Category Archives: Travelogue

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons by Mo Willems

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons by Mo Willems Title: You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons
Author: Mo Willems
Publisher: Hyperion Books
ISBN: 9780786837472
Genre: Humour, Travel, Graphic,
Pages: 393
Source: Borrowed from a Friend
Rating: 5/5

I cannot bring myself to read funny books. That is somehow not me and neither has it struck a deal with me in the past couple of years, despite trying so hard. And then a friend told me of this book called “You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons” by Mo Willems and it was the kind of book that made me laugh out loud so much so that I had to borrow it from (which again is mostly against my grain of never borrowing, never lending) her and I loved the book!

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I had heard of Mo Willems earlier as a children’s writer but this was the book that was published before his children’s books became famous. “You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons” is a travel-diary in the form of graphics and doodles and cartoons that the author experienced as he travelled almost around the world. The book has funny and unique experiences that he went through while travelling to several places and meeting different kind of people.

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The book is a delight in the sense that it is satirical, humorous and at the most laugh-out-loud as well. I absolutely loved the doodles and that’s how you can see Mr. Willems grow from being a cartoonist to an illustrator when it comes to his children’s books. The book is a travel diary in the form of cartoons, each for one day of the year and that is what makes it so different and quirky, given the illustrations. I strongly urge you to read this over the weekend.

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Book Review: Following Fish: Travels Around the Indian Coast by Samanth Subramanian

Following Fish Title: Following Fish: Travels Around the Indian Coast
Author: Samanth Subramanian
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 9780143064473
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel, Food
Pages: 184
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I believe in discovering books on my own. I do not believe in recommendations because I am scared that most people do not know what I love to read or do not care to ask. It is a fact. Most people just put a book in your hands and tell you, “You must read this.” There is nothing more to that interaction. And yet there are times when I am completely taken in by a recommendation and love it to the core. This was the case with, “Following Fish” by Samanth Subramanian that was highly recommended by a dear friend and rightly so.

“Following Fish” is a lot packed in one book. It is about food and about travel and about empathy and about different cultures existing in one country, which is India. Subramanian travels the length and breadth of the coastal parts of the country and discovers Fish, right from how the process of catching fish goes on to the making and to the cultures that influence this category of “sea food”.

What I loved about the book was its simplicity of language and at the same the core remained intact. Not at any given time does Samanth move or change tracks rapidly. Even his travels were planned and thereby the writing that emerges is fantastic. The writing is easy and not at all taxing. In fact in most places it is even funny given the nature of a travelogue when infused with food at its core. He speaks of tragedies such as tsunamis and he also talks of happy times. In the most basic way, the balance is created and maintained.

My most favourite part in the book, but obviously had to be about Mumbai and its fish. About how fish is revered in the city and what place does it have. What I also found most endearing was the way Samanth combines history with all of this. I am a firm believer in the concept of the past and how it links to everything we are made of, so this worked for me superbly while reading the book. The good thing is that this book reads very simply so and at the same time speaks of so many different things. A read if you love to travel or love food or love both.

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Book Review: Around India in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh

Around India in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh Title: Around India in 80 Trains
Author: Monisha Rajesh
Publisher: Lotus Roli Books
ISBN: 978-81-7436-913-0
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travelogue, Memoir
Pages: 243
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I had heard of Monisha Rajesh’s book “Around India in 80 Trains” at the Jaipur Literature Festival. This was last month. I was completely taken by it and had to read it. I had heard great things about it from friends, however was not willing to form my opinion before reading it. I have finally gotten around to reading it and the book and the writing left me speechless and sometimes with a strange smile on my face. When books do that to you, you know that you are with a great read. There is no other explanation and I am aware that it happens to most people. Writers who evoke these feelings need to be lauded – plenty of times if need be.

“Around India in 80 Trains” as the title suggests, is just that. Monisha decided one fine day to undertake these journeys. The thought occurred when she saw an ad/article on how some Indian airlines could now reach 80 cities. So she decided to explore the railroads of the country, through 80 trains with her co-passenger, whom she calls Passepartout (based on the characters in Jules Verne’s book, Around the World in Eighty Days). This book is about their journeys throughout the country.

One might wonder: So what is so unique about this book? There is nothing of significance. However, you are incorrect when you think that. Monisha’s ties with the country are unique and the reader only can come to know of this, if he or she wants to read the book (though she is born and brought up in the UK). It is these ties that make her sometimes question what she has come to love about the country and sometimes also change her beliefs to some extent.

The book is part-travelogue and part-memoir, which makes it even a better read, compared to the other travelogues. The descriptions are wry and sometimes hilariously alive. When she speaks of the people she meets, what she sees, what she breathes and what she eats, Monisha makes you a part of the scenery. You aren’t just a reader then. You get involved in the book. To me, that is the highlight of any writing. The writing is clear and not complex and worked for me superbly. She speaks of religion, of habits, of customs, the way people are and how they think of things. She makes you see your country through different eyes, and for once, I was amazed and ashamed of how little I knew and there is so much to see here. That thought is still germinating and eating me away somewhere.

“Around India in 80 Trains” also makes you see trains differently. The different kinds present in the country and how each of them is so different from the other. As residents of the country, we do not see the charm that they possess (no matter how little at times). In fact, I do not even know how many of us would be willing to undertake such a journey. I for one am so tempted to, sure, after reading the book. It almost feels like something that needs to be done, to experience life and the wonders and sometimes mishaps (as it happened with Monisha in the book) that it has to offer. This was my last read for this month and I am so happy that I ended with this one. It was the perfect icing on the reading cake.

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