India Charming Chaos is a two part travelogue where author Johnny Fincioen along with his photographer wife Claudine Van Massenhove enthrall readers with an exciting account of their five week tour of North India. The couple differs from the usual breed of tourists who visit India to only entertain themselves and see places of interest. Johnny and Claudine launch out on a cultural adventure in India where they unearth several interesting facts on India’s culture and in many cases the absence of it. They end up ‘culture shocked’, yet decide that the Indian chaos is charming.
The book spans across two volumes to accommodate the brilliant pictures of chaotic India. Johnny details everything the couple witness over their five week stay in India while Claudine captures the Indian scenario in pictures through her professional lens. Some of the places the couple visits like the small Indian town - Bithoor are certainly not hot spots for tourists. Yet Johnny and Claudine enjoy this seemingly insignificant location because it helps them understand Indian culture better.
Like all tourists visiting India Johnny and Claudine find the disrespect for traffic rules and loud honking annoying though they learn to get used to the cacophony soon. Indians’ poor sense of hygiene is again something new for the couple. The animals roaming along with traffic add to their shock and disbelief.
Johnny engages the reader by making a humorous account of the chaos he sees in India. He also goes into the History of places visited and brings out social issues that plague the Indian sub continent. Gendercide or female infanticide, unequal status of Indian women, poor quality of the Indian education system, corruption and exploitation of people by religious leaders are some of the atrocities Johnny finds in India.
The couple learns a lot about Indian religions particularly Hinduism during their tour and visit several temples in North India. Johnny believes Indian Culture is synonymous with Hindu Culture and that religion is used by the government to make money and exploit poor communities. His open, critical observations and comments on the religious sentiments of Hindus and their ‘Holy’ men will make devout Hindus uneasy and fanatics mad. Johnny looks through the scam in other religions like Jainism, Buddhism and the Bahai Faith system as well.
While most tourists are sure to avoid crowded Indian locations, Johnny and Claudine choose just such spots like the narrow lanes of Varanasi and Old Delhi to see and feel the real India. They brave it out in these streets where they are often carried with the crowd; something so unusual from the personal space they are used to. Finding their way through a sea of humans, animals and traffic while making sure they don’t accidentally step on fecal matter, human or animal is a challenge the couple face.
India Charming Chaos is a guidebook for anyone planning a visit to India. Through Johnny and Claudine’s experiences prospective tourists can get an idea on what to expect in India. This travelogue will also make the reader long to visit India and get a firsthand experience of all the charm and chaos. On the whole I found both volumes well written and thoroughly impressive, a treat for travel, culture and history buffs like me.
India Charming Chaos Part 1 and 2 were given to me by the author Johnny Fincioen for review.
Here are the links to buy India Charming Chaos Part 1 and 2 from Amazon.com
India Charming Chaos - Part 1
India Charming Chaos - Part 2