Today the first of my purchases from Thriftbooks arrived: the 1996 edition of the Lonely Planet India, complete with a business card for Ashoka Arts of Udaipur1 (which I have visited) and someone else’s notes on when to go see the Taj Mahal.
Now, why would anyone want an outdated travel guide? Simple: to reconstruct a journey taken in the past. The 1996 edition differs considerably from later versions, and it’s the one I hauled around with me during my baffling, overwhelming, life-changing slog across the subcontinent back in 1997-98.
Ever since that trip, I’ve wanted to write about India in one way or another. I have taken a number of disappointing stabs at an India novel, but I think that the processes I’m going through in my life right now — the hard struggle to face my fears and my shame squarely, to take a rigorously honest look at myself and my life — may open the door to better, truer writing.
India will almost certainly be a part of that. It has to be, I think, considering its importance in my life. And so will Judaism. I remember Björg, my Faroese traveling companion through Rajasthan, telling me she’d never heard anyone talk so much about being Jewish. Why was it that after four years of going to college three thousand miles from my parents and sleeping with exotically Scandinavian-named women, I still felt it necessary to go on a Grand Tour of a country that celebrates exactly the kind of idol worship Abraham found objectionable? And why, once I was there (and in the company of another Scandinavian), could I not stop talking about what it meant to me to be a Jew?
These are questions I wouldn’t even have been able to pose until quite recently. The whole Jewish thing, wrapped up as it is with all my parental angst and fundamental sense of dislocation and alienation, was simply too frightening even to look at. That may sound silly, but there it is.
And so I’ve decided to get myself copies of the Lonely Planets that guided me through that journey: not just the India guide, but also the one for Nepal, and for trekking in the Nepal Himalaya. If nothing else, this new-old Lonely Planet has confirmed for me the existence of the Peacock Hotel in Pushkar2, along with its location — issues that remained vague for me even though I stayed there, no doubt because of the bhang lassis I consumed each night during my visit to that pleasant little town.
1. And I quote, all sic:
Mfrs. & Exporters of : Painting on Silk, Wood, Paper and Marble
96, Patwa Street Near Jagdish Temple
UDAIPUR-313 001 (India)
We Accept All Credit Cards & Foregin Currency
Ashoka Arts A Mile Stone in the Field of Paintings.
- See How Artist Make Paintings with Natural Colours.
- A Co-operative Orgnised by the Artists.
- A Reflection of Indian Culture & Historic Background.
- Most Economical & Best Quality Painting on Marble, Silk, Paper on wood.Ashoka Arts
Best Miniature Paintings,
2. “On the outskirts of town is the Peacock Hotel, a good choice despite being rather far from the lake. The rooms surround a large, shady courtyard, and the swimming pool and jacuzzi are a big drawcard. Singles/doubles cost Rs 50/80 with common bath, Rs 120 for a double with bath attached, and there are more upmarket rooms at Rs 300/450.” I remember neither pool nor jacuzzi, but then, it was seriously cold during my visit.