Travel Gods Must be crazy are author Sudha Mahalingam’s part travelogue and part memoirs. I had the opportunity to travel with Sudha during one of the media trips. Remember, her telling a couple of stories mentioned in the book. I knew it then that she had a wealth of stories and anecdotes to share, given the breadth of her travels.
Sudha had the advantage of traveling with the consulting profession she chose to pursue. She took advantage of her work travels to explore the world. So, when she wrote to me informing about the publication of the book, I was more than keen to read.
30+ short stories take you across the globe, back and forth in time as Sudha tells the tales of how she landed up there and met the unexpected. I really enjoyed her adventures into remote and not so commonly visited places like Borneo, Palestine, Yingkiong, Sichuan et al. The lure of unknown adds to the storytelling.
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To the places that I have been to, I could relate to many things that Sudha says. Her story on the plight of a vegetarian traveler reminded of times when I was served precisely 6 green leaves with 2 baby tomatoes at a fixed lunch with no option to order anything instantly. You have to be a vegetarian traveler to understand this. Even in absolutely urban places like Hong Kong, I have struggled to find a vegetarian meal.
Sudha has a way of telling the tales in a way that even the ordinary cribs sound hilarious or at least amusing. For example, when a hotel booked online does not turn as expected, she not only gives you graphic details of every ordeal she faced, every monologue in her head but also comes up with interesting one-liner. In this case, she compares online hotel booking to blind dating. I can not agree more, with a smile, of course.
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What I really liked in these stories is the fact that Sudha talks about the disappointments, disillusionment, and derailments that are so much a part of travel. Not everything turns up the way you expect it to. Not every place is as serene and calm and beautiful as the tourism brochures tell you.
Yeah, not all the people you meet on the way are charming and helpful. Not all the food as delicious as food critics on glamorous TV shows make us believe. There are lost connections, there are laws brushed wrong way intentionally or unintentionally and weather can always play spoilsport.
Read More – Empires of the Indus by Alice Albinia
I learned the use of the word ‘Nary’ in place of ‘No’ or ‘Not’ or its synonyms. I had no idea the word could be used this way. Must admit that initially, I thought it is an editing mistake, only to check later that it is indeed a valid word. The author seems to be quite fond of this word.
At quite a few places, she uses words that would redirect you to the dictionary. I will attribute it to the generation she belongs to, most of us would not be able to write like that.
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Like I said some stories are anecdotes involving incidents that would make you smile or wonder. For example, you cannot but admire her grit to go skydiving at 66. At times they educate you like I was surprised to read about the Laxmi Mittal empire in remote Kazakhstan. At the same time, I was not surprised by the rise of Uzbekistan for pleasure tourism as I see a glimpse of it in parts of India too.
Read More – The Masque of Africa by V S Naipaul
The others are more of travelogues that merely take you to the destination with the author. I would not say history is Sudha’s strength. Her real strength is describing the mundane in words that make it seem not so mundane, like getting onto a passenger ferry boat on River Mekong.
Overall, I enjoyed reading ‘The Travel Gods Must Be Crazy: Wacky Encounters in Exotic Lands’. A bit of bias may have crept in as a fellow travel writer or as someone who has met and interacted with the author.
Take your call.