Friday, October 11, 2013

Monisha Rajesh - Around India in 80 trains

Around India in 80 TrainsAround India in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Chennai girl by origin and a British girl by nationality and upbringing, Monisha Rajesh seeks to examine her roots by opting for a journey around India in 80 trains.

The title is a nice salaam to Jules Verne.

Monisha's Phileas Fogg has a Passepartout of her own.  A photographer who is looking to improve his resume.  They are not ideal companions, but they manage to stick together through thick and thin.

As we know, taking trains in India is not an easy task.  More than anything else, you have to fight Grime.  Even a 'clean' train like a Shatabdi or a Rajdhani makes you look dusty and covered in a stink straight from an overused lavatory that just cannot be kept clean.

Then, you have to fight the awkward booking system.  Oh ok, we do have the now to aid us in booking our journeys.  But even so, booking journeys at a pinch is not easy.  For Monisha and P. it is the grim faced Anusha who helps book them into trains across India.

Next comes grappling with food.  Getting clean food to eat and clean water to drink can be a struggle when marooned at smaller stations.  Our train food is quite inedible at times and the local station food can be dodgy.

Monisha and P manage to overcome all these and survive to bring us this book.

To vow and keep up the promise to travel to as many parts of India as possible in 80 trains is a humungous task on its own.  To turn it into an entertaining book is another major task.

The book falls into that sweet spot between informative and entertaining.  It is full of witty anecdotes that keep you chuckling as you turn the pages.

I wish there was a chronological information about the trains taken.  It would have made it easy to refer to various journeys.  Also, some of the anecdotes end abruptly, making you feel something is missing.

This is a unique book.  It is about trains.  It is about diversity that is India.  It is about life.

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