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A Place Within: Rediscovering India

3.32  ·  Rating Details  ·  82 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
A Globe and Mail Best Book

It would take many lifetimes, it was said to me during my first visit, to see all of India. The desperation must have shown on my face to absorb and digest all I possibly could. This was not something I had articulated or resolved; and yet I recall an anxiety as I travelled the length and breadth of the country, senses raw to every new experience,
Paperback, 464 pages
Published September 15th 2009 by Anchor Canada (first published October 28th 2008)
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A memoir about a man going back to India to discover his family's roots. I always enjoy it when a book focuses on places I know well, and this book lavishes attention on the cities I personally happen to be most familiar with: Delhi, Baroda, Ahmedabad (okay, there's also chapters on Shimla and Kerala, but I haven't been to either). Unfortunately I didn't like much else about the book. Vassanji's style wants to be deep and poetic, but he doesn't actually have anything interesting to say. And I lo ...more
I nearly stopped reading this book at about page 70 but am glad I persevered. The author is Indian, but was born and grew up in East Africa - mostly Dar Es Salaam. His parents were also born in East Africa. They maintained many Indian customs, spoke Indian languages (Gujarati, Kutchi, some Hindi, some Urdu) and strong religious ties to Ismaili Islam - which seems to be (my knowledge is solely from the book) a poetic and mystic blend of Islam and Hindu faiths.

The book is the author's pilgrimage
Feb 27, 2013 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-auto-bio, fiction
Lovely little book for those seeking a window into India. Very descriptive.

I found it perhaps a little too self-reflective, at times, which means in this instance that I felt like I was reading someone's journal that I didn't particularly want to read. At times, the minutiae (and incidentals) that meant so much to the author leaves the reader out in the cold.

Still, and over all, one gets the sense of being an armchair tourist, and sometimes that's good enough.

Manu Prasad
The best travelogues, I always have believed, travel across time and space. This one goes beyond, as it also involves the author's search for his own identity. When an observer writes about places/people, there is always an amount of detachment and/or objectivity and that's what I have seen in many travelogue writing styles. And that was probably why I took a bit longer than usual to adjust to the author's way of seeing places and writing about them - he is writing and processing/linking the inf ...more
May 29, 2015 Ozen added it
Vassanji sums it up the best: "This country that I've come so brazenly to rediscover goes as deep as it is vast and diverse. It's only oneself one ever discovers." (p.322)
Feb 06, 2013 Kiran rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful read by a keen observer of people and the places they inhabit both physical and mental. It takes the reader on a gentle quest, without making a fuss, and leaves one at the door to enter , or not, to discover new worlds or to retrace ones steps to the old, familiar landscapes the feel safe.
A highly recommended book and writer. Vassanji skillfully deals with the human condition and our search for meaning and connectivity.
Dec 27, 2010 Roberta rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I liked this to begin with and I like his voice - contemplative and gentle. Vassanji tries to pulll over a dozen years worth of trips into one book and, as a result, the book becomes confusing. I was always trying to figure out when more current events were happening. I learned a lot about India but I'm not sure it will stay in place. It feels like a think layer of learning.
Jul 01, 2009 Sanjay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A genteel and courtly look at the land of Vassanji's forebears. Written with detailed observation, affection and a desire to link history to the present. However, Vassanji tries to encompass over 15 years' worth of trips to India into one volume, and this sometimes results in a straggly mess.
Bob Peragallo
Feb 05, 2011 Bob Peragallo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like India you'll love this book.....I eat curry for weeks after reading this one.
Jul 22, 2012 Hadia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a must read ,,,,
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Moyez G. Vassanji was born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania. Before coming to Canada in 1978, he attended MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, where he specialized in theoretical nuclear physics. From 1978-1980 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Atomic Energy of Canada, and from 1980 to 1989 he was a research associate at the University of Toronto. During this period he developed a keen interes ...more
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