Travel can mean so many things to so many people. It essentially means getting out of your surroundings – internal or external. And stepping into an unknown and discover it through a juxtaposition of your own backdrop. Namita Gokhale has picked up 26 established names of the contemporary literary circuit and asked them to describe a journey for this anthology Travelling In, Travelling Out. A lot of these pieces were published earlier elsewhere and has been brought in. While I assume the others were written afresh for this edition.
I loved the piece by Ipsita Roy Chakraverti on her visit to Bhangarh. And her description of the place from her experience of sensing the spirits that lived there and her attempt to free the place from them. We do not hear such experiences very often. Not from someone who is a trained Wiccan.
Urvashi Bhutalia’s piece on visiting Pakistan for a radio program and taking an Indian to his native village. There is emotional and leads to many Whys and Hows that we know will never be answered. This is a piece that will make you empathize with the torn apart part of India.
Ashok Ferry is hilarious in his short piece on a Maharaja – somewhere in Rajasthan. I also liked Aman Nath’s piece that was like a disjointed summing up piece for the book, that I would have placed at the end.
Devdutt Pattanaik gives his historical and mythological take on travel. And it’s always good to read him.
Bhutan’s Queen’s piece echoes the simplicity of the place and her legend of smallpox will remain in my memory for a long time.
Mishi Saran’s piece on tracing the legacy of Tatas in China was intriguing. As was Navtej Sarna’s discovery of an Indian corner in Jerusalem. Saba Naqvi brings alive the Muslim Goddess of Sunderbans. Nisha Susan traces the globalization of Gond Art. And how it has impacted the families involved. Kota Neelima’s piece takes you to the most crowded place of faith in the country, but being an excerpt it leaves you wanting.
Marie Brenner says what is now becoming the ‘Coming out of the Indian Stereotype’ of those who think this is a land of enlightenment.
Mayank Auten Soofi’s piece is like his blog posts – looking at a corner and saying – here used to be… And with him sometimes I wonder where the line between fact and fiction is. Advaita Kala’s piece is also typically her – a small incident that blows up into a story. Jerry Pinto sticks to cliché Dharavi. Rahul Pandita’s piece is an extract from his book. Wendell Rodricks continue to share his love for Goa – this time through his cuisine. Dayanita Singh’s piece I found a bit odd and out of place. But can’t deny that photography is another way of discovery.
The book Travelling In, Travelling Out is a mélange of discoveries. Some usual some unusual but discoveries nonetheless. A well-edited book that you can keep by your bedside and read a story at a time. In the age of travel blogs where every detail of a destination is available at the fingertips – it is good to see some stories that come from human interactions, from the pages of history. And from having traveled to not so glamorous locations.