Monsoon of 2012
The wind lashes at your face and the rainfall makes it difficult to see ahead clearly. But to peer on and continue riding the bike on gorgeous roads with gay abandon is possible in few places. One of which is Goa. We’re not talking about a speed junkie racing his modified bike, we’re making a plan for you – who rides a Vespa or a Scooty Pep, and is cautious around the corners.
Live a different Goa in monsoon – forget the beach for a day, and fill your bike’s fuel tank to its fullest. Look forward to lush paddy fields flanking the empty, palm-lined roads and maybe even close your eyes for a few quick seconds while riding. Zip up the small sling bag inside the windcheater and let your hair down. Get drenched. Be drenched the whole day. Don’t fix on a destination; just keep enjoying the road. Drive slow and enjoy each beautiful turn and bridge.
Enjoy the grey sky, the puddles that spray water on either side as you ride through, and halt a while on the bridges to say hello to the river in spate. Grin at fellow tourists as you pass them on the bike. Rush inside a restaurant and take a few seconds to wipe your brow dry. Look for a street facing table and order a mug of feni, the local alcoholic favourite, brewed from cashews. Attack the plate of hot fish xacuti. Do not drink much, for it’s soon time to be back on the road again.
If you’re riding pillion, it’s time to swap seats. Take charge and veer in the direction you like. Petrol is available in most stores, and you’ll never get lost. If you do, smile and ask a local for the main road. Sing rain songs aloud while riding. And as the sun dips down on the horizon, begin the ride back to your cottage.
What I read last week (Reviews of Sons of Sita; Paperback Original; The Perks of being a Wallflower)
I’ve been reading well lately and feel pretty good about it. Here are short reviews about the books I read last week.
Sons of Sita by Ashok Banker
This book serves as the eighth and the final in the Ramayana Series by Banker, although it’s independent and you can follow the book even if you haven’t read the first seven. It traces the story of Luv and Kush, Rama and Sita’s twins, how the 10-year olds capture the sacred stallion of the Ashwamedh Yagna, hereby challenging Emperor Rama’s army. With their unbelievable talent in archery and a little help from bhramaan, they win the battle, of course.
Sons of Sita, as most other books by Banker, is a tedious read and seems overtly descriptive. But if you’re used to reading him, then it’s interesting, and toward the end, disappointing. He describes Rama to have become the embodiment of cruelty, but does not offer a reason as to why that happens. I was looking forward to an interesting explanation, but only a feeble one was offered in a paragraph.
Pick up the book only if you’ve read his other ones.
Title: Sons of Sita | Published by: Wisdom Tree | Price: Rs 260 approx | Number of pages: 388
Paperback Original by Will Rhode
I had an absolute blast reading this one, and it’s now among my few favourites. It’s written in first person, where Josh King is a British traveller in India. Not the fancy white traveller, more the hippe ones you find in the basement restaurants of Old Manali and streets by the creek in Goa. The ones who live in cheap guesthouses in the Himalayas and socialise by passing each other the chillum. They’re the ones who’ve sold their passports years ago and have been living in India since a few decades. Some of them also sport dredlocks.
Josh bums around India and wants to write a bestseller to make money. He realises that he cannot be a passive observer but will need to participate actively in the plot for it to go anywhere. And all hell breaks loose when he gets involved with the beautiful Yasmin, crack dealers, a former Bollywood star, the Mumbai mafia and the Pakistanis. Yes, it’s quite a plot. More than the plot thought, I loved the book because of the fabulously insightful way in which Rhode’s written it. It’s obvious to a reader that Rhode has indeed experienced everything he mentions in the book, and not just hashed details off the Internet. Brilliant are the parts where he describes one of the times when he and a friend share the chillum with a couple of travellers and when he embarks on a ride on a Royal Enfield.
Because of my recent months spent living in Goa and interacting with several travellers like Josh, I enjoyed the novel even more. Some of gems from the book:
Josh is thinking about selling his passport, but realises that, “Half the attraction of coming to India is the ability to leave it.” Appalling to me as an Indian reader, but so true! He’s sitting at a tea stall and watching two young boys trying to get their car started. There’s a whole bunch of passersby looking at them also. “Watching other people with public problems was always a good way to waste time in India,” he observes.
Well, I did love the book and every time I sat to read it, I kept a pencil handy, to underline sentences I identified with or found intriguing. I think I must continue the habit with other books too.
If there’s a flower child in you, you’ll love the book; if you believe the hipsters are just wannabes, even then you’ll love it, for Rhode is often sarcastic. What luck! Go buy the book.
Title: Paperback Original (In some editions, title is changed to Paperback Raita.) | Published by: Riverhead Books| Price: Rs 670 approx | Number of pages: 455
The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I’ll admit I got on to this book pretty late. It’s about a socially awkward American teenage boy who narrates episodes of his life at home, school and with friends, by way of writing ‘dear diary’ type letters to a friend. I found this style boring and after a couple of chapters, was ready to leave the book unfinished. But then, it’s a short read and I ended up completing it, in the hope that something exciting happens. Well, nothing did.
This novel simply recounts all the stereotypes of an American family that we’ve seen enough times in sitcoms such as The Wonder Years. It’s the same old stuff – classmates labelling the nerd as a freak, sport-playing elder brother, mother doesn’t interfere when father is talking, drunk members at hated family reunions on Thanksgiving and Christmas, death of a close friend, parents of friends divorcing, friends smoking and doing drugs and the works.
What made it even more boring is that it is narrated by the teenager. Now, I really wouldn’t listen to any geeky teenager talk at such length about his boring life. Seriously. The film adaptation of this book has Emma Watson; perhaps then you can bear the wallflower!
Title: The Perks of being a Wallflower | Published by: Simon & Schuster India | Price: Rs 290 approx | Number of pages: 213
Have you read any of these books? Liked them? Which ones are you currently reading?
My former neighbour in Goa used to call my apartment ‘Sosha B&B,’ for I always had guests over. Weekends, weekdays, my friends, couchsurfers, sister’s friends, friends of friends, everybody! It was one never-ending party. It’s only recently, now that I have moved houses, that I am no longer able to host people. I presently live with 5 other friends, filling up the 2-BHK to its maximum capacity.
I only realised I’ve stopped hosting people while I was discussing it with a friend last night. I miss having guests over a lot and it made me go through old pictures. I wish I had taken more pictures, with everyone who came over. These are just a few pictures that were taken on my camera.
‘Darlings, thank you for ensuring that I have a terrific Goan monsoon!
One of my biggest dreams is about to come true – I am going to Spain! 😀
Beginning over this weekend, I leave on a month-long trip, visiting Hong Kong, UAE, Switzerland, France, Monaco and Spain! While it’s not my first time in Europe, it’s definitely the first in these countries. I’m travelling solo and hope that you guys have useful tips to offer. My schedule for Hong Kong and UAE is pretty much fixed; it’s only with Europe that I need help sorting. Any must-do’s and don’ts are highly appreciated… As are any other recos or people to meet. I have no particular itinerary or places in mind presently, and will make plans upon reaching a destination. Anyone around here on CouchSurfing?!
I’m sure that I’ll probably end up ticking a lot of items off my bucket list and I’m totally kicked about that. If you are in Switzerland, France, Monaco or Spain, I’d love to meet you. I’m going to be in Zurich from the last week of Sep and then follow the order in the previous line till about 3rd week of Oct.
So yeah, let me know – where to go, what to do, what to see, who to meet!
*So super excited!*