North East India Unplugged
Traveler’s hesitate to explore India’s North East due to a general dearth of information or reliable testimonials. So, when Abhijeet Deshpande reached out to me to review his book ‘Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey’ , I willingly agreed. Read this candid review of a book, based on journeys deep inside the region by two backpackers. This work is North East India unplugged!
My first reaction after a few pages was to lookup the geography and places mentioned in chapters. This, when I have been to Sikkim, one of the eight Indian states covered in this book, and considered myself somewhat familiar with the region! Thankfully, I found a handy map inside. This book is an eye opener – getting to know about under-explored places (for instance, how many of us know of the white-sand beaches of Siang in Pasighat or about the carnivorous Pitcher Plants in Jarain!), understanding the similarities and differences in culture, getting to know them through Abhijeet and Navita’s eyes – two unrelenting backpackers.
North East India Unplugged
With so little known about the eight states of India’s North East, a work like this is bound to raise a reader’s interest. What I liked is that while the book brought these states closer to me, it did not shy away from talking about the nuisance and futility of bandhs and the visible impact of receding insurgencies – in one of the chapters, the author narrates how they had to break an overnight journey at Mizoram-Tripura border to avoid being abducted! It talks to the potential hardship in certain remote areas, when we take things for granted, such as ATMs running out of cash! It brings out the dos and don’ts. For instance, not speaking ill about anyone, tricks to avoid mosquito-bites, not stepping out after dark, and most importantly, paying heed to local advice. At the same time, the book highlights people’s and government’s empathy, willingness, and ability to help. Which means, should you venture into places that the author recommends, you are in good hands!
Unexplored Paradise in a Book
North East India, as the book aptly captures, lends a sense of discovery and adventure. The author showed me the level of trust that continues to exist between fellow humans. I was amazed at how, at roadside restaurants, food was left unattended and consumers would just declare what they took and pay at the counter. I could resonate with taxi drivers also providing courier delivery to random people – which appeared to be a very north-east Indian thing, as I had noticed this behavior in Sikkim too, where people look out for and help each other.
Unsung heroes – discovered
I was enthralled by stories of unsung heroes – Shaeed Minar in Imphal where the Britishers hanged bravehearts Yubaraj Bir Tikendrajit Singh and Thangal General to death and The Kiang Nangbah monument in Jowai where Kiang Nangbah was hanged by the British. Their valour and bravery touched my soul. The legend of Unakoti in Kailashahar, Tripura fired my imagination. The legend of Sajar Nangli and Lake Thadlaskein in Jowai, Meghalaya was mesmerizing.
Melting pot of culture
It was eye opening to see the varied cultural and social aspects of the region – Christianity and Judaism in Mizoram, absence of Hindi in Manipur, the predominant Bengali culture in Tripura, and Muslims in Badarpur, Assam. I also discovered how some local cultures approved live-ins, about the legendary Apatani life and the Ziro music festival, of Polo as Manipur’s gift to the world, about Meghalaya matrilineal society, about various social-awareness campaigns in Nagaland’s Mokokchung, and of trash-free towns of Mizoram. What also stood starkly out for me was the independence and safety, local women enjoyed here. It helped me realise how the women from North East are so confident and self-assured! Oh, and the Bihari in me was touched at the mention of khajurs, a sweet delicacy, now popular in towns of Nagaland and other states.
For travelers, ‘Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey’ gives ideas about homestays and how to prep on community practices that can go a long way in making friends. You could also bookmark worthy tips such as economy travel (eg: shared taxis) and cautionary tips about intermittent networks.
A Candid Recommendation
This book is likely to expand your bucket list! It is not just an engaging read but also a handy guide to North East India. I am happy to recommend it to anyone who wants to figure out more about North East India or to book lovers who enjoy a healthy dash of adventure!
About the Book
Book Title: Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey
Author: Abhijeet Deshpande
ISBN Number: 13: 978-1946556790
A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now – a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.