Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Indian Takeaway- In Search of an Identity...

Last year I happened to read an incredible book by Monisha Rajesh in which the British Indian journalist goes on a journey through the length and breadth of India in trains. It turns out to be a self revelatory experience. Now this 2008 book, Indian Takeaway is much similar. Here, a Scottish journalist of Indian origin, an amateur cook, travel across India cooking British food for locals. He does it in the belief that this exercise can reveal his true identity.

Hardeep Singh Kohli is a journalist and TV personality. He is also an amateur cook. He was brought up in Glasgow by his immigrant parents. In his childhood, to his surprise, he was treated as an outsider due to his Indian ancestry. But his views, interests and allegiance were very British. This duality made him undertake a journey through different cities of India, and cook a British dish at each city. Read the book to find out if anything comes oyt of this exercise.

First thing that strikes the reader about this book is the honesty that the writer brings on the table. About his feelings, cooking, family, culture, things he sees and has to undergo on course, Kohli writes openly. There is an incident in the book where he is not sure about his train reservation and worries about journeying in third class. Any other person would have sugar coated the whole thing, but Kohli doesn't. He openly declare his fear of 'the girl who is eating mango and the old woman who sleeps on floor'. At first I felt it insensitive, but who am I to judge!

Second best are his descriptions- about journey, places, people and more importantly about food and cooking. He masterfully builts up the atmosphere, so that the reader finds it easy to understand his thinking. There is a liberal dose of humor sprinkled in the narrative. Some of it works, but some falls flat. Certain anecdotes and attempts on word play, doesn't gel with the content of the book. Another major issue for me was 'the Kohli Family Trivia' which severly hampers the flow of the book in many places.

Overall I felt it to be an interesting read and may be of interest to foodies and travel enthusiasts, though the final outcome, whether Kohli was able to find out who he really is, turned out to ambiguous.

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