JB didn't use the mnemonic techniques favoured by memory champions, but neither, the researchers say, should we see his achievement as a 'demonstration of brute force, rote memorisation'. Rather it was clear that JB was 'deeply cognitively involved' in learning Milton's poem. JB explained:
'During the incessant repetition of Milton's words, I really began to listen to them, and every now and then as the whole poem began to take shape in my mind, an insight would come, an understanding, a delicious possibility. ... I think of the poem in various ways. As a cathedral I carry around in my mind, a place that I can enter and walk around at will. ... Whenever I finish a "Paradise Lost" performance I raise the poem and have it take a bow.'
Out of those she interviewed, nearly all cited economic need rather than religious tradition as the main reason behind their chosen path.
“Many devadasi are sold into the sex trade by their families,” she says. “The parents know that they’re not really giving their children to be religious servants, but they turn a blind eye.”
When the devadasi become older and can’t attract the same business, they end up trafficking, and taking girls from the small villages to big cities like Bangalore, where they set up brothels. Most of the girls chosen are illiterate agricultural workers, who go because they think they’ll make more money as devadasi than if they work on the land.”
Do any make their fortune? “A few can - a client might pay a few thousand pounds for a night with a virgin devadasi. But a lot of devadasi in their 30s or 40s are selling sex for about thirty or forty pence. The strange thing is that though they see themselves as superior to non-religious prostitutes - and even though they often dress to look different, with distinctive jewellery and clothes - I don’t think the clients see much difference.”