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From Afghanistan to Tibet via India


Nivedita Sen

AFGHANISTAN: MOUNTAINS OF OUR MINDS
By Bob McKerrow
India Research Press, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 125, Rs. 895.00

BLUE IS THE COLOUR OF HEAVEN: A JOURNEY INTO AFGHANISTAN
By Richard Loseby
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2002, pp. 240, Rs. 250.00

BETWEEN WORLDS: TRAVELS AMONG MEDIUMS, SHAMANS AND HEALERS
By Uma Singh
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2003, pp. 200, Rs. 225.00

WALKS IN THE WILD
By Prosenjit Das Gupta
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2002, pp. 315, Rs. 250.00

TIBET: SAGA OF INDIAN EXPLORERS (1864-1894)
By P.L. Madan
Manohar Publication, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 157, Rs. 750.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 3 March 2005

For a vicarious traveller like me, unadventur- ous and having lived in New Delhi all my life, I have always valorized not just travel but those wanderers who choose to go off the tourist track. These books on travel opened out a magical world and provided a treat, an array of difficult situations far away from home to mull over, and days of living out fantasies of travelling that I did not know were dormant in my Bengali gene, well-known for its persistent travel bug. Not being one of those travel maniacs you meet in all kinds of unlikely and remote places, making do with minimal comforts, and always sniffing out the untrodden path, books do just as well for me.   Traversing from left to right as in the Atlas, the first is a glossy-covered, square-shaped and slim volume on Afghanistan, evocatively called Mountains of Our Minds, full of pertinent poems as well as photographs that tell a story starting with those not-so-metaphorical or mental mountains and culminating in the heartrending ravages of a war-torn land. Bob McKerrow, a New Zealander who works in the Red Cross, was inspired to write the book both because of his love of people and his passion for mountains. “Mountains shape the people, people shape the mountains”, says the blurb, and the epigraph to the book further equivocates: We live in the street of death We die in the street of life This is Afghanistan.   An extremely palatable handful of thought-provoking literary metaphors, some detached philosophizing, a collection of wistful poems and sensitive photographs, however, are marred by the numerous printing mistakes that the India Research Press has allowed to go into the final draft of such a precious book.   So far, all I had known about Afghanistan were kabuliwallahs and dry fruit, Soviet and U.S. invasions and the resultant sufferings that I am exposed to through newspapers and television. The Persian blue is an insignia that I have got sensitized to after lingering over the cover of the two books on Afghanistan.   The second book under review, Blue is the Colour of Heaven, is a serious foray into Afghanistan by another writer from New Zealand, Richard Loseby. The entry point into Afghanistan is a poem that his grandfather had picked up about the invincibility of Afghanistan. This is followed by a poignant account of his father’s death. Two years later, when ...


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