Monday, May 16, 2005

Pico Iyer - A global village on two legs.

He did not start them by saying, took-a-train-at-2-pm-reached-hotel-at-5pm. He did not mention all that he munched in various meals! Not a drop of sentiment, while finishing up the articles. And I could never imagine myself writing a travelogue without all these!

I already read an article by Pico Iyer and I was pretty much impressed by that. The cover of “Falling off the maps – world’s loneliest places” had a review, “The books of Pico Iyer should come with a warning label – reading in public places may cause reader to collapse helplessly in mirth!” This particular comment tempted me very much to buy the book. I got more than whatever I was looking for. I expected a book, with some funny incidents here and there, and a bit of haunting experiences to justify the comment and the title!

I got to know the political status, history of the places over the past fewer decades, the psychology of the people of various countries and more. Pico Iyer has the great ability of mixing various elements of writing in right proportions. There are statistics, the book being his observations of places. There are anecdotes – There are the hilarious encounters, but I emphasize again – all are in the right proportions – not a bit less. Not a bit more!

Pico Iyer has profound observations all over, which are not hindered by the other critical issues he is dealing with. His observation of a bumper sticker in a laundry shop of Thimphu “Cleanliness is next to loveliness”, finds its place in the middle of his explanation about the Bhutanese monastery!
It seems Iyer does a great deal of research before his travels. He has always examples to quote from various literary legends, which helps a lot in justifying whatever he says. (“Everyone is happy-go-lucky, and could not fret about anything if one tried,” complained the congenitally fretful D.H.Lawrence about Australia in a letter back home). References from literary giants like Marquez and Peter Carey add enormous credibility to Iyer's postulates.

The simplicity, hit-the-nail-on-its-head also is another good quality in his writings. He does not brag much about the tiring trek he did in Bhutan to visit the most beautiful temple. Yet you understand that it must have been hell of a trip. You get the picture just like the cart travel in ‘Tale of two cities’!

Pico’s English is the toughest of whatever I have read so far. (This fact-like-statement might not be completely true, considering the very little I have read so far!). Approximately I can find three words not-frequently-encountered, and one word that-was-never-encountered for every two statements. I felt as if I was solving some crossword puzzle, with the fights I had with dictionary.

I won’t suggest this book for someone who wants to read for the sake of sheer time passing. This is not for killing the time in a bus travel. If you have serious interests of reading (or writing), you can appreciate the book much more. Though there are lots of facts and statistics, political analysis throughout the complete book, Iyer’s subtle sense of humor and the tell-tale-events keep you alive.
[“People are the most valuable thing in the world,” My guide (in North Korea) informed me, making them sound like subway tokens.
In Vietnam, “The room my friend stayed caught on fire. I tried to find a bellboy or waiter to help, but the only way I could explain to them what was happening was by putting on my lighter. When I did, they offered me a cigarette”.]

The attitude of the Icelandic female will come in handy in all our endeavors as described in the book:

One western Islander told me that during the terrible volcano eruption of 1973, he went with his grandmother to the harbor, just in time to see the last fishing boat fleeing to the mainland. “Oh well”, the grandmother said as lava poured toward her, about to bury five hundred houses, “the last boat’s gone. Let’s go home and have a coffee”.

We still have the last boat, and it’s not too late!

That was due for a long time. Good that you have finished the formalities. Lil curious to see how frequent post here :-)
That is a nice one. Hope to see more such blogs around here.
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