‘Nautanki Diaries’ book review: Cartographer on a cycle

imageOn the night before starting out on his cross-country solo cycle trip from Bengaluru to New Delhi, Dominic Franks turned up at the Bengaluru Medical College and Research Institute, from which he had graduated more than a decade back and to which he had returned almost everyday to, in his own words, read, play badminton, drink and stretch. Standing on the familiar campus, he recollected friends and made a litany of where they were now — mostly in the US, pursuing successful careers. “All the birds except one had flown the nest,” he writes, and then promised himself that he would make up for all the lost time.Such a sense of being stultified has sparked some of the most memorable travels and travelogues, such as Jack Kerouac’s On the Road or Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries. The influence of the second one on Mr Frank’s book is evident even from the title. The similarities between him and Guevara are also not too stretched: To begin with, both are trained doctors, and for both, a long road journey proved cathartic and enlightening. But, an even greater influence — from the languid tone to narrative detours — is The Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance. It is a tone that captures the pace of a cyclist’s journey. Though trained as a man of medicine, Mr Franks had abandoned the Hippocratic profession to pursue his love: Sports, albeit as a journalist. He is candid about lack of talent: “I had neither skill nor sporting ability and had tried my clumsy hand at every position [on the hockey team].” But, along with that was a dogged perseverance, recollect Mr Franks’s friends who never doubt that he will complete the mission, though he has — till the start of the journey — been only too happy to give up and drop out. This dogged perseverance, mainstay of athletes — amateur or pro — is also the subject of this book. Mr Franks’s expedition is, in turn, inspired by another one taken by his school sports teacher, H P Shivaprakash (nicknamed Shikaari by his students). In 1982, he had cycled from Bengaluru to New Delhi for the Asiad Games. The sporting extravaganza, one of the first hosted by India, was supposed to showcase the country’s progress since Independence. Almost 30 years later, as India tried to claim its place as a leading economy with the Commonwealth Games, Mr Franks attempted to replicate his mentor’s achievement. Naturally, for both, it turned out to be cartography of their country, as well as of themselves. The author did not undertake the journey alone; a team of documentary filmmakers accompanied him.

Source: Business Standard