India Incredible India
Jasbinder Bilan, illustrated by Nina Chakrabarti
As a frequent visitor to India I know that to be there is an onslaught on the senses. You almost experience that when you read Jasbinder Bilan and Nina Chakrabarti’s book and as the author implies in her ‘welcome’ introduction, to visit any of the states is like visiting a different country. I totally agree when she says this vast country has a ‘huge welcoming heart’. Indeed it has many, for I have formed some very close friendships over the years with people in various states from Rajasthan to Kerala.
The book is narrated by Thara whose nanijee has a very special old trunk full of precious objects collected over the years as mementos of her travels all over the country. Every Friday night the two sit together and nanijee takes out one object and tells her granddaughter all about it – the state of its origin, what makes it unique and why it’s so special to her.
The first item is a book entitled Ganga and we learn the story of the goddess Ganga and the origin of the holy river Ganges that starts its journey in the Himalayas in the state of Uttarakhand. I was excited to see that second object was an envelope with a stamp showing sculptures from a place I once visited – Chandigarh’s sculpture garden – where everything is made from recycled waste.
As the journey continues, readers will discover something of the history of Delhi, where ancient and modern sit side by side; see some of India’s amazing and diverse wildlife, be astonished by the beauty of some of the architecture, notably the Taj Mahal, the Golden Temple in Amritsar – the holiest city for members of the Sikh religion and Udaipur’s Lake Palace. Rajasthan and in particular Udaipur is like my second home.
If you take a trip on a boat along Kerala’s backwaters, you may well encounter elephants taking their morning bath.
But no matter where you go, there will be markets, some selling good things to eat, others, richly patterned clothing, wonderfully crafted jewellery or perhaps dhokra (metal statues like those in Odisha and West Bengal.)
I could continue enthusing about the multitude of wonders India has to offer, and this book with its splendid illustrations, gives a real taste of those wonders, so I suggest you get a copy, read it and start planning your visit.