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« Holocaust Exceptionalism | Main | Mug Shot As Museum Fare »

February 07, 2007



I had,by chance, read the essay on Jan 29, just when it was published online, but being in a medicated haze, didn't think of sending you the link! I remember thinking that it was very effective travel writing, even though the observations of the country being visited were subordinate to the actual sensations of the traveler. So even though Kapuscinski's narrative is less than pleasing to my innate desire to read glorious encomiums of my motherland, it still cuts through to the undeniable truth of all travel-writing - that it should be deeply personal, not just disinterested utterances on sights seen, sounds heard,experiences had.

That is exactly what I found remarkable in this piece - the author's visceral reactions.

I hope you are out of your medicated haze and are feeling up to blogging again :-)

A nice, highly readable account indeed. Made me think of a quote by Miriam Beard: "Certainly travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."

Also check out this unrelated but amusing story by Anne Cushman in

That is funny but so typical, isn't it? Do you think my ex-student has become something like Charan Das?

A small statement caught my eye for its unintended 360 degrees of inverted implication. Ann Cushman says,"Ten years later, I finally made it to Benares (better known in the West as Varanasi). But of course we know that Benares in fact is the westernized version of Varanasi which entered the Indian parlance during western rule. This reminds me a bit about an experience my son had at a trendy coffee stall which was selling many flavored chais. He asked for one of the teas on offer. He was chided by the supercilious vendor, "This is not tea - it is chai!"

I am waiting for your write-up on your ex-student! I urge you to call his center and chat with him. It could well be a terrific human interest story. I suspect he'll be nothing like Charan Das, a white American who 'went East' in the early 70s.

I was really looking for this article - yet another 'strongly felt' but differently - travel account from India, when I couldn't find it and decided to post the Charan Das story. This one is from and the author is Seth Stevenson.

Sure, this one is different. Stevenson takes the "horror" route but without cruelty. Kapuscinski describes a similar experience but without the graphic details about cockroaches and intestinal turmoil. The really scary thing is that I occasionally feel the same way when I travel to India now. It annoys some of my friends and relatives. But my own perspective is so altered that things that I ignored earlier are not so easy to shut out.

We have tried the hermetically sealed method of travel through India (expensive hotels, resorts and rental cars). It works for a while but gets a bit stuffy after some time. My biggest disagreement with Stevenson is about the Ayurvedic massage - it is quite fantastic.

I noticed what the author said about Delhi, my birthplace and the happy hunting ground of my youth. Our entire immediate family - mine and my husband's, lives in Delhi. I love to go back to my old home. But if I had to live in India for an extended period of time now, I don't know if I would like to do so in Delhi.

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