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Falling in love with India

When a 52-year old British woman meets and later marries a farmer from Haryana, their tale is sure to have elements which make for enthralling reading.

books Updated: Mar 07, 2003 09:57 IST
PTI

Yadav
Jill Lowe
Penguin
Travel
Pages: 279
Price: Rs 250
Paperback

While reading a published diary, what the reader perhaps looks for above all else is honesty, establishing an empathy with the diarist. And whether the writer is able to look at his or her life objectively. And Jill Lowe is remarkable in the extent to which she has managed to achieve this in her autobiography cum travelogue, intriguingly named after her Indian husband, Yadav.

An average 52-year old British woman, she met and later married a bus conductor-turned-farmer, from Haryana. After the collapse of her marriage in London, dire financial conditions forced Lowe to take up various jobs, and she finally became a tour guide, guiding tourists through long summers and “winters searching for menial jobs” for years. Aged 52, with her children having grown up, she decided to take a break and come to India, as “I had heard it was not too expensive”.

And thus began a journey that was to change the rest of her life. She narrates her experiences candidly, right from her apprehension of travelling alone to India (she answers an ad for a travelling companion and comes with her) to her initial experiences of staying as a paying guest with Sujann and Baby Singh in a posh south Delhi address. And what are perhaps the most delightful parts of the book, the extensive travels looked at from her perspective.


Various descriptions would seem superfluous to an Indian reader, but they reveal what catches the eye of the visitor. From the clichéd to the perceptive, Lowe puts down many interesting observations as she travels through a vast swathe of the land. Lowe’s account is also revelation of the lifestyles and prejudices that still exist despite the world having shrunk so much and a great deal of information at the click of a button.

But more than the travelling, what also fascinates is the relationship she has with her driver. At least that’s what he was to her till they are drawn closer. She puts down events that follow, showing the blemishes and the uncertainties of the relationship.

Some of the references cause one to pause. While introducing Yadav’s family, she refers to her brother-in-law as ‘Corrupt Brother’ or ‘Boss brother’. Lowe is able to put down her feelings about her in-laws, not always a flattering picture, but in a tone of understanding, of her need to adjust to what to her are imperfections rather that try and change others. There are many moments of lack of mutual comprehension and discord, even with Yadav.

Right from the first declaration of love, there are hesitations - should they marry, where would they stay, how would they earn – many questions to which there seemed to be no simple answers and to settle either way would be to compromise with the individual self of the other.

What emerges is an engaging work, which addresses many, if not all, the right issues and makes the reader empathise with the two protagonists. Given that the book ends about ten years before the time the book was published, it makes us want to more to know about the lives of Jill and Yadav.

First Published: Feb 24, 2003 15:17 IST