Book Review: The Stopover

Part of Debut Indian Writers Challenge 2013 and Reading Challenge 2013: First Reads

Title: The Stopover
Author: Ram Prakash & Deepa Pinto
Publisher: Krab Media
ISBN: 978-8-1908421-6-7
Pages: 198
Genre: Photo Fiction
Rating: 3.75 of 5
Reviewed for: Authors


An exotic travel with four places on the itinerary into the exotica synonym – India – and a foray into four cultures, beliefs, faiths, myths and lives as we transverse cover to cover. The Tales Pensieve has been one of the few fortunate sites to preview the book before its launch and here we go with a full review after we have savored all the four stories that educate you, touch you deep and open you up to cultures unknown. Four stories that leave you with questions inside of you.

A travel book? No.

A coffee table book? No.

The Stopover marks the debut of an awesome genre in India – Photo Fiction and of two talented writers Ram Prakash (who also doubles up as the photographer) and Deepa Pinto. The book spans over four stories at four locations focusing on special groups spread all over India from in-exile Tibetans in Leh in the Himalayas to the ornamental fish breeders in Kolathur in Chennai, from the Toda tribe in Ootacamund or Ooty in Tamil Nadu to the wooden toy makers of Channapatna in Karnataka. The stories are simple, original and touch a deeper nerve than the conventional array of emotions that are triggered with a book. This one, if read well, will end up making the reader a more sensitive human.

The authors take us to Leh with Varun as he retrospects his more than successful career as an advertising professional and his now dwindling relationship with Meghna. It takes the simple yet strong-willed Tibetans, their way of life, the pain of being separated from their motherland and staying in exile to make Varun, the selfish corporate jungle king, to stand in the shoes of others and feel their pain. It takes the narration of a Tibetan’s first hand experience of seeing the roof of the world go roofless and losing its identity everyday to a powerful nation is what it takes Varun to take a look at other and bigger pains in the world around him.

Ram and Deepa then take us to Channapatna where we see how families change priorities, how relationships go through highs and lows, how pains always doesn’t mean gains and how modernization is affecting the ancient art of wooden toys and natural paints. We then move on to Ooty amongst the Toda tribe, who are believed to be the original inhabitants of Ooty. We go through the beliefs, legends, myths and practices of the aboriginals through the eyes of city girl Ritika and her local guide Vijay. We also see the inherent obligation of a tribal to save the culture of his tribe from going corrupt to modernization in a desperate face-off between family and friend. Finally the end of these stopovers is in the metropolis Chennai in Kolathur where we meet Vikram – MBA-soon-to-be-professional, with a dreamy offer letter under his belt – he would soon be away from a world he detests. The world of his father, uncle & cousin. The world of ornamental fish breeding. Words have profound impacts and that’s what happened to separate Vikram’s ideologies from his family’s. A quote by George Bernard Shaw that, “Animals are my friends. And I don’t eat my friends”, turned Vikram into a vegetarian and he never stepped into his father’s breeding farm after that until that day before his joining. He did go in and that changed his world. He realized that the only way to feel sensitive towards these fishes that he was fighting for was by joining hands with the breeders and not running away from him. A talk with a fisheries department’s official and a breeding v/s killing for food debate later our hero is well on the path of his calling. Mumbai corporate with a girlfriend on the other side or fishes and their lives on this side is the choice he has to make.

The authors tread on an unconventional path bringing us stories from places many of us may have visited for leisure, fun and sight-seeing. Beyond those beauties lie a story sometimes of hope, sometimes of despair, sometimes even of helplessness and it took Ram’s camera and both his and Deepa’s words to bring those stories alive and talking. The stories are moving to the core and profound. The photographs are the soul of the book that makes the stories so much more real and impactful, beyond being simply serene – truly beyond words. The only thing that I may want to see the authors do next time around is give words to the characters that match their settings. The language used is sometimes too urbane for characters that are deeply rustic and sometimes even fighting urbanisation.

Kudos to the authors and publishers in brining this new genre on the pulp. Read through for the beauty of the photographs and the sensitivity of the tales which as I said are beyond the conventional assortment of humane emotions.

Happy Reading.

Read a sample chapter:

Watch the words:

The Stopover Signs

Thank you Ram Prakash and Deepa Pinto for an author signed collector’s first edition.

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