Where Stories Stalk the Travel!

Whether in Jerusalem or in the remote Himalayas, stories stalk Ashis Dutta in his travels.

Gandhi and the London Cabby is a delightful ensemble of such stories. Each story brings out the aroma of human nature and relationships. Of wonder and fear, of agonies and ecstasy – subtle and loud. And often, of sheer delight. 

A freelance writer for two decades, Ashis brings out the characters of his stories in flesh and blood.

Link to the book – https://amzn.eu/d/eys0Lrp 

Let’s delve into the author’s insights.

Interviewer: You said, before this book, you have been writing professionally in newspapers and magazines for many years. What have you been writing about?

Ashis Dutta: Yes, for 24 years, to be precise. In mainstream newspapers like The Hindu, and Deccan Herald, and in in-flight magazines. I write about three broad areas: travel, music, and culture. 

Interviewer: Any interesting events from your long writing career?

Ashis Dutta: Many. One that happened a few years ago. I had written an article in The Hindu on International Language Day. 

Excerpts of my article regarding a linguistic plurality of India were quoted by a professor of JNU in one of the series of JNU lectures, which Harper Collins later published as a book with a provocative title – What the Nation Really Needs to Know. And thus, this book has my name and my article mentioned in the content and also in the bibliography. 

Now, I was blissfully unaware of all these developments with my article, till someone who read that book called me up from Kolkata and taunted me as to when I joined the JNU gang. Ha ha ha. 

Interviewer: Coming to your book, how did this come into being?

Ashis Dutta: I have been a crazy traveler. Earlier, when I could not afford to travel, I dreamt of traveling, reading books, and traveling vicariously. Then, when I started to travel, my passion often took me deeper into the lives of the people in the places I travel to. And you know, where there are people, there would be stories. 

By now, I just be with the people in distant places, and stories come bubbling. Often with unexpected turns of events, exposing human vulnerabilities, and on many occasions, my own vulnerability.

Interviewer: Did you really see the stories in your book bubbling up?

Ashis Dutta: One story, it arrived with an earth-shattering thump. Then there is another one that sneaked in when I thought everything was over. 

On several occasions, as you will find in the book, I could sense a story gently forming in the clouds of events, and taking shape. Sometimes the place and the surroundings become the catalyst. And I enjoy this serendipity of epiphany. 

Interviewer: How do you choose your places? 

Ashis Dutta: I have this uncanny feeling that places choose me. Way back in the 1990s, I couldn’t dream I would be roaming around in Jerusalem, in Israel, and in Palestine Territory. And there, I could never predict the next moment. You’ll know when you read that story.

Know what, places, for me, are living beings. They talk to me. They often wink. You would find in my book that places are not stoic, lifeless beings, but are often characters in the stories.

Interviewer: When it comes to places, do you have your favorites?

Ashis Dutta: I confess, I have a bias for the Himalayas. But I am at home in the mountains, by the sea, amid historical relics, in bustling cities and sleepy villages. And in any part of the country and the world.

Interviewer: And these all feature in your book?

Ashis Dutta: Yes, most. And one story unfolded within the contraption of a fat aeroplane.

Interviewer: Can your readers interact with you?

Ashis Dutta: Yes, over email. connectwithashis@gmail.com, mind you, it’s ashis, not ashish. 

Link to the book – https://amzn.eu/d/eys0Lrp

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