“When the chapter (and the book) is named as exotically as ‘The Land of Flying Lamas’, I think it’s sensible to start with that. We didn’t see any flying lamas, but we were with one.”
This is the opening line of Story 7 of the book – The Land of Flying Lamas & Other Real Travel Stories from the Indian Himalaya.
Caught the paradox? There are two actually.
The book does not start with this story. There are not many flying lamas, but just one (that too alleged). And the story or whatever it is, is not about the ‘land’of flying lamas, in fact, one lama who can allegedly fly is just a small part of this particular chapter.
Now before I delve deeper into the highs and lows of this book, here is the teaser that the book’s blurb presents to the prospective readers.
Beyond the hill stations, the mall roads and the ‘points’ is the ‘other Himalaya’. A Himalaya where flowers bloom in the green rolling meadows, the streams are bubbly, no pedal boats ply in the lakes, the glaciers can be felt and the passes crossed to more magical lands (where you might find flying lamas too). It’s the real Himalaya and it’s the real stories from the travels of people like you and me in this Himalaya that make this book.
The grand plan is that the next time you are looking for a family vacation or an adventure trek or a soul-searching solo trip, these stories from different regions of Indian Himalaya will provide you a few more options to choose from. There is also a special chapter by Rujuta Diwekar, India’s top fitness professional, on why you must trek, the physiological benefits for your body and what to eat to get the best out of your Himalayan trek.
My two cents:
I had been looking forward to reading this book for a while, after being intrigued (as always) by the title. This particular title had popped up after I had a made a book purchase on Flipkart, and on checking out was asked/advertised if I wanted to buy this one too. You know how for book lovers/hoarders, buying books is like slipping into a black hole, so before I slipped right in, I decided to quit. Maybe next time, I thought and left it at that. However, the book’s title stayed on in the mind.
So the next time I was in the vicinity of a bookstore, I knew which book I most definitely had to buy. I bought this one right away and two chapters down the line, I knew this was a mistake. I was looking for exotic travel stories and here there were none.
The Land of Flying Lamas & Other Real Travel Stories is roughly 180 pages of Himalayan folklore, observations, anecdotes, and may be diary entries, passed off as stories. The remaining pages deal with facts about trekking.
Gaurav Punj, the author of this work, runs a trekking outfit, and observations/musings/reflections from his many trekking trips have become ‘stories’ in this book. The writing is simple with a limited vocabulary. More often than not, the author keeps giving up on describing the scenes from the trek and asks the readers to check the photos instead. And when there’s actually an opportunity to tell a story, the author decides – later.
The last two chapters – an overview of sorts on trekking and tourism in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh are absolute dampeners, more boring than the rest of the book. The book also has an epilogue penned by the author’s wife, Rujuta Diwekar, titled: Trekking – The Way of the Wise, where she talks about the dos and don’ts to follow while trekking in the Himalayas.
In all, The Land of Flying Lamas & Other Real Travel Stories from the Indian Himalaya is a boring work, written with good intentions but poorly executed. The title is misleading, there are no stories, random people from the trek pop up without and last but not the least, the book seems more like a PR exercise to promote the author’s trekking venture.
More about the book:
Author: Gaurav Punj
Publisher: Tranquebar by Westland Ltd
Price: Rs. 395
Ragini’s Rating: 2/5
Note to self: High time I stop buying books with intriguing titles. They just have titles and nothing else.