Recently I gave a talk on All India Radio on travel writing. While I was writing the script for my talk, I realized there is not much travel writing by Indians or even on India. And just after the recording, I came across this book Penguin Book of Indian Journeys, right in my own library. A book which is probably the best collection of selected travel writings on India. The 35 pieces selected by the editor, create a fine panorama of the space and time that India is today.
The pieces have been carefully selected to represent the nooks and corners of the country. Ranging from big cities to the tribal interiors. It contains the traveler’s point of view, the inhabitant’s point of view, the back to the home view. A journalist’s view, guide’s view and nearly everyone involved in the process of a journey. It has stories of mundane living and adventurous lives. Ordinary and not so ordinary lives. It talks about the changing India, its changing demographics, landscapes, thought processes, perspectives. And still, a common invisible thread binding it together.
What is this common thread is probably as elusive a question as ‘Who am I’. And would need some serious thinking? If India is a jigsaw puzzle then this book at least manages to pick up quite a few pieces of that puzzle and put them together in the form of this book Penguin Book of Indian Journeys.
Most pieces are very interesting. More than anything else I discovered so many travel books that I can now pick up to read. There are so many writers who have written about their travels. And most of the times they have undertaken the journeys solely for the purpose of writing. At times it has been a part of their jobs. And at times just a reflection on the travel that would be taking for other purposes. A lot of pieces will actually transport you to a different world. And you would feel you have been there or would want to pack your bag and be there. There are pieces from eminent writers and journalists. There are pieces written at various points in time and would take you to the time before or after an important event in the history.
In terms of spaces, it covers Leh to Ghats of Benaras to interiors of Bihar to Darjeeling to Cherrapunji to Calcutta to Orrisa to Chennai to rural Karnataka to interior Gujarat to Mumbai to Delhi to Amritsar. And the interiors like the land of Bandit Queen Phoolan Devi, and to some known and some not so well known places.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading each and every chapter. In fact, you may need to pause between chapters to be able to switch over from one time and space to another. Definitely recommended for anyone who likes to travel around the country. And for those who would like to do some armchair traveling…