I have always been interested in travel. Travel not to get into (or get some) kodak moments but to look around, meet people, understand how the life on the other side of the mountain organises itself and expand my horizons of wonder. I did not own a camera or click a single snap in the first four countries I visited. One of these four includes Switzerland. I have three photos in Zurich and two photos in St.Gallen, for they were group photos. Then I thought that was macho but now I realise that was stupid. So, these days, I do indulge in Kodak moments and enjoy taking pictures. Digital life is so easy. However I have only two pictures of myself here in Amsterdam! Not macho but too shy to ask people to take my picture. What will I do with pictures of myself, a not-so-tall (how can I call myself short?), grey-haired, double-chinned man with a tiny potbelly!
Though not bestowed with a head turning charima or jaw droping intelligence, I have, however been fortunate with my travels thus far. Fortunate because I have been to 14 countries with a minimum stay of a day and a maximum stay of 27 months, not counting the day spent at a illegal immigrant's detention centre in Rome Airport for entering the country without a transit visa. Fortunate because I did not pay for most of this travel. Fortunate because I neighter had a high flying job or a software job that makes it more or less mandatory to travel overseas these days. Fortunate because I did most of this travel while still pursuing my academics. Now you would understand why I am still on the student side of the univ, while I am about to complete 36 years of existence!!! Now you know why my bank balance is still not even a lakh of rupees even after having 9 years of work experience!! Heck I am more or less happy and thats what counts though I have to confess I am trifle sad with my bank balance.
My urge to travel, of late, has been increasing and so is my craving to fill myself up with the experiences of other travellers. Since I dont have much time to travel, I am indulging on the latter. In the last six months I have purchased 33 travelogues. I have read four thus far. Havent been able to complete four others (two Paul Theroux's, one Somerset Maugham and one Eric Newby). The rest is for the near future.
I have not been able to finish Paul Theroux coz I find him to be too obnoxious, condesending and gloomy (SSM, you may disagree but I will tell you why in one of my subsequents blogs). Eric newby since it is at the bottom of the pile (also because it is about his trip through USSR on a trans siberian train and he got permission to get out only at few stops en route. So how exciting can the trip be? Although he has done a good job). Maugham coz I want to savour every sentence he writes. Until I get my hands onto another account of his trips, I will continue to read a few lines of his book describing his travels (mostly over rivers) from Rangoon to Haipong through Bangkok, Phnom Phen and Saigon. Maugham, like R.K.Narayan constructs simple sentences, does not use very difficult words but manage to convey deep meanings. Boy, I will never ever tire of these two authors. As Narayan writes, there are two kinds of authors: those whome you can read and those whom you cannot. Authors I cannot read are Arundati Roy (her language was too flowery), Robert Prisig (sorry Asuph, he is too heavy for me)
Coming back to the four travelogues that I read, these are John Steinbeck's Travel with Charlie (actually re-read), Shiva Naipaul's North of South, Norman Lewis's Voices of the Old Sea and Redmond O'Hanlon's In Touble Again.
Steinbeck's book is a classic. Look at the start! I am going to keying in every single word of it since I just love the start. Many of you may have read this book but I will still key in the start. It is worth reading it again. :)
When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me. I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship's whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, I don't improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself
With this kind of a start the book can only get better and it does. He was already famous by the time he made this trip across America on a custom made truck that carried a cabin like small house. Though many people adviced against the trip that he would be recognised, he says that over 10,000 miles through 34 states he was not recognised even once. Since his "old french gentleman poodle" named Charlie was his sole companion through the journey, hence the name of the book. The book is never boring, never funny and never thrilling. It is a contemplative narration of an extremly thoughtful man in extremely simple language. Those tiny few of you who have not read this book, I would certainly recommend it.
I have already reviewed Shiva Naipaul's North of South
The rest of the two books am going to review in my next blog. A proper review not a random rant.