With the Kama Sutra Under My Arm: My Madcap Misadventures Across India

By TRISHA BERNARD

Australian men have forgotten how to flirt, says children’s book author Trisha Bernard in her debut travel memoir. Distracting herself from a broken heart, she tours India, where she believes her resemblance to the ample goddess Lakshmi will inspire ardor in the opposite sex. Although she carries a copy of the Kama Sutra as inspiration, an apt title for her book would be Drink, Joke, Fantasize. She also travels with her British friend Sally, who is burdened with an oversized suitcase and ethnocentric attitude; Sally’s cultural gaffes are the source of the titular misadventures. Even going solo, Bernard’s clumsy leering at younger men would have fallen flat. And when suitable men flirt with her, she runs away. Opportunities are rare and rather innocent (a shopkeeper feeds her candy), but she prefers to swoon in colonial fantasies, drugged by a Victorian dream of India conflated with Arabian Nights. Decent descriptions and mildly entertaining anecdotes await in the last 80 pages, although the story runs on gin fumes to get there. As a travelogue, the book is light on reporting. During their beaten-path tour of Rajasthan, the author quotes long, dusty chunks from a guidebook and dumps paraphrased bits into unnatural dialogue. Prone to factual errors, pedestrian observations, purple prose, and vile ethnic stereotypes, Bernard’s company chafes. It’s Sally who displays sandpapery wit when countering Trisha’s sigh: “The Kama Sutra is full of romance.” “No it isn’t. It’s full of positions.”