Category Archives: 3*

‘One Life to Ride – A Motorcycle Journey to the High Himalayas’ by Ajit Harisinghani

rideAfter ‘Don’t Ask Any Old Bloke for Directions’, I went on a downloading spree of biking books. Started with this one, the main reason was the ‘Himalayas’ in the name. Mountains have always fascinated me. Coming from a place where the land is flat and below sea level to boot, the first sight of mountains was pure awe. The hills of Idukki paled in comparison to the Snow Lord’s abode is something that I realized a few years later. Since then, Leh, Ladakh and The Valley of Flowers have been beckoning from far.

Coming back to the book, the author, in his mid fifties, decides to go on a trip of his dreams, all alone. Based out of Pune, he first makes a trip to Goa, to attune himself and his bike to the long and arduous trip later.

The book goes in a somewhat documentary style, describing places and people that he meets on the way, adding his thoughts to it. A couple of incidents, or rather people caught my heart. The first one was a fakir , a true one, cycling his way to Mecca from Mumbai. At times, profound thoughts turn into words and comes from least expected sources. To the author’s question of how long it takes to reach Mecca, the wise man replies,

“Sirf badan ko wahan le jaana hai.

Rooh to wahin rahtee hai.” *

The part that  stays with me is his meeting with the jawans in Kashmir. There is one incident where the author is frightened by a group of young men rushing at him, only to realize they were soldiers from the Maratha regiment and they had run to him seeing the MH number plate on his bike. They take him to their barracks and he realizes as he talks to them,

“The moment to moment stress is taking its toll. They try to camouflage it by an outward show of bravado but these young men, so far away from their homes, standing around me, look like lonely children marooned in a dangerous world.”

The longing for home, the need to talk to someone, the catch in their throats, the knowledge that this might be their last day, and the feeling of not knowing whom you can trust keep resonating in your heart long after you’re done reading . I was left with a feeling of guilt and despair at the world that we so take for granted.

Otherwise, the narration seemed quite ordinary in most places. Not one that tugged at my heart.

Verdict – A light read, may delight if you are interested in travel, not so much for a bike enthusiast.

3/5 for the story and narration and 5/5 for those encounters with the jawans.

 

(* He was merely transporting his body to where his soul already lived)

 

‘The Mountain of Light’ by Indu Sundaresan

induMore often than not, as your expectation levels increase, the chances of getting disappointed also rise exponentially. Sad to say, the rule has been proved yet again. I could not put down the first two parts of her Taj trilogy and had jumped at the chance of getting a review copy of Indu Sundaresan’s latest novel, based on the mysterious and controversial Kohinoor – The Mountain of Light.

The story starts with Shah Shuja and his wife Wafa Begum imprisoned by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The only thing that can gain them their freedom is the mighty Kohinoor that Wafa Begum has hidden cleverly. The story is supposed to be about how the precious diamond passes on to Ranjit Singh and finally ends up in the hands of the Queen of England. Yes, there is the Maharaja’s heir Dalip Singh, though his character’ growth happened when we are left looking elsewhere. One moment he is an eight year old, next he  is old and dying in Paris.

Maybe it was me and the time, I found the story disjointed, and was not able to understand why certain characters like Lord Auckland’s Emily and Fanny Eden, Roshni, Victoria Gouramma and similar others appeared at all. Even the Kohinoor  was like a fleeting presence rather than a connecting thread. I think what was missing was a central character that carried the story through.

Verdict – Suffice to say I was sorely disappointed. Have seen some reviews where the readers loved it. So, I guess will leave it to you whether to pick this up or not.

3/5

‘The Tale of the Rose : The Love Story Behind The Little Prince’ by Consuelo De Saint-Exupe`ry

roseIf you have read the “The Little Prince‘ by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and felt sorry for the boy who pined for his Rose, you are in for a rude shock. As the title suggests, this is the story of ‘The Rose’ as told by her.

Twice widowed Consuelo meets the aviator Antoine in Buenos Aires and before she can even think of what is happening, gets caught up in the whirl wind world of romance and subsequent marriage to him. The story takes us through their tumultuous lives from  Paris to Casablanca, back to Paris , then to her home in El Salvador and finally to New York.

Antoine comes across as totally self centered and selfish, looking only at what he could get out of the relationship. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that but for Consuelo, most of his much acclaimed literary works may not have seen the light of the day or even been completed. One moment he treats her as though she is the biggest treasure that he has come across, the next as if her very presence would poison him. The callous nature in which he carries on his various affairs right front of her is shocking, to say the least. But, the very moment he gets even an inkling of her intention to leave him, the jealous serpent in him raises itself. By fair means and foul, he ensures that Consuelo doesn’t leave him.

Consuelo herself seem to be at a complete loss as far as her beloved Tonio is considered. She knows he is treating her worse than a doormat, but is ready to fly back to him at the slightest hint. She is literally  banished from his life several times, left stranded penniless and home less in strange towns and even goes through multiple nervous break downs. At the end of it all , she is back at his door step , trying to bring some order into his completely disarrayed life. Is it some sort of heroinism, I wonder, that she thinks she alone is capable to tame such a wild and gifted heart? The essence of their life together is brought out in her words,

“My God, being the wife of a pilot is a whole career, but being the wife of a writer is a religious vocation!”

What Antoine looks for in his wife is also clear as he leaves her before his final flight,

“I could almost thank heaven for giving me a treasure to leave behind: my house, my books, my dog. You will keep them for me.”

The book reinforces some questions that I have always had. Is promiscuity a pre-requisite for genius and an artistic bend of mind? There are so many instances of first wives supporting writers and artists while they are struggling and at the first sign of success they are relegated to the post of a shrewish woman. And the man is pitied and spoiled with pity, love, lust and whatnot.

Verdict – Would not recommend it…unless you are really curious to know about the sad reality  that the ‘Little Prince’ was.

3/5