‘Time Travel’ Tour Operators

August 13, 2010

Travellers can go to anyplace they want – Harbin or Kyoto or Sunderbans…

The only limitation they face is that the destination can be experienced only in the ‘present’ moment.

But recently several times in the past 2 years I was transported to not only a place I had not seen before, set in time 100-400 years ago.

Dostoevesky’s ‘Crime & Punishment’ and ‘Idiot’ took me through an intricate tour of life in Russia, over a century ago. St.Petersburg –  unless I live there, it will be hard to get to know it so deeply. And even if I do spend 6 months I will only know the city of Today – not that of a century ago.

Dalrymple’s ‘Last Mughals’ took me to Delhi. The current city I am allergic to, but Dalrymple’s Delhi – that died along with the reign of the Mughals – I am in love with.

Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s ‘Srikantha’ and ‘Palli Samaj’ took me to rural Bengal. If I were to go there today, I am sure to recognise a lot, since not much would have changed in the past century ..but who knows… it might be totally different. What I peeped into through all those works is terrific time travel.

Arthur Golden took me to Kyoto  and rural Japan pre-world war II through ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. I want to go to Kyoto but am afraid of being disappointed that the  ‘new’ & ‘improved’ model of Kyoto may not live up to Arthur’s its historical version.

I hear that Tibet has changed dramatically since I went there – pre-Olympics. But the Tibet I experienced then was already a different place from the one Heinrich Harrer took me to in ‘Seven Years in Tibet’. And no matter what I do or wherever in rural Tibet I travel, it will not be the same as the time travel provided by Heinrich’s words.

Each of these is a novel with a great story. The place provides the backdrop and the context to understand the collective psychology of the people in that place in that time. But these authors have done such a terrific job of detailing the setting that these books can be read purely as travel books.

And these authors can easily be classified as ‘Time- Travel Tour Operators’

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