Are you an avid traveler? If you have not yet been to India, and already have some impressions about India, here are some books that’ll help de-mystify the experience and prepare you for the reality.
There’s no doubt that India is home to some of the most beautiful & ancient temples, hidden yoga retreats, and grand palaces. It’s also home to one of the biggest and the busiest film industries in the world.
However, it’s also one of the busiest, dirtiest, and among the poorest countries in the world. Some of these provide a realistic portrayal of life in a Mumbai slum, and it can be painful to know that all of this is real. If you have seen the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”, you may already have some idea of the reality (though the movie is not based on any of these books). The Bollywood city may be home to some of the richest people in India, but if you look at the city from unexpected angles, you’ll get a different perspective.
Here are 5 awesome books that will make you want to travel to India, or at least help prepare you for your journey.
“Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity” by Katherine Boo
Written by an American who fully immersed herself in India’s slums, this book tells the sad but uplifting true story of life in a Mumbai slum, weaving together multiple narratives about different families and characters who live there.
“Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found” by Suketu Mehta
Written by a Mumbai (formerly Bombay) native who had been living in New York City for over 20 years, this nonfiction book delves into life in Mumbai, exploring everything from the violence of Mumbai’s gangs to elite Bollywood parties to the countless people who come to the big city in search of wealth only to end up living in the slums. It’s a fascinating look at the thriving metropolis.
“Shantaram: A Novel” by Gregory David Roberts
Shantaram tells an epic tale of an Australian who escapes prison to hide out in India.
The protagonist, known only as “Lin,” eventually finds himself living in a Mumbai slum, enmeshed in the city’s dangerous mob, and serving time in one of the city’s most dangerous prisons. It’s also a story about love and friendship, set in one of India’s busiest cities.
“City of Djinns: A Year In Delhi” by William Dalrymple
This travelogue about Delhi reads more like a novel than a travel story, filled with intriguing stories and an interesting mix of characters like dervishes, eunuchs, expatriates, and more. Dalrymple paints an interesting portrait of India’s capital city, from the past to modern day.
“A Passage to India” by E.M. Forster
This classic novel by E.M. Forster tells the story of life in India under British rule, focusing on the underlying tension between the British colonists and the people of India. It’s based on Forster’s experiences in India in the 1920s.
Filmi Escapes: See India Through Travel Guide On Favourite Film Locations
The reach of Indian cinema is tremendous, with great influence over not just domestic travelers but also over many international travelers. Besides, there are many people of Indian origin, who are settled abroad, who love watching Bollywood films, but have not been to India. And even if they have, they have briefly spent time only at one particular location.
So if you are planning you next holidays in India, and are also a Hindi movie buff, you may want to check out ‘Filmi Escapes – Travel With The Movies’, a travel guide launched by Lonely Planet, that shows you the best of India through the eyes of Bollywood filmmakers.
Bollywood movies and stars have a huge fan following worldwide; this book hopes to reach out to Indian travelers across demographics and geographies.
You’ll find film personalities such as Karan Johar, Mahesh Bhatt, Nargis Fakhri, and Raima Sen sharing their favorite travel spots and films, you’ll also find several interesting trivia and anecdotes to make your travel more interesting.
Among the 20 must-see domestic destinations, cities like Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Varanasi, Shimla, Kasauli, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Mumbai, Goa, Gujarat and Kolkata have found their way in this travel guide on India.
The travel guide revisits the cities, towns, hills, beaches, lakes, waterfalls, historic forts, palaces, temples and other such locations that have been immortalised by Indian filmmakers over the years. Besides the locations, the book also suggests the best places to eat, shop and see in a particular city.
What about places in Bihar, Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand? Do they find a mention in the book? Though most Bollywood movies have their plot revolving around these places, these places are not very tourist friendly, except for ‘Bodh Gaya’ in Bihar. These states may have natural beauty but security remains a concern for for tourists.
On the other hand, places like Ooty are adored by our filmmakers; Mahesh Bhatt has shot several of his movies in Ooty. This place is also popular as a cover-up destination, which means it can easily pass-off as some other destination. For instance, while the story of Mani Ratnam’s ‘Roja’ was set in Kashmir, for most scenes Arvind Swami and Madhu were actually boating in Ooty.
Indian Tourists love to travel, but they appreciate a place even more if they come to know that some of the biggest Bollywood stars were at that location to shoot their movies. So expect the travel guide to bring up those facts and anecdotes when you’re at some popular tourist destination within India.
So if you’re at Nainital, expect the tales to start from Kati Patang. If it’s Kasauli, ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ will find a mention. If its Naldhera, the guide will tell you that Bobby Deol’s ‘Badal’ was shot there.
Expect the Indian tourist to feel more proud if that place has any Bollywood connection; bigger the star/movie that has been shot there, the better they feel and the better it is for the publicity of the place.