Book Review: The Shooting Star by Shivya Nath

Book Name: The Shooting Star: A Girl, Her Backpack and the World Paperback

Author: Shivya Nath

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Penguin

Rating: 4.5/5

Book Blurb: Shivya Nath quit her corporate job at age twenty-three to travel the world. She gave up her home and the need for a permanent address, sold most of her possessions and embarked on a nomadic journey that has taken her everywhere from remote Himalayan villages to the Amazon rainforests of Ecuador. Along the way, she lived with an indigenous Mayan community in Guatemala, hiked alone in the Ecuadorian Andes, got mugged in Costa Rica, swam across the border from Costa Rica to Panama, slept under a meteor shower in the cracked salt desert of Gujarat and learnt to conquer her deepest fears.

With its vivid descriptions, cinematic landscapes, moving encounters and uplifting adventures, The Shooting Star is a travel memoir that maps not just the world but the human spirit.

Review: Travel writing is difficult. The writing is not the difficult part. The travelling part is where the misery lies. This is perhaps why there have been very few who have followed the path of wanderlust and have stuck to it religiously.

It is possible to count the number of authors who have written travelogues, Paul Theroux being one of the most famous ones. Many authors wrote a few travel accounts only to wither away. Vikram Seth’s From Heaven’s Lake is one such rare account. In Hindi travel literature, Rahul Sankrityayan was one who pursued it for a very long time but men like Mahapandit Rahul ji are a rarity. It is therefore perhaps correct to quote him on women nomads. Shivya Nath will take some time to master the craft of travel writing but she has the spirit.

“जहां तक घुमक्कड़ी करने का सवाल है, स्त्री का उतना ही अधिकार है, जितना पुरुष का. स्त्री क्यों अपने को इतना हीन समझे? पीढ़ी के बाद पीढ़ी आती है और स्त्री भी पुरुष की तरह ही बदलती रहती है.” – राहुल सांकृत्यायन  (As far as wandering is concerned, a woman also has as much right as a man. Why should a woman consider herself inferior? Generation after generation, the woman must also change like a man.)

After completing her education in Singapore on a scholarship, Shivya Natha works for a few years and decides to spend her time travelling. She got the beginning part of the book right where she wakes up somewhere in South America (Ecuador) having consumed Ayahuasca, a powerful hallucinogen.

A wanderer travels for the adventure part, I guess and a traveller who spends a lot of time locked inside hotel rooms is not a real traveller. Shivya Nath has to persuade her family who were naturally aghast at her decision. She oversells her freelance career which is limited to gigs on content writing but a combination of luck and her persistence ensures that her travels are not interrupted for a long time.

“And even if never made a lot of money, my intuition said I would never go back to a ‘real’ job because my heart belonged to the road.”

The book also has pictures from her travels (a welcome addition) and she narrates in a laid back, carefree style. This is a fun travelogue to read.

In between, she provides snippets from her struggles as a woman traveller which many can identify with. The book is written in a very candid manner, so she has got this bit right and it makes for an interesting read.

Never become a writer if you cannot tell everything- honestly. Journalism would be a better fit for such people.

Travellogues are rare and good travellogues are rarer. The Shooting Star is for those readers who have been bitten by the travel bug but are too afraid to begin their journey.

Oh! The things we do for wanderlust.

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