Reading in the skies


What does one read when flying in the skies between homeland and home? As I pack my bags at the end of what has inarguably been the most charmed trip to India since I left this country in 1997, I am careful in my choice of in-flight reading. Go wrong with something like this and you could end up actually wanting to make conversation with that man in the seat next to yours who watches your every move with pointed interest as he settles his elbow on your armrest (and his shoulder in your armrest zone), coincidentally picks the same movies as you from the in-flight movie menu and synchronizes it with your viewing. Yes, it's practically date-night on your very own magic carpet ride.

So, you see the urgency. I was delighted to keep the witty company of Helene Hanff through her 'The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street' on my way to India from the U.S. I had no idea when I got it that it was a book about her own book tour after the release of her mighty '84 Charring Cross Road.' Since I slept a lot on the way over, Ms. Hanff's accounts in London were perfect little snippets of reading while flying over the skies of the four cities of my own tour in India. Pure serendipity yielded pure pleasure.


On the way home to Seattle, I plan to read bits of Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen's acclaimed new book, 'An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions.' As if the promise of the book's contents were not enough, I am propelled also by the sobering controversy surrounding Sen's remarks on Narendra Modi being a poor choice for India's next Prime Minister. Take away Sen's awards for expressing such an opinion, an Indian intellectual has said. Really? In a democracy? Ahem. Ergo, the irony of the title of the book.



If the uncertainties of India's glories begin to make my heart (or my eyes) heavy, I will punctuate my reading with David Sedaris. Naturally, I expect a perfect landing.