East of the Sun – Book Review
Destination: Myanmar through a land trip across Assam, Nagaland and Manipur- This, in short, is what East of the Sun: A Nearly Stoned Walk Down the Road in a Different Land is ostensibly about. The book market makes no two bones about it either, neatly cataloguing Guwahati Bosconian Siddhartha Sarma’s latest offering onto the shelves of travel-writing. Caution: if you are looking for a tourist- guide to the north-eastern states and beyond, then this book is just not what you are looking for and you better take the Author’s note seriously on that. For, East of the Sun is more than a mere travelogue. It is the manifestation of an adventurer’s sheer vitality.
Wait a minute, wait a minute. Didn’t the cover just read “A nearly-stoned walk…”? Yes. And that’s where the punch of the book lies. The road-trip begins literally on a reunion with a conversation between friends “sloshed witless” and ends in Tamu, where “samples” are easy to access if “you have a contact or two” , or erm…even otherwise. Yet this isn’t a seedy “how to find your booze and dope” guide book guised as a travelogue either. East of the Sun is an exposition on the various dimensions and definitions of travelling across different lands and well, yes across different states of being.
As the reading eye travels through the various pages of the book, the narrator, Cid, takes his audience onto a journey that cuts across words and photographs, geographies and cultures, timelines and histories, the monumental and the mundane. One travels with the psyche of an urban youth through places and spaces, through random thoughts and wry remarks, through listed “facts” and anecdotes and, yes, even through a history of travel literatures written on the region and on travelling in general- if the reader is attentive enough to the gamut of information present on each page of the book.
Sarma skilfully uses everyday lingo to structure the book. Apparently the book is a product of reworking a series of e-mails sent to friends during his real-life sojourn on the same route. The text is peppered with SMS vocabulary, notes to the “ed” and even punctuated with a few “re”s as the narrator attempts to explicate, emphasise and reiterate his own POV. Cid forays into the lands of his “home” and beyond with an unabashed “I-know-it-all-so-let-me-tell-you-what-it-actually is” attitude. And this to me is the dope that turns the book into such a tripping read. Not many would perhaps agree with Cid’s opinions. Some may, I should caution, even take offence at the flippant and callous tone Cid adopts during some of his observations of cultures other than his own. Nonetheless, this is a book where character is king and the basis for the dexterous interplay of various kinds of knowledge systems operative in the grand narrative of the text.
So dear armchair adventurer, whether you qualify as a Potato Chip traveller or a Grand Master who already knew it all; if you enjoy reading about places and people and like your plate of information served with a dash of humour, audacity and vibrancy; in other words, if you are “kooky enough” East of the Sun is a definite read for you. Go grab your copy if you haven’t already yet. Discover the north-east anew– this time, see it through the quirky side of someone who believes that the north-east is “best visited as a traveller, not as a tourist”.
Book: East of the Sun –A Nearly Stoned Walk Down the Road in a Different Land
Author: Siddhartha Sarma
ISBN-13: 9789380658360, 978-9380658360
Publishing Date: 2010
Number of Pages: 249
Price: Rs. 295.00
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