June 30, 2020
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Jugful Of Surprise

Literary allusions abound, but they can get a bit much in one go; Wodehousian flourishes can begin to pall. Dip in and out.

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Jugful Of Surprise
Where On Earth Am I? Confusions Of A Travelling Man
By Jug Suraiya
Penguin Pages: 148; Rs 150
Jug Suraiya is part reporter, part poet. Though lacking the melancholic ache of Bruce Chatwin or Pico Iyer, he has the ingredients essential for good travel writing—a keen eye, whimsical humour and detachment. This cocktail, when shaken, stirs the reader to effortlessly follow footloose Jug.

One can be at Jug’s elbow as he bites into crisp-fried pieces of elephant trunk in Nagaland, listens to eloquent silences in the Kumaon hills, trundles across Rajasthan with oversized royalty or seeks out the cartoonist Mario on a Mandovi island among small houses "crowded together like gossipy old women". Whether yearning for green coconuts on Kovalam—"the Mona Lisa of beaches"—or for wazwan in Kashmir, Jug doesn’t miss a beat. Except when he tries to ride a recalcitrant camel and ends up feeling like the "laundry left over from Lawrence of Arabia". Equally delightful are the vignettes of places beyond India, with Jug mixing well exotic locations like Tibet, Bali, Rio with little gems on thirst for scotch in Scotland and a hamburger-crowded visit to "aah-some" America. Literary allusions—the stuff of good travel pieces—abound; Kafka in Prague, Joyce in Dublin, Hemingway in Cuba. The only caveat—all this can get a bit much in one go; Wodehousian flourishes can begin to pall. Dip in and out.

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