I got a pleasant surprise the other day, when I got a Twitter notification about an book review blog mentioning my book 'Three Men on Motorcycles' on whatshouldireadnext.com
The article was titled 'Must-read alternative travel books about India' and mentioned four books - Three Men on Motorcycles, 'Truck de India' by Rajat Ubhyankar, 'Chai Chai' by Bishwanath Ghosh and 'Postcards from Ladakh' by Ajay Jain.
Check out the article - click here
Three Amigos Ride to Spiti by Ketan Joshi
I have to say, I have been waiting for this book. I read everything written by Ketan Joshi who slowly but firmly cemented his position among the English language writers of India. He has written short stories, detective stories and even books on marketing, but his travel stories are just magical, awesome and filled with the most innocent, the purest form of fun. Three Men Ride Again: Three Amigos Ride to Spiti by Ketan Joshi is the second book in the series of Three Amigos travelogue. I read the first book in this series. It was called Three Men on Motorcycles: The Amigos Ride to Ladakh. I liked it immensely. So I couldn’t resist the temptation of downloading the second book, that I found buried under stacks of other Kindle books.
Ketan Joshi’s second book is even better than the first one. The most important improvement being the brevity. When it comes to writing travelogue, Ketan Joshi is simply a genius. Other travel stories that I read over last few years were serious, dreamy-eyed type descriptions of places and people. There are plenty route charts, information on hotels and must-see places. But all these voluminous details and painstakingly laid out travel plans kill the joy of reading the book as a literature. Ketan Joshi’s travel stories are not meant for dry tourist handbooks. They are humorous stories about three friend going on distant places and having a real blast. Read it and you’ll find yourself giggling every now and then.
In Three Men Ride Again: Three Amigos Ride to Spiti by Ketan Joshi, fun starts right from page one. It is not the serious and twisted kind of fun that writers often use to make their works look incredibly smart and polished. It is the boorish, imbecile fun that can only be found among best friends on their intimate moments. I’d kill and maim just to get a moment like that in my life.
Bawa gets airsick easily, so we tried to tell him horror stories about air turbulence and accidents and roller coasters to get him to puke or at least get dizzy; but he was on to us – and stuck his fingers in his ears and shouted ‘nananana’ to drown out our stories. Everyone in the plane stared at us, but we told them that he was a harmless lunatic and we were taking him to Punjab where he would fit in easily.
When the three friends like Delzad, Adi and Ketan are together they hardly need anyone else to have unmixed, consummate fun. The ability to mock oneself is what I consider the most effective form of humour and Joshi’s book is just stuffed with it. The sentences are simple, quite straight-forward yet when you read them, your belly starts aching from laughing hysterically.
Our tummies were so full that bending over to tighten the straps was sto risk apoplexy or a sudden bowel movement.
Who writes like that? Most of the books I read nowadays are so grim and serious, they keep me sad and moody for days. Not that they are badly written, or not interesting, but the problem is that they were too truthful in mirroring the darkness of contemporary society. The writers may be actually good humoured in person, but they have seen too much of the dark sides. That might have choked the fountain of fresh water inside them. I don’t blame them. The world has gone to that direction. A world like this amounts to intellectual asphyxiation. So at times we need to stick our head out of water, inhale fresh air and live a little. Three Men Ride Again: Three Amigos Ride to Spiti by Ketan Joshi is a book just about that.
There are also ocassional mention of historical facts or little details about the Geography. But they are not the text-book kind of facts. The information is presented in a way that even the most absent minded, passive aggressive backbencher, with little or no respect for studies will find it entertaining.
Chail had an even cooler history than Simla. The legend goes that Chail was built is a ‘Fuck you’ gesture by the Maharaja of Patiala to the British.
That’s dry, binary data blended with unique storytelling. If Ketan Joshi had written a text book it would be a superhit among college goers. Education would be fun rather than a burden as it is now felt. Joshi also toys with popular mythology. He tells the stories in different lights.
The story goes that Hidimb was a ferocious demon living in the forest, and Hidimba was his equally ferocious demon sister. They used to go around doing various demon things – eating people and disturbing sages and stuff.
Then one fine morning Bheema comes to that part of the forest and kills Hidimb, the demon. That’s too mainstream.
Demon meets hero, Demon attacks hero, Demon dies.
But what happens after that was rather strange.
On Seeing that her only brother is dead, beaten to death by this fellow Bheema – what does Sister Hidimba do? Does she attack him? Does she bay for his blood? Does she try to kill him?
No! She gets horny! She basically says ‘Ooh... you killed my brother ... that was so hot... Lets fuck!
Adi on these riding trips is on perpetual motion. He doesn’t stop every now and then to admire the sceneries. He loves rough ride like Delzad – the rougher the road, the better. However, he spends huge amount of time taking pictures – not of the places he visits – but of himself and his bike. Delzad, an absolute foodie, shows severe withdrawl symptoms if he doesn’t get to eat Tandoori for a few days. The mix of Ketan, Adi and Delzad often reminds me of another very famous and well-read travelogue – Three Men in a Boat.
The canyons and gorges had been created by the force of the fast running rivers, which, over the eons, had cut right through the soft sedimentary rocks like a string through a boiled egg. The Himalayas are not solid volcanic rock like the Sahyadris – they are made up of sediments of the sea floor which were pushed up when the subcontinent of India crashed into the mainland of Asia and threw up the plateau of Tibet and the giant ripples of the Himayalas.
That’s one piece of Geography lesson, minus the text-book style bombastic and rigormortis like formality.
Ketan is a nature lover and like any true nature lover the slow destruction of all good tourist spots makes him sad. It is not that he is running some propaganda material on ecology or something. It all comes with observation of a clear and unbiased mind of a naturalist. Ketan Joshi is often critical about the unmindful and wholesale destruction of nature.
... what would you expect with a place in India which is holy to two religions? Its twice as ugly and dirty, obviously.
Three Men Ride Again: Three Amigos Ride to Spiti by Ketan Joshi is a book everyone should read. It is not just a good travelogue but also a fairly nice piece of contemporary literature. In the present time of emotional and intellectual deprivation, I find his books strangely soothing. I will be eagerly waiting for the next book in Three Amigos series. The Amigos will ride South - promises Ketan Joshi. This gives a hint on what the next book is going to be about.
Three Men on Motorcycles: The Amigos Ride To Ladakh
Three Men on Motorcycle: The Amigos Ride to Ladakh by Ketan Joshi is the funniest travelogue I've ever read. The other two travelogues that I read and found exceedingly humorous were Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad and J. K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat. The Innocents Abroad had some serious doses of History, that as an Indian I didn’t find much interest in. The same goes with the description and histories narrated in Jerome’s classic.
Unlike the two classics I just mentioned, Ketan Joshi’s Three Amigos Ride to Ladakh made me feel at home. There were pilgrims marring the scenic beauty, the indecisive and adamant officer at a border check post, tourists polluting mountain lakes, the lazy and incompetent goods clerk, and not to mention the police trying to find an excuse to extort money – all these make us Indians feel very much at home. Then comes the most important part: the destination is Ladakh.
I’ll tell you how I came across this book. I first borrowed it from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, read it and then decided I should have it in my collection. So I bought it – not the ebook of course – but the hardcover. There are a few books that you read a number of times in your lifetime. You had a terrible day in your office, you had a break up, you’ve shifted to a new town and missing your old buddies – all you need is a book that can make you love your life again. That book shouldn’t be an ebook. Hell, no!
The first thing you notice about Three Men on Motorcycles is its intimate style of narrating things. The whole thing is extremely informal. Though it certainly comes under the travel genre, this book is more about the kind of relationship you have with your best friends. You swear at each other, you insult and make fun of each other, you are downright mean to each other, but despite it all, you can’t live without each other. Three Amigos are just like that. They drink rum together, smoke weed together, but most importantly, they ride their Royal Enfields together. If you have even one friend like them, you should consider yourself extremely rich.
Alright! Now there is a fourth person, Bharathi, who though physically not present with the amigos, keeps guiding them through cellphones, emails and sometimes when there’s no network, through her minions. “UTHO REY. UTHO REY.” They say. That drives them into ‘perpetual motion’ besides driving them crazy. I must mention something here though. The idea of Bharathi taking possession of humans and animals and controlling them remotely, her getting inside Ketan’s mind and making suggestions therefrom – they were doubtlessly funny. But I also found them interfering into and sometimes obstructing the smooth flow of the story. The idea was good when it started, then it was used again and again. By the time I reached the end of this book, it became so dull that I actually started to skip anything written in all-caps because they were supposed to be related directly or indirectly to Bharathi.
There is hardly anything that’s still or static in this book. It’s like a motion picture. It’s like The Motorcycle Diaries, only less philosophical. But that is because the three friends are in ‘perpetual motion’. There is history, there are descriptions, but they are brief and humorous. Even reading the history will make you smile. There is hardly a paragraph in this book that you read without laughing out loud. The literary style is lean. There is nothing that is unnecessary. If there’s anything that isn’t related to Three Amigos, then probably it’s never mentioned in this book. I read a lot of contemporary literature. The verbosity scares me. Not even once in this book had Ketan Joshi overridden the law of brevity. Comparing this book with The Adventures of Dipy Singh Private Detective by the same author, will give you some idea about the giant leap he has taken in quality of his compositions.
Do present Three Men on Motorcycles: The Amigos Ride to Ladakh to your son on his 18th birthday.
I blog about my travels - and the thoughts they set off! Sometimes the simplest destinations can be the most thought-provoking!