Sunday, 28 September 2014

Can we be strangers again?


I love meeting strangers
For some strange reasons
With no expectations and 
Disappointments that follow
It allows the heart to flow
The way it wants
Without any wants
Of anything in return
There is a warmth in
Having a person as your company
No matter even if he is a stranger
When you are travelling alone
When you are trudging a path on your own
But this gayness doesn't last long
Your heart wants to experience
The joy again
But the next time you meet
You are no longer strangers
You have expectations
And impressions
Which will not always be met
The flower has withered

The stream has been polluted
Can we make the withered

Flower flower again?
Can we clean the stream
To make it innocent again?
Can we be strangers again?

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Chapter 16 - Midnight's secrets

You can read the previous part of the story here

Shekhar was rearranging the clothes in the cupboard. Suddenly his hands fell upon his sweater. The blue coloured sweater with flowers in gold and silver was very special for him. The weather of Mumbai never required him to wear a sweater. It was never that cold in Mumbai to cover oneself in sweater. But still Shekhar had not given his sweater away. It was his last connection with the chilling winter of Delhi. He held the sweater close to his bosom. His heart missed a beat. He wished he could be there in Delhi just to feel that cold again. Back then he cursed the freezing cold in Delhi. But today he missed everything about Delhi. His eyes swelled with tears, some of which fell upon the golden, silver flowers of the sweater, making it resemble like morning dew.

His house in Delhi which at one time was in a village abutting Delhi, was now a part of New Delhi. Urbanization had taken his tiny village into its lap. Moreover, both his past and present lay in Delhi. Sophia had Asthma. She would have pangs of breathlessness. Doctors in Mumbai had advised him to move the child from humid weather of Mumbai to some place where the air was dry. Tara was reluctant to move to Delhi. Finally with much convincing on the part of the doctor, she agreed to keep the child with Shekhar's parents. That was the reason why after summer vacations Sophia stayed back in Delhi. Her deteriorating health miraculously improved during her stay in Delhi. Roohi missed Sophia a lot. She joined her in Christmas vacation. But on the birthday of son of the God – Jesus, Shekhar lost his daughter, who was an apple of his eye.

***

She was ready for the shoot. Having been there for so many years, she knew that acting in movies was not as glamourous as it appeared to the outsiders. She wore hear make up. She dreaded those false eye lashes but it was a professional hazard. The set was ready. The reflectors were set. The cameraman checked the lighting. The spot boy went to call her. She was now a big star. So she waited in her vanity van until the shot was called. She walked to the set. Her walk was gracious, elegant and glamourous.

Laila ready? Lights.... camera.... action....” Yelled the director.
Laila, the epitome of beauty, unfastened the belt of her nightgown as she heard the last word action. She stood stark naked. Every gleam of the lights touched her naked body wherever it could. Soon two hunks joined her in the frame and the shoot continued as usual. There were no dialogues to be recited, just action to be performed.

But still Laila liked her profession. It was far better than her earlier profession – prostitution. Laila had come from Uzbekistan to Delhi to stay with her friend, who was studying in Delhi University. After staying with her, she realized that her friend doubled up as a prostitute to look after her expenses. Uzbekistan is a hot sex tourism spot for Indian men. It is not uncommon to find a flight full of Indian men flying from or to Taskent, which is capital of Uzbekistan. Though Uzbekistan has not yet acquired the reputation of the kind Thailand has, the men with taste know that Uzbekistan is the place for them. No wonders Uzbekistani girls fetch a large price in the flesh market. The price pulled Laila into the profession. But soon she was sick of it. Having it daily with middle aged Indian men with balding heads and protruding paunches was nauseating. But there did not seem to be any way out. She dreamed of becoming an actress. Many of her clients had told her that her jaw line resembled that of Katrina Kaif. She had the height, the fair skin and the figure. Now her life had a new aim, that of becoming an actress.

She sent her pictures to many casting agents. She received call from one agent in Mumbai. She was told that she was selected for the role over the phone itself. She flied to Mumbai and visited the address told by the agent. She was given a fat pay cheque and made to sign some papers. After wearing her make up she asked the director for her lines. He sniggered and asked her to take off her clothes. She protested. He said she was bound by the contract. Still she said no. Finally a police officer dropped in. His tobacco stained teeth looked ugly as well as menacing. Laila was scared she had overstayed her visa limit. Her fearful eyes met his piercing eyes and she dropped her clothes in front of the camera. Soon Laila the prostitute, became Laila the porn star and relocated in Mumbai. She earned an amount equal to her annual income as a prostitute in a picture. She was still not completely out of the flesh trade. But now her clientele was upmarket, comprising of industrialists, politicians and bureaucrats.

It was not Laila did not find true love in all these years. She knew love for a girl like her was a journey with no destination. But still she was content that some one loved her beyond her body. He wrote several love letters to her. Laila, though a girl of easy virtues, loved him the most. She did not wish that he should get defamed as a result of alliance with a girl like her. So she taught him the trick of how to write on a blank paper in invisible ink. Only she knew how to make the writing visible. The two of them enjoyed this game like teenage lovers. Other girls in the trade wondered what Laila did with the blank pages. Only she knew the trick.

***

Laila's shoot was over. She had a hectic day. She went to her vanity again. She sat in her armchair and was sipping her coffee, when the spot boy came in and told her in Hindi, “Panchali tera cheel haran karne Duryodhan aa gaya hai.” All that she could comprehend was that Duryodhan had come. She kept her half filled cup on the table. Her body began to quiver. Her eyes met those piercing eyes again. A wicked smile broke on his countenance. Laila like always dropped her clothes to serve him the way he wished.

***

Her mouth was gagged. Unable to bear the excruciating pain, Sophia breathed the last when the demon was still saddled over her. Realizing that the young life had been sacrificed, he stood upright and zipped his pants and left the scene. Within few minutes, she arrived at the spot. She pierced a thorn on the child's tender sole. Something moved with her. She unwrapped a toffee, caressed the child's face, which still appeared terrified and placed the toffee in its mouth. She left the blank page at a few feet and scurried. Satan was pleased. 


Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com.
#CelebrateBlogging with us.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Mad Money Journey - book review


Though CBSE has introduced stock markets in its curriculum, most of the India is financially illiterate. People have all the money lying in their accounts, but still they seldom know how to make that money work for them. Taking advantage of this disadvantaged population are the marketing guys ready to offer hassle free loans to help you buy your dream holiday home overlooking the vale, or that SUV which you always hankered to buy.

Mehrab Irani's Mad Money Journey should be welcomed for it speaks about financial literacy. In the Indian literary scene very few books have been written on the topic of money, that too in a language which even a common man can understand. On this count alone Mad Money Journey should receive all the adulation.


Mad Money Journey is a financial adventure. A successful orthopedic surgeon by name John Pinto is in neck deep financial crisis. His unsuccessful suicide bid reintroduces him to his childhood friend Vijay Desai. Vijay arranges for his financially ailing friend a 30 days around the world trip, which will offer him the wisdom to get well soon. On this journey he will meet mentors who too have faced a financial disaster, owing to some reason or the other, at various points of their lives and have emerged as winners after a little help from Vijay. So John's financial adventure will take him to Thailand, Afghanistan, China, Australia, Kenya, South Africa, USA, England and Deolali and Haridwar in India. He will meet people from all walks of life – a prostitute, a terrorist, a mystic, a runner, a gracious daughter, a happy family man, a divorced man managing his two daughters on his own, a widow of a gold retailer, an army man and a sage. Each of them has a special lesson to impart to him regarding money.

The book speaks of what is an asset and what is a liability. It tells us what is positive leverage and negative leverage. It reiterates that insurance should not be mixed up with investments. It explains how exposure to equity markets will help to cope up with inflation. It steals the sheen away from gold as a lucrative investment option. It introduces us to the concepts of running income and asset income. The book also answers the questions as to whether you should buy a house, if yes whether you should borrow money from a financial institution and whether you should opt for fixed or floating interest rates. In keeping with the age old adage, don't keep all your eggs in the same basket says the book while talking about asset allocation.

The writing is simple, crispy and soothing. Mehrab's characters are of different nationalities with their peculiar traits. In a very little space, he breathes life into them by making them human with their own sets of tragedies and never say die attitudes. Their pasts justify the lessons which they impart. The book is as much about these people and their lives as it is about money. The same can be said about travel. While imparting lessons about finance, the book takes us on a world tour making us taste all the international cuisine in the homes of locales and arranges a visit to the tourists attractions as well.

The book emphasizes on strong moral values. Mehrab tells us that you can not be financially successful in the real sense unless you have loving relations, good character, respect for the law and a generous heart. This is an eyeopener for many people who are ever ready to do anything for money. To double your net worth, first double your self-worth, he says. He also makes a revelation by saying that happiness come free i.e money can not buy happiness. About change he says, change is the hardest at the beginning, messiest in the middle and best at the end. For those who claim to get tips from the insiders, he says that tips are for waiters not for investors. An investor chases value while a speculator chases price. The book is abound with such one liners and is bound to make the reader financially literate while relating the same to incidents, some of which are humorous and some poignant.

The book says that the protagonist was a prisoner of money. The basic premise of the book is don't work for money, let money work for you. So the book compares financial advisors with pimps. The book opines about education in a manner which may be unacceptable for the majority. One wonders how  and why do all the financially successful people who impart lessons to the protagonist have flawless skins and look younger than their age.

Yet, the book is an interesting read. Once you start reading the book you will not keep it down until you have finished. Incorporating travel, food, morality, friendship, real men and women along with the financial wisdom, Mehrab has ensured that book will turn out to be a block buster. Given the financial illiteracy rampant in our country, the book is a must read.

If you are avid reader, you would agree with me when I say that Mad Money Journey can be mathematically expressed as

Rich Dad Poor Dad + The Monk who sold his Ferrari = Mad Money Journey

Nevertheless this book should be embraced as till date many, including both rich and poor, have not even heard the word financial literacy.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Twist in the tale

I have always hankered to visit all the wonderful places on the earth. My parents were not very fond of travelling. My father never liked to go out of his town. To top it my school never arranged for an excursion. All this made travelling even attractive. I remember reading the glossy advertisements in the newspapers and magazines about all those lovely destinations. After reading it, in my mind I would start my own calculations. If I save this amount for these many months I can afford to go on this tour I thought. I was not earning then and was totally dependent on my parents. The cheapest trip was Ashtavinayak yatra costing Rs.1500/-. Yes, I indeed remember the exact cost of the tour. The travel never materialized as I was never able to save that much amount.

Many many years later I went to Mumbai to study. I even took up a small time job to support my studies. Mumbai satisfied my urge to see the world to some extent. So on Sundays I visited all the attractions in Mumbai - Mahalaxmi temple, Mumbadevi temple, Haji Ali mosque, ISKCON temple, Mount Mary chruch, Juhu and Girgaum Chowpatty, Babulnath temple, Kanheri and Elephanta caves, and my favourite Banganga tank. But still the itch to see the world did not die. I had seen almost every spot in Mumbai. I had developed a liking towards old architecture, particularly rock-cut caves. 

I made plans to visit the world famous Ajanta and Ellora caves. No friend of mine was willing to accompany me on the said tour. They were more interested in the sea. They suggested we should go to Goa or Alibaug. I detested sea for no particular reason. Ajanta and Ellora remained buried somewhere down in my mind.

I applied for another job with a company which had its presence throughout Maharashtra. I wished that if I got selected for the job, I should get a posting in my home district. I got a call conveying that I have been selected. I went to the company's office and requested them to kindly place me in my home district. I told them that I was the only child of my parents and my old parents lived alone in my home town. They assured me that my request would be definitely look into as it was the policy of the company that to place employees in their home districts so that their work efficiency is enhanced.  A smile broke on my face on hearing this.

Two weeks later I received a letter from the company to join my place of posting at the earliest. I saw my place of posting - it was Aurangabad. It was good 800 km from my hometown. I was unhappy that I was not posted near my home town. I was disheartened that the company had not kept its word regarding its policy.

Reluctantly I took my bags and boarded a train for Aurangabad. As soon as I alighted at Aurangabad one board caught my attention. It said "Alight here to visit Ajanta and Ellora caves." My joy knew no bounds. I wondered how I did not know that the places which I hankered to visit where located in Aurangabad District.  I just threw my bag in the company guest house and the first thing which I did was visiting Ajanta and Ellora caves.

I have been posted at this place for more than five years and have lost the count of how many times I have been to Ajanta and Ellora. I have been virtually staying within the radius of 40 km of the historic structures, which I had been dying to visit. Indeed God is great. He knows what His children want. But His ways of execution are best known to Him.


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Chapter 9 Res ipsa loquitur


Name of the Team  - Writers' Den
Chapter 1 : Mens Rea
Chapter 2 : A Morning Star
Chapter 3 : The Cursed One
Chapter 4 : The Vanquished
Chapter 5 : The Insurmountable
Chapter 6 : The Vulnerables
Chapter 7 : Her Last Voice
Chapter 8 : Survival of the Fittest


The police had rushed to the crime scene. The body of the little girl - Sophia lay in a pool of blood. The police had a hard time in guarding the crime scene and keeping the onlookers away. The police manual required that a panchnama was drawn up immediately. The purpose of preparing the panchnama is to describe the crime scene in detail and collect material pieces of evidence, if any, found from the spot of the crime. The rules require that the panchnama drawn by the police must be signed by two respectable members of the society. Independent members as panchas served as a check against false implication of an innocent person by the police. However, experience showed that no respectable members of the society were interested in signing the panchama. Why? They didn't want to be troubled by being summoned as a witness in the Courts. Their only achievement was criticizing the state of affairs of the country while sipping their morning cup of tea while skimming through the newspapers. The police had to obey the rule of law. So the general practice is that the police have their own punters or habitual panchas. No matter whether there is a theft of your footwear or contraband goods are seized, the same panchas will sign the panchnama.

So the police had prepared the panchnama. The inside truth was that police hardly drew panchnama at the spot. They just wrote it sitting in their chowkis and made the panchas sign it. However, this being rape and murder of a minor child, was a high profile case. So the police had no option but to make it to the spot. A heavy built officer in his late forties with tobacco stained teeth and with a unique name Duryodhan Desle was heading the investigations. Duryodhan sat at a nearby shanty which doubled up as a tea stall as his subordinates were completing the formalities. Duryodhan was enjoying his smoke and sipping tea in between. 

He was disturbed by a constable. “What brings you here?” reprimanded Duryodhan. “Sir there is a man with a unique request.” said the subordinate standing upright. “ You son of a whore, whether your mouth is stuffed with …. that you can not tell me who he is?” roared Duryodhan. “Sir I have not asked him his name. I just came to inform you at the earliest. He wants to sign the panchnama as a panch.” Duryodan was intrigued. In his entire career spread over almost three decades, he had never come across a person who had volunteered to be a panch. In fact people had to be coaxed and at times even threatened to sign it. He lifted his heavy frame and walked to the spot. “What is your name?” he asked the young lad. “Cyrus” said the young man while adjusting his specs.

***
It was not that Cyrus had shared everything with JJ. They were just using each other, trying to extract the information from the other. Cyrus had deliberately been to the scene of crime. He knew how shabbily the investigations were being conducted. He had heard his father, when he was high, saying that he attributed all his success to the poorly conducted investigations. Cyrus knew that the investigating agencies of our country were poorly manned, ill-equipped and lacked the necessary training. There was no other way that he could have got an opportunity to see the things first hand. Luckily Duryodhan had agreed to make him a panch.

Cyrus displayed on his study table his prized possessions - three precious pieces of evidence which he had collected from the spot. He had seen there was thorn in the child's leg. He had managed to secretly pick it up while the constables were busy doing their mundane duties. He had also found a blank piece of paper in the channel near the rail tracks where the body of Sophia was found. The paper was totally blank with nothing written over it. But his inner instinct had made him pick it up. Thirdly Cyrus had seen that there was a toffee placed into Sophia's mouth. It appeared that it was put into her mouth after killing her. It was impossible for him to take it out. But he had picked up the wrapper of the toffee from a little distance.

Preening at these pieces of evidence, Cyrus wondered if these pieces of jigsaw would make the picture complete or were these the tricks of a hardened criminal to waylay the investigating machinery.

Res ipsa loquitur.” He said aloud. The Latin maxim meant let the thing speak for itself.

The restlessness had kept him awake till midnight. He felt that the things which he had cleverly collected from the spot of incident, were shouting out to him. They had something to say. But he was unable to comprehend. His reasoned brain told him that all this was bullshit and such things happen only in novels. The conflict between his mind and brain created the stress. Finally sometime in the midnight,  his head became heavy and his eyes closed involuntarily and he slipped into sleep.

His sleep was broken by loud thumps on the door. The thud on the door showed no signs of stopping. That made Cyrus get up from his bed. Rubbing his eyes he walked to the door and opened the door. It was still dark outside. “You are arrested Mr. Cyrus,” said Duryodhan as he handcuffed him. 

You can read the next part of the story here


Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com.
#CelebrateBlogging with us.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Mens Rea

Name of the team Writer's Den

It wasn’t a dark and stormy night but quite the opposite actually.  Yes, the atmosphere was serene and the full moon beaconed with its gentleness, unhindered by the clouds. The trees stood standstill as if frozen by the winter of December.  The whole city had slept into the grave. Everything seemed to be calm and quiet. But still waters run deep, every smile swallows a sorrow, every success engulfs a tale of injustice and every peace has a convulsion within. The victorious calmness had conquered the entire Delhi. But it utterly failed to succeed on his mind. Vibrant thoughts – positive, negative and futile, pounced upon his stoic mind, just like a group of lechers ravishing a naïve woman. The mind cried out, volleyed and made inept attempts to relieve itself from the clutches of the mighty thoughts, but ended up conceiving through the furious attack!

Cyrus Daruwala had everything. He was tall, fair and handsome. Born in an illustrious family of lawyers, he was taking the family baton forward. It was never a question of his choice. It was decided that he would take law. No one had asked him about it. There were no discussions about it. It was as if everyone knew that he would opt for law. It was not the case that he disliked law either. He had been hearing about murder trials, bail applications and writ petitions since he was in his mother’s womb. 

But there was a disappointment when he entered the law college. The subjects were tad boring. Studies were all about mugging up the definition of torts and the State. He had never heard the words torts and State in his home. There was a vast difference between legal theory and legal practice. Cyrus had always dreamt of cracking the most challenging cases. Passing the exams was necessary to fight out in the courts of law as a lawyer. But somehow he was still against the idea of just cramming the definitions and the Latin maxims. He felt the curriculum of law was devoid of any practical experience. Yes, there were two practical papers by names professional etiquettes and bar-bench relations and drafting, pleading and conveyancing. But the practical experience comprised simply of copying from the previous year’s journal. 

This was taking a toll on Cyrus, physically and mentally. He tried talking to his father a couple of times. But his father shove him away saying that this is how it was and everyone has to pass through this phase. What was frustrating is that all his classmates were alright with it. They bunked the lectures, hung out in canteens, dated girls, mugged up in the night before the exams and obtained some timely help from friends in the examination halls. Cyrus was so unlike them. He lost interest in studies. Rather he lost interest in life. Today when all his friends were away, he was all alone in his room. His future worried him. He was sure he could not sustain this way. There appeared to be no way out. He could not even think of dropping from the course. 

Death would be the panacea to all his problems. The thought crept in his mind. But fortunately it did not sustain for long. He had lofty dreams. His love for life made him to give up the thought of self killing.  He started telling himself that he had to live. Like every youth of this nation, he wanted to do something different without knowing what it was.  There was a reason for him to live and he prayed the Almighty to reveal the reason to him at the earliest. Standing erect he held his hands high and stretched his entire body and again sat on his study chair. He opened his book and started to read. 

“Actus not facit reum nisi mens sit rea.” He read aloud while scratching his goatee. The Latin maxim meant that to constitute an offence there must be two things – actus, the wrongful act and mens rea, the evil intention. Mere intention to kill was not punishable unless and until the murder was already committed. Cyrus’s intention of giving up studies and taking up something practical was by no chance an evil intention. But in the chilly nights of Delhi there was someone who had shared an evil intention with his beloved. The conspiracy which they had hatched kept these two lovers warm in the freezing winter night, when the whole city was sleeping like a log of wood. They were just waiting for the actus, the wrongful act to be carried out – at the right time, right place and by the right person. For not only in books of law but in real life as well it was not the intention but the act that made all the difference.

You can read the next part of the story here

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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Dialogues with Swami Dayananda - book review

Though Yoga has become contemporary and has had a wide reach, the concept of Vedanta has remained an esoteric science. There is a general impression that Vedanta is difficult to comprehend, you must be learned in Sanskrit to understand the same and it is best left to those who wear saffron clothes and stay in a Ashram. This small book sheds away all these misconceptions. In the words of the author “Vedanta is a complete knowledge; it covers every aspect of life. It covers psychological aspects as well.” The book answers commonly asked questions like why do people go to the Himalayas for self-knowledge, what is moksha, idol worship and many more in a very convincing way. 

With the picture of Swamiji in saffron robes on the cover, we carry an impression that he would answer the questions in an orthodox manner. To our pleasant surprise Swamiji gives candidly honest answers which touch us. So Swamiji tells us that there may be pitras or there may not be pitras (for whom you perform Shraddha). He tells us that there is no proof of pitras actually receiving the offerings. He tells us that the same is done only because it is written in the scriptures. He does not tell us that what is written in scriptures is always true. In consonance with the controversial guru Osho, this Swami of Shankaracharya order says that institutionalized religion is a problem, ideologies are destructive and moksha is when time swallows everything. So in sleep there is no time, in a moment of joy there is no time and this is what moksha is.  In today's commercial age where everything, including enlightment, can be experienced on payment of hefty fees, Swamiji cautions us by saying that Vedanta is knowledge not a happening. 

Though the book may appear to be very heavy for the beginners, if you keep patience for first few pages, you are surely to find a treasure alcove. He says you do not require a special experience like Samadhi to have an experience of yourself. It is enough to analyse your experience in waking, dreaming and deep sleep. One of the reasons for why Vedanta is not as popular as yoga appears to be that Vedanta is devoid of mysticism. According to Swamiji, when a tradition of teaching is not involved, it becomes mystical.  He says everything, including asana, pranayama, pratyahara, is useful. It all depends upon what you want. They are useful to gain a quiet mind. But if you think these practices are going to solve the problem of knowing yourself, that is not true. Faith he says all depends upon the past experiences and belief in one’s own judgment. His teachings reveal Vedanta is neither for nor against idol worship. He says nobody worships the idol; everybody worships the Lord. He does not harp upon eliminating all the thoughts in mind. According to him self-realization is not elimination of thoughts. It is to know the fact that I am the Self.  He says only when you do not struggle with mind, it is at peace.  He says even the wisemen like Vyasa had thoughts. If there are no thoughts a person will turn into stone. This is something new for spirituality which keeps on telling us, through books and talks, to live in the moment and strive to be thoughtless. 

Unlike the sects which encourage a newbie to be a renunciate and join their tribe, Swamiji tells Sanyasa is not for everyone. Everyone can be a Kamayogi, but Sanyasa is given only to a few. He stresses that being a Saint is not about performing miracles but being pure. This only eastern mind can comprehend of.  The book is an eye-opener for those who think that Indian philosophy is about not working and accepting whatever comes your way. Swamiji tells us that Indian philosophy is all about doing your best for a given problem and then forgetting about it. He says local problems (even in the body say a pain in the knee) need to be treated locally and not to make a fuss out of it by saying I am in pain. The writing style is very simple and smacked with examples from day-to-day life. The book is written with sole objective of giving a primer on Vedanta and not to convert any one. The book indeed tells many practical things about spirituality which have till date not come to the fore. Hence, I highly recommend the book for everyone who has keen interest in spirituality.

Monday, 8 September 2014

If it's Monday it must be Madurai - book review

If it’s Monday it must be Madurai is not a travelogue, in the sense it will not (always) tell you which places to visit for sightseeing, where to eat and where to stay. It will not always help you in planning your travels. But it will definitely help you in knowing your countrymen. 

The book though claims to be a conducted tour of India has two tours of foreign countries as well. One being Europe tour and another being Uzbekitstan. Until I read the book for me travel was all about visiting beautiful places. But the book tells us of many other travels as well like sex tourism and slum tourism. Yes I was aware of the fact that Indians go to Thailand to have fun. But I did not know that having fun can be the sole purpose of a tour. 

Travelling is an intrinsic part of our culture in the form of yatras or holy pilgrimages. The book tells us about some enterprising people who are using the same format to give a platform to folk singers and document indigenous knowledge. The book will take you on a tour of temples in Tamil Nadu, Europe, Jaisalmer fort, Kochi fort, Uzbekistan, slums in Mumbai, Assam Meghalaya, Kabir Yatra, Shodh Yatra in Madhya Pradesh and the  humble, traditional, holy pilgrimage of devotees in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka viz. Vari to Pandharpur. As stated earlier the book is more about people than places. It is about the wisdom one gathers while being on the move. In the writer’s own words, travelling with a group, offers glimpses of life in different places and conditions, provides intimate access to the lives of others. The book tells many things which you many not find in travelogues.



As regards the conducted Europe tours are concerned the author tells us how such tours are only about clicking the spots in the itinerary (outside view without going inside) and photoshops simply to give the newly rich middle class the feeling that they have reached a position in life where they can afford foreign travel. The book is an eye-opener for all those who hanker to visit a foreign land after seeing full page advertisements of tour operators in newspapers and magazines. It brings a revelation that conducted foreign tours are for those who have the money and want to boast of a foreign travel, without actually seeing anything.  The book also tells that had it not been for the money they bring, Indians are unwelcome in Europe for they do not bathe in shower or bathtub but on the floor. There have been instances where Indians have been fined for not using shower or bathtub. It also takes digs at Indians overeating and how taking care (in the Indian style) of those who are suffering indigestion on a European train can actually create a scene.

The chapter on Jaisalmer fort gives the reader a delight of actually visiting the fort. The Brahmin old lady who runs an in-house restaurant out of self-respect and serves the writer kersangri deserves a salute. She strikes a chord with you instantly. The book has many witty lines like a South Indian, who when being asked how does the Indian food cooked by European cooks taste, says that as long as there is curd everything tastes good. You can easily relate to such characters, rather people, for you have come across them or may have them as a family member or you yourself show such traits. The slum tourism tries to show the slums not as a dirty place but as an enterprising colony generating revenues in millions. It tells how disappointed the foreigners are on discerning that slums are actually houses with TV sets, beds and children who go to school. The book rightly underlines how our tourism is taking a toll on the environment, which also includes humanity. 

The book has an attractive cover. But I wonder why a book priced at Rs. 499 could not afford to have colour photographs and settled for ugly black and white instead. The title of the book appears to have been picked randomly, without having any reference thereto in the book.  If you love people you will love this book. If you are looking for a book to plan your travels, to avoid disappointment, I advise you to pick up the books which come with the words travel guides in their names.