their sleeves as they pounced.
The eunuchs struggled or fled, but many were cut down on the spot. Kyu they stabbed a thousand times. The Hongxi Emperor stood and watched. When it was over he said, 'Take the bodies and hang them outside the Meridian Gate.
Let all the eunuchs beware. Later, in the stables, Bold sat holding the half tiger tally in his hand. He had thought they would kill him too, and was ashamed how much that thought had dominated him during the slaughter of the eunuchs; but no one had paid the slightest attention to him.
It was possible no one else even remembered his connection to Kyu. He knew he was leaving, but he didn't know where to go. If he went to Nanjing and helped burn the treasure fleet, and all its docks and warehouses, he would certainly be continuing his young friend's project. But all that would be done in any case. But guards appeared in the doorway. We know what happened next; and so do you; so let's go on to the next chapter.
At the moment of death Kyu saw the clear white light. It was everywhere, it bathed the void in itself, and he was part of it, and sang it out into the void.
And so he fell out of it, into awareness of himself. His thoughts were continuing in their tumbling monologue reverie, even after death. Incredible but true. Perhaps he wasn't dead yet. But there was his body, hacked to pieces on the sand of the Forbidden City. He heard Bold's voice, there inside his thoughts, speaking a prayer. The time has come for you to seek the path. This life is over. You are now Face to face with the clear light.
I'm past that, Kyu thought. What happens next? But Bold couldn't know where he was along his way. Prayers for the dead were useless in that regard. All things are void. You will be like a clear sky,. Don't sleep at this crucial time. Your soul must leave your body awake, and go out through the Brahma hole.
His guide was far behind him. But it had always been that way with Bold. Kyu would have to find his own way. Emptiness still surrounded the single thread of his thoughts. Some of the dreams he had had during his life had been of this place. He blinked, or slept, and then he was in a vast court of judgment.
The dais of the judge was on a broad deck, a plateau in a sea of clouds. The judge was a huge black faced deity, sitting potbellied on the dais. Its hair was fire, burning wildly on its head. Behind it a black man held a pagoda roof that might have come straight out of the palace in Beijing.
Above the roof floated a little seated Buddha, radiating calm. To his left and right were peaceful deities, standing with gifts in their arms; but these were all a great distance away, and not for him. The righteous dead were climbing long flying roads up to these gods.
Years of rice and salt - Kim Stanley Robinson
On the deck surrounding the dais, less fortunate dead were being hacked to pieces by demons, demons as black as the Lord of Death, but smaller and more agile. Below the deck more demons were torturing yet more souls. It was a busy scene and Kyu was annoyed. This is my judgment, and it's like a morning abattoir! How am I supposed to concentrate? Bold's prayer sounded in his mind, and Kyu realized that Bold and this monkey were related somehow.
Pray for mercy. A little white god and a little black demon will appear, and count out the white and black pebbles of your good and evil deeds. Indeed it was so. The white imp was pale as an egg, the black imp like onyx; and they were hoeing great piles of white and black stones into heaps, which to Kyu's surprise appeared about equal in size.
He could not remember doing any good deeds. Then the Lord of Death, up on its throne, suddenly took notice of Kyu, and despite himself Kyu flinched. The body you're in now is only a mental body.
You can't die in the bardo, even if they hack you to pieces. Hold fast, think good thoughts; remember, all these events are your own hallucinations, and what life comes next depends on your thoughts now. In a single moment of time a great difference is created. Don't be distracted when the six lights appear. Regard them all with compassion.
Face the Lord of Death without fear. The black god held a mirror up with such practised accuracy that Kyu saw in the glass his own face, dark as the god's. He saw that the face is the naked soul itself, always, and that his was as dark and dire as the Lord of Death's. This was the moment of truth! And he had to concentrate on it, as Bold kept reminding him.
And yet all the while the whole antic festival shouted and shrieked and clanged around him, every possible punishment or reward given out at once, and he couldn't help it, he was annoyed.
If this is all my own thinking, then why is that so? Why is my Lord of Death not a big Arab slave trader, as it would be in my own village? Why are your agents not lions and leopards? But the Lord of Death was an Arab slave trader, he saw now, an Arab intaglioed in miniature in the surface of the god's black forehead, looking out at Kyu and waving. The one who had captured him and taken him to the coast.
And among the shrieks of the rendered there were lions and leopards, hungrily gnawing the intestines of living victims. All just my thoughts, Kyu reminded himself, feeling fear rise in his throat. This realm was like the dream world, but more solid; more solid even than the waking world of his just completed life; everything trebly stuffed with itself, so that the leaves on the round ornamental bushes in ceramic pots! Of all the worlds the bardo was the one of the utmost reality.
The white Arab face in the black forehead laughed and squeaked, 'Condemned! It cut off Kyu's head, tore out his heart, pulled out his entrails, drank his blood, gnawed his bones; yet Kyu did not die. Body hacked to pieces, yet it revived. And it all began again. Intense pain throughout.
Tortured by reality. Life is a thing of extreme reality; death also. Ideas are planted in the mind of the child like seeds, and may grow to dominate the life completely. Agony disassembled into anguish, regret, remorse; nausea at his past lives and how little they had gained him. In this terrible hour he sensed them all without actually being able to remember them. But they had happened. Oh, to get off the endless wheel of fire and tears. The sorrow and grief he felt then was worse than the pain of dismemberment.
The solidity of the bardo fell apart, and he was bombarded by light exploding in his thoughts, through which the palace of judgment could only be seen as a kind of veil, or a painting on the air. But there was Bold up there, being judged in his turn. Bold, a cowering monkey, the only person after Kyu's capture who had meant anything at all to him.
Kyu wanted to cry out to him for help, but stifled the thought, as he did not want to distract his friend at the very moment, of all the infinity of moments, when he needed not to be distracted. Nevertheless something must have escaped from Kyu, some groan of the mind, some anguished thought or cry for help; for a gang of furious four armed demons dragged Kyu down and away, out of sight of Bold's judgment. Then he was indeed in hell, and pain the least of his burdens, as superficial as mosquito bites, compared to the deep, oceanic ache of his loss.
The anguish of solitude! Coloured explosions, tangerine, lime, quicksilver, each shade more acid than the last, burned his consciousness with an anguish ever deeper. I'm wandering in the bardo, rescue me, rescue me! They stood in their old bodies, looking at each other.
The lights grew clearer, less painful to the eyes; a single ray of hope pierced the depth of Kyu's despair, like a lone paper lantern seen across West Lake.
You found me, Kyu said. We always meet in the bardo. We will cross paths for as long as the six worlds turn in this cycle of the cosmos. We are part of a karmic jati. Jati, subcaste, family, village.
It manifests differently. We all came into the cosmos together. New souls are born out of the void, but infrequently, especially at this point in the cycle, for we are in the Kali yuga, the Age of Destruction.
When new souls do appear it happens like a dandelion pod, souls like seeds, floating away on the dharma wind. We are all seeds of what we could be.
But the new seeds float together and never separate by much, that's my point. We have gone through many lives together already. Our jati has been particularly tight since the avalanche. That fate bound us together. We rise or fall together. But I don't remember any other lives. And I don't remember anyone from this past life but you. I only recognize you! Where are the rest of them? You didn't recognize me either.
We found you. You have been falling away from the jati for many reincarnations now, down and down into yourself alone, in lower and lower lokas. There are six lokas; they are t e orlds, the realms of rebirth and illusion. Heaven, the world of the devas; then the world of the asuras, those giants full of dissension; then the human world; then the animal world; then the world of pretas, or hungry ghosts; then hell.
We move between them as our karma changes, life by life. I don't know. A dozen perhaps, or half a dozen. The group blurs at the boundaries. Some go away and don't come back until much later. We were a village, that time in Tibet. But there were visitors, traders. Fewer every time. People get lost, or fall away. As you have been doing. When the despair strikes. Think good thoughts.
Listen, Kyu, listen — as we think, so we are. Both here and hereafter, in all the worlds. For thoughts are things, the parents of all actions, good and bad alike.
And as the sowing has been, so the harvest will be. The lights will lead you. Each world has its own colour. White light from the devas, green from the asuras, yellow from the human, blue from the beasts, red from ghosts, smoke coloured from hell.
Your body will appear the colour of the world you are to return to. That means we must try again.
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We try and try again, life after life, until we achieve Buddha wisdom, and are released at last. Or some then choose to return to the human world, to help others along their way to release. Those are called bodhisattvas. You could be one of those, Kyu. I can see it inside you. Listen to me now. Soon you'll run for it. Things will chase you, and you'll hide. In a house, a cave, a jungle, a lotus blossom. These are all wombs. You'll want to stay in your hiding place, to escape the terrors of the bardo.
That way lies preta, and you will become a ghost. You must emerge again to have any hope. Choose your womb door without any feelings of attraction or repulsion. Looks can be deceiving. Go as you see fit. Follow the heart. Try helping other spirits first, as if you were a bodhisattva already. Then they were attacked by huge male lions, manes already matted with blood, roaring angrily. Bold took off in one direction and Kyu in another. Kyu ran and ran, the lion on his heels.
He dodged through two trees and onto a path. The lion ran on and lost him. To the east he saw a lake, adorned with black and white swans. To the west, a lake with horses standing in it; to the south, a scattering of pagodas; to the north a lake with a castle in it.
He moved south towards the pagodas, feeling vaguely that this would have been Bold's choice; feeling also that Bold and the rest of his jati were already there, in one of the temples waiting for him. He reached the pagodas. He wandered from one building to the next, looking in doorways, shocked by visions of crowds in disarray, fighting or fleeing from hyena headed guards and wardens; a hell of a village, each possible future catastrophic, terrifying.
Death's home town. A long time passed in this horrible search, and then he was looking through the gates of a temple at his jati, his cohort, Bold and all the rest of them, Shen, I li Dem his mother, Zheng He, Psin, all of them immediately known to him — oh, he thought, of course.
They were naked and bloodied, but putting on the gear of war nevertheless. Then hyenas howled, and Kyu fled through the raw yellow light of morning, through trees into the protection of elephant grass. The hyenas prowled between the huge tufts of grass, and he pressed through the knife edges of one broken down clump to take refuge inside it. For a long time he cowered in the grass, until the hyenas went away, also the cries of his jati as they looked for him, telling him to stick with them.
He hid there through a long night of awful sounds, creatures being killed and eaten; but he was safe; and morning came again. He decided to venture forth, and found the way out was closed. The knife edged grass blades had grown, and were like long swords caging him, even pressing in on him, cutting him as they grew. Ah, he realized; this is a womb.
I've chosen one without trying to, without listening to Bold's advice, separated from my family, unaware and in fear. The worst kind of choosing.
And yet to stay here would be to become a hungry ghost. He would have to submit. He would have to be born again. He groaned at the thought, cursed himself for a fool.
The Years of Rice and Salt
Try to have a little more presence of mind next time, he thought, a little more courage! It would not be easy, the bardo was a scary place. But now, when it was too late, he decided he had to try. Next time! And so he re entered the human realm. What happened to him and to his companions that time around, it is not our task to tell. Gone, gone, gone altogether beyond! All hail! What happens is that sometimes there is a confusion, and the reincarnating soul enters into a womb already occupied.
Then there are two souls in the same baby, and a fight breaks out. Mothers can feel that kind, the babies that thrash around inside, wrestling themselves. Then they're born and the shock of that ejection stills them for a while, they're fully occupied learning to breathe and otherwise coming to grips with this world.
After that the fight between the two souls for the possession of the one body recommences. That's colic. A baby suffering colic will cry out as if struck, arch its back in pain, even writhe in agony, for many of its waking hours.
This should be no surprise, two souls are struggling within it, and so for weeks the baby cries all the time, its guts twisted by the conflict. Nothing can ease its distress. It's not a situation that can last for long, it's too much for any little body to bear. In most cases the cuckoo soul drives out the original, and then the body finally calms down. Or sometimes the first soul successfully drives out the cuckoo and is restored to itself.
Or else, in rare cases, neither one is strong enough to drive the other out, and the colic finally subsides but the baby grows up a divided person, confused, erratic, unreliable, prone to insanity. Kokila was born at midnight, and the dai pulled her out and said, 'It's a girl, poor thing. She was a week old when the colic struck.
She spat up her mother's milk and cried inconsolably all through the nights. Very quickly Zaneeta forgot what the cheerful new babe had been like, a kind of placid grub at her breast sucking, gurgling amazedly at the world.
Under the assault of the colic she screamed, cried, moaned, writhed. It was painful to see it. Zaneeta could do nothing but hold her, hands under her stomach as it banded with cramping muscles, letting her hang face downwards from Zaneeta's hip. Something about this posture, perhaps just the effort of keeping her head upright, quieted Kokila. But it did not always work, and never for long. Then the writhing and screams began again, until Zaneeta was near distraction.
She had to keep her husband Rajit fed and her two older daughters as well, and having borne three daughters in a row she was already out of Rajit's favour, and the babe was intolerable. Zaneeta tried sleeping with her out in the women's ground, but the menstruating women, while sympathetic, did not appreciate the noise. They enjoyed getting out of the home away with the girls, and it was not a place for babies. So Zaneeta was driven to sleeping with Kokila out against the side of their family's house, where they both dozed fitfully between bouts of crying.
This went on for a couple of months, and then it ended. Afterwards the baby had a different look in her eye. The dai who had delivered her, Insef, checked her pulse and her irises and her urine, and declared that a different soul had indeed taken over the body, but that this was not really important — it happened to many babies, and could be an improvement, as usually in colic battles the stronger soul won out.
But after all that internal violence, Zaneeta regarded Kokila with trepi dation, and all through her infancy and childhood Kokila looked back at her, and at the rest of the world, with a kind of black wild look, as if she were uncertain where she was or what she was doing there.
A confused and often angry little girl, in fact, although clever in manipu lating others, quick to caress or to yell, and very beautiful. She was strong, too, and quick, and by the time she was five she was more help than harm around the home. By then Zaneeta had had two more children, the younger of them a son, the sun of their lives, all thanks to Ganesh and Kartik, and with all the work there was to be done she appreciated Kokila's self reliance and quick abilities.
Naturally the new son, jahan, was the centre of the household, and Kokila only the most capable of Zaneeta's daughters, absorbed in the business of her childhood and youth, not particularly well known to Zaneeta compared to Rajit and jahan, whom naturally she had to study in depth.
So Kokila was free to follow her own thoughts for a few years. Insef often said that childhood was the best time in a woman's life, because as a girl she was somewhat free of men, and mostly just another worker around the house and in the fields.
But the dai was old, and cynical about love and marriage, having seen their results so often turn bad, for herself and for others. Kokila was no more inclined to listen to her than to anyone else. To tell the truth she didn't seem to listen much to anybody. She watched everyone with that startled wary look you see on animals you come upon suddenly in the forest, and spoke little. She seemed to enjoy going off to do the daily work.
She stayed silent and observant around her father, and the other children of the village didn't interest her, except for one girl, who had been found abandoned as an infant, one morning in the women's ground. This foundling Insef was raising to be the dai after her. Insef had named her Bihari, and often Kokila went to the dai's hut and took Bihari with her on her morning round of chores, not talking to her very much more than she did to anyone else, but pointing things out to her, and most of all, bothering to bring her along in the first place, which surprised Zaneeta.
The foundling was nothing unusual, after all, just a little girl like all the rest. It was another of Kokila's mysteries.
In the months before monsoon, the work for Kokila and all the rest of them got harder for several weeks on end. Wake in the morning and stoke the fire. Cross the cool village, the air not yet dusty. Pick up Bihari at the dai's little hut in the woods. Downstream to the defecation grounds, wash afterwards, then back through the village to pick up the water jars and head upstream.
Past the laundry pools, where women were already congregating, and on to the watering hole. Fill up and hump the big heavy jars back home, stopping several times to rest.
Then off into the forest to forage for firewood. This could take most of the morning. Then back to the fields west of the village, where her father and his brothers had some land, to sow pulse of wheat and barley. They put it in over a few weeks, so that it would ripen through the long harvest month. This week's row was weak, the tops small, but Kokila thrust them in the ploughed earth without thought, then in the heat of the day sat with the other women and girls, mixing grain and water to make a pasty dough, throwing chapatis, cooking some of them.
After that she went out to their cow. A few rhythmic downward tugs of her finger in its rectum started a spill of dung that she collected warm in her hands, slapped into patties with some straw for drying, and put on the stoneand turf wall bordering her father's field. After that she took some dried dung cakes by the house, put one on the fire, went out to the stream to wash her hands and the dirty clothes: Then back to the house in the waning light of the day, the heat and dust making everything golden in the slant air, to the hearth in the central room of their house, to cook chapatis and daal bhat on the little clay stove next to the firepit.
Some time after dark Rajit would come home, and Zaneeta and the girls would surround him with care, and after he had eaten the daal bhat and chapatis he would relax and tell Zaneeta something about his day, as long as it had not gone too badly. If it had, he wouldn't speak of it. But usually he told them something of his juggling of land and cattle deals.
The village families used marginal pastures as securities for new animals, or vice versa, and brokering trade in calves and kids and pasture rights was what her father did, mostly between Yelapur and Sivapur. Then also he was always making marriage arrangements for his daughters, a bad business as he had so many of them, but he made up dowries when he could, and had no hesitation in marrying them down.
Had no choice, really. So the evening would end and they slept on rush mattresses unrolled for the night on the floor, by the fire for warmth if it was cool, for the smoke's protection from mosquitos if it was warm. Another night would pass. One evening after dinner, a few days before Durga Puja marked the end of the harvest, her father told her mother that he had arranged a possible marriage for Kokila, whose turn it was, to a man from Dharwar, the market village just the other side of Sivapur.
The prospective husband was a Lingayat, like Rajit's family and most of Yelapur, and the third son of Dharwar's headman. He had quarrelled with his father, however, and this left him unable to ask Rajit for much of a dowry. Probably he was unmarriageable in Dharwar, Kokila guessed, but she was excited anyway. Zaneeta seemed pleased, and said she would look the candidate over during the Durga Puja.
Ordinary life was pegged to whichever festival was coming next, and the festivals all had different natures, colouring the feel of the days leading up to them. Thus the Car Festival of Krishna takes place in the monsoon, and its colour and gaiety stand in contrast to the lowering grey overhead; boys blow their palm leaf trumpets as if to hold off the rain by the blast of their breath, and everyone would go crazy from the noise if the blowing itself didn't reduce the trumpets quickly to palm leaves again.
Then the Swing Festival of Krishna takes place at the end of monsoon, and the fair associated with it is full of stalls selling superfluous things like sitars and drums, or silks, or embroidered caps, or chairs and tables and cabinets.
The time for the ld shifts through the year, making it seem a very human event somehow, free of the earth and its gods, and during it all the Muslims come to Sivapur to watch their elephant parade. Then Durga Puja marks the harvest, the grand climax of the year, honouring the mother goddess and all her works. So the women gathered on the first day, and mixed a batch of vermilion bindi paste, while drinking some of the dai's fiery chang, and they scattered after that, painted and giggling, following the Muslim drummers in the opening parade, shouting 'To the victory of Mother Durga!
Placed around it were similarly dressed statues of Laksmi and Saraswati, and her sons Ganesh and Kartik. Two goats were tethered in turn to a sacrificial post before these statues and decapitated, the bleeding heads staring up from the dust. The sacrifice of the buffalo was an even greater matter; a special priest came from Bbadrapur, with a big scimitar sharpened for the occasion.
This was important, for if the blade didn't make it all the way through the buffalo's big neck, it meant that the goddess was displeased and had refused the offering.
Boys spent the morning rubbing the skin on the top of its neck with ghee, to soften it. This time the heavy stroke of the priest was successful, and all the shouting celebrants charged the body to make little balls of blood and dust, and throw them at each other, shrieking. An hour or two later the mood was entirely different.
One of the old men started singing 'The world is pain, its load past bearing', and then the women took it up, for it was dangerous for the men to be heard questioning the Great Mother; even the women had to pretend to be wounded demons in the song: A mother will not destroy her child, Her own flesh, creation's joy, yet we see the Killer looking here then there…'.
Later, as night fell, the women went home and dressed in their best saris, and came back out and stood in two lines, and the boys and men shouted 'Victory to the Great Goddess! Then people from Dharwar turned up, and the dancing grew wild. Kokila's father took her by the hand out of the line and introduced her to the parents of her intended. Apparently a reconciliation had been patched together for the sake of this formality.
The father she had seen before, headman of Dharwar as he was, named Shastri; the mother she had never seen before, as the father had pretensions of purdah, though he was not really wealthy.
The mother looked Kokila over with a sharp, not unfriendly eye, bindi paste running down between her eyebrows, face sweaty in the hot night. Possibly a decent mother in law. Then the son was produced: Gopal, third son of Shastri. Kokila nodded stiffly, looking aslant at him, not knowing what she felt. He was a thin faced, intent looking youth, perhaps nervous — she couldn't tell.
She was taller than he was. But that might change. They were swept back into their respective parties without exchanging a word. Nothing but that single nervous glance, and she did not see him again for three years.
All the while, however, she knew they were destined to marry, and it was a good thing, as her affairs were therefore settled, and her father could stop worrying about her, and treat her without irritation.
Over time she learned from the women's gossip a bit more about the family she was going to join. Shastri was an unpopular headman. His latest offence was to have exiled a Dharwar blacksmith, for visiting a brother in the hills without asking his permission first. He had not called the panchayat together to discuss or approve this decision. He had never called the panchayat together, in fact, since inheriting the headman position from his deceased father a few years before.
Why, people muttered, he and his eldest son ran Dharwar as if they were the zamindars of the place! Kokila took all this in without too much concern, and spent as much time as she could with Bihari, who was learning the herbs the dai used as medicines. Thus when they were out collecting firewood, Bihari was also inspecting the forest floor and finding plants to bring back — bittersweet in sunny patches, whiteroot in wet shade, castor bean under saal trees among their roots, and so on.
Back at their hut Kokila helped grind the dried plants, or otherwise prepare them, using oils or spirits, for use by Insef in her midwifery, for the most part: There were scores of source plants and animal parts that the dai wanted them to learn. Her mother taught her the lore, and the dai who taught my grandmother was from a Dravidian village to the south, where names and even property were reckoned down through the women, and she taught my grandmother all the Dravidians know, and that goes back through all the dais of time to Saraswati, the goddess of learning herself, so we can't let it go forgotten, you must learn it and teach your daughters, so that birthing is made as easy as it can be, poor things, and as many kept alive as possible.
And it took very little for Insef to convince Bihari of the importance of these things. She was a lively sweet girl with a good eye in the forest, a good memory for plants, and always a cheerful smile and a kind word for people. She was if anything too cheery and attractive, because in the year Kokila was to be married to Gopal, Shardul, his older brother, the eldest son of Shastri, soon to become Kokila's brother in law — one of those in her husband's family who would have the right to tell her what to do he started looking at Bihari in an interested way, and after that, no matter what she did, he watched her.
It couldn't lead to any good, as Bihari was perhaps untouchable and therefore unmarriageable, and Insef did what she could to seclude her. But the festivals brought the single men and women together, and the daily life of the village afforded various glimpses and encounters as well. And Bihari was interested, anyway, even though she knew she was unmarriageable. She liked the idea of being normal, no matter how vehemently the dai warned her against it. The day came when Kokila was married to Gopal and moved to Dharwan.
Her new mother in law turned out to be withdrawn and irritable, and Gopal himself was no prize. An anxious man with little to say, dominated by his parents, never reconciled with his father, he at first tried to lord it over Kokila the way they did over him, but without much conviction, particularly after she had snapped at him a few times.
He was used to that, and quickly enough she had the upper hand. She didn't much like him, and looked forward to dropping by to see Bihari and the dai in the forest.
Really only the second son, Prithvi, seemed to her at all admirable in the headman's family, and he left early every day and had as little to do with his family as he could, keeping quiet with a distant air. There was a lot of traffic between the two villages, more than Kokila had ever noticed before it became so important to her, and she made do — secretly taking a preparation that the dai had made for her, to keep from having a baby.
She was fourteen years old but she wanted to wait. Before long things went bad. The dai got so crippled by her swollen joints that Bihari had to take over her work, and she was much more frequently seen in Dharwar. Meanwhile Shastri and Shardul were conspiring to make money by betraying their village, changing the tax assessment with the agent of the zamindar, shifting it to the zamindar's great advantage, with Shastri skimming off some for himself.
Basically they were colluding to change Dharwar over to the Muslim form of farm tax rather than the Hindu law. The Hindu law, which was a religious injunction and sacred, allowed a tax of no more than one sixth of all produce, while the Muslim claim was to everything, with whatever the farmers kept being a matter of the pleasure of the zamindar. In practice this often meant little difference, but Muslim allowances varied for crops and circumstance, and this is where Shastri and Shardul were helping the zamindar, by calculating what more could be taken without starving the villagers.
Kokila lay there at night with Gopal, and through the open doorway as he slept she heard Shastri and Shardul going over the possibilities. Eventually, to aid in this work, the zamindar gave Shardul the post of qanungo, assessor for the village; and he was already an awful man. And he still had an eye for Bihari. The night of the car festival he took her in the forest. From her account afterwards it was clear to Kokila that Bihari hadn't completely minded it, she relished telling the details, 'I was on my back in the mud, it was raining on my face and he was licking the rain off it, saying I love you I love you.
And it was so passionate, Kokila, you have no idea. For a while she was happy, and sang all the old love songs, especially one they used to sing together, an old one: It's nicest when my husband is in a far country, Far away.
And there's rain in the streets at night and wind And nobody. But Bihari got pregnant, despite Insef's preparations. She tried to keep to herself, but with the dai crippled there were births that she had to attend, and so she went and her condition was noted, and people put together what they had seen or heard, and said that Shardul had got her with child.
Then Prithvi's wife was giving birth and Bihari went to help, and the baby, a boy, died a few minutes after it was born, and outside their house Shastri struck Bihari in the face, calling her a witch and a whore. All this Kokila heard about when she visited Prithvi's house, from Prithvi's wife, who said the birth had gone faster than anyone expected, and that she doubted Bihari had done anything bad.
Kokila hurried off to the dai's hut, and found the gnarled old woman puffing with effort between Bihari's legs, trying to get the baby out. So Kokila took over and did what the dai told her to, forgetting her own family until night fell, when she remembered and exclaimed, 'I have to go! It will be all right.
Kokila rushed home through the forest to Dharwar, where her mother in law slapped her, but perhaps just to pre empt Gopal, who punched her hard in the arm and forbade her to return to the forest or Sivapur ever again, a ludicrous command given the realities of their life, and she almost said 'How will I fetch your water then? They could not even cat without her. This fury was the thing she would remember for ever.
Before dawn next morning she slipped out with the water jugs and hurried through the wet grey forest, leaves scattered at every level from the ground to the high canopy overhead, and arrived at the dai's hut frightened and breathing hard. Bihari was dead. The baby was dead, Bihari was dead, even the old woman lay stretched on her pallet, gasping with the pain of her exertions, looking as if she too might expire and leave this world at any minute.Rewriting history and probing the most profound questions as only he can, Robinson shines his extraordinary light on the place of religion, culture, power, and even love on such an Earth.
Technological progress and social progress will happen in any possible world history. Michael Chabon. Open search form. John Joseph Adams. In this extraordinarily ambitious, poetic and powerful novel, Kim Stanley Robinson takes us on a journey through seven hundred years of history as it never was, but might have been.
Long dead. The wars for the Rhine have erupted, and only the devil knows how they will end.