Monsoon Postcards: Indian Ocean Journeys
Most of my writing energy in 2017 was devoted to my second book on travel, history and culture—Monsoon Postcards: Indian Ocean Journeys, the sequel to Postcards from Stanland. My story begins in Madagascar's capital, Antananarivo, which I describe as "Paris with rice paddies," then moves to the Central Highlands, the heartland of the Merina people who still practice famadihana, the ritual re-interment of their ancestors. I hang out with lemurs in the jungle and take a bumpy two-day overland trip across mountains, savanna grasslands and desert to the southwest. As I write in the introduction: “This book has a broader geographical sweep … describing a circuitous arc around the Indian Ocean with insights into the history, geography, politics, economy, climate and belief systems of five countries where I’ve traveled and worked over the last decade. From Madagascar, I head across the Mozambique Channel and up the Zambezi River to Malawi, a country linked to the Indian Ocean by exploration, slavery and trade. Then I leap across the Arabian Sea to the Indian sub-continent. India defies generalizations because of its social, ethnic and religious diversity. My narrative begins in the capital Delhi, then broadens out in space and time, exploring the colonial legacy, the partition of British India, and the country’s demographic, economic and environmental challenges. From the north, I move to the ancient kingdom of Hyderabad, and finally to the under-developed “chicken-neck,” India’s Appalachia, the northeastern states of Assam and Meghalaya. Then I follow the Brahmaputra River south to Bangladesh, a country defined by its bitter struggle for independence. From the chaotic traffic and garment factories of Dhaka, I travel to the rice bowl and commercial centers of western Bangladesh, to the tea gardens of the northeast and to the delta region—the front line for climate change. My journey ends in Indonesia—at Banda Aceh, ground zero for the 2004 tsunami, the noise and traffic of the capital, Jakarta, ancient Yogyakarta, and the beaches and back country of Bali.
Monsoon Postcards will be published in 2019 by the Ohio University Press.
You can enjoy a brief taste of some of the stories to be featured on these blogs: