Kevin Rushby

Author, Journalist & Traveller

Children of Kali

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Biography / Endurance / Travel

It is said they murdered more than one million travellers, never spilling a drop of blood. They were inspired by religious fanaticism, yet came from many faiths. Their weapon was treachery, their sacrament sugar, and their goddess Kali. They were the thugs and in the 1830s they suddenly became 'the enemy within' for a burgeoning British Empire.

The colonial reaction still haunts India today and in his new book Rushby investigates the dark and mysterious world of Indian crime past and present. The journey takes him to the prisons and gangster hideouts of this country, probing the nature of crime and punishment in a land where the distinctions between good and evil can be as murky as the Ganges.

Rulers with underworld connections, politicians without scruples, bandits as social workers and heroes this is an India turned upside down and one that can have a devastating effect on the traveller. In the jungles of Carnatica, Rushby searches for Veerappan Muruswamy, a bandit responsible for many murders, supposedly assisted by magical powers. Further north, he meets the ex-rajahs whose memories reach back to colonial days and a thug cult created by imperialistic and orientalist needs (Queen Victoria took a keen interest).

Children of Kali: Reviews

'Rushby has produced a remarkable book - part biography, part detective story, part social history, but all wrapped up in the palatable form of a readable and at times rather profound travel book... He writes beautiful prose and can reveal in a few sentences a perfect and complete sense of place... this book, in the end, is not just about his travels in search of thuggee, but about western misrepresentations of the Orient, and the ease with which generations of westerners have been able to portray Indians and 'easterners' as violent, untrustworthy and lascivious. Best of all, he shows how these prejudices are still alive, and the dangers they pose in the current climate of virulent Islamophobia.'
William Dalrymple, Sunday Times

'This book is a compelling argument about how history is often invented, guided by the bias of the scribe. In this case, by using the simple example of a criminal tribe, Rushby re-looks at how colonial historians could mislead and even distort facts, creating a mythology that may have been far from the truth... this travel journal embodies intelligence and insight, making us revisit both our colonial past and our fragmented present.'
Kishwar Ahluwalia, Indian Express

'...a fine piece of work, full of poignant, even poetic moments..'
Chitralekha Basu, Literary Review

'Rarely can a traveller have run into as many diverting chatterboxes as Rushby...[the book] is a veritable showcase for India's apparently limitless supply of the voluble and entertaining - Children of Kali is rollicking good fun.'
Washington Post

'Rushby sets out to meet the bandit Veerappan, and along the way, studies the Thug cult... vivid and literary.'
Star News Los Angeles

'as guiltily absorbing as a day spent eating mango ice cream'
New York Times

'Rushby presents his research as any gifted storyteller should...both historically enlightening and delightfully atmospheric.'

'A remarkable book - part biography, part detective story, part social history...readable and at times rather profound.'
Sunday Times Culture Magazine

'Engages wittily with its subject, crossing and recrossing the borderland between law-enforcers and law-breakers.'

and the negative...

'Rushby merely replaces one myth with another...'
Kim A. Wagner in a letter to the Guardian