Before you jump to conclusions; that’s the title of the book that I recently read. Of all the countries in the world that I have grouped in different buckets to prioritize my trips; North Korea lies in the bucket which seems distant, out of reach. When Anjaly Thomas approached me to review her recent travelogue which starts off in DPRK – North Korea; it was a great way to set out on an arm chair journey. The book is not only about North Korea but about her journey through Mongolia, some parts of China, Turkey and Africa.
She takes you along with her and as I moved beyond the first chapter, I was the invisible passenger in the bus, listening to the petite Ms Deer crooning Arirang and just when I wanted to break into a jig, I would end up squirming under the steely glance of Guide Li who she refers to as Giraffe through the book. Glimpses of the inner world of North Korea peeped through the curtains making you wonder if it is worthwhile to visit a country who show you a dressed up version of what they want you to see, where people appear like robots. I wondered about the ceremonious visits to the cemetries only to realise that there are no Gods in North Korea but revolutionaries who were placed on a pedestal for worship. At the end of it you will be left wondering as I was, if 21st century is just passing by without an impact on DPRK. Why are they spending billions on nuclear arming when the population is bordering on starvation, literally surviving on cabbage.
After the hard hitting DPRK she takes us through a tough but liberating journey through Mongolia spending nights under starry skies and travelling in a rickety van during the day through the vast Gobi Desert . Imagine clear blue skies and acres and acres of desert land which forces you to look inwards and connect to your soul. The stone ceremony to please “Oovoo” the mongolian spirits for a safe and healthy journey was remotely similar to me trying to arrange stones in a chorten like manner when I navigate through the difficult terrains in the Himalayas.
I masqueraded along with her to be a fake Muzungu and then stepped gingerly into the world of a Masai bride in Africa. I am someone who has this ambitious goal of attempting to take a dip in every river of India or atleast feel the water. Thanks to Anjaly’s vivid description, I have a taken a virtual dip in the Nile. I was particularly intrigued by her brave pursuit of the unknown and loved her encounter in the Museum of Hair in Turkey.
If you are a traveler at heart be it real, armchair or otherwise; this book is going to leave you yearning for more; its less about sights and more about experiences. Sights are transient but experiences define who we are, shaping us up at every moment. As you read the stories in the book from different parts of the world, mostly from areas that will not be on your regular list, you will take it slow in your next travel; stopping to smell the flower, feeling the soil under your feet or talking to the air to know their story !!. Travel Was, Travel Is and Travel Will be; it depends on us whether to be a tourist or evolve as a traveler.
The book can be purchased at : http://www.amazon.in