Friday, December 30, 2005

Travel Writing

So, it's about 2 am CST. I was about to cozy up with a book and read myself to sleep as I usually do but then I felt something nagging me. I could not place my finger on it for 15 minutes or so and then it hit me. I wanted to write ! I know it sounds corny but it's true. I have not exercised my creative muscles in the last 2 weeks (save for the last post, which did not require that much exercise) and a fortnight is pretty long for a dry spell. Yes, I know it the spell happened more because of laziness on my part than anything else but that's just splitting hairs.

Anyway, so once I figured out that I wanted to write, I then turned my attention to what, if anything, was going to be the object of this creative exercise. A blog post ! Even if I ramble on sleepily, it fits within the blog paradigm and I will get that nagging feeling out of my head. Brilliant ! Excellent ! Umm ... err ... where was I ? Oh yeah, something about rambling.

So now I know I want to write and I also know what I want to write. That's a pretty good start, don't you think ? Now, I need to figure out what to write about when I am writing what I decided to write (try saying that fast more than once !). I know ... I will write about what I am currently reading - The Best American Travel Writing 2004. It's one of my favorite genres - Travel Essays - and one of my favorite series - The Best American Writing. I pretty much finished the rest in the 2004 set some time ago but had not gotten to this one until the flight to St. Louis.

I first got exposed to travelogues when I picked up a copy of the excellent City of Djinns by the brilliant and under-read William Dalrymple. Being a delhite myself, I really appreciated the wonderful account of Mr. Dalrymple's stay and exploits in the Indian capital. From then on, there was no stopping me. I went on to the mesmerising From the Holy Mountain - an account of his travel among the orthodox Christian population living in the Middle Eastern nations. I was so taken with his descriptions that I did something I rarely do - I looked up his email address from his official website and emailed him to express my sheer joy at having read such a wonderful piece of work. To my surprise, I got an email back from him within the hour thanking me for my comments and enquiring about what I was studying (I had mentioned I was a student). I also read his The Age of Kali during the summer when I was in NY and I was flabbergasted ! He had outdone himself. I emailed him with comments along similar lines and his reply was very heartening. He said that I had just made his day with my comments. He also encouraged me to read his latest, this time a work of historical fiction and critically acclaimed, White Mughals. Alas, I have not yet found time to read it but it has been on my list for some time now and I hope to relish it soon.

Anyway, back to the book I am reading now. It is pretty darn good and I think I have some new favorites whose columns I will attempt to track during the coming year. In fact, may be I can post links to some of my favorite pieces that were actually published online. Let's see if Google can help me out here ... ah, here we go - The heart-stirring Facing Famine (Tom Haines, Boston Globe), the personally resonating The People On The Bus (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker), the pleasantly mis-titled (read it and you will see) Kashmiri Extremism (Kevin Fedarko, Skiing) and the hilariously entertaining Canadian Gothic (Douglas Anthony Cooper, Travel & Leisure). I would have liked to post links to all the articles collected in the book but the reasons for my reluctance are threefold:

  • I think that sleep I mentioned earlier is catching up with me.
  • I really want to convince you to buy this book. No, I don't work for the publisher. I just really like it when extremely well written words find a large readership.
  • I have not finished the book yet.

So, if you have been holding off on reading travelogues, you now have even fewer excuses to do so. Happy vicarious traveling, my friends !

Thursday, December 29, 2005


I just received the best comment I have ever received on this blog - The exams must be over. Please blog!. It is wonderful to know that there are people that actually check my blog regularly. I am deeply appreciative of such nice people and hope that they continue to be regular readers.

Enough gushing. Let's talk updates. Exams are indeed over. I managed to pull straight A's again this semester. However, that's not the only good news. The clincher is that I am completely done with the coursework requirements of the PhD and now it's time for the most interesting part - the actual research and writing the dissertation. Oh, another bit of good news - my cumulative GPA is 4.0. Not a monumental achievement, but still a bit of an ego-boost especially because the CS coursework at UMCP is notoriously difficult.

I was giddy at the thought of not having to take any more classes (yes, they were fun but there comes a time when you just don't want to write any more exams) and so I went on a two day television binge, catching up with my large collection of yet-unseen DVDs - M*A*S*H, Frasier, Agatha Christie's Poirot. There were times I thought about blogging but those thoughts were soon pushed aside by the well-deserved laziness that had enveloped me.

And then it was Christmas time. Family, friends and lots of shopping - online and otherwise. One of my dear old college friends visited from Lansing, Michigan. As I already mentioned, I was otherwise unengaged and so I was able to give her a guided tour of the area - the district looking even more breathtaking during holiday season, the debauchery-drenched yet beautiful Atlantic City and the solemn views of the capital city of Annapolis.

I am typing this from St. Louis, Missouri. I am visiting one of my best friends from college, who has been in the US for a short term project. I will be here long enough to usher in 2006 and then I will head out to MD on January 1st.

That's a pretty long update, I think, and I don't want to test the patience of the few regular readers that I have, so I will end here. I apologize in advance for the lack of links in this post (I usually try and link to everything relevant in the post) but the wireless signal seems to be pretty dismal in this part of the apartment and I am too tired to hunt for a better spot. Therefore, a "linkless" post would have to do for today. Happy Holidays !