Tag Archives: travel

Chandni Chowk: The Mughal City of Old Delhi by Swapna Liddle

chandni-chowk Title: Chandni Chowk: The Mughal City of Old Delhi
Author: Swapna Liddle
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
ISBN: 978-9386050670
Genre: History and Politics
Pages: 196
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Cities have always intrigued me – more so their existence and how they came to be. Within cities sometimes you end up finding smaller cities that have their own tales to tell, provided people listen. Chandni Chowk of Delhi is one such city within a city. I also remember the first time I visited Chandni Chowk after much hesitation (I am from Bombay. I was born and raised in South Bombay. You can’t even begin to imagine the level of being a snob) and I was honestly mesmerized by it.

Initially, I didn’t think or make much of it, till I walked around in the snake-like lanes, made peace with all kinds of smells around me – from food that was being cooked to an open window of someone’s house from which there were other smells to finally the smell of comfort. I think a place like Chandni Chowk sinks into you only if you allow it to or else it will never become a part of you.

The book by Swapna Liddle is a historic tribute to Chandni Chowk and its formation over the years – from being a part of Shahjahanabad to how it came to be what it is today, over centuries. Liddle’s research is partly through the archives and mostly through what she conjures through her experiences. The book is rich with anecdotes – it chronicles the life of a city through its trials, tribulations and what it has seen through the years. My favourite part of the book was the cuisine of Chandni Chowk and how it has grown over the years. At the same time, the history of Chandni Chowk through all the wars and battles is staggeringly astonishing and deserves a read for sure.

“Chandni Chowk” is draws on a lot of sources as the story of a place progresses – from newspaper articles to accounts of Mughal chroniclers, travelers’ memories, poetry, and government documents (I was fascinated by what I read in this book. It opened a new side of this place for me). What I also felt most sad about is how this place has somehow lost its significance over the years and is lost in the hustle and bustle of the capital city. Perhaps, it will change as more people would want to know more about it. This book is the best place to begin that journey.

Swapna’s writing will compel you to visit Chandni Chowk the next time you are in Delhi (if you’re not from there), and if you are from Delhi, then it will make you want to go there again and again and discover the true essence of what was it and how it is today. Liddle’s writing is nuanced and at the same time full of brevity – she doesn’t cramp too much and that makes it way easier to read about a place. If you like reading about places, their history, their present and what they mean in today’s times, then you must include this one in your reading list.

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!

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons - Image 1

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.

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons - Image 2

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.

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons - Image 3

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Us by David Nicholls

Us by David Nicholls Title: Us
Author: David Nicholls
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN: 9780340897003
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There was a lot of buzz around “One Day” when it first released in 2009. I remember all the hype around it and decided not to read the book at all. I had of course bought it, but somehow did not want to read it or could not get into it, because of all the acclaim and the fact that almost everyone was reading it. The movie released in 2011 I think. I watched it in Bangkok, all by myself and hoping there was someone to share the experience with. “One Day” was a brilliant film according to me and then I read the book and was wowed by it in more than one ways.

Last year I received an uncorrected proof of “Us” and could not wait to get into it. With work and other matters pressing priority, the book took a backseat so to speak and I managed to read it only this month. And boy oh boy, did I love it! “Us” is written in vintage Nicholls style – with humour, some tragedy and also profundity in so many sentences that shine through the pages.

“Us” as the title suggests is about a couple and the story of their lives, quite literally from the time they met to when Connie Petersen announces to her husband Douglas that she wants out of their marriage. This is after three decades of their strong relationship. They have a moody seventeen year-old son Albie who clearly is more inclined towards his mother than his father. Connie has already planned a month-long tour to some European capitals. The timing is terrible but Douglas hopes that this will rekindle their relationship and things will change.

“Us” is a book full of hope, humour and one man’s attempts to save his marriage. The writing as I mentioned earlier is quirky, a little bit sad and told from a perspective which moves into the past and present and absolutely heart-breaking at times. “Us” is the sort of book that will make you look at your relationships differently and also make you want to work on them a little harder. The story could belong to anyone. It is because of this universal appeal that the book works on so many levels. Nicholls’ eye-for-detail is absolutely stunning. He makes you see the setting differently and the dialogues that are plenty do the rest of the work. “Us” is a heart-warming book to be read on a Sunday with lots of hot chocolate.

Do checkout the marketing video of “Us”:

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Us

Book Review: On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz

On Looking by Alexandra Horowitz Title: On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes
Author: Alexandra Horowitz
Publisher: Scribner
ISBN: 978-1439191255
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

We think we see all the time. We think we observe. We also think we possibly know the world around us the way we are meant to. We see what we expect to most of the time. Maybe our mind conditions itself to show us only those things which we want to and the ones that we do not want to, well, they just get hidden. It could happen anywhere. In a familiar neighbourhood or maybe in a place you have never been to before. Maybe it is all about perspective or maybe about security, however it exists in all of us. The way we see and perceive of our surroundings or rather what we do not see.

“On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes” by Alexandra Horowitz is a book that maybe does not teach you how to look, but definitely provides some refreshing perspectives on the subject. The premise of the book is simple: Walking around the same path in a city with different people, almost eleven people or as she says twelve, and getting their point of view. The people ranged from her son to well-known illustrator Maira Kalman to a sound designer, bringing not only different perspectives but also making her and the readers think about our own perceptions.

I have loved almost everything about the book. From the way it is written to its premise. Sometimes it did become a little stretch; however I ignored it very easily with the turn of the page. “On Looking” brings together several elements at one time – it speaks of a simple everyday act, of different people performing it, through the same track and yet provides so much in the form of perceptions and how different people discover different things.

The book is definitely interesting and well written. Very rarely do I come across something in the non-fiction genre that catches my attention, but when it does, I savour it and mostly end up enjoying it as well. We hardly pay any attention to our senses and this book is a reminder of that fact. What it also does with its simplistic writing and views, is makes you want to see things differently. To me that is the highlight of this wondrous book that ultimately speaks of seeing things closer to you than to go in search of them far and beyond. A great read for sure.

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Book Review: Planes, Trains and Auto-Rickshaws: A Journey through Modern India by Laura Pedersen

Title: Planes, Trains and Auto-Rickshaws: A Journey through Modern India
Author: Laura Pedersen
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
ISBN: 978-1555916183
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel
Pages: 224
Source: Book Pleasures
Rating: 4/5

I am an Indian. Born and raised in this diverse country, whose norms and ways of thinking might seem strange to an outsider or to someone who wants to know this country better. I guess that tends to happen a lot with writers who want to write about the country – about the so-called enigmatic land of varied cultures and traditions. The experience that start offs as being strange slowly becomes routine and a part of them, hence making the writing easy to believe. There is a context to why I said this.

I have just finished reading, “Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws: A Journey through Modern India” by Laura Pedersen. Therefore, the thoughts that were mentioned earlier. Laura Pedersen has written an account of India, through her travels in the most hilarious manner. She has infused seriousness along the way and humour definitely adds to the atmosphere/settings as described. Laura’s travels are jotted in the most candid form – from the popular stereotypes (the well-known digestive system problems that Indian food can cause) to the clichés that are soon breaking.

The book takes readers through almost all of India – covering ground from Delhi to Kolkata to Mumbai to Varanasi as well. The topics touched on are contemplative. Laura speaks of the caste system to the driving styles and the roads in question. All of this is always done with a touch of humour.

My first impression on receiving the book was, how would a person who is not from the country write about it? However, that was nothing but the initial apprehension. Laura thought of undertaking a journey through India by watching a TV Show Bewitched, with its Dr. Bombay character that propelled her to see the differences between American Indians and Indians from India. This piqued her curiosity about the lay of the land and hence the journey began with its ups and downs.

Laura compares India of the past and India as is now with a keen insight into consumerism and the way it is affecting the entire nation. I found this part in the book to be most apt and one that I could relate to easily. The way she describes the country is but obviously unbiased and objective. There are views that a reader may or may not agree with, however that should not hamper the reading experience.

I am from India and there were parts in the book that I wasn’t aware of about my own country. So for me, “Planes, Trains and Auto-Rickshaws” was not only an entertaining read, but also an informative one.

You can buy the book from HomeShop18 here