It is almost a year since they(twitter handles being @meetneo @sudhagee @raghavmodi) have started a Book club of sorts. TSBC or “The Sunday Book Club”, It is an informal chat group that comes together online on twitter every Sunday on a particular book topic that stems from 5-6 questions which the moderator tweets. So, last year I might have participated in less than 10 of those chats, and they are at 48th week. However, I was active only during their inception and lost touch with TSBC which was majorly due to my inactivity on twitter. But, the wonderful thing was, I won a book from those chat sessions. It was a session on Travel Books, TSBC’s 6th week on Nov 4th 2012.
The book I received was “The Penguin Book of Indian Journeys” edited by Dom Moraes having an ensemble of talented novelists and travel writers. I didn’t read it until my train journey to and fro from Hyderabad. It was especially wonderful reading it sitting on a train as green fields, rivers, dry lands, ghats and Deccan plateau passed by. The one essay by Bill Atkin, titled “The Promised Land” was about locomotives and his fascination with steam fed ones. Sitting on a train and reading that particular one was especially fulfilling.
It has 38 essays from foreign as well as Indian authors writing about Journeys, it is not just a landscape describing essay about a place. But much more.. The topics are so eclectic that, you feel like having had a full course meal. The essays go from societal, romantic, cultural, historical and personal accounts of a place or region or an individual they were traveling to. Sometimes, it covers the broader area of the whole of subcontinent. The challenges the nation is facing, economic, human rights, environmental etc etc. From the Rann of Kutch to wettest Cherapunji, from the tribes of Central India to conflict ground of Ayodhya. From the snow fed lakes of Leh to corpse burning alongside Ganges.
In a one line review, Hindustan Times says the following about the book “A wonderful synecdoche for India”, it is indeed a synecdoche. As It covers a period of the Independent to India to the late 90s. From Veerappan to Sikh Riots, From Hindutva Chauvinism to Tribal naxalism. Many of those essays were informative and enjoyable and gave something novel for me. Few of them were just revisions, but still thoroughly enjoyable with a surprising perspective or an incredible new piece of information.
Verdict: Great Read, 5/5 Thank you so much TSBC, I wouldn’t have bought this book, and that would have been tragic. 🙁
“The branching out from one’s home turf to find the grail of certainty in a strange country has little to do with names on the outer map. The coordinates ultimately have to be arranged within you.”
-Bill Aitken on “The Promised Land”