What I Should Have Read on my Indian Vacation

16 Mar

Sorry for being MIA for a while there. My husband and I went to India for the last few weeks of February and I spent all my free time leading up to the trip getting prepared to miss three weeks of work and graduate school, leaving no time to prepare blog posts for my time away. And of course the last couple weeks have been spent catching up with work and school and recovering from jet lag (fun!), but now we’re back and what an exciting trip we had!

This was my third time in India, though the first time in 14 years, and I was beyond happy to see my Indian host family and friends, and to travel throughout India with my husband for the first time. We also visited one of his good friends from college, explored the beautiful backwaters of Kerala (a state with 94% literacy rate – not too shabby!), found snow in the foothills of the Himalayas, visited several libraries, and attended the wedding of two good friends in Jaipur, where peacocks served as our beautiful yet unpredictable alarm clocks.


We traveled by train quite a bit and while generally I love reading on trains, this time around I felt like I would miss too much if I took my eyes off the landscape. In the end, aside from a few Bollywood magazines, the only thing I read during our vacation was She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick – that’s right, just one book. This is unusual for me as I love to read while traveling, but I think this trip was just too fast paced and packed with activity to warrant some relaxing reading time. I do, however, believe I would have read more if I had brought books that were either set in India or that featured Indian characters. And so I’ve compiled a list of books that, if I were to do it all over again, I would bring with me to India.

Born Confused
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
Why I should have read this book on my Indian vacation:
Because even though it doesn’t take place in India, it is a well-respected, “classic” South Asian coming-of-age story that has been on my TBR for far too long.

Dimple Lala doesn’t know what to think. Her parents are from India, and she’s spent her whole life resisting their traditions. Then suddenly she gets to high school and everything Indian is trendy. To make matters worse, her parents arrange for her to meet a “suitable boy.” Of course it doesn’t go well — until Dimple goes to a club and finds him spinning a magical web. Suddenly the suitable boy is suitable because of his sheer unsuitability. Complications ensue. This is a funny, thoughtful story about finding your heart, finding your culture, and finding your place in America.

BabyjiBabyji by Abha Dawesar
Why I should have read this book on my Indian vacation:
Because the description starts off with some great S words.

Sexy, surprising, and subversively wise, Babyji is the story of Anamika Sharma, a spirited student growing up in Delhi. At school she is an ace at quantum physics. At home she sneaks off to her parents’ scooter garage to read the Kamasutra. Before long she has seduced an elegant older divorcée and the family servant, and has caught the eye of a classmate coveted by all the boys.

With the world of adulthood dancing before her, Anamika confronts questions that would test someone twice her age. Ebullient, unfettered, and introducing one of the most charming heroines in contemporary fiction, Babyji is irresistible.

Abby Spencer
Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj
Why I should have read this book on my Indian vacation:
Because I secretly wish to be an extra in a Bollywood film (or at the very least for those around me to randomly break into song and dance).

What thirteen-year-old Abby wants most is to meet her father. She just never imagined he would be a huge film star–in Bollywood! Now she’s traveling to Mumbai to get to know her famous father. Abby is overwhelmed by the culture clash, the pressures of being the daughter of India’s most famous celebrity, and the burden of keeping her identity a secret. But as she learns to navigate her new surroundings, she just might discover where she really belongs.

KarmaKarma by Cathy Ostlere
Why I should have read this book on my Indian vacation:
Because I love books in verse and one of the few biographies I ever enjoyed enough to finish was on Indira Gandhi.

On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards. The murder sparks riots in Delhi and for three days Sikh families are targeted and killed in retribution for the Prime Minister’s death. It is into this chaos that sixteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, arrive from their home in Canada. India’s political instability is the backdrop and catalyst for Maya’s awakening to the world.

Do you have a favorite book featuring Indian characters or set in India? What books should I add to my list?

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