Nothing prepared Murray Laurence for India when he first travelled through the country in the 1970s. His first impressions were of its ‘surpassing weirdness’ but it soon cast a spell on him, and for the next forty years he kept returning to India over and over again.
His early journeys in the crowded third-class compartments of slow trains or in rickety buses to obscure towns and villages in the great Indian hinterland often led to strange encounters and travel disasters. Honey-tongued tricksters assailed him, bizarre locals and foreigners tried to explain the country to him, pompous officials waylaid him with impenetrable assertions and mystifying rules, and a myriad other picaresque entanglements with outrageous characters ensured that every trip he made was memorable. In all the chaos and quirkiness that surrounded him, the one thing he could always count on was the spontaneous warmth and generosity of Indians which often revealed itself in surprising circumstances.
Closely observed, stylishly written, and very very funny, Subcontinental Drift is an unforgettable tribute to India and its people.