The Lady and the Monk

Sonia Jabbar summed up my attitude to Mishi Saran’s Chasing the Monk’s Shadow at the launch when she spoke at length of what an awesome journey it must have been, travelling between the seventh century and the 21st, following the Silk Road, landing in Kabul under the Taliban just before 9/11 etc etc and finished with the only “review” a book like this needs: “I am so JEALOUS!”
Yeah, Jabbar and the rest of us who stared greedily at that map and counted off the names of the places Mishi’s been to and we haven’t, which is most of them. Samarkand. Tashkent. Bishkek. Turfan. Xian.
Consoled myself by muttering variations on the pronounciation of Hieun Tsang/ Xuanzang (Shwen zang. Hue-en Saang. Shwanzang.) and hoping I’d get one of them right entirely by accident, which explain why an old friend asked me after the launch whether my toothache was very bad and if not, why I’d been doing jaw exercises. I explained I’d just been trying to get Xuanzang’s name right. “Why didn’t you,” she said, “simply refer to him as That Monk?”
See now, that’s my problem with enlightenment. It always dawns too bloody late.
And you might want to read Jabbar’s review of the book:
“Mishi Saran has done what the most adventurous traveller can at best only dream about as she retraces the monk’s long and arduous route. Travelling from dusty Xinjiang through enchanting Kyrghyzstan and Uzbekistan, she loops around India as smoothly as one would on an evening stroll around a park, entering Pakistan before finally floundering at the harsh shores of Taliban-controlled Kabul two years later. The result of this remarkable journey is a remarkable, multi-dimensional book. Chasing… oscillates smoothly between the past and present, illuminating both via rigorous historical research and inspired prose. This isn’t just a competent travelogue. It’s touchingly human, funny and sad as we follow her into her inner journey, her own, specifically, female vulnerability.”





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