The world can be more friendly and more perilous than what most travel writers portray, but only the truly perspicacious and passionate ones succeed in unravelling the mystery within. Yogi Aggarwal belongs to the latter tribe. Whether it is China, Burma and Cambodia or Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, he gets to the bottom of things.
Aggarwal travelled to South Africa to cover the first free election in history, Afghanistan to report on the ‘new great game being played out in the region’, Iran and Pakistan to witness the troubles there, China to discover how its society was changing, and Burma to find it caught in a time warp. In India, he visited Bihar and Assam to witness how people were responding to the changes in these states, Ayodhya to see the cataclysmic changes brought about by the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, and Marathwada to observe the effects of the earthquake. He also saw how Bombay responded to the bombings that shook the city.
In these essays and reports, Yogi Aggarwal goes behind the obvious to show the workings of people and the choices they face. While introducing the people, he also reports on the larger issues that circumscribe their lives.
‘Before travel writing grew smartly trendy, more a guide to satisfy tourists than anything else, there were the writings of independent travellers who were observant, who deliberately went off the beaten track, and who were wonderfully curious about the lands and situations they found themselves in. Yogi Aggarwal is that kind of traveller, and I’m happy to see that the accounts of his travels, which gave me so much pleasure when I first read them years ago, are back in print.’
‘Over a long career, Yogi Aggarwal has gone where the action is. He was in South Africa, in Kabul three times, in Pakistan, in Mumbai during the bomb blasts of 1993, in Ayodhya in 1990, and further back in Assam during the agitation against “outsiders” in the early 1980s. This book makes for absorbing reading. It could well be titled Despatches from Troubled Times. Yet it also contains leisurely and engaging pieces on Iran, Burma, the Mekong Delta, China and Nepal by a person who clearly loves to travel and chat with strangers.’
‘With these incisive essays and articles, the versatile journalist and editor Yogi Aggarwal takes you on a firsthand journey through the troubled lands of South Asia and beyond. He casts a probing and analytical eye on the contemporary history of the regions he visits. This is a book to be read and preserved as a telling testimony to our times.’