A Review by Bhagawati Moriss
Travelling out of sheer wanderlust was not yet commonplace during the early seventies, especially not for young women who were resolute about heading east on their own. Except for a few hippies who had already chanced the overland route to India, all travel beyond Greece and Turkey was a real adventure as there were no guidebooks to rely on and communication with family or friends by any means was practically non-existent.
Veena Schlegel was one of the few courageous young women who were determined to get to India and, in spite of feeling a tad apprehensive about setting out on her own, she boarded the London train to Istanbul. By the time she arrived in the latter exotic city, however, she had luckily met up with five travelling companions.
Stories upon stories begin to flow from the moment they reach the Bulgarian border. The reader feels whisked along as part of the group, exploring Istanbul for example, and sharing the danger of some situations unfolding in Iran that could have had pretty dire outcomes. Many other events are, however, hilarious and entertaining. There is an underlying camaraderie among this group, yet at the same time they don’t necessarily always stick together and enjoy time apart as well.
The descriptions of famous landmarks are vivid and exhaustive and the imagery and adventures in Afghanistan show Veena’s love for that country. She gives a very special account about seeing the Bamiyan Buddhas standing in their full splendor.
With reluctance she finally leaves Afghanistan and travels via Pakistan to India, the golden destination; she is relieved when she finally reaches Delhi for a short respite.
Moving on to take in the sights of Agra and the Taj Mahal and then Khajuraho, her lively narrative tells of the hardship of reaching Varanasi by bus and train. She is enchanted by the city of life and death and she makes it her home for a little while before visiting Kathmandu in Nepal. From there she returns to Delhi and then heads to Goa, a paradise at that time untouched by any western tourism.
Throughout the journey there are situations where she must rely on the help of total strangers, there are illnesses to cope with and some rather dicey situations to be solved. The reader is constantly stirred by the exotic and fascinating impressions which Veena recounts; one feels her relishing her adventures in uncharted territories which bring about deep changes within her.
This is a joyful and splendid journey on a truly vanished road, brought back to life by the author’s stories. I am eager to read about the next leg of her journey after the reprieve of the Goan paradise.
Extraordinary stories of a world gone forever. Veena Schlegel vividly tells of her adventures in countries barely visited by western people at the beginning of the ‘70s. She and her intrepid fellow travellers show amazing courage and integrity in finding their way through unchartered, potentially dangerous, territory, yet the tales are light and humorous. Veena writes beautifully with a poignant immediacy.
Ian Mckenzie, Victor Harbour, Australia