Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews
“There is a reason why so many books and movies are dedicated to road trips; because it’s an experience that money cannot buy. You can’t book a road trip online with a credit card; you’ve got to earn it.”- quoted from Special Lassi.
As a book reviewer, it’s but natural for me, to jot down my thoughts as I read along, highlight interesting quotes from the text and reference check the places, the people and the facts mentioned. With Amrita Chatterjee’s debut novel Special Lassi, this routine approach suddenly became a roller-coaster ride. I started by writing off the book as the rantings of a wannabe writer and almost gave up. Written in first person, as a personal account , the writing style seemed amateurish and the writer’s travel companion River, came across as an irritating hippie, who had nothing better to do than traverse around the Himalayan region looking for “Special Lassi”. I was sure that I would not recommend this book to anyone.
As I am strictly against leaving books unfinished, I decided to persevere and finish it once and for all. And that was when, somewhere around when Amrita and River reach Sikkim, the book took me in and I wanted to be in the shoes of the travellers and explore ‘Incredible India’!
With Special Lassi, Amrita managed to awaken the travel bug in me. I enjoyed reading about the different places she visited and could well imagine myself there. The author’s tryst with Buddhism adds to the flavour of the book. There were certain things that I didn’t know – the reason behind going barefoot into a temple is to allow the body to absorb all energy- and that Rohtang Pass means a pile of corpses in Tibetan. I liked her introspective style. Made me think too about the Bal Kumaris of Nepal and how they would have lived knowing their divine status.
Some of the quotes reached out…….”Perhaps religion’s greatest gift to humanity has been music, not morality, spirituality or a sense of order. Tibetan chants, Hindu bhajans, Sufi qawwalis, southern gospel, particle physics, the string theory, all prove that the only thing God ever said was, ‘let there be music….'” is one of my favorites. Another one…..”Travelling for a long time requires your life so completely that almost all things you consider essential for your well-being, suddenly become luxuries.”
Once I got into it, I just needed to know what happened next! The vivid descriptions took me on an adventure of my own, while sitting in my own home, enjoying my special lassi( trust me, this one turned out to be an all nighter and the strongest brew of Jamaican coffee kept me going). A must read for those who are bitten by the travel bug and are dying to explore the psychedelic Himalayan belt. And yes, I am recommending this book!!
TGBC interviewed Amrita Chatterjee. Her answers added a whole new dimension to the charm of the book :-
1. What prompted you to write this book?
In late 2011, as I was backpacking around India, I started keeping a journal to record my adventures and remember all the lovable loons I met on the way. I never intended for it to become a book, it was simply supposed to be a crutch for my old age, something to look back on. 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…
2. How fictional is this book?
It’s not, everything in the book really happened to us. Of course, certain things are exaggerated for laughs but they are all true.
3. Don’t you think a few drawings or photographs would have added to the book? Btw I did like the descriptions; could almost imagine myself there.
Perhaps, but I’m a writer and we paint pictures with words. Also, there’s something magical about imagining things inside your head.
4. How important was the reference to excessive alcohol and banned substances use to the narrative?
For me these references are just embellishments, an easy segue from one breathtaking view to another. In fact, one of the underlying messages of the book is that the headiest, most addictive thing in the world is travelling. And once you get a taste of this life on the road, every other substance loses it’s charm.