This is a unique perspective from a west London lad who takes a voyage of discovery, a voyage to discover heritage, roots, amazing differences and surprising commonality. Sanjeev Bhaskar has straddled both British and Indian societies with their many complexities and contradictions.
Sanjeev had a childhood to which so many of us can relate. Home was a maisonette above a laundrette and under the Heathrow flight path. I can still remember the distinctive aroma of the paraffin stove that was the “heater of choice” for his family and so many others in the 1960s. Not everything was cold, grey and gloomy – the fish and chip shop was just next door!
The long family holidays spent in New Delhi seemed to the young Sanjeev to be a catalogue of discomfort, with intermittent water supply and mosquitoes that had a penchant for English take-away. Telephones were rare and air conditioning wasn’t an option, but how times have changed – twenty years later India is a world leader in biotechnology and pharmaceutical research, it has the world’s largest radio telescope and is at last taking its place in the international arena in so many other areas. India still manages to hold to its traditions, a task that would seem impossible to maintain under the onslaught of technology and modernity.
Sanjeev is famed for his comedic portrayal of Indians in the UK and for hosting Delhi Belly, a food travelogue with restaurateur Reza Mahammad. You would expect him to write a light and witty book, and India is very much that. It’s also filled with honest and sometimes painful observation. There is a story of tragedy here that also speaks of strength, forgiveness and hope for the future.
On a humorous note our hero is invited to the birthday party of His Royal Highness Rajeshwar Saramad-i-Rajha-i-Hindustan Mahararjadhiraja Maharajah Shri GAJ SINGHJI II Sahib Bahadur Singh. Sanjeev wonders “Gosh, what do we sing when we get to ‘Happy Birthday dear….?’ He had no need to worry as it was “Happy Birthday dear Bapji” and the dear man even handed Sanjeev a slice of his cake.
India – One Man’s Personal Journey Round the Subcontinent is a book that will take you through the whole spectrum of emotion but it’s equally a book that will be thoroughly enjoyed by those of us who love India in all its myriad facets.
India – One Man’s Personal Journey Round the Subcontinent
Author: Sanjeev Bhaskar
Published by: HarperCollins
Travelogue review by Chrissie Walker © 2018