I once met a man, with whom I had very little common language, who was not a savage by any means although many supposedly “civilized” people would describe him thus, and who certainly had had no exposure to any kind of scientific education or previous access to conversation with anyone who had.

He not only knew that the Earth was a sphere, he understood perfectly well how the phases of the Moon worked, how lunar eclipses worked, and even that the visible planets and the Earth went around the Sun while the Moon went around the Earth. He explained it all to me in diagrams drawn in the sand with a stick – and was delighted to have an appreciative audience, for the first time in his life.

He’d always had an interest in watching the night sky, he told me, and it was all “the obvious explanation.”

He was illiterate – but you couldn’t have given him the wrong change in the market, I’m sure.

He wasn’t young in 1983. Sadly, I’d be very surprised if he’s still alive. I’d love to talk to him again, now that I do know his language fairly well, but I’ve not been in his area since 1984.

India, 1983