Special Lassi – Amrita Chatterjee – Book Review


SpecialLassiGoodreads blurb: A Backbreaking Misadventure in the Himalayas.

A psychedelic odyssey like no other, spanning the exotic foothills of the eastern Himalayas.

In the summer of 2011, two bleary-eyed kids, teetering on the cusp of adulthood, decide to drop out of the daily grind and just travel. But once they hit the road, their plans go out the window. Soon, they are barreling over potholes the size of lunar craters in Nepal, bungee jumping in Rishikesh, waking up to Buddhist chants in Sikkim and cycling down the world’s highest motorable pass in Ladakh. On the way is a constant stream of oddballs, like the five-second-tea lady, the flute-playing hotel manager, flying Sonam, reggae junkies and many more this journey is all about rolling with the punches.

Special Lassi is one part funny, two parts crazy and a whisper of wistful-for the best things are ephemeral and a lust for life is a dangerous thing.

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I am sure that inside all of us lies a dormant traveler who likes to explore new places, meet new people, make new friends and overall just enjoy the journey as much as the destination itself. In fact, one of my most memorable trips remains the drive from New Delhi to Leh and back almost a decade ago when I was pursuing my post graduation. And this book made me relive those days all over again. A strong dose of nostalgia, I must admit.

As the blurb states, when the author Amrita Chatterjee sets off on a backpacking trip with no set agenda or schedule apart from the only objective of exploring as much of the foothills of the Himalayas as possible with her friend River, little did she probably realize that it would end up having so much impact on her that she would go on to write an entire book based on this one trip of hers. And what a book it is.

For anybody bitten by the travel-bug and is stuck in the rut of a regular day job to pay the bills, this book will surely tempt them to take a sabbatical, pack their bags and set off on a trip, even if it is only a small day trip. For sure, I can promise you that after reading this book, my trips, even official ones are not going to be the same again and all journeys henceforth will be seen with the keen eyes of a ‘traveler’ and not just as any other passenger in the train, bus, flight or whatever mode of travel I choose.

Yes, while the author does more than a commendable job of describing the sights, sounds and experiences of the places she visits and the people she encounters on this trip of hers, where she scores really high is when she manages to put in words the feeling of ephemeral happiness, peace and sheer joy that she feels at various times during the journey. And the fact that her co-traveler Rivers is quite a colorful character helps the narrative in no small way as well.

Their trip traipsing from Darjeeling to Sikkim to Kathmandu and Lumbini in Nepal, back to Haridwar and then finally ending at Leh is truly quite amazing given that they didn’t quite have a concrete plan in place when they set off on the journey itself. From the train journey which started it off all till the flight back to Delhi from Leh, their trip finds them travelling in rickety old buses, cycle rickshaws, the omnipresent jeep drives in the hilly areas and includes a couple of wonderful quiet boat rides on serene lakes in the region as well. Suffice to say that in the course of this trip they pretty much use almost every mode of transportation used by civilized humans in this part of the world.

And the people they encounter in this trip, right from the humble chaiwallas on the train to the owners, managers and housekeepers of the various places they stay at, the monks at the monasteries they visit, the fellow travelers (both foreign and Indian), the bus and jeep drivers, all of them only add to the already colorful experience they have.

In a nutshell, this book is a sure-shot read for all the travel and backpacking junkies out there. If not for anything else, at least to get an idea of the places to visit, and the things to do when they plan a trip to the foothills of the Himalayas.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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Disclaimer: I won a ‘giveaway’ copy of this book from Goodreads which was being run by the publishers when the book was launched in India.

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