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I have a thing for book blurbs. The longer, the meatier, the wittier, the better. Unlike covers, which one is advised not to judge a book by, blurbs are written for the discerning reader to browse, read, and pick or toss accordingly. So when a travel book description starts with the line: “To people who are fond of the phrase, ‘Oh, what a small world’—please do go and drive across Russia,” I dig in gleefully, looking forward to a chuckle.
In his travelogue, The Long Drive Home, Rishad Saam Mehta talks about travelling across Russia (not an easy feat) from experience rather than whim. After all, he did go on a 55-day road trip from Europe to India in a new Audi Q7, and lived to write the tale. Although the traditional great overland drive from Europe to India usually involves driving across Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, Mehta had to take a small detour thanks to his Indian passport—of 10,000km across nine countries. He did so without complaint, and, on this journey, made friends with guards at border checkposts in Myanmar, and foes at bars in Omsk. He broke rules with careless abandon the way only an Indian traveller can (‘‘It is always easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission’’) and found himself in sticky smile-inducing situations. He travelled through eight time zones and nine countries, and doled out recommendations on caramel-tasting beer in Prague, rundown Polish restaurants or a lesser-known town in Russia. And as car number MH 14 EY 4224 crossed one border after another, I became an unwitting passenger on the ride, and like at the end of all road trips, good, bad and wonderful, had only one question to ask: Are we there yet?
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