Next Book?

As I try to decide on my next book (I need something light to accompany the Gandhi book), I’ve been testing the waters with a few others. I’d like a combination of travel, humour, and trains, if possible. I’m eyeing Bill Bryson’s book Notes from a Big Country and Paul Theroux’s Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. I have two other Theroux books to finish that I started years ago, but what can I say, I don’t always take kindly to cantankerousness. Telling things as they are is one thing, but how does someone dislike people and places so much when they travel? There’s also a copy of Cobra Road: Khyber to Cape Comorin by British journalist Trevor Fishlock that I bought at The Lantern in DC, and started ages ago as well— see the pattern? — and which I should probably pick up again. For dipping in, I also have Anupama Chopra’s book on Shah Rukh Khan (and Hindi cinema), King of Bollywood, which I had no clear motivation for picking up except idle curiosity. I liked Shah Rukh in the 90s, when he was unabashed, willing to fool around on screen, and take risks. All that changed with the arrival of certain megalomaniacs, and the less said about his films since then, the better.

Finishing Around India in 80 Trains has left a massive void in my days. I didn’t know what to do with my break yesterday. I looked forward to the comfort of curling up with a train journey I didn’t have to make while I was reading the book, which I now miss. Travel is fun, yes, but sometimes the stress of worrying about hygiene on a train can also make you wonder why you abandoned the comfort of your home. That said, travelling in the times of hand sanitiser is a vast improvement to the way things were in the nineties.

One of the fun things about train travel is untying homemade food from its secure banana or leaf packets. The idlis carry a mild leafy scent, the molagapodi is thankfully tamed into mildness, and the tamarind rice bursts onto the scene with a lovely tang to combat the unadventurous quiet of the idlis. Potato chips are pulled out, and a decent interval later, chocolate or biscuits or wafers make an appearance. We partly travel to eat.

A couple of days after we were married, G. and I went on temple trips with our families. One of the aunts, who loves to cook and feed people, gave us enough food for several journeys. Tamarind rice, fried potato curry, and curd rice joined some idlis my mother had innocently packed, not knowing the extent of their generosity. We had never eaten so much on an overnight train trip and that journey is still talked of with awe.

Which reminds me, Food and Faith by Shoba Narayan is another book on the list! Narayan explores the relationship between food and faith, exploring the offerings at different places of worship as she goes along. And this, in turn, brings to mind Temple Tales: Secrets and Stories from India’s Sacred Places by Sudha G Tilak, in which she explores different temples, their legends, stories, and sometimes prasadam.

So much to read and I don’t know where to begin! I often struggle to commit to a book — but when it has my attention, I don’t want to let go. Hopefully, I can make up mind soon.


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