Book Review: Subcontinental Drift- Four Decades Adrift in India and beyond by Murray Laurence

  • ISBN: 978-9383064250
  • Genre: Non-Fiction / Travelogue
  • Publishers: Aleph Book Company
  • Price: Rs.399/- (I got this book from the publisher for a review)
Nothing prepared Murray Laurence for India when he first traveled through the country in the 1970s. His first impressions were of its ‘surpassing weirdness’ but it soon cast a spell on him, and for the next forty years he kept returning to India over and over again.

His early journeys in the crowded third-class compartments of slow trains or in rickety buses to obscure towns and villages in the great Indian hinterland often led to strange encounters and travel disasters. Honey-tongued tricksters assailed him, bizarre locals and foreigners tried to explain the country to him, pompous officials waylaid him with impenetrable assertions and mystifying rules, and a myriad other picaresque entanglements with outrageous characters ensured that every trip he made was memorable. In all the chaos and quirkiness that surrounded him, the one thing he could always count on was the spontaneous warmth and generosity of Indians which often revealed itself in surprising circumstances.

Closely observed, stylishly written, and very very funny, Subcontinental Drift is an unforgettable tribute to India and its people.
Behind the book


About the Author

Murray Laurence is an Australian travel writer whose first overseas trip, to Indonesia, sparked a lifelong interest in Asia. His early journeys in India and subsequent writing, reveal a traveler who is curious and open to any experience, a writer who is funny and sharp and a country that is at once fascinating, baffling and unique. Laurence studied Asian politics and history at university; his further education was acquired on the road. He taught briefly in Australia, England and France before becoming involved in Australia’s international education sector in marketing, management and business development roles. He was one of the industry’s first marketers, taking Australian education throughout Asia and beyond and traveled often to India in this capacity. More recently he has worked as a consultant and teacher in a management college in Kathmandu. Murray Laurence’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines and in two collections, High Times in the Middle of Nowhere and Accidentally in Transit, where several of the stories in Subcontinental Drift previously appeared. He lives in Sydney with his wife Maureen, a willing participant in those early Indian journeys. They have two adult sons, Daniel and Andrei.

Me thinks

There is something about travelogues that makes me fall in love with them even before I have read them! And this book was no exception.

It is always thrilling to see our own country through the eyes of a foreigner. And now that I have travelled extensively in Australia I can connect more with this thoughts and observations because I have got a there and here perspective befittingly. As a writer Murray has a fabulous grasp on the language. It is flowing. Usually in travelogues what needs to be adhered to is the descriptions anything beyond a limit and it gets boring, anything too less makes it dull and uninteresting. Too much of download is not what a reader wants. Every reader wants to enjoy the place through the descriptions in a manner that makes the reader want to travel like NOW. And here Murray scores a brownie point.

70s is an era that I have always been fascinated with in India and the author's descriptions about that time really made me time travel. This book was like a time capsule which when opened transported me back in time when life was very different than now and yet the flavors of India were still as unique as they are now. His words make the places come alive as if it wasn't back then but it is happening now. If observed closely you might find some traits of those habits and traditions still rampant in our society. I couldn't help but smile at some of his observations because those are which make us truly Indian.

This is one book I am going to cherish reading for long and of course will re-read. Because it not only makes me travel to a time I have not witnessed till date but it also introduces me to my country in a manner that I can never see it. Strongly recommended to all travel lovers, this is one book that you will really enjoy reading.

Foodie Verdict

This book is like Kakdi sabji - distinct flavours and yet something very homely about it!

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