As a travelogue can be of many types being spewed from the writer’s own style and mindset, this is a simple and lucid one. He starts from Delhi where peasants have to go through a lot of trauma to get a permit to cross the border. Travelling through Mussoorie, Amritsar and then beyond the border, he also discusses historical significance and a brief life history of regions and cities he passes in the circle of his own thoughts and opinions. His modern day depiction of the old and culturally rich cities like Peshawar and Lahore is simply delightful. He makes special mentions of essays and writing work related to the particular place he is traveling and surroundings of contemporary writers who eventually got lost beneath the many layers of history.
Stephen Alter doesn’t try to complicate his words. Words flow naturally describing his own experience about places and their history. It becomes a much relatable read as it is for all the readers equally because the writer pens down the natural human emotions of displacement and uprooting from their native places. He is a person that has lived in the British India and has witnessed immediate aftermath of independence and partition. This gives him an authoritative approach to information.
However, at some points, the discussion on ‘meaning of border’ from different viewpoint becomes a rhetoric, so does the one on ‘meaning of fight for independence’ after few decades of freedom fight. But it never goes out of point and remains interestingly readable. His learnings & thoughts about the pain of uprooted people from their land and their unending miseries are simply gripping, at some places he quotes the most hard-hitting statements with utmost subtleness and genuinely. A reader cannot easily stop after a first book from Stephen, he has to dig for more because the work is simply impressive and leave an imprint on the heart.