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A travelogue with a difference – The Buddha and the Bitch is more the journey of two women very unlike each other who discover themselves as they take the trip.
Despite being a closet vagabond at heart, I hadn’t much been fond of travelogues. I always had the mistaken understanding that a travelogue was about places to visit and things to do – something that you could get from a simple Google search. I have also allows thought that most of these books, with brightly designed hard-backed covers and large glossy pictures, were exorbitantly priced and were written by besotted foreign visitors. It could also have been that working in the hotel and travel industry gave me an opportunity to visit and experience first-hand see these places for myself and so the need to read about another man’s travels in my own country did not arise.
I was, as a result, quite loathe to picking these books off shelves.
The first travelogue that I did read finally (Kailash Mansarovar, published by Readomania) changed my perception of what travel books were about. It also introduced me to the pleasure that was vicarious travel.
So when I got to know about The Buddha and The Bitch, I was intrigued. The title itself said that this was no travel guide but instead an experiential narration about two women – who presumably – visit each other and narrate it from their perspectives. I was only partly right.
While I was looking forward to a book about women’s travel, The Buddha and The Bitch is a lot more than that. The easy writing and relatable story-telling ensure an instant connect with the reader, enabling one to delve deeper than just the words on the page.
For me, it offered a validation and comfort of being a struggling writer, as I could relate to the struggles narrated by Rashma. As I discovered more about her experience while attempting to become a writer, and when she spoke about making friends in an online space, I felt as if someone was talking about me and my journey in writing and blogging. It kept reminding me of a close friendship that I’ve developed online with someone who I now call my soul sister. We’ve had similar heart-to-heart conversations and though distance keeps us apart, we do not shy away from weaving great big dreams of traveling together and co-authoring books.
The book starts off with an introduction to the two writer friends – Rashma and Phebe, which I thought was a perfect preamble to the whole reading experience, as it makes you the third friend amongst them. The introductions are so honest and warm that one instantly gets absorbed in the conversation – a feeling that continues throughout the book even when they are travelling or visit different places. Indeed, the feeling of sitting in Rashma’s living room, sipping tea, while listening to them regale the reader with their endearing conversations and colourful anecdotes never once left me.
The writing is simple and yet vivid. I could easily imagine Rashma and Phebe together – even if the scene that Rashma narrated was one where they were just sitting idle or chatting while sipping tea. Rashma’s role as a tour guide to Phebe brought a smile to my face. It evokes a sense of nostalgia and warm memories when family and friends from outside Delhi come visiting for the first time and the native dweller proudly and excitedly takes on the responsibility of showcasing the best of what the culturally-rich city has to offer. The various incidents – buying Pashmina, visiting the Cottage Emporium, roaming through the Lodi Gardens, visit to the Taj Mahal – all reminded me of the times I took my friends and colleagues on excursions in Delhi.
If their travel stories brought me a sense of joy and allowed me to travel vicariously through them, no, with them, their confessions about writing made me feel reassured about the struggles and frustrations that a writer goes through.
The fact that both authors are so passionate about writing and share much of their writing journeys adds a lot of depth to the book, especially for a newbie writer like me. The book held quite a few gems for me – some which resonated strongly within my heart and some which were revelations, and others sound advice that I wouldn’t want to forget. Ever!
‘If there is a city in the world I can call my own, it is Delhi.’
‘I believe, the only way to survive in this ever-changing world, is to write honestly.’
‘Writing happens in myriad ways. You can float up in the skies or pour down your woes or roar like thunder.’
‘What a bliss it would be to write without the strings of ambition.’
The chapters switch between Rashma’s and Phebe’s narratives, extending a unique quality to the book. Their different styles of writing -Rashma’s intricate detailing- particularly for the physical descriptions and their personal interactions, her pragmatism, and Phebe’s more balanced and ‘larger picture’ narration and her idealism help the book become far more layered and experiential than it could have been otherwise. The result is a wonderful amalgamation and helps create a mental picture that is both, personal and descriptive at the same time, much like two friends narrating their experiences and filling in the gaps while narrating their stories to the third friend.
And that’s what you feel through most of the book. This makes the reader as involved as the authors themselves, for they share their innermost thoughts and life stories. The failures, the moments of pride or disappointment, the achievements and struggles – all are bared in an honest interaction with the reader.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the Buddha and the Bitch and I’m sure you will too. All you need to do is take a trip with them.
If you’d like to pick up The Buddha and the Bitch by Rashma & Phebe, use our affiliate links: at Flipkart, at Amazon India, and at Amazon US.
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Top image via Pixabay and book cover via Amazon
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