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Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  439 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Based on the author's recent travel experiences in some small towns in India.
Paperback, 276 pages
Published December 31st 1995 by Penguin Books Australia
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3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  439 ratings  ·  57 reviews

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Apr 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
I picked up Pankaj Mishra's 'Butter Chicken in Ludhiana' again which I had earlier tossed aside after reading just 10 pages. Read 5 more pages and disgusted to see how author hates every single thing about India. Paid by a publisher to write a travel book when he was in his early 20s, he is supposedly writing about his travels through small town India but all he is doing is pissing on anything and everything Indian and seems to be in awe of anything/everything foreign! What a waste...I want my m ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Could easily be the only unpretentious Indian writer I've ever read.
I strongly recommend this book to everyone from my generation.
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
If one were to go by the title, Pankaj Mishra is hardly the person who can be trusted to write about the "national bird of khalistan", after all he's a complete vegetarian, but then this book is about 'travels in small town India'. From Kanyakumari and Kottayam to Ambala and Murshidabad and Gaya to Mandi and Udaipur and many many more small towns across the length and breadth of India, this is quite a wonderful account of a transforming India..and Indians.
While there is an unmistakable cynicism
Jan 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Mishra's first book is filled with sardonic humor and is mordantly critical of India of the time but it is also filled with a subtle humor - not all of which was probably intended. Reading his first book after having seen him evolved into a rather academically savvy writer gives you a hint of his own struggles in the changing India. He certainly has some anger and a lot of scoffery to offer to the neo-rich money-grabbing classes of India but he is also found admitting, rather inadvertently, a so ...more
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Imagine Temptations of the West except devoid of any sort of deeper observations. In this disappointing first novel, Mishra travels around small-town India making sardonic observations behind the backs of everyone he meets. I thought it was a boon to find this out-of-print novel for $2 in a tiny used book-store in Dhaka but now I don't consider myself so lucky. It's just so easy to pass judgments on the stagnant upper classes and humorously backwards lower classes in India, a book like this mak ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
Many authors have written about their experiences and recounted their weird encounters while travelling through the potholed-road and narrow lanes of India. To some, India provides a culture shock. To some others, it provides a kaleidoscopic enriching view of life. Some find traces of India's spiritual heritage in people's lifestyle. Others discover in them sheer hypocrisy and yearning for modern luxuries despite adhering to the medieval mindset. Some of Mark Tully, VS Naipul, William Dalrymple' ...more
Vineeth Kartha
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I first saw this book it appeared to be just another Indian novel. But then
the description on the back cover termed it as a travelogue. The author takes us on an all India tour, showing the realities that exists in the country, this is not a book on the tourist destinations of India but about the harsh, bitter and some times the sweet side of modern India. The author has travelled the breadth and depth of the country, sometimes throwing in pieces of history and culture about a place, a pers
Dayanand Prabhu
Oct 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
This is not a travel book, This is a book where Mishraji goes to various places and expresses disgust at the local people and passes condescending judgment. In the entire book never even for once has the author expressed any curiosity for the places he is visiting, instead the attitude is as if he is punished. He either eavesdrops on people or befriends only to shamelessly bad mouth them.
Sep 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great read... The author travels "off the beaten path" with everyday people and writes about his conversations with them. Marvellous portrayal of traveling in India, the way the locals do!
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Superb stuff! Mishra's 'nook & cranny' detail amazes me. I wish I could rival his eye for detailed observation & be able to translate it to prose!! Excellent English!!
Sep 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south-asian
This book is an exploration of a rising middle class in 1990s India by a young man insecure in his intellectual and cultural beliefs. The people he meets, nearly all fascists who yearn to prove they are no longer poor or `backwards' by brutalizing more marginalized populations, are reprehensible. Reviewers who fault him for condemning them should examine why they find these figures sympathetic. Mishra's condemnatory portrait of these people is only more prescient today, where the self-same indiv ...more
Aravind P
A decent book. Pankaj Mishra is a very hygiene conscious middle class chap, so as expected, it had all those commentary on overflowing gutters, unclean surroundings and stuffs like that. It was fine but started annoying when he kept repeating the same stuff as he moved around the country.
Keeping that out, the book was a nice travelogue. It was not about places to visit or sights to see. But his own experiences while traveling around the country and meeting people with various ideologies, frustra
Sep 03, 2013 rated it liked it
The book is set in the 1990s India, which is very different from 2013 when I read it. It made me nostalgic...not to mention thankful about the things that have changed for the better in India in the past 20 years. Overall, an entertaining read, but not the best from this author.
Read this book after I read Pankaj Mishra's 'From the ruins of Empire"- which I absolutely loved!.
Pallavi Kamat
Dec 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Could have done without the 'Hungry India, Poor India' narrative. But there are some poignant & interesting moments in the book as well. Small-town India had huge aspirations 20 years back! It will be interesting to revisit these towns now & see the progress there.

Need to put up a detailed review later!
Brinda S.
Feb 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Sometimes, as readers, who return to books that we’ve read in the past, we encounter not just the content again, but our past selves. We wonder sometimes, at how we had missed certain allusions earlier, or of why we were so drawn in to something that now seems less compelling. Writers too go through similar feelings when revisiting a past work. In his Afterword to Butter Chicken in Ludhiana, Pankaj Mishra says: “Butter Chicken reminded me too much of my younger, callow, unresolved self, which ha ...more
Gyanesh Talwar
Sep 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
There is only one reason to read this book - understand the JNUtards' hatred for India, Indian culture, and for their own genetics.

I read this book (circa 2007) when I was not familiar with JNU or the Urban naxals of India. But I was astonished to see a book in which author has traveled across India and has found only filth, disease, mental degeneracy, immorality, and mental bankruptcy. The only two good thing he found in India were in the communist Kerala - a mallu who had read western literatu
May 23, 2018 rated it liked it
The perfect butter chicken consists of bite-sized tender succulent pieces of chicken ensconed in a rich aromatic gravy. The perfect butter chicken is neither spicy nor sweet but manages to capture that right balance of flavour. It is a dish that non-veg lovers swear by and an interesting title of a book whose author is a vegetarian. That Mishra is a vegetarian is evident when you consider the butter chicken he produces ends up being slightly off-taste, failing to meet expectations. The writing i ...more
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel, india
Reminded me of Bill Bryson's Notes from a Smal Island, in this case, travels small towns in India.
No earth-shattering incidents are written about, but the point of views of ordinary people that one would meet travelling in public transport from one small town to another.
Avinash K
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure, humor, meh
Meh... Average by travelogue standards. Not the standard of Following Fish, etc. Don't really recommend it.
Ameya Joshi
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this book a few years ago and when I was reading this article where William Dalrymple & Ramchandra Guha were trading barbs around a decade even further past. And Dalrymple mentioned Pankaj Mishra as one of the Indian authors whom he was mighty impressed by or something. So I searched for his works and was wondering which one to start off with, especially wary of picking up something too high brow with the fear of not being able to plough through it at all. So despite this being 20 yea ...more
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Pankaj Mishra’s book Butter Chicken In Ludhiana is not a must read but you could call it a good read.

The book is a travelogue of Mishra’s travels in small (small he says, I would say somewhat small) towns of India. It is a good book in the literary sense, the language flows well but literary isn’t all that is important in a book.

The book is pretty entertaining but personally I didn’t find it very insightful. Mishra seems to have a problem with everything, you hardly find him appreciating anythin
Jul 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I first came across Pankaj Mishra in the form of a long, steady rant against Swami Vivekananda. At the time, before the sudden, highly-visible rise of saffron development, my sentiments lay strongly with those who berated the author.

I picked up Butter Chicken knowing it would be a well-argued, well-written, repellant work about India. In the end, it ended up more or less that way. But first things first, Butter Chicken is an extraordinary travel book.

Pankaj Mishra has wonderful skills of observa
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
Pankaj Mishra, even at that young age, rated as one of the better Indian writers in English. What this relatively dull and (allegedly) Thorstein Veblen inspired embodiment of chronologically sequential, short duration travel writing lacks is ambition and initiative. Mishra is perpetually stuck in bad hotels, unpunctual modes of transport and conversations related to literature/literary themes. When in South India, he doesn't venture out much.

The combination of the above provides for armchair pro
Kimaya Mathew
Jan 31, 2015 rated it liked it
i finished reading "Butter chicken in Lludhiana" today, not just because I was recommended by my lecturer but also because the premises sounded pretty interesting to me. The book is about the early Indian voyage of the author where he is roaming the small towns of the country and observing the life and routine of the common masses, who are often neglected by the high writers in order to make better stories.
Somehow, though, i feel as if, in some pages, author lost focus of what he wants to write
I enjoy reading travelogues and this was no excepton. Pankaj Mishra writes about his travels through small towns in India in the early 90s and remarks on the effects that globilisation has had on these towns and its middle class in particular. I found the book to be riddled with witty, hilarious and at times, sobering observations about the attitudes and plights of the people he enounters. I throughly enjoyed his conversations narrated in hindi. Although the immediate translations in english mar ...more
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
In the early part of the 90s, Pankaj Mishra travelled across the 'smaller' towns of India to get a feel of the aspirations and lifestyles of their inhabitants.. (He was paid to do so by the publisher) Had I read this book then, it probably would have been a much more enlightening read than it was for me in 2013. Shimla, Murshidabad, Gaya, Kottayam, Kovalam, Tirupur, Shimoga, Benaras, Pushkar, Ajmer, Bundi etc are some of the towns that Mishra covers. But apart from his train journeys, insipid in ...more
Aabha sharma
Jul 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a surprisingly insightful look into 90's India given how young the author was when he wrote it. It's amusing to see the deference he is met with when he says the magic words "I am from Delhi" or the contempt when he says the not so magical words" I am a student." The book is full of little observations and anecdotes though he is naive at times(duh Indians are very caste conscious).
I would recommend this book for the hilarious camay incident alone! Fortunately there's lots more like the M
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book is a big bore! And tiring, and without a plot-or with too simplistic a plot of being a travelogue without a purpose! And that too from a writer I had great expectations from after having read his remaking of Asia !! It's like following him on his idiosyncratic travel, making sense of what little he fancies and chooses to tell, and all along having to use ones own knowledge of the Indian small towns to make sense of the description!!
However, the writing is of caliber and views on the co
Oct 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Sometimes crossing and sometimes stopping by small towns of India in my field visits, I have often wondered about the lives of the people living in them. What do people do living in those strongly-coloured houses (pink!)or in those crowded rows of shops or on their way someway on homemade people transporters? What do people talk about? What preoccupies their lives? Pankaj Mishra answered some of those questions but not enough of them. He didn't seem to have stopped in any one place long enough t ...more
Jul 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-2013
Normally I'm too lazy to write a review especially for a book that I didn't care much for. But this one was revolting enough to force me to write one. The snobbery on display on every page is irritating at first and soon makes the book unreadable. Every incident described reeks of contemptuousness and Mishra is a great example of why a 20 something old getting a contract to write a sociological piece about a complex society is a bad idea.

I'm reminded of a scene from 'Munnabhai MBBS', where Arsh
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Pankaj Mishra (पंकज मिशरा) is a noted Indian essayist and novelist.

In 1992, Mishra moved to Mashobra, a Himalayan village, where he began to contribute literary essays and reviews to The Indian Review of Books, The India Magazine, and the newspaper The Pioneer. His first book, Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India (1995), was a travelogue that described the social and cultural ch
“For, to be woken up at five in the morning by the devotional treacle of Anup Jalota, Hari Om Sharan and other confectioners, all of them simultaneously droning out from several different cassette players; to be relentlessly assaulted for the rest of the day and most of the night by the alternately over-earnest and insolent voices of Kumar Sanu, Alisha Chinoy, Baba Sehgal singing 'Sexy, Sexy, Sexy', and 'Ladki hai kya re baba', 'Sarkaye leyo khatiya' and other hideous songs; to have them insidiously leak into your memory and become moronic refrains running over and over again in your mind; to have your environment polluted and your day destroyed in this way was to know a deepening rage, an impulse to murder, and, finally, a creeping fear at one's own dangerous level of derangement. It was to understand the perfectly sane people you read about in the papers, who suddenly explode into violence one fine day; it was to conceive a lasting hatred for the perpetrators, rich or poor, of these auditory atrocities. (on why he left Varanasi after a few days)” 5 likes
“The two pigeons killed had just given birth. And now the baby pigeon doesn't know who he is. He is going through an identity crisis.” 0 likes
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