Especially, when it moves at an average speed of almost two anecdotes a page, the bulk of them with the then famous or whom fate later dogged with fame. There is this brush with Tenzing Norgay, who hadn't then climbed the Everest but had come tantalisingly close to it with the Swiss expedition. Doig questioned him on what he wanted most in life and Tenzing replied without hesitation: "A small house with three rooms and perhaps a verandah." One of the rooms to display his expedition trophies.
Much of the writing has to do with Doig's infatuation with Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim. Calcutta, too, which served as a kind of base camp for his forays into the Himalayan region.
There is an interesting episode about how easily he sailed through British customs with a chimpanzee he befriended in Africa. Much different from the way quarantine laws are enforced in Britain now, what with illogical fears of rats dancing through to the isle via the Euro-tunnel.
To some, maybe, Doig's access to the focal point where things were happening on the subcontinent had to do with his skin, but for thousands of his fans it is only the aroma of romance and adventure that wafts from his words.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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