It was a series of curses, actually — a centuries-long string of unrelenting bad news in this rugged, hidden corner of northern India's industrial belt. There was an actual curse at first, a longheld belief that the Chambal River was unholy. There was the land itself, and the more earthly curse of its poor-quality soil. And above all there were the bandits, hiding in the badlands and causing countless eruptions of violence and fear.
But instead of destroying the river, these things protected it by keeping the outside world away. The isolation created a sanctuary.