#TimeToTravel: Explore India through literature

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literary trail india

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We are constantly searching for new ways to experience our home country. Be it via scrumptious food trails or through adrenaline-packed adventures, there are myriad ways to get to know India differently and see it with a fresh pair of eyes.
In recent years, the concept of literary tourism, already popular abroad, has caught up in India. Travel has married literature to bring the unique experience of making our books come alive. One can now traverse through places that served as the muse and setting for famous works of fiction and watch the pages come to life. 

Here is a list of five Indian destinations that are a must-visit if you are a lover of literature…

literary trail india

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The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy gets under the skin of Kerala and peels back all the layers of the state in this Booker Prize-winner. Lush coconut farms and expansive paddy fields find mention along with the meandering backwaters the state is famous for. Roy paints a picture of a sleepy, slow town and one can enjoy this languid side of Kerala through a trip guided by her evocative writing. Rent a houseboat or choose a quaint homestay by the narrow canals to get the full experience.   

literary trail india sunderbans

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The Sunderbans, West Bengal: The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

The Sunderbans come to life in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide. A large portion of the book is tethered in the partially-submerged archipelago that is blanketed with mangrove forests. The labyrinthine waters of the delta, the mercurial tidal floods, and the region’s famous resident the Royal Bengal tiger are all deftly woven into the narrative. Ghosh’s Sunderbans is a creature of its own, and there is beauty amid all the madness. Explore the diverse cluster of islands and experience first-hand their rich natural offerings through an exciting river cruise. Apart from the tiger, one can also spot the rare Irrawaddy dolphins, a major plot catalyst in the book. 

literary trail india hills

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Dehradun, Uttarakhand:
A Town Called Dehra by Ruskin Bond 

Ruskin Bond is one of the biggest purveyors of the mountains. His simple and vivid writings, peppered with his signature wit and humour, have long regaled us with stories from the hills and mountains of India. The Mussoorie-based writer has written extensively on the hills and valleys of Dehradun, a place he has always had a fond attachment to. In A Town Called Dehra, Ruskin introduces us to Dehradun like it is his dear friend, and we get a charming glimpse of a Dehra of the past – a town replete with lush litchi trees and horse-drawn tongas, a sleepy town with an affinity for gossip, and dotted with streams and gardens. Though the hectic capital city is very different today, it’s still alluring.  Stroll around bustling, Colonial-era Dehradun and enjoy its abundant natural beauty and the markers of its past through the eyes of Bond.

Paramankeni, Tamil  Nadu: Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi

Tishani Doshi’s Small Days and Nights flits between Madras (Chennai), Kodaikanal and Paramankeni, but it is the latter that stands out. The sleepy Tamil Nadu fishing village straddling the Bay of Bengal is where the protagonist Grace finds herself after the death of her mother. The description of Paramankeni is inspired by Doshi’s own time spent in the small village. She paints a languorous picture of a tiny place miles away from any significant town with “its vacant bus stops colonised by flying foxes, where every dusk the fishermen line the beach”. Visit Paramankeni to unwind on its picturesque beaches and, if you are lucky enough, rent a stay option –  just like the protagonist – that is coloured pink, adorned in blue shutters and overlooks the beach! 

literary trail india kol

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Kolkata, West Bengal:  The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri 

Jhumpa Lahiri is a master at skillfully entwining the essence of a place into the narrative. In The Namesake, set for the most part in Massachusetts, it is Calcutta (now Kolkata) that spills out from every corner through the characters. Lahiri taps into her own experience as a Bengali-American, which adds a layer of ‘realness’. Her Calcutta is all about strong family bonds, and decadent Bengali meals that never seem to end. Explore the buzzing city of Kolkata, converse with the locals, and sample its delicious fare to feel like a character right out of a Jhumpa Lahiri novel.

Also see: Max out your time on a houseboat in Kerala

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