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Anoop Verma

By Samit Sawhny
Penguin Books, New Delhi, India, 2003, pp. 270, Rs. 260.00


Samit Sawhny’s All the World’s a Spittoon is an account of a maverick Indian’s atypical journey. The author’s unconventionality comes to the fore in his choice of the title itself. Why a spittoon? Sawhny refrains from making a clean breast of it. But then he might as well claim that he had earned the right to call the world a spittoon, having ejaculated his spit in the remotest regions of the planet during his cross-continental travels. The subtitle ‘Travels back to India’ is not tongue in cheek but sums up more succinctly what the book is all about.   In the prologue Samit Sawhny writes—”after five years following a financial career path in London, I opted for a change—I decided not to renew my UK work permit, to return to India instead”. His decision is not a vote against London; he insists that he loves that city. Nor is it a vote for India, he confesses that he had utterly no idea what he would do once he made it back to his motherland. What is it then? Sawhny seems to suggest that in part his decision was eccentricity, in part simple and plain wanderlust and in part it stemmed from the fact that he was itching to do something different and for that he goes to such a fantastic length as deciding to return to India not the way all the Singhs, Patels, Kapoors, et al. do which is by plane, but by road, in a journey crisscrossing countries of Scandinavia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Tibet and finally Nepal.   Though it is the experiences gleaned during this long excursion that supply the grist of the book, I won’t recommend it as a particularly informative travel guide. Sawhny’s style is jocular. More often than not he goes over the top with his witticisms and bombastic hyperboles. So it is difficult to judge which lines constitute fact and which have been imagined just to provide lighthearted entertainment. Sawhny’s intention in writing the book seems to be to entertain rather than to inform. In that he has succeeded admirably.   The book is not a simple step-by-step story of road and rail journey across many countries. Although Sawhny’s account is sequential, the narrative does not follow the pattern of a diary. In fact the days and dates are hardly mentioned. Instead, he leans more towards ...

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