“So, how is this author you are reading?” asked Viren, my husband.
“Umm… she’s a foodie,” I said.
“Eh?” asked a bewildered Viren and I will now tell you what I told him.
Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu isn’t much of a writer. If anything, she’s a foodie-masquerading-as-an-author-in-a-hurry-to-finish-narrating-the-intermittent-bits-between-elaborate-descriptions-of-meals. And yes, she’s a big alcohol fan too (bewdi in other words). So what does that make ‘Adrift – A Junket Junkie in Europe’? A rushed catalogue of European cities; a European food and beer guide.
What struck me most about the book was its lack of emotion. Not that the author does not talk about friends and relatives, joys and (a few) tears, anticipations and disappointments, but somehow, she manages to maintain a cold voice throughout the narrative. Oddly enough, the language is rather flowery, without betraying any feeling. Perhaps I should have been sufficiently warned by the blurb, which states that the author is simply travelling, and not seeking any truths about life. But when one reads a story of travel, one tends to expect tales of unexpected and warm friendships in distant lands. This book has nothing of the sort, except names of her hosts and drivers and the briefest interludes with them. The reader never really is acquainted properly with any of the characters, save for the author’s and that too is fairly little. Who is Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu, you ask, and can conjure up only a couple of adjectives, ‘overweight’ being one of them, because the author constantly pokes fun at her ‘far-from-petite’ self. That is the saving grace of the book, and it is refreshing to read a woman who is not ashamed to admit her love for food and its consequences.
Another thing about the book is its speed. Actually, the words I’m looking for are ‘rushed’ and ‘hurried’. Although, like all readers of the age of instant coffee and instant noodles, I like most of my books to be fast reads, but there is a big, stark difference in quick-paced writing and hurried writing. I’ve realized this only after reading this book. It reads as if the author was forced to write it, had a terrible deadline to meet and/or had some horrible secrets to hide. I’m all for non-word-mincing writers, but hey, clue me in! Before you can figure out one European environ the author packs up, leaves and goes into another place, dragging you with her. After the book, I am none the wiser about European geography. I am left only with a blur of Germany, Vienna, Paris, Hungary, London, some uneventful events therein, and some random images of monuments. The silly chapter summaries at the beginning of the book almost make sense, because without those, you forget what the book was about.
Frankly, I do not understand the purpose of this book. It neither gives me lusty enough descriptions of touristy beauty to want to save my salary for a Europe tour, nor does it pull at my heartstrings with the passion of wanderlust to want to pack up and take the next plane to Europe. Such dry memoirs are best written in personal diaries and left there.
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