In his June contribution to New English Review, Dalrymple explains his love of visiting cemeteries and recounts the story of once helping a Pakistani woman find a particular grave:
As we searched I asked her why she wanted to find it. She said that she had come to Llanelli from Pakistan as a young woman, and had lived next door to Margaret Davies. Margaret Davies had been very good to her and had become her friend. Then she, the Punjabi woman whose name I never learned, moved away. She had come back on a visit and learned that in the meantime Margaret Davies had died and was buried in this cemetery; she wanted to leave flowers on her grave as a token of gratitude and remembrance.
I was much moved by this story, the story of two ordinary people (for such I assumed they were) using their common humanity to overcome potentially bewildering and frightening difference…
When one hears a story like this, one is immediately prey to a certain kind of sentimentality. Why cannot everyone be like this? Why can’t we all just get on together, allowing what unites us to be more important than what divides us? Why is there not universal and perpetual peace rather than widespread conflict? Surely, left to their own devices, and uninflamed by ideologues and political entrepreneurs, people would just find a modus vivendi? In East Africa, I had spent three months living in the home of a Punjabi Pakistani family without the faintest hint of conflict over anything. Perhaps there was a subject or two we avoided, but there always are subjects that are best avoided when people live in close association.