Reading India

I first traveled to India nearly twenty years ago. Like a traveler arriving in the United States for the first time, one is conscious of what there isn’t time to see. Imagine claiming to have ‘seen’ America with a stop in New York, a visit to Boston, maybe Miami and San Francisco. What about the deep South, or the Badlands, the New England coast, the west coast. The list goes on. That’s how I feel about India. I’ve made a return trip to the sub continent about every three years, sometimes more frequently, and I’ve only glanced at the country.

Usually we stay a few weeks, and it’s hard to leave favorite haunts – Delhi, Ahmenadabad, Jodhpur, Jaipur to name a few. I long to see a tea plantation yet can’t resist a week in Jodhpur. Again.

Travel equates with reading. I take books while traveling and end up buying more. Usually I buy histories, or specialty books – in India often about fabric and embroidery, or architecture both vernacular and spectacular.

Recently I read two excellent mysteries written by Indian authors about their home country. Sujata Massey’s The Satapur Moonstone is a marvelous follow up to the first in the Perveen Mistry series. Perveen is a heroine for her time – 1922 – and for ours. She is a modern woman working within and against the norms of society. A trial lawyer in a man’s world, she is sharp witted and courageous.

Abir Mukherjee’s novel Smoke and Ashes continues his Captain Sam Wyndam and “Surrender-Not” series. Set in 1920’s Calcutta the reader is emerges in the history of India writ large and small. Imperialism confronts nationalism and we witness what we know will end with separation.

I’ll search out more books by Indian authors and hope to hear recommendations from you.

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