THREE TRAVELLERS TO INDIA
AL - BIRUNI
Every one loves a traveller's narrative. If he tells it in person, the fascination of his personality adds to the interest of his tale. His hearers Jove to gather round him, and eagerly listen to his adventures. They are carried to scenes which they have not witnessed, and enabled to share in the thrill of exploits which they have not performed. If the traveller is known to them, his own history helps to interpret his story. His voice, his gestures, his temperament-all help to enhance the artistic effect of what he has to tell. If he exaggerates a little, the knowing ones smile and forgive him. But the more ignotant and credulous remember and applaud him chiefly for his exaggerations. If there is a mystery about the personality of the traveller, the narrative throws side-lights qn what he is, whence he came, how and why he travelled, and what stores of hidden lore he keeps in reserve. Curiosity is always a strong factor in men's search of knowledge, and there is nothing like a mystery or a half-mystery to stir the imagination and stimulate the desire to read out of the narrative into the mind of the narrator. Travellers of by-gone ages have an additional claim to our attention. Distance in time has its charm like distance in place. We love to bear of our country as they saw it.
A. YUSUF ALI, THREE TRAVELLERS TO INDIA