Friday, June 20, 2014

Chasing the Monsoon -Alexander Frater - a book review

I admit I had never been a fan of travellogues.The random travel stories I picked up in train or flight magazines were more of time pass ventures rather than anything else.

It was a genre I rarely paid attention and thus it was to my utter surprise I found Alexander Fraters "Chasing the Monsoon" lying idly across my table one lazy afternoon when the monsoon had actually started.I had ordered many books from Flipkart over the past two years without having time to go through most of them.And thus they remained piled for two years until this week I finally found the time to unpack them.

I couldnt recollect why or when I had ordered this book ,maybe it was a review I had read somewhere .Nevertheless what caught my eye was someone describing the book as " Never since Somerset Maugham had rain seemed so romantic." This was intersting here was an author whose name I had never heard who primarily had worked with Punch (the British satarical journal) being compared with one of the greatest modern English authors Somerset Maugham.

So with measured anticipation I opened the book.From the very first page the author got me hooked. As a reader I am always drawn towards the painting of an old bygone era .An era of India which I saw just past by an era of landphones and Indian airlines.An era where the radio hold esteem where the nouvve rich in India had still not made a mark and the rich and the wealthy still seemed to associate themselves with Victorian traditions.It was almost as if the last stand of an era gone bye and this depiction was spread beautifully across the pages.

The author primraliy being a travel writer and a sarire artist in his own right delivers killer lines with such gait and poise that it adds to the enriching experience of the book.Sample this " Pakistan may not have the technology to build roads which can negotiate sharp curves but it has surely been endowed with sign writers who paint beautifully about the impending perils up ahead." The toungue in cheek British humour comes alive.

In chasing the monsoon from Kerela through the rest of the country Frater brings alive the picture of an India that is too obvious but sometimes so much so that we fail to appreciate the little things which makes India such a fasicnating land.From the Syrian Christians to the Jew Market where the Jews dont sell umbrellas anymore the author addresses every facet of Indian culture known and unkown and presents it in the most dleicious manner for the readers.

An old Dutch lady wife of a British man owning a shipping company laments that Indians visit the Cochin club more often now.She is quick the add that they are her freinds.The author makes no observation he merely recounts and moves on but such linear narration which leaves for the reader to fill up the gaps makes the book even more intresting.The author true to his style spares no one from the British to the Indians to the Pakistanis not one second does he lose in decrying the absurd.

And most of all it is the fascinting vivid decrepytion of monsoon itself.As the quthor begins to paint the picture of the monsoon hitting the first day in kerela the reader is drawn into a canvas painted perfectly upon by the author .This book reiterates how beautiful Monsoon is.

Read this book and fall in love with the rains once more.