4 out of 5 stars

Monisha Rajesh’s family had moved over from India a while ago, but in 1991 they decided that they wanted to move back. Heading to Madras, they lasted two years before concluding they preferred the cold climate of the UK over rats and severed body parts. Twenty years later, she has the urge to return once again to India, but how to see it. An idea forms based on Jules Verne’s classic Around the world in 80 Days and she starts researching the railways of India hoping to find 80 separate train journey’s that would take her around the country and help her to re-discover it. But first, she needed a companion for her adventure. Fortunately, she knew a photographer who had some spare time and he agreed to come with her.

Her journey would take her across India from top to bottom, and right into the far reaches of the country. She passes through well-known cities like Mumbai and Delhi to places that are only known to the locals. Each journey was different and a challenge to all the senses from the sleekest sleeper trains to the carriages where she shared space with the mass of humanity each on their own personal journey. Herr companion, Passepartout, though turned out to be a radical atheist who was continually challenged and assaulted by the cacophony of sights and sounds in this deeply devout country.

A romantic evening haze hung over the treetops that sped past. I soon realised that this was a layer of filth on the window…

I thought that this was a really enjoyable account of a series of trip backwards and forwards around the subcontinent of India. Rajesh conveys the character of the country really well from the people that she meets on the trains as well as being able to draw on her dual cultural identity to understand the context of what she is seeing. Mixed with this is a blend of historical and personal anecdotes and written in a warm and conversational style. It is also a warning to choose your travelling companions wisely too…

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