A few years ago, British writer Mark Shand cut an 800-mile swath across southern and central India atop a 30-year-old elephant named Tara. What he saw along the way makes up the heart of this entertaining memoir. His reminiscences of the good food and warmly hospitable people of the nation make you want to head out the door and find the nearest mahout, but the real star of the show is Tara, who has a sweet personality and a penchant for mischief, such as shoplifting fruit from vendors' stalls and lifting prostitutes' saris. However, Shand sadly notes, "The Indian elephant is running out of living space." His sort of adventure may thus be harder to come by in the future--so find that mahout now. If you can't, as vicarious experiences go, following Shand across the subcontinent is tough to beat.
From Publishers Weekly
This tale of a recent 800-mile journey across India on an elephant is at once entertaining and exasperating. Shand ( Skulduggery ), who has also head-hunted in Indonesia and motor-raced from London to Sydney, impulsively buys a 30-year-old elephant to ride from Konarak on the Bay of Bengal to Sonepur across the Ganges to the great elephant bazaar. In addition to Tara, the elephant, Shand gathers Indian helpers and advisers as quirky as himself, and together they travel across the country--Shand on Tara, his party in a jeep--astounding, amusing and puzzling those they encounter. Along the way, Shand learns about the care and feeding of elephants; and about rural India, which still worships the elephant God Ganesh and which leaps to life in this book. The group attends village festivals, receives the hospitality of princes and policemen, and Shand becomes so enamored of Tara that they share a slug of whisky and mingle their tears at his leave-taking. Overly coy in the telling, The characters (including the elephant) are difficult to identify with, but the local color is delightful, despite the overly coy prose. Photos not seen by PW.
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Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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