Friday, May 27, 2011

Review: East of the Sun

Reviewed by Kiran Manral.
East of the Sun
A Nearly Stoned Walk Down the Road in a Different Land
By Siddharth Sarma
Tranquebar Press
Rs 295

If you like Bill Bryson, this is a book you must read. There are two other compelling reasons. For one, it deals with a region of the country, often ignored and neglected and of which, we know too little, namely the North East. And for another, Sarma’s style of writing is that of the assured insider. Warm, chatty, filled with witty asides and an intimate kind of tone, that makes the reader feel almost drawn into the journey with Sarma. Which is after all, what a travelogue should be, right?

The journey begins from Assam, Guwahati to be specific, and Sarma takes us through Assam, to the rest of the North East, in a lazy meandering manner, with no seeming rush to deal with a certain place and get on with it. In the process, he shares nuggets of cultural, sociological and anthropological information about the place he’s traversing through.

The author brings with him the advantage of having grown up in the North East, therefore being able to pack in the historical facts with the local patois and flavour to give us an intimate, no warts photoshopped portrait of the region, painted though, tenderly. I believe the author has got certain facts wrong in the narrative, but since he’s told them to us so charmingly, we might just forgive him if the second edition carries a correction, and this is a book I definitely see going into multiple editions.

Let the casual language and the contrived flippancy not fool you, this is a book that does have a lot of research that tells us great deal about the North East, the geography, history, the local traditions and cultures and the political and social unrests. Whether it is the ‘teer’ sport of  Shillong, or his encounter with armed Militants in Mizoram, the reader is with Sarma through it all, a proverbial fly on his back pack. What does kill the read in parts though is over use of flippancy, and cutesiness. IMHO.

(Kiran Manral is a writer, blogger, social activist. She is also the Creative Head  at Karma Communications, Mumbai)

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