Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws: A Journey Through Modern India. Laura Pedersen. Fulcrum Publishing. May 2012. 224 pages paperback. ISBN #: 9781555916183.
Laura Pederson has moved in a new direction with this nonfiction account of her interest in and exploration of modern India. Beginning with an explanation of her fascination with India, she humorously relates how the TV show Bewitched with its Dr. Bombay character propelled her to notice there was a difference between Americans naming American Indians, island Indians and India-Indians. It gradually led her to desire to visit this land that unfortunately is only known for its more horrific stereotypes, some of which do exist but which hardly touch on the many faceted nature of this unique country. So the reader will travel with the author to see just what the truth is.
Laura Pedersen doesn't shy away from the good, the bad, and the ugly in her travels. However, it is amazing to see how she touches on all the important aspects of Indian culture. For instance, there are chapters on many cities such as Delhi where the beautiful sites of the Qutub Minar (the world's tallest black minaret) vie with places like the Jain Bird Hospital where birds who are injured from the national pastime of kite flying (bearing little similarity to the American kite flying pleasure) are treated and allowed to heal. Or perhaps you'd like to visit the gorgeous Taj Mahal which in some places occasionally springs a leak (and romantics call shedding a tear).
There are glorious spas, shopping enough for any shopaholic, and animal resorts. The diversity of things to do is amazing. And of course there are the culinary delights which range from fiery to mild Indian dishes to salivate the glands of any food lover! Or Mumbai with its Standing Babas who vow to never sit or lay down again to work off any bad karma in their past. Aspects of history are thrown in for good measure, with an assurance that safety measures are as important there as anywhere since the rise of terrorism. Other sections are devoted to little known aspects of the major religions of India as well as a discussion of the benefits and liabilities of the caste system that holds sway in some Indian towns and has been abandoned in more modern cities. There's even a chapter describing the major Indian political leaders and what they are best and little known for during their careers. And there's so much more than what has been described here!
While there is not a huge depth to these discussions, any reader is bound to both learn and be intrigued by the facets the author does add about each item of discussion. Any reader enjoying this book just might start to think about adding this to their "bucket list" of places to visit and explore in the near or far future!!! Very interesting and well done, Ms. Pedersen. You are a writer with many styles of writing to your credit - travel writing is your latest that is so well done!