Title: Loitering with Intent
Author: Ritu Menon
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Pages: 235; Price: Rs 299
This book is a Diary of a happy traveller, as the subtitle tells us, and I was delighted to receive the review copy, because I myself love travelling and this book promised to be very entertaining, if not educational. I certainly learned a lot about food here, because, obviously that was Ms. Menon’s primarily concern through her travels! The author is the co-founder of the feminist press Kali for Women and she has, to her credit, several books of fiction and non-fiction.
That apart, I was curious to read what she had to say about her various exciting travels and I must admit that I was also a little envious, because she had already visited countries that I wanted to see but hadn’t yet.
She never travelled alone, she wrote, when she travelled for pleasure and she and her friends were always spontaneous in their spur-of-the-moment choice of trips. I wish, however, that she had chosen her chapters date-wise, because Myanmar in 2012, but Turkey before that in 2015 is a bit unsettling before England in 2004 and then France in 2005. But that I suppose is a small matter.
What I found disappointing was the lack of historic, social and cultural evidence in her descriptions of the several countries she and her friends visited over the years. Her friends, and there were several: Pogey, Cookie, Ayesha, Ratna and so on. Who were they? Did they have real names and backgrounds? I would have loved to have known them better.
The chapters are well written in smooth, chatty English, the sort English Honours’ students would write for a homework essay: for example “I leave quickly. The tension is unbearable.”
I did not really learn much about the countries Ms. Menon and her friends visited “spontaneously”. The main thing the author reported was that “we were all travelling, we all love food and all of us enjoy each others’ company”.
Yes, food the author obviously loved, there is barely a page where she does not savour the food of the area. It was delicious, splendid, a delight, heavenly, the best ever…Did my mouth water? I am afraid not, because I was over-sated with these wondrous delights and I could not eat any more or even been envious of these happy foodies.
It is a chatty book to be read among friends: the grandeur and sophistication of Angkor Wat, I honestly don’t think I can describe it adequately”. And this is the gist of the matter, the descriptions are just not adequate. Cambodia, Borobodur, Sicily, Palestine, French wine country, Egypt, all jumbled up in 2011 or whenever.
I wish I had gone too, but then I am not a foodie nor am I a connoisseur, and I doubt that this group would not have found me a spoilt sport, just wanting to see more of the countries and their people and not just their nourritures.
“The food was wonderful, all of it – starters, mains, desserts… the octopus and calamari – with wine –”. Was that in Turkey? I forget; the food was so good at every stop.