Compiled by Dom Moraes
Publishers: Penguin Books
The Penguin Book of Indian Journeys, according to the description in the inside cover, is an anthology of travel writing on India. The image on the cover also gives similar impression. But once you start reading through the stories, it turns out that there isn’t much of travel element in some of the selected stories. Dom Moraes seems confused about what travel is, and tries to push his own perspective of travel to people who are looking to read romance of travel in the inner pages.
Some of these are weird if you try to put them as travel stories. There is one story about a journalist trying to understand infamous Bandit Veerappan, there is another journalist who follows Indira Gandhi and talks politics, and one more story is about rampant crime in Bihar. It is hard to understand what these stories are doing in a travel book. Moraes has tried to justify such stories in his introduction, but nothing convincing enough.
But to give some credit to the book, there are indeed some good write-ups that have gone into making the it. The well known names of Indian Travel Writing are all there – like Bill Aitken, Paul Theroux, Ruskin Bond and Stephen Alter. A story by Moraes himself, of exploring the tribes of Madhya Pradesh is an excellent read.
The good and unreadable are probably in equal numbers through the book. A what would have been a good book is spoiled by some unsuitable selections.