This book is a series of ten essays about conducted tours in India. Right from hanging on to a camel in the Thar; rediscovering music on the trail of Kabir; joining an ancient pilgrimage; and hunting for sex in Tashkent.
The author here, speaks more about the co-travelers and their quirkiness (mostly!) than about the places per se. But believe me when I say I had to stop at regular intervals not able to contain my fits of laughter on reading about certain kinds of people.
Well.. I should say this book was a bundle of information for me, as well. I hadn’t known sex tourism was so rampant in Uzbekistan that people from India line up to go there. I hadn’t known that there were conducted tours to Dharavi in Bombay alone; and that it had takers, primarily foreigners. I was so thrilled to read there are groups of people going around places along with semi-established singers singing Kabir’s songs. And, then, there are groups that travel by foot during the peak of winters/summers in the interiors of India just to learn about demography.
My childhood days were primarily inhabited by these ‘conducted tour’ vacations and so I could relate to the characters in the book much. The first chapter in the book is about the conducted tour of Tamil Nadu. The author pointed out that every time a kovil gopuram is seen, the passengers would want to stop the bus and have a look at the temple. I remember going on the same tour when I was a 11 or 12 year old. Then, the entire bus voted out Pondicherry and included PaLani in the itinerary ‘cos they wanted to ‘cover’ as many temples as they could. Also, we would’ve been the only people to go to Kodaikanal and visit a temple. I remember we children being bored to death by the end of the trip. Sigh.
Like this, there are several observations that the author makes which makes the book a fascinating read. So yes.. Go for it. You might not be disappointed.