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Travels on My Elephant

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Table of Contents

Elephant headquarters; an original elephant; bandobast; paint, pujas and pandits; the Black Pagoda; in the tracks of the king of bliss; touch-me-not; an angry tusker; Firinghee Mahout; Tara's tantrum; death in the jungle; double dipper; full control ceremony; McCluskiegunge; the land of the Buddha; the mighty Ganga; the Haasthi bazaar; mela madness; swept away; elephant trading; God's will.


This tale of a recent 800-mile journey across India on an elephant is at once entertaining and exasperating. Shand ( Skulduggery ), who has also head-hunted in Indonesia and motor-raced from London to Sydney, impulsively buys a 30-year-old elephant to ride from Konarak on the Bay of Bengal to Sonepur across the Ganges to the great elephant bazaar. In addition to Tara, the elephant, Shand gathers Indian helpers and advisers as quirky as himself, and together they travel across the country--Shand on Tara, his party in a jeep--astounding, amusing and puzzling those they encounter. Along the way, Shand learns about the care and feeding of elephants; and about rural India, which still worships the elephant God Ganesh and which leaps to life in this book. The group attends village festivals, receives the hospitality of princes and policemen, and Shand becomes so enamored of Tara that they share a slug of whisky and mingle their tears at his leave-taking. Overly coy in the telling, The characters (including the elephant) are difficult to identify with, but the local color is delightful, despite the overly coy prose. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)

Traveling by elephant is difficult, but reading about someone else's journey can be thoroughly entertaining. Shard, an English travel writer, first had to acquire an elephant, along with a competent staff. Then he had to maneuver this entourage through 800 miles of the Orissa and Bihar states in India. In addition to the descriptions of the ride, he provides a colorful slice of modern-day India and considerable elephant lore. While the account is somewhat melodramatically told, the book is lively and should prove popular with public library users. A number of books can take us through India, but this is the only one that describes the country from the top of an elephant. Recommended for travel collections.-- Harold M. Otness, Southern Oregon State Coll. Lib., Ashland

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