Detail dilemma

Not exactly the "culinary adventure" it promises to be...
Detail dilemma
Detail dilemma

If the aphorism &lsquoNever judge a book by its cover&rsquo is to be believed, then no example works better than this particular book. Indian Takeaway One Man&rsquos Attempt to Cook His Way Home isn&rsquot exactly the &ldquoculinary adventure&rdquo &mdash as conveyed in the blurb, and for that matter as suggested by the cover illustration. The idea may have been born out of a passion for all things gastronomic, but when a London-born, Scottish-bred, turban-wearing Sikh embarks on a journey across India in search of his identity &mdash which he optimistically hopes to achieve by cooking English food for a handful of locals &mdash the result is an autobiographical account that gets caught between some na&iumlve observations and perceptions of India and, contrastingly, deeper philosophical reflections by an individual who tries to reconcile his Indian heritage with his present.

Hardeep Singh Kohli starts off from Kovalam down south, and cooks his way up north via Bangalore and Goa to Delhi and Srinagar before arriving at his final stop Ferozepure (sic), the city of his roots and also one of the places he repeatedly refers to as home. With each destination Kohli looks forward to coming closer to finding himself, but much to his chagrin ends up with a lot more questions than answers &mdash a detail that is reiterated to the point of becoming tedious. Indeed it is this very quality &mdash Kohli&rsquos propensity to be repetitious &mdash that somewhat defeats an otherwise bold and humorous narrative. While anecdotes relating to his childhood (specifically, the one about his cousin stealing a monkey) are veritable sources of laughter, his slightly worrying obsession with his &ldquofulsome Punjabi Glaswegian arse&rdquo along with an overkill of references to his &ldquojourney of self-discovery&rdquo, his &ldquobrown-skinned&rdquo appearance and of course his love for food are just plain aggravating after a point. Then there&rsquos the fact that this book is clearly meant for non-Indians. So, when Kohli launches into a detailed explanation about, say, a &ldquobucket bath&rdquo, you catch yourself wanting to skip those parts and jump ahead.

In the end, Kohli does manage to &ldquowork out where home is. Home is where I want it to be. Glasgow, London or within these four walls at 22 Moti Bazaar, Ferozepure.&rdquo And while he also admits that his culinary journey was &ldquosecondary&rdquo to his journey of self-realisation, you wonder if eventually his self-realisation is really the eye-opener that he is willing it to be. Maybe Kohli just needed a slightly offbeat peg for the timeworn genre of travelogues. Maybe.

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