Never Mind the Bullocks: One girl's 10,000 km adventure around India in the worlds cheapest car by Vanessa Able
|Never Mind the Bullocks: One girl's 10,000 km adventure around India in the worlds cheapest car by Vanessa Able|
|Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis|
|Summary: Vanessa Able challenged herself to drive round India in the newly-launched Tata Nano. On the way she discovered lots about driving to survive and surprisingly little about that vast country … away from the road.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: March 2014|
|Publisher: Nicholas Brealey|
|External links: Author's website|
With a cute little map of India on the front cover and cartoon cars puttering over the page, I thought I’d chosen an entertaining yet mind-broadening travelogue. Well I was wrong. Now I’ve read it through, I don’t even see it on the same shelf as a Lonely Planet. But that’s possibly this book’s novelty and great strength. The travelogue shelf is fair groaning under weighty tomes by Europeans digging into Indian life and culture. So let me unpack the delights of this particular book for you, but don’t be misled: you aren’t going to pick up many recommendations for your own odyssey from this round-India skedaddle.
Vanessa Able is a successful travel journalist; she’d visited India previously, so I guess it’s fair to say she knew what she was letting herself in for when she challenged herself to drive round such a vast country in three months.
At the end of a relationship and with no current commission, she opted to buy the most affordable car in the world, an Indian Tata Nano. Aimed at the new middle class, the newly-released Nano was selling like hotcakes. Vanessa Able’s first challenge was to locate one ready for immediate delivery. She then set off in her air-conditioned yellow pod, adding a GPS to ensure her complete independence of any local aid. Well, the GPS proved a treacherous bedfellow and was swiftly nicknamed Delilah.
A roadview of India has a different slant to a backpacker’s or train passenger’s perceptions. Of necessity this book is about motorways with potholes, overloaded lorries and motorcycles, vehicles and animals on the wrong carriageway and the real probability of dying in a road accident. Check out -http://www.nanodiaries.com www.nanodiaries.com] for some tantalising glimpses of her journey.
Both armchair and intending drivers on Indian roads may be entertained by the survival guide that Vanessa Able developed as she went. It includes dealing with policemen after a traffic infringement and how to overtake a lorry going up a mountain pass. The Rules of the Road pages include an amusing explanation of the function of horns in Indian driving, a vital communication tool neglected only by the discourteous:
… what I gradually came to learn – and this did wonders for my blood pressure – was that the horn covered most forms of road communication that might in other cultures be transmitted through the indicator lights, mirrors and various other subtler forms of road etiquette.
The trip itself was the usual mishmash of good and bad times. After all, no-one who travels stays in their comfort zone. Luckily, Abhilasha, the Nano, acquitted herself well in the extremes of Indian road conditions that she encountered over the next three months. The good times included a reunion with the gorgeously-named Thor … and all I will say is, how could she not fall in love with a man named Thor?
As is always the case, physically travelling took a lot longer than had been planned, leaving little time for relaxing or visiting the places that Vanessa had driven so far to reach. For instance, she mentions ten minutes at the Maharajah’s Palace at Mysore. After a while, the repetitive strains of driving caused increasing pain; in the end, the journey itself became arduous toil, bad times that she hadn’t foreseen in her forward planning.
The problem with the car-as-a-refuge-from-the-world is that it inures the driver from the very contact that will provide colour and a sense of location for the armchair reader. So while the author’s interior monologue is readable, funny and smart, it’s actually when Vanessa Able is forced out of the car to interract with others that the narrative flies. Her meeting with the Maharaja of Omkareshwar provides a great episode, worthy of Gerald Durrell.
To her credit, the author obviously finished the circumnavigation with a real affection for the country and the little car. But she didn’t leave me with the slightest inkling to visit India.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book.
Other traveller’s tales you might like to try :Touching The World: A Blind Woman, Two Wheels and 25,000 Miles by Cathy Birchall and Bernard Smith; Hops and Glory: One Man's Search for the Beer That Built the British Empire by Pete Brown;[ [An Indian Odyssey by Martin Buckley]]; In the Valley of Mist: Kashmir's Long War - One Family's Extraordinary Story by Justine Hardy.
You can read more book reviews or buy Never Mind the Bullocks: One girl's 10,000 km adventure around India in the worlds cheapest car by Vanessa Able at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Never Mind the Bullocks: One girl's 10,000 km adventure around India in the worlds cheapest car by Vanessa Able at Amazon.com.
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