Two years ago Srinath Perur got into a bus along with a bunch of retired people to go around Tamil Nadu as part of his assignment. Between visiting an endless number of temples and getting bored with the company around, he managed to take notes that impressed his travel magazine editor beyond measure. ‘I see a book in this’, she had said. And thus began Srinath’s long tryst with organised tours.
Apart from the temples in Madurai, it took him to the backwaters of Kerala, on a pious Kabir yatra and hip-crunching camel safari in Rajasthan, ‘unexciting’ sex tour in Uzbekistan, an Indian-flavoured European tour, tribal regions of Madhya Paradesh and on a pilgrimage with Waris in Maharashtra.
Now, after having visited several places across India and abroad, adorned with a new halo of experience, he seems to have unravelled the underlying motive behind all these tours. “It is all about taking pictures,” he says in a tone that feigns purpose. He recalls his pseudo visit to the Colosseum, where the organisers halted on an elevated bridge, nowhere close to the structure, and gave the tourists five minutes to take FB-potential snaps.
“There is no exploration. The tours are as predictable as they can get. You wake up on a day and you know exactly where you should be,” he says. And thus the title of his recently launched book If It’s Monday It Must Be Madurai. And if anyone thought it was influenced by the movie title If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Belgium, they are right. This is his first novel, though he is widely known for his pieces on science, books and travel in several publications.
Computer researcher-turned-writer Srinath confesses to be a lazy traveller, the kind who wanders around without getting down to the business of visiting important places and being awed. He realised that getting ordered to look around and enjoy a place for a definite time was not his thing. Though visiting so many places over the last couple of years had been stressful for him, he found the cherry on his unappetising cake early into his venture. “Conducted tours offer great a opportunity to watch people,” the Bengaluru-based author shares, amused. He elaborates, “Everyone seems to be relaxed because everything is taken care of. You get to see their real colours.”
The 10 chapters in the book offer a glimpse of the expansive Indian middle class – spiced up with funny conversations and shocking revelations, all set in a descriptive backdrop. He lucidly brings out his train of thought, which turns creepy when tribals of Madhya Pradesh talk about smoking finger nails in a beedi or there is talk of remedy scorpion bites, to that of extreme discomfort when a fellow traveller guiltlessly talks about his loving family back home, while on the sex tour in Samarkand.
If it’s Monday It Must Be Madurai, published by Penguin is priced at `499.