Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws: A Journey through Modern India

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Overview

"It is Pedersen's gift to be able to draw the reader into her world." —Front Street Reviews

"[Pedersen's] wicked, sarcastic, dry, self-deprecating sense of humor won me over and I absolutely loved it start to finish."—Printed Page, of Buffalo Gal

India today is a nation caught between the rich heritage of its past and the great economic potential of its future. In this witty and insightful book, journalist and author Laura Pedersen reveals the ...

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Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws: A Journey through Modern India

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Overview

"It is Pedersen's gift to be able to draw the reader into her world." —Front Street Reviews

"[Pedersen's] wicked, sarcastic, dry, self-deprecating sense of humor won me over and I absolutely loved it start to finish."—Printed Page, of Buffalo Gal

India today is a nation caught between the rich heritage of its past and the great economic potential of its future. In this witty and insightful book, journalist and author Laura Pedersen reveals the tensions and contradictions facing the emerging world power. In particular, Pedersen explores the roles of women and children in India today, providing insight into this important and often neglected issue. Part travelogue, part history, and part cultural reflection, Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws provides an intimate glimpse of a nation at its turning point. It is a must-read for those who want to understand India beyond the headlines.

Laura Pedersen has written for The New York Times and is the author of several books including Play Money, Going Away Party, Beginner's Luck (chosen as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection), Buffalo Gal, and Buffalo Unbound. In 1994 President Clinton honored her as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans. She has appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America, Primetime Live, and The Late Show with David Letterman, and she writes for several well-known comedians. Pedersen lives in New York City.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A fun and quirky but sometimes chaotic travelogue that reveals the many conflicts and contradictions underlying life in modern India. Journalist and humorist Pedersen (Buffalo Gal, 2008, etc.) wanted to travel to India for many years but was afraid of what she would find there. In 2010, she finally did, "[throwing] caution to the wind the way one does when climbing aboard Coney Island's rackety Cyclone roller coaster." As she made her way from New Delhi in the north to Goa in the south, what she discovered fascinated her as much as it often proved frustrating to comprehend. The world's largest "democrazy" was a place where people always seemed to be celebrating some festival or another and where "bribes, kickbacks, reams of red tape, and [bureaucratic] incompetence on a massive scale are part of daily life." It was also a place of bewildering contrasts. Sadhus, longhaired holy men who wandered festivals covered in body paint and little else, carried cell phones. In the major cities, Hindu temples and architectural remnants of the British raj flanked ultra-modern skyscrapers. Bollywood, the multibillion-dollar Indian moviemaking industry, made and exported films that scrupulously avoided "tonsil hockey kissing, nudity or heavy drug use" but that had no difficulty depicting rape scenes and bloody violence. Pedersen follows the well-worn trope of the Western traveler trying to make sense of a profoundly complex and alien culture, and she includes sections that describe major cultural elements and figures. Her main achievement is her avoidance of the clichés that come from this approach; she infuses idiosyncratic observations with mostly genuine insight. Meandering entertainment.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555916183
  • Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/29/2012
  • Pages: 212
  • Sales rank: 288,728
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Pedersen

Laura Pedersen has written for The New York Times and is the author of Play Money, Going Away Party, Beginner's Luck (chosen as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection), Buffalo Gal, and Buffalo Unbound. In 1994, President Clinton honored her as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans. She has appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America, Primetime Live, and The Late Show with David Letterman, and she writes for several well-known comedians. Pedersen lives in New York City.
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Table of Contents

Bewildered, Bothered, and Bewitched 1

Eastward Ho! 9

Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws 13

Mother India 21

Old and New Delhi 29

Taj Mahal 41

Safaris, Spas, and Shopping 49

Shall We Gather at the River? 57

Oh! Kolkata! 65

Salaam Mumbai! 81

All Aboard! 101

Down South 111

So Many Gods, So Little Time 123

Caste Away System 145

Boldface Names 151

Monkeys and Tigers and Snakes, Oh My! 167

Game Changers: Women and Children 175

India Unbound 191

About the Author 210

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Laura Pederson has moved in a new direction with this nonfiction

    Laura Pederson has moved in a new direction with this nonfiction account of her interest in and exploration of modern India. Beginning with an explanation of her fascination with India, she humorously relates how the TV show Bewitched with its Dr. Bombay character propelled her to notice there was a difference between Americans naming American Indians, island Indians and India-Indians. It gradually led her to desire to visit this land that unfortunately is only known for its more horrific stereotypes, some of which do exist but which hardly touch on the many faceted nature of this unique country. So the reader will travel with the author to see just what the truth is.

    Laura Pedersen doesn't shy away from the good, the bad, and the ugly in her travels. However, it is amazing to see how she touches on all the important aspects of Indian culture. For instance, there are chapters on many cities such as Delhi where the beautiful sites of the Qutub Minar (the world's tallest black minaret) vie with places like the Jain Bird Hospital where birds who are injured from the national pastime of kite flying (bearing little similarity to the American kite flying pleasure) are treated and allowed to heal. Or perhaps you'd like to visit the gorgeous Taj Mahal which in some places occasionally springs a leak (and romantics call shedding a tear).

    There are glorious spas, shopping enough for any shopaholic, and animal resorts. The diversity of things to do is amazing. And of course there are the culinary delights which range from fiery to mild Indian dishes to salivate the glands of any food lover! Or Mumbai with its Standing Babas who vow to never sit or lay down again to work off any bad karma in their past. Aspects of history are thrown in for good measure, with an assurance that safety measures are as important there as anywhere since the rise of terrorism. Other sections are devoted to little known aspects of the major religions of India as well as a discussion of the benefits and liabilities of the caste system that holds sway in some Indian towns and has been abandoned in more modern cities. There's even a chapter describing the major Indian political leaders and what they are best and little known for during their careers. And there's so much more than what has been described here!

    While there is not a huge depth to these discussions, any reader is bound to both learn and be intrigued by the facets the author does add about each item of discussion. Any reader enjoying this book just might start to think about adding this to their "bucket list" of places to visit and explore in the near or far future!!! Very interesting and well done, Ms. Pedersen. You are a writer with many styles of writing to your credit - travel writing is your latest that is so well done!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2012

    The book to read for anyone traveling to India or interested in

    The book to read for anyone traveling to India or interested in learning about the country. A perfect mix of tourist attractions, history, yoga, culture, religion, and politics. Well-written and laugh-out-loud funny. Sections are short enough and clearly demarkated so if there's an area you want to skip it's easy enough, but I don't advise it since to understand this fascinating country this author sifted through tons of information to give you exactly what you need, even if you just want to speak intelligently about India or understand what's being written about the subcontinent in the newspaper. But if you haven't been to this amazing place, you'll want to book a trip ASAP.

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  • Posted July 11, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    If you are planning to travel to India, or even just curious abo

    If you are planning to travel to India, or even just curious about the true India, this book is a must have. It is a true account of the authors trip to India and her studies of its culture. I must say, it is fantastic. Her writing style is wonderful and this book will have you laughing out loud. It will also provide you a true sense of what India is like. She will give you a great description of India's culture, as
    well as its rich history. Overall, this book is a gem. Do not waste time, give this book a chance.

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  • Posted May 25, 2012

    Informative and fun

    This book is a hilarious but informative glance at life in India. People tend to rely so much on what the news tells us about other people, places and cultures, that we don’t know what life is really like outside of our country. The author did a fabulous job of telling about her experiences in India using descriptive details that bring out a range of emotions. She describes everything from the economic climate to the day to day way of life of the people of India. She discusses important cultural topics such as the rights of women, but does so in a way that is not judge mental. Her descriptions of the transportation system, or lack thereof, is hilarious and makes me think California drivers aren’t that bad after all! Whether you are planning to take a trip to India or just want to learn about a country beyond what is reported on the news, I highly recommend this fun yet informative book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2012

    In addition to traveler's highlights there are excellent but bri

    In addition to traveler's highlights there are excellent but brief descriptions of politics, history, religion and the economy which I found useful but one could skip. The report on wildlife (seeing and conserving) and also the oppression and opportunities encountered by women and girls was absorbing. If you are considering a trip to India this is a must-read while being breezy, highly entertaing and up-to-date. It also gives some social service ideas for your trip if that's of interest.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

    I am currently waiting to visit India, it’s part of a volu

    I am currently waiting to visit India, it’s part of a volunteer tour to help out certain areas of the world. My mom saw this book online and thought it would be good for me to read up a bit before I went. I have got to thank the author for writing such a wonderful book, for explaining the misconceptions most people have by just following the news and for giving me a new outlook on Indian culture, tradition and way of life. This book is a fun read; it’s educational and will definitely change how you see other parts of the world. I highly recommend this book to others and am giving it 5 stars!

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  • Posted May 21, 2012

    I have got to say that this blew me away. I was extremely please

    I have got to say that this blew me away. I was extremely pleased with how well written this book was, the author, Ms. Laura Pedersen has clearly put a lot of time into making a wonderful book. There is a lot of detail, a lot of visualization, and a lot of interesting facts and opinions.
    I have always loved reading about other countries and learning how people live, it’s a unique thing to really have a greater understanding of the world we live in. To be honest India was never one of the places I was interested in but after I began reading this book my opinion completely changed, and I now see their way of life much different than how I had before, thanks to Laura Pedersen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

    Laura Pedersen does an absolute immaculate job on this book! I



    Laura Pedersen does an absolute immaculate job on this book! I had never known the power and the growth that is happening in India and the impact it will have on children and woman today and in the future. This book gives you a great insight, a first person point of view of what it is like in India. Through descriptive observations and stories you will fall in love with, this book is a must read!

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  • Posted May 14, 2012

    Written with great wit and stunningly clear observations, "

    Written with great wit and stunningly clear observations, "Planes, Trains and Auto-Rickshaws" offers dazzling pictures and keen insights into a culture most of us here in the states don't understand. Filled with personal stories, I found myself feeling as if Pedersen was on the couch next to me telling me of her adventures on the highway in Delhi. Having travelled extensively throughout China and SE Asia, reading this book triggered memories, left me laughing, and reignited my own wanderlust. Pedersen observes India but does not apologize for any culture resulting in a true and unwashed look at the country of India.

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  • Posted May 14, 2012

    This book transported me to India from my couch! It is laugh- ou

    This book transported me to India from my couch! It is laugh- out- loud funny! Great for the traveler or people like me who live vicariously through the written word. I highly recommend!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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