With the subtitle “An Indian Adventure”, “Confessions of a Coward” is a collection of real-life experiences of Kirsty Turner, a traveler who spent nine months in the Indian sub-continent (ISBN 978-616-222-234-4, 2013, self-published). The back cover paints her as a novice, but the brief bio states that she is a seasoned travel writer!
Very early in the piece, the author discovers, “India isn’t just another country, it’s a whole different world.” She opines that “India is a country of complex contradictions. It is a social taboo for Indian women to show power or strength. … violence is prevalent and you will often see bloody street brawls, which flare up at the slightest provocation.” Undoubtedly there have been recent incidents in India to show that women are oppressed, so the author had reason to be cowardly.
She has an appetite for ancient castles, far greater than mine, but integrates the historical backgrounds with her own movements on the ground.
And speaking of movements, Delhi Belly features prominently, but the Indian chemists provide treatment which worked – every time, and there was more than once, both for herself and her traveling companion!
She describes attending an Indian dance festival in Rajasthani which was more than the usual massed dancers and leading characters with high-pitched voices. For example, she was treated to performers dancing with flaming pots on their heads and stepping over broken glass and swords. “I’m glad I’m not her chiropodist,” she writes.
It was interesting to compare the touts in India with the touts in Thailand (or any other SE Asian country for that matter) and it would seem the “tout school” has a universal curriculum, though the Indian ones seem to be rather more pushy and insistent than our local ones.
At the end of each chapter, she has some tips for the aspiring (perspiring?) backpacker, most of which add up to good common sense, but can be forgotten in the heat of the moment. At the end of one of the other chapters she gives a list of items difficult to find in rural India.
Some rather useful Hindi phrases are at the end of one chapter, with “Chalo” (Go Away) being very useful. This phrase can be expanded upon to “Chalo Pakistan” (Go to Pakistan) being a severe insult. The division of the Indian sub-continent has always had a rather shaky background!
Kirsty also has a list of Indian festivals and their dates, and “no matter where you are, Diwali is fantastic.”
Kirsty finishes by admitting that she was still a coward, but she was actually braver than she had ever imagined. Going through the local public transport to another small village, is probably more than I would have done anyway, but then I am no longer a backpacker. Hardship for me is a camp stretcher in the foyer of the Hong Kong Hilton!
For the backpackers who are considering India as the next big adventure, this is definitely a book worth your while putting in the rucksack, and if you are a fan of 200 year old castles, this book should be a mandatory purchase.