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

2.96  ·  Rating details ·  72 ratings  ·  26 reviews
A travel essay of a recent visit to India, which reveals, with humor and insight, the tensions and contradictions facing the emerging world power. In particular, the book explores the roles of women and children in India today and includes discussions with experts on this topic, providing insight into this important and often neglected issue.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Fulcrum Publishing
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2.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  72 ratings  ·  26 reviews

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Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel, non-fiction
This is a travel essay of Pedersen's pretty limited trip through India. She sure does have a lot to say, and unfortunately, most of her liberally spiced witticisms come off rather spiteful and mean spirited. Perhaps I have grown weary with trendy, hipster, cynical humor. Her acerbic comments direct everywhere, as if everything just sucks a little more than it should, Well maybe it does at that, but I didn't want to read a travel essay focusing on how much things suck; I can watch the evening new ...more
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
I found Pederson's tone a bit flippant and condescending.
Dominic Tiberio
Aug 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
In a word, miserable. This is a book that has no aim or purpose and lacks any sense of identity. Laura can't seem to figure out if it is a travelogue, guide, history lesson, Buffalo NY promotion, feminist rant, or any number of other turns this disaster takes. There are a lot of great books on India and there are a lot of great travelogues, this is neither.
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Overall, an informative and interesting read. This book covers a very wide range of topics in overview and I learned a lot about India I didn't previously know. That said, the writing is a bit all over the place with some chapters organized by geographic region or city and others by topic. I sort of wanted to tear the whole thing apart and reorganize it. The author also draws a lot of comparisons between India and New York (specifically Buffalo and Manhattan), which I found to be annoying.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it liked it
I was expecting more from this book. I want to read about the narrator's experience through interaction or integrating with the locals. I appreciate that she mentions some of her culture observations here and there but it was limited. She did added some good insights about India. Most of the chapters feels like reading a school textbook with witty remarks that feels condescending towards the west, particularly New York, because that's where she's from.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
I agree with all of the below negative reviews. Terribly written, condescending, negative, smug. Her jokes are not funny, and the "history" is basically Wikipedia.

Finished: 25/6/2018, Eros Hotel, Nehru Place, New Delhi
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
A little too flippant for my tastes. The author seemed more interested in making sarcastic comments that were supposed to be funny rather than describing her journey through India.
paul gore
Good job.

Very thorough and thoughtfully written. I enjoyed it very much. I visited India 25 years ago, and this book took me right back again. Good job!
Viviane Crystal
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 stereo ...more
Jul 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
I was really excited when I picked up Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws - A Journey through Modern India and just ended up disappointed! This book claims to “understand India beyond the headlines”. If anything, it perpetuates the stereotypes about India and just adds to the many misconceptions about the country. And it's a bit insulting. For example one of the beautiful aspects of India is the traditional dress called a sari. if you ever visit India or even an Indian boutique here in the US, th ...more
Vivek Tejuja
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am an Indian. Born and raised in this diverse country, whose norms and ways of thinking might seem strange to an outsider or to someone who wants to know this country better. I guess that tends to happen a lot with writers who want to write about the country – about the so-called enigmatic land of varied cultures and traditions. The experience that start offs as being strange slowly becomes routine and a part of them, hence making the writing easy to believe. There is a context to why I said t ...more
Vera Marie
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel
When you are six years old, crossing the street alone is an adventure. When you are sixteen, driving across town can be hair-raising. The first time you leave your home country, going through customs or Passport Control can set your heart racing. Seasoned travelers demand a little more of adventure travel. For Laura Pedersen, who had some preconceived notions about travel to India, India definitely looked like an adventure.

She says, in Planes Trains and Auto-Rickshaws ,

"I’d wanted to travel to
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Pedersen has digressed from her normal writings and provides the reader with an insight into India. Part travelogue, part history and part philosophy, this book will hit a note with everyone.

From Delhi, the Taj Mahal, Mumbai to the south of India all the highlights and then some are covered. Travel tips interspersed with lots of sarcastic humor. Pedersen covers all the major tourist spots but also some of the quaint and extraordinary ones. Pedersen doesn't just cover the good but also touches on
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a fun, informative book, read in anticipating a trip to India. It is a current description of the astonishing diversity of modern India. Pederson is funny, insightful, and nonjudgmental while writing about such features as the effect of the declining vulture population on the Zoroastrian tradition of exposing their dead on a particular hill in a tony neighborhood to allow spirits to ascend through the bodies of devouring birds. She makes hilarious, but revealing, analogies to American p ...more
Mark Pritchard
May 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. Pe ...more
Oct 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: have-read
Took me about 15 minutes to read this book, and it's amazing that it got published at all. Lots of standard history, some decent de-mystification of Indian culture, and lots and lots of cheesy humor, like the author either wrote it while on the john, at the beach, or while eat on a park bench with a friend. Then again, this makes the reader feel comfortable with her globe-trotting. There have to be better books about India than this one.
Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
The book failed my expectations ( coming from title) because of following:

1. Comparison of India with US was a bit overdone at places.
2. Author was a bit too sarcastic at places, which hurt the seriousness of discussion
3. The facts presented at many places are just corner/extreme cases at best, or just plain wrong sometimes
4. A lot of things which author mentions about India are probably her impressions of India as derived from other texts, and not her own
Jan 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
So awful. I honestly could not understand the thesis of this book or what the author intended. More importantly, I found the author's descriptions of India and its people to be full of weak cliches at best, and ignorant thickly-veiled prejudices at worst. I had higher expectations for this book; but unfortunately, it read like another cliched account of an American traveling in India. Sad!
Deb Holden
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very light-hearted tour of India with a fair amount of historical and cultural background thrown in. If you are looking for a quick read with humor, this is the book. I personally, learned a lot about India without getting bogged down in a lifeless text.
Jul 31, 2012 marked it as to-read
One of my friends recently visited India. She said it was beautiful and very different from the US. This could be a very interesting book.
Mar 09, 2012 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Christina by: Publishers Weekly Spring 2012 Preview
Publishers Weekly Spring 2012 Preview
victor harris
Nov 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Pedersen's writing, is as always, delightful. But you really have to be interested in India to enjoy the full flavor of the book.
May 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
A book that can't decide what it is: a travelogue, a guidebook or an opportunity to make social commentary-- so it does a poor job of all.
Sep 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: global
Some funny insights into India. It also included some new information/history that I either forgot or didn't know.
rated it liked it
Jan 01, 2016
Carolyn Durgin
rated it liked it
Jun 17, 2013
Gayle Kimball
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Jan 09, 2016
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Oct 04, 2017
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Feb 07, 2016
rated it it was ok
Oct 12, 2014
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Laura Pedersen was born in Buffalo, New York (one of "God's frozen people") in 1965, at the height of The Folk Music Scare. (For details of misspent youth see essay at 'Is there a Nurse in the Church?'). After finishing high school in 1983 she moved to Manhattan and began working on The American Stock Exchange, a time when showing up combined with basic computation skills could be parlayed into a ...more