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Published on: 08/14/15 11:20 AM

Book review: If It`s Monday, It Must Be Madurai by Srinath Perur

If It`s Monday It must Be Madurai,  Srinath Perur’s account of conducted tours he has taken hither and thither, is a neat meld of insights and spot-on snarkisms about fellow Indian journey men and women.

The humour is kept gentle for the most part though the digs are pointed and strike an immediate chord with those of us who have had to suffer our countrymen on long and short journeys, people with their idiosyncrasies, their insistence on desi food wherever they go, their petty prejudices and general bluster.

Perur displays an easy willingness to be a conducted tourist, observing and noting all that passes before him, even as he cuts the most peculiar character some charitable slack.

He takes a temple trip around TN that is akin to devotional pub-hopping, he goes on a trip where, dunked in typically Indian situations, he needs to remind himself that he is in Europe, a desert safari has him at his funniest talking of camelcades, shit of the desert and doing the camel pose atop what else, a camel.

A backwater cruise in Kerala has him musing on tourism in God’s own country with its `casual communism.` Elsewhere, he heads off to Uzbekistan on a sex tour, joins the spectators of localised squalor doing the Dharavi tour, marvels at the marvels in the northeast, thoroughly enjoys a Kabir yatra in Rajasthan; goes on a punishing Shodh yatra, which is basically a week-long walking tour of villages, villages in MP, in his case, and undertakes an even more punishing (but rewarding) Wari (pilgrimage on foot) to Pandharpur in Maharashtra.

Perur encounters jingoism aplenty, some not so subtle racism, and gets caught in the crossfire of fierce travel agent competition. The Assam and Meghalaya trip is my favourite set piece. The Uzbekistan tour details are presented impassively which when you think about it, is the best way to write about conducted carousing!

Having read about Babur’s love for pomegranates, Perur is happily surprised to see his fellow travellers stock up on the fruit at Tashkent, only to soon realise that `this Babur-like connoisseurship of fresh fruit` was for the supposed strength it imparted!

Perur is no impartial observer; some of the tours he undertakes are arduous and he really gives it his all, physically and emotionally. At times, as when on the Wari, he discovers he has become active party to an exclusion he doesn’t even believe in.

All through the book, he refers to the group in an inclusive manner; it’s always `we,` even when `we` are behaving most peculiarly. Through the tour guide in Europe, he details just why Indians stand out as yahoos in Europe; shouting loudly, belching loudly, hooting when they yawn; unable to follow rules. As a travel writer, he is a subtle one, only occasionally giving way to rhapsodic writing, as when he arrives at the root bridges of Nongriat in Meghalaya.

Written with sensitivity and a keen sense of fun, If it`s Monday is, simply put, a good travel book.

book reviewconducted toursIf It`s Monday It Must Be MaduraiSrinath Perurtravelogue

Sheila Kumar • August 14, 2015

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