World War II has finally played itself out, and the British are leaving India. Through this vortex is spun a fictional plot of terror and politics that illustrates all-too-well the curse that still plagues India today. You can almost smell the mixture of dust, oil, and human sweat as the train pulls into Bhowani Junction.
Around a low-burning fire in a jungle clearing, a small group of late travelers huddles: a merchant, a Sikh with his son, a farmer. Silently, two men, flanking one of the travelers, crouch forward. A dirty cloth flashes momentarily and jerks around the traveler’s neck. One of the men tugs the cloth, the other forces the traveler’s head over to one side. Thuggee death has struck; Kali is assuaged.
Giacomo Casanova's reputation rests largely on his obsession with women, but he was much more than the great 18th-century lover. Lawyer, mathematician, poet, translator, and librarian who was fluent in several languages, he was described by one contemporary as "the most civilized man in Europe." That he was also a con man, cabalist, spy, revenge-taker, and experienced prisoner only enhances his appeal as one who personified the extreme social and moral contradictions of the time.