Category Archives: Books

Performing Heritage. No guide-speak, this.

Book Cover - PHThough long in the know of her scholarship, I was served an opportunity to participate in a heritage walk led by academician, performing artist, and cultural activist Dr Navina Jafa only last year. She had graciously acquiesced to curate a Ramazan Walk exclusively for members of the Travel Correspondents & Bloggers Group, which proved to be one of exceptional strolls undertaken through Shajahanabad in recent memory. It coincided with the roza iftar being observed in the expansive courtyard of the old city’s most evocative landmark, Jama Masjid, silhouetted against a persimmon sky.  Milling families hungrily awaited the muezzin’s sunset call to break their fast with the customary dates, bestowing upon its colossal proportions an all-encompassing vivacity hitherto un-experienced.  The trademark megaphone slung across her shoulder notwithstanding, only one feature surpassed our generally atmospheric and lively surrounds and that was Navina’s animated passion for parampara–her definition of choice for all manner of heritage.

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Feasts and Fasts – A History of Food in India

book-coverFeasts and Fasts – A History of Food in India is Chicago-based food historian Colleen Taylor Sen’s most recent culinary outing. An ambitious effort at exploring the history of Indian gastronomy, the fascinating journey of which, this richly illustrated single volume traces from the Indus Valley Civilization to its present incarnation. It is served as a detailed introduction to the dietary evolution of a diverse sub continental people since prehistoric times, with generous dollops of myriad influences that have accorded it the status of a much-preferred world cuisine today. The author peels away, chapter by chapter, how faith, climate, geography, foreign rule, among others, shaped our culinary heritage and modern day food habits.

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Walking The Himalayas By Levison Wood

img769It demands more than just a sturdy pair of legs to consider an expedition such as the one Levison Wood embarks upon in Walking The Himalayas. The promise of a Channel 4 series lessens none the daunting challenge at hand. That it has been done before offers little succour either. Because one man’s trudge across the ‘raised eyebrow over India’ (Michael Palin) could well be 1,700 high altitude miles through five (often hostile) countries over six months, for another. Ergo, it requires you to be a hard as nails ex-paratrooper, inhabitant of African and Asian wilds, globetrotter, photographer, and journalist, all rolled into one. Above all it mandates an old-fashioned notion of exploration to take you through what is irrefutably an endurance test rather than enjoyable tryst.

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Cobra In The Bath

img236Cobra in the Bath – Adventures in Less Travelled Lands, readers will find, is many things but what it is not however is your everyday travelogue.  Au contraire, this here is an engaging chronicle of a near-seven decade expedition–one that has an uncanny knack of catapulting headlong into history-shaping geographies across several continents. It revs up in an India on the cusp of her freedom, and then yaws along to Mossadegh-era Iran after hovering momentarily over an exhausted post-war England. It is found idling on pristine Greek beaches–celebrating surviving that most terrifying of British institutions, boarding school, and Oxford–before eventually parking itself firmly in financial adventuring.

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@ Home – A Complete Guide To Homestays In India

This one has been long in the making. One of my earlier assignments for Times Group Books, it took over two years to see fruition. In a way, I’m glad for that. Because the discerning demographic that endorses more relaxed encounters on the road has shaped itself into a force to reckon with since. For one, that translates into great sales. But more importantly, @Home brings together some of the best home stay options dotting Indian states.

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The Book Cafe, Kullu

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Bird’s-eye view from Bijli Mahadev

A summer visit to Kullu Valley generally mandates bye-passing the eponymous township en route Manali, its poster destination. Unsurprising, as what you see of it from across the Beas is unremarkable and uninviting. Having choked up both banks with thoughtless habitation, it is steadily crawling up the mountain-face behind it.

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Destination Chhattisgarh

sirpur-420x420The pocket guide on Sirpur, one in a set of five books on Chhattisgarh, is a milestone of sorts. It’s my first solo-author book for Lonely Planet India and I couldn’t be more chuffed. Which is not to say that the others were any less special, not least for my crazy-talented co-authors, but going forward, Pocket Sirpur will nearly always stand apart.

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Review: Amaltas Avenue By Manju Jaidka

Amaltas_AvenueAmaltas Avenue, Manju Jaidka’s third novel, is set against a backdrop of campus happenings over a period of three days during a sultry Chandigarh summer. The book focuses on a number of characters who share a common milieu, including the eponymous residential neighbourhood, even as they drift through seemingly ordinary lives, playing out mundane everyday roles at an individual level. It is not to be confused with other breezy campus writings as Amaltas Avenue in fact brings to attention more complex issues through its protagonists–often antagonists–when they are confronted by unexpected turmoil in their personal and professional arenas.

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Experience Punjab On The Road

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Punjab, long reviled for dusty flatlands and merciless summers, quite marvelously lends itself to splendid driving holidays. Not despite but because of said plains. A well-tended network of national and state highways carves through (mostly) eye-catching landscape and you are never far from this agrarian land’s defining truisms: luxuriant acreage, mustard fields, rows of eucalyptus and poplars, chugging tube-wells, waddling cattle, tractors belting Punjabi pop, haughty mutiaars and strapping ghabroos.

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