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A BREATHTAKING JOURNEY ROUND INDIA
Anne Mustoe read Classics at Cambridge and was the headmistress of a girls' school in Suffolk until 1987, when she left her job and embarked on her first solo journey around the world by bicycle. She is an established travel writer with a substantial following who lectures regularly on her adventures.
Who better than a redoubtable English headmistress to teach Americans about The Ramayana, a venerable hallmark text of Hinduism that still animates contemporary Indian culture? And from the seat of a bike, to boot. Mustoe, a 60-something "pensioner" (retiree) whose legs and lungs must be as enviably developed as her sense of adventure, follows by bicycle the route across India taken by the fabled prince Rama, hero of the ancient Hindu epic poem. Mustoe, who has chronicled her global bicycle voyages in Lone Traveller and A Bike Ride, descends from the mountains of Nepal, birthplace of Rama's wife Sita, and meanders her way (occasionally by local train or plane) across the subcontinent to Sri Lanka, where the virtuous Rama and his 10-headed opponent, Ravana, fought their decisive battle. Mustoe's travel narrative parallels her exposition of the Hindu saga. The stories together comprise a vivid travelogue of India from the perspective of a sympathetic outsider who observes how the nation's deeply rooted faith and social practices make it a unique paradox of ancient and modern. Black-and-white pictures and a map are helpful. Readers interested in travel may appreciate bike and luggage specifications; those curious about Hinduism may long, however, for a glossary to keep the Hindu pantheon and Ramayana characters straight. (Jan.) Forecast: The popularity of Bruce Feiler's Walking the Bible as well as the vogue in spiritual travel books may generate extra publicity mileage for this idiosyncratically chatty combination of travel and religion. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.