The book is a straight representation of urban, middle-class India, as seen by the author, who lived as an urban middle-class Dilliwalla for eighteen months
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I have been devouring travel books ever since I first chanced upon Paul Theroux when I was thirteen. Theroux’s point of view was for many years my yardstick to measure a travel book. But in recent times I have been reading accounts of travellers in the sixteenth-seventeenth centuries and I am stumped for choice between the Portuguese Duartes Barbosa, the French Jean Baptiste Tavernier and the Dutch Philip Baldaeus. One a clerk, the other a diamond merchant and the third a man of the cloth, these were travellers who travelled for a reason; and yet in them the call to travel preceded purpose. Even the names of their books, like The Book of Duarte Barbosa, have a certain heft. Of these, perhaps Barbosa is my all-time favourite. He travelled to Kerala and unlike many travellers studied the language and hence his observations of the place and people are not presumptions coloured by miscomprehensions. If I am looking for time travel in the reverse, it is Barbosa I would reach out for.
Anita Nair’s latest novels are Cut Like Wound and Idris
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