The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists.

Do you make lists when you’re nervous? I do.

I’m nervous. These are my lists:

‘Travel’ List

  • Submit Indian Visa Application
  • Learn how to say Go Away Mr. Snake/Spider/Tout in Malayalam and Hindi. And English.
  • Pack my current life into boxes (this is ½ done, yay me!).
  • Make some friends who own houses with basements and garages.
  • Move my life-in-boxes into bribed & buttered-up friend’s basements and garages.
  • Purchase anti-malarials which you will probably forget or decline to take anyway.
  • Light a candle against contracting Japanese Encephalitis (in a church of every faith just in case).
  • Mend your Gluteus Medius Muscle Strain. Or else.
  • Pack your new life into a 35L backpack.
  • Buy airplane tickets.
  • Go to the airport.
  • Go to India.
  • Have a rad time.

‘Books to Review Even Though You’re Too Busy But You Read Them So You Feel Compelled To Say Something About Them’ List. This is after all a book blog.

  • Regret not writing reviews as you go and letting things pile up so much they’re unlikely to get done.
  • Molloy by Samuel Beckett.
  • Jane Eyre by Emily Brontë.
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
  • The Shipping News by Annie Proulx.
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.
  • Tennessee William’s Notebooks.
  • The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera.
  • Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy.
  • On a Shoestring to Coorg: a Travel Memoir of India by Dervla Murphy.
  • Along the Ganges by Ilija Trojanow.

‘Sanity’ List

  • Eat lots of Voodoo Doughnuts, Oatmeal and Brown Sugar ice cream, Salted Caramel ice cream and anything else containing carbs and sugar. Especially wine and vodka and cucumber lemonade gin with Saint Germain.
  • Sit with your friends in places. Talk to them.
  • Walk with your friends in spaces. Listen to them.
  • Call your family. Tell them how nervous you are. Love them.
  • Go to poetry readings in the park.
  • Sleep.
  • Have a rad time.
  • Savour each time you wash your hands in cold, clean, running water.
  • Savour each time you accidentally swallow water in the shower.
  • Savour each time you have a regular bowel movement and do not vomit after eating.
  • Stop writing lists. Do the things on your list.
  • Accept that you won’t be able to achieve everything on these lists.
  • Accept that the book reviews may be the first thing you have to concede.
  • Surrender.

3 thoughts on “The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists.

  1. Just a word on Dervla Murphy. Real pompous, arrogant twit. No depth, empathy, awareness or understanding of history. Tries to mitigate or justify British colonialism in India, is sympathetic to the Islamic state of Pakistan( which the British helped create) and makes sweeping, offensive generalisations about India, Hinduism and Indian culture.

    Superficial, shallow rubbish.And this writer is actually respected worldwide, I wonder by whom.

    • It’s difficult for travel writers to “get a country right”, you inevitably wind up insulting or displeasing someone and I agree that Dervla Murphy can make sweeping statements and be reductive at times. I think this is because her writing is basically her uncensored diary entries at the end of a long day on a bike! She isn’t the type of travel writer who does lots of research or interviews and her descriptions of countries can indeed sometimes lack a certain insight.

      Having said that I don’t think the purpose of her memoirs was to explain India to her readers; rather, it was the story of a woman in her thirties in 1960s Ireland who cycled her bicycle across Europe and central Asia all the way to India under extreme conditions. I admire her for the fact that she was so brave to travel in such a way, as a woman and during the time period that it was. It’s impossible to get everything right in a travel book and Dervla definitely has flaws but I respect her and admire her all the same.

      If you have any suggestions of travel writers who you think do a better job of portraying India then I’d love to hear any recommendations. Thanks for your insights.

      (I also have to say is that as an Irish woman who lived under British colonialism and deeply resented Ireland being under English rule I think your claim that she was sympathetic towards the British in India is probably not very accurate.)

      • From the books of hers that I’ve read( I haven’t read every single one) her books on India are the only ones that contain those hard edged, critical statements regarding culture, religion, history and behaviour. When she travels to other countries, the observations are very neutral, matter of fact or otherwise innocuous.

        Yes, being of Irish ethnicity, you would expect some empathy on the issue of India’s experience with British colonialism, But alas, nothing of the kind. She tends to denounce Indians for being, in her perception, overly critical of the British.

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