Packed with illuminating history, this fictional travelogue carefully details a colorful family vacation across northern India.
Young Ooma is 9 years old when her extended family, spanning three generations, meets for a long bus tour of northern India. For a trip across their native land, their personal experiences on the monumental journey are only briefly accessed, without any real emotional portraiture. Each chapter is devoted to a plethora of attractions and historical monuments—the Taj Mahal, the Palace of Winds, Qutab Minar’s mosque, the holy river Ganga and the Himalayas—but descriptions are given at face value; aside from a few clichéd exclamations, there’s little elaboration or imagery of the breathtaking sights. Of the large family, the only one we consistently see is Ooma’s willful, shutter-happy father, who, with his stubborn attitude, creates the majority of the trip’s hijinks. However, young Ooma’s narration rarely achieves the charm or wit that a child’s perspective could bring to such a tale. Anecdotes add color to the family’s journey: A rickshaw driver gets them lost late at night in Delhi; Ooma’s father is chastised by spiritualists for photographing them in a religious procession; Grandfather serendipitously encounters a long-lost friend in Hardwar. Yet many unique experiences drift into lost opportunities spanning a few sentences, even though the reader will crave an entire scene. Ooma and her family are a likable bunch of travel companions, though, and they’re sincere in their desire to see India’s many wonders. The book’s greatest accomplishment is the wide-lens though superficial perspective it offers of the dynamic region.
Falls short as a moving novel, but it’s enough to satisfy a beginner curious about northern India.