Book Review: Special Lassi
‘A backbreaking misadventure in the Himalayas’, this line coupled with one look at the book cover was enough to entice me towards it. And I quickly flipped it around to see if its blurb held any material to justify my interest. And it did.
There is something about travel writers that I don’t find in anybody else. They pique my interest and literally draw me into their world to consciously get lost in it for a while, which is a pleasant getaway if you really see it from that perspective. And besides, you know that they write it with such realm that you cannot help but submerge yourself completely, so that you see the things through their eyes; through their minds.
The title here might confuse you a bit but rest assured that Amrita Chatterjee’s Special Lassi is not about the traditional drink that you get in Punjab or anywhere else for that matter. It’s more of a dope drink that’s driving their travels through the Himalayas.
‘In 2011, as I was backpacking around India, I started keeping a journal to record my magical adventures and remember all the lovable loons I met on the way. I never intended for it to become a book, but a friend of mine who was sick of hearing my travel stories insisted that I write it all down so she could read it in her own time. And that’s how it all started,’ says the author in an interview
The journey starts in the summer of 2011 when the author and her English friend named River decide to kick off their travels from Kolkata with their next stop being the well known destination: Darjeeling—where they are asked by a child servant to share a bucket of hot water for bathing, and where they find this wonderful eatery called the ‘Sonam’s Kitchen’, and also where they stumble upon a couple of adolescent kids, who, without the slightest of hesitation, supply them with apparently the best kind of marijuana there is. From Darjeeling they quickly move on to smaller places like Gangtok, Rumtek, Namchi and Yuksom, where little-big adventures keep-on happening and likeable-unlikeable characters keep bumping into them. However, their actual backbreaking adventure arrives when they decide to take a bus ride to Kathmandu.
‘Surprisingly, the rattling of our internal organs was not the worst part of our journey…the real pain in the arse was this old man behind us, who was determined to cough his lungs out…every breath he drew was a harbinger of death and doom,’ describes the author.
After a few more small stops like Thamel, Lake Fewa, Pokhara and Lumbini, where alcohol and weed is the very lying undercurrent, they finally arrive at Hrishikesh, where they brave the challenge of bungee jumping, and enjoy it very much to their cores. From there on they move onto Manali and Leh, where they have their final adventure: cycling down the highest motarable road in the world.
Thus ends their journey together, but not that of the narrator, who after a brief spell on the sidelines, sets off again in the search of the Special Lassi. Will she find it?
Like most of the travelogues, the flavor of this book too lies its places, which are described by the author in the most mesmerizing and honest manner possible. However, I expected more from the characters that they meet along the way, with none standing out in particular in this book. River however is a pleasant presence throughout the book and keeps us entertained with his take on the various Asian cultures that come up through their journey.
The writing is exceptional and the storytelling keeps you hooked and arouses one’s interest in the events that are to follow. The mood throughout the book is light hearted with some very good humor along the way. The book, in some parts lacks the thrills that one seeks in a travelogue and for some it can turn into a bit of a monotonous affair at times but it is safe to say that it is not much of a speed breaker in this otherwise joyous ride.
All in all, the book is worth a read if you are a travel lover or if you need a break from the hectic schedule of your life. The journey offers you a pleasant getaway and will help refresh your mind and thoughts at the very least.
And who knows, it might as well prompt you to pack your bags!
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