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The fascinating and revealing story of Frater's journey through India in pursuit of the astonishing Indian summer monsoon. On 20th May the Indian summer monsoon will begin to envelop the country in two great wet arms, one coming from the east, the other from the west. They are united over central India around 10th July, a date that can be calculated within seven or eight dThe fascinating and revealing story of Frater's journey through India in pursuit of the astonishing Indian summer monsoon. On 20th May the Indian summer monsoon will begin to envelop the country in two great wet arms, one coming from the east, the other from the west. They are united over central India around 10th July, a date that can be calculated within seven or eight days. Frater aims to follow the monsoon, staying sometimes behind it, sometimes in front of it, and everywhere watching the impact of this extraordinary phenomenon. During the anxious period of waiting, the weather forecaster is king, consulted by pie-crested cockatoos, and a joyful period ensues: there is a period of promiscuity, and scandals proliferate. Frater's journey takes him to Bangkok and the cowboy town on the Thai-Malaysian border to Rangoon and Akyab in Burma (where the front funnels up between the mountains and the sea). Alexander Frater's fascinating narrative reveals the exotic, often startling discoveries of an ambitious and irresistibly romantic adventure...

Title : Chasing the Monsoon
Author :
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ISBN : 9780330433136
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 273 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Chasing the Monsoon Reviews

  • Nandakishore Varma
    2018-08-02 09:36

    This is, without doubt, the most fascinating travelogue I have ever read. Frater follows the monsoon from its genesis in Kerala up to Cherrapunji in Assam, the wettest place on earth: in the process, he gives fascinating insights about India, the monsoon, India + the monsoon (a strange entity!) and human nature in general. His writing is wryly humorous (without being sarcastic) and sympathetic at the same time.Being from Kerala, I know and love the monsoon. So it was all the more enjoyable for me. As I read the book, I could almost smell the smell of the first rains on parched soil, what we call "the smell of new earth".Highly recommended.

  • Erika Hall
    2018-08-14 07:10

    I have read this book several times, usually as a summer read at the beach, and each time I am transported to alluring and exotic places and times by Frater's colorful descriptions and lyrical prose. The binding of my original copy is broken, with the pages - stained with sweat, tanning oil, seawater, sand and muck - secured between the covers by means of a large rubber band. Yet the experience of reading the battered pages while sweltering in the heat and humidity of a summer's day along the Florida coast only amplifies the gritty beauty of India and the air of anxious anticipation for the arrival of the monsoon rains. Truly a brilliant and inspiring travelogue!

  • Hana
    2018-07-22 06:27

    An affectionate romp through India as refreshing as a monsoon burst after the heat of summer. Frater has all of V.S. Naipaul's ear for dialog and eye for telling little details, without the cynicism and bitterness. I love books that focus on one weird theme and then mix in people, places, history and science. This one was great fun and sometimes surprisingly moving. Chasing The Monsoon is the third travelog-type book I've read for the HBC India Challenge, all based on trips made during the late 1980s, and I'm now convinced that authors find the India and the people they are looking for--and with over a billion square miles of territory and 1.2 billion people to choose from, that is probably to be expected. V.S. Naipaul was looking for the disaffected and found them by the dozen; Elisabeth Bumiller was looking for downtrodden women and found them, too; Frater seems the most open of the three, looking simply for the way in which India experiences the monsoon--and what he finds is a special kind of delight.Here's a little taste: On Kovalam Beach near the southern tip of India, the Southwest spring monsoon is expected to make first landfall. In the scorching heat a line of spectators from all over India has formed to await the glorious moment."They were dressed with surprising formality, many of the men wearing ties and the women fine saris which streamed and snapped in the wind. Their excitement was shared and sharply focused, like that of a committee preparing to greet a celebrated spiritual leader or a victorious general who would come riding up on the beach on an elephant....The sky was black, the sea white. Foaming like champagne it surged over the road....We stood rocking in the blast, clinging to each other amid scenes of great merriment...A tall pale-skinned man next to me shouted, 'Sir, where are you from?''England!' I yelled....'And what brings you here?''This!''Sir, us also! We are holiday makers! I myself am from Delhi. This lady beside me is from Bangalore and we too have come to see the show!'....Thunder boomed. Lighting went zapping into the sea....Then beyond the cumuliform anvils and soaring castellanus turrets we saw a broad ragged band of luminous indigo heading slowly inshore.... 'The rains!' everyone sang....The wind struck us with a force that made our line bend and waver. Everyone shrieked and grabbed at each other...The deluge began."

  • Elizabeth
    2018-07-26 11:16

    I loved this book!! We found it in a stack of books marked "free" on someone's lawn as we walked home from the market. We liked the look of the cover and because it is a Penguin book decided to give it a try. We. Couldn't. Put. It. Down.Half memoir, half travel diary, it is wonderfully paced. How wonderful to get a completely different view of rain. At one point in Bombay, there is a lovely picture of a little girl leaping around in the pouring rain and happily calling to her father, "I'm cold!! I'm cold!!" Ha. I wonder if this girl now travels in the summer to distant places so she can be cold - the way we northerners seek out tropical beaches when cold snowy winds are howling. Mostly, the book is about weather, visas, the Indian people and the fabulous adventure of getting from place to place in India. But (because I have a one-track mind) I was particularly taken with two stunning sections on mangoes:The first one when he was in Bombay:In the coffee shop a waitress said, 'Of course I will bring beer if you insist, but I think you should try the mangoes.' She looked like a beauty queen and her expression was earnest and quizzical.'I actually wanted a drink,' I said.'We put them in blender and you half-sip, half-eat with a spoon.'I ordered the mangoes.[...]The waitress returned and set a tall glass before me. 'There we are, the classic fruit of the monsoon,' she said, then stood back with folded arms, watching. The contents of the glass were a warm, glowing orange; faint hints of fire indicated that perhaps crystals from the sun had been dropped like sugar lumps into the blender too. It smelled of flowers and, mixed in with the wonderful mango tastes, the fruit gave off hints of cinnamon and rare spices. I finished every last drop.'They were absolutely the best I've ever had,' I said.She smiled and touched my hand. 'That will please my father,' she said. 'Early this morning I picked them in his garden.'(p 143)The second one when he was in Calcutta:[F]our [journalists] were lunching at the table next to mine, three local men and a visiting Australian. The Aussie wanted to talk about affairs of state, about the Gandhi dynasty and the future of the Congress Party, but he couldn't get a word in edgeways because the Indians were arguing about mangoes.One proclaimed, 'The Alfonso is peerless. It has the most wonderful spicy taste and a texture similar to the peach. It is-''No, no!' said a colleague. 'The Langra, the lovely one-legged Langra, is indisputably greater. It's sweetness is legendary. The flesh is so piquant, the aftertaste better even than a Today wine.'The third said, 'I get rose petals in the Langra.''But you get rose petals in the Alfonso,' said the first. 'Also a hint of honeysuckle. And may I remind you that Alfonso is the official Harrods mango?'The other laughed. 'That means only that it travels well,' said one. 'Like frozen mutton.' He added, 'I also get rose petals in the Daseri.''Ah, the Daseri! Yes a Daseri from a good garden in not a bad mango but it is over now. It is really pre-monsoon.'A waiter joined in . He said, 'Gentlemen, we have Safedas on pudding trolley.'The Indians looked at him with interest.'Ripe?' asked one.'Ripe?' intoned the waiter. 'Sir, they are perfection. God has intended them for eating this very day.'The baffled Australian sipped his beer. 'You blokes are worse than a bunch of bloody wine buffs,' he said.'Arthur, this is a serious matter,' said the man who had started the argument. 'We are speaking of the most noble fruit on earth. It is one of the jewels in India's crown, bequeathed to us each year by the monsoon, and it arouses strong passions in all of us. You must have a Safeda for you pudding, though bear in mind that it is not one of the truly great mangoes. It is large and very sweet-'[...]The Australian, visibly steeling himself, began talking about politics. His companions sighed softly. I called for my bill and left.(p 221-223)Because we found this book, we signed the back and mailed it to my sister, with the instructions that after she has read it, she sign the back of the book and give it to someone else who will want to read it.

  • Vaisakh Krishnan
    2018-08-11 10:07

    'Chasing the Monsoon' is a travel book by Alexander Frater where he describes his journey through India following the Indian monsoon. Travelling through many states and cities, he tells the stories of the people whose lives are touched upon by the monsoons. In a parallel track, he describes his childhood and how he inherited an interest towards nature and meteorology from his father and grand-father. Frater starts in Trivandrum, Kerala where the monsoon arrives first and then moves upwards. Being from Kerala and having been there during that time I could experience the thrill and joy of Keralites before the arrival of monsoons which Frater describes in the book. He witnesses the country's first monsoon showers in the beautiful Kovalam beach. The beauty of 'God's own country' is magnified by the monsoons and Frater's attempt to portray them is commendable. The journey continues and he follows the monsoon to Goa and then Bombay. Along the way he is continuously trying to get permit to get into Cherrapunji, which was the wettest place on earth(currently it is Mawsynram) due to civil unrest. He gets entangled in the bureaucratic hierarchy but ultimately succeeds in getting a permit. Frater explains why Cherrapunji is close to his heart and hence wants it to be the place where the journey should culminate. The description of Cherrapunji is magnificent to say the least.The beauty of the book is that even though he describes the romanticism of the Indian monsoons, he also makes a conscious effort to highlight the plight of many who face trouble during the rainy season. Both the aspects are complemented well.A wonderful book.

  • Daren
    2018-08-12 11:23

    I enjoyed book, without pushing on to a 5* (a lot of reviewers loved it, which had given me high expectations), but it was easy to read, and passed on information in a comfortable way.Not only writing about his travel in India, travelling with the monsoon, starting in Kerala, moving north and ending Cherrapunji (Meghalaya) the author also writes a lot about his early life in Vanuatu (the New Hebrides, as it was called at the time), with his father and grandfather, who were prominent figures there.He meets interesting people, he visits some more out of the way sights, he talks about the monsoon. It is interesting for the fact he doesn't resort to repeating himself too much - I mean, it is a book about the monsoon, so yes he talks about that a lot...For me his bureaucratic battle to visit Cherrapunji and Shillong in Meghalaya was alone worth the read. There is something so 'India' about that.P199 " You could see the fellows at Foreigners Regional Registration Office, They might chaneg this ruling. - I've already been there. Twice. - Well, so be it. - Mr Rao, what's my file number? - I cannot give you that. It's confidential. - You could give it to them. - Impossible."

  • Nita
    2018-07-25 07:37

    I am impressed by the amount of information that Alexander Frater tucks into this book, which reads like a gripping story. His information is from a variety of sources ranging from ancient historical works to facts shared by aircraft pilots who bravely fly through a monsoon. This book made me look back with nostalgia (I've been to all the places that Alex has been to in his pursuit of the monsoon) and forward with excitement (the monsoon should begin any time now!). I also learned that the bottle of orange honey someone gifted me at Cherrapunji is also used to embalm bodies when the monsoon is so thick and it's difficult to bury the dead! I use it to flavour oatmeal.

  • Shahina
    2018-07-23 10:16

    Frater has captured India's emotion filled response to this fantastic phenomenon. There are paragraphs that leave you feeling drenched and free. It is a refreshing travelogue with a lot of humour, facts, incidents and conversations spanning India and its people from Kanyakumari to Cherrapunji. Yes, that’s what he has done; after welcoming the bursts at Trivandrum he has followed the south west arm of the Monsoon culminating this unique experience at Cherrapunji where he finally meets up with the eastern arm of the Monsoon

  • Pradnya
    2018-08-05 06:26

    What an amazing journey this book has taken me on.. filling me up with a longing to visit the places that Frater travelled through while on his pursuit.. flooding my mind with countless memories of the monsoons that I grew up with. Frater's writing has an honest ring to it, and makes no effort to overly glamorize or condemn - a common pitfall when it comes to travelogues centred around India.Most certainly a book that I will be re-visiting during many a coming monsoons! Highly recommended!

  • Tim Martin
    2018-08-02 09:27

    _Chasing the Monsoon_ by Alexander Frater was an enjoyable travel book, one that I read in just a few days. The author's intention, as one might guess from the title, was to follow the progress of the summer monsoon through India, beginning in the southernmost tip of the subcontinent, Cape Comorin, and following its progress up the west coast through Trivandrum, Calicut, Goa, and Bombay, then jetting over to Delhi, and then to experience the eastern arm of the monsoon (there are two arms, one in the east of India, one in the west) in Calcutta and in two places near Bangladesh, Shillong and Cherrapunji (there was a map illustrating his route).Frater began the book discussing his childhood in the New Hebrides, a group of islands in the South Pacific jointly administered at one time by both France and the United Kingdom, how growing up his missionary father helped instill in him a fascination for weather. His father had talked about one of the rainiest spots on Earth, Cherrapunji, India, which was known at the height of the monsoon season in July to get as much as 75 feet of rain, though more often in the 30 to 40 foot range, receiving as much as 40 inches in one day. Though Frater's father never visited Cherrapunji and lost interest in meteorology due to mounting family financial problems and the Second World War, Alexander himself never completely lost interest in the weather.After relating how he finally decided to follow the monsoon in the summer of 1987 and if possible visit Cherrapunji, he detailed his pilgrimage throughout India. Though Frater did discuss some of the science of the monsoon and in particular the history of its study (noting such famous researchers as H.F. Blandford, who beginning in 1875 became the first of a line of India-based climatologists who studied the monsoon and Sir John Eliot, his successor, often called the "father of monsoon studies"), the book is more a travel than a popular science book, detailing what Frater saw in India and in particular local reactions to the monsoon (or its unfortunate absence in drought-stricken parts of the country).Throughout most of India, the onset of the monsoon rains, the "burst," was eagerly anticipated, the arrival of life-giving rains and cooler weather celebrated for centuries in art, poetry, and song. Frater visited remarkable pavilions, palaces, gardens, and fountains where the very wealthy had in the past had sought to recreated the cooling rains of the monsoon during times of heat and aridity.Though many cities and regions have unofficial dates when the monsoon is supposed to begin - for instance around June 5 in Goa - the actual advance of the rains is unpredictable, subject to much discussion and even heated debate on the street, with many people hanging on every word of travelers to areas already experiencing monsoon rains, meteorologists, and even astrologers. I must say I was rather surprised that the monsoon traveled slowly enough through India that Frater for the most part was able to keep ahead of it, as while the first burst over Cape Comorin occurs generally around June 1, it is nearly July 1 before it reaches Delhi (if it reaches it at all; Frater chronicled how the monsoon rains had failed to arrive in recent years). Overall Frater did an excellent job of conveying the tense atmosphere of expectation among those waiting for the rains and the sense of relief and jubilation once they had arrived.When the rains did arrive there was often great rejoicing with almost unofficial holidays in many parts of the country. Even in businesses that did not close had workers from cashiers and waiters up to expensively dressed businessmen and women running outside to cavort in the rain. Adults and children played in the rains, planned parties celebrating it, and even not unlike Frater himself planned trips to see it (the author wrote of oil-rich wealthy Middle Easterners flying on their private jets to India to witness such vast amounts of rain for themselves).Additionally, people associated the monsoon with cures for a variety of ailments. The "monsoon cure," which could be anything from specific diets to being massaged in special oils to meditation with the onset of the rains, was big business, particularly in western India.So important were the rains in providing a relief from the heat, watering crops, filling wells, and regenerating lakes and rivers, that much like with the monsoon cures an entire industry existed to ensure the arrival of the rains, ranging from ceremonial well diving to crackpot inventors to cloud-seeding with aircraft to singing ancient songs called ragas, composed especially to bring on the monsoonal rains.Not everyone welcomed the monsoon. Frater detailed the great difficulties of officials in Calcutta in handling the floods brought about by the monsoon, and hinted at but didn't go into detail about the massive floods in Bangladesh the rains often brought. Fishermen and sailors often couldn't work in the high seas, cyclones, and driving rain during the height of the monsoon and pilots often had great difficulty flying in monsoon weather. Back when India was a British possession some Englishmen became depressed, alcoholic, or even committed suicide due to the rains.A portion of the book detailed Frater's attempts to get permission from Delhi to visit Cherrapunji, as it was located in a region subject to anti-immigrant riots and fighting (something he might have gone a little bit more into). As foreign travel and even travel by Indians themselves to that area was tightly controlled, Frater had to navigate the intricate, complex, positively Byzantine corridors of Indian bureaucracy. This theme seems to be a common element of Indian travel writing, a topic addressed also in _An Area of Darkness_ by V.S. Naipaul and _The Search for the Pink-headed Duck_ by Rory Nugent.Though I would have liked a bit more science and maybe some photos, overall I enjoyed the book.

  • Shrinidhi
    2018-07-19 12:26

    A very well researched book rich with facts and anecdotes from Frater's wonder incducing journey of following the monsoon across India. Starting at Kovalam all along the coast and where the westerly monsoon meets its counterpart in Cherrapunji.It does get slow when the travelogue delves into the finer details, but it stays smooth otherwise. Great read.

  • Manu
    2018-08-11 11:37

    The monsoon - a phenomenon that has India in a tizzy every year. To me personally, they are a treasure trove of memories, associated with the various Junes that have been part of my life - childhood, college days, work - different places and different times. So I picked this book with quite some interest. Frater's prologue tells us about his intent and motivation, but I'm afraid it tends to get a bit technical and I wouldn't be surprised if people stopped reading the book because of it! But the chapters that follow are completely different, so do persevere. The first chapter is all about the immediate trigger that made the author set out - chasing the Indian monsoon from "where the rain is born" (to quote anita nair) to the wettest place on earth.Trivandrum is where it all begins and the author captures the tension across the country around the beginning of the monsoon pretty well. The weather forecasters, astrologers, politicians, and even regular folks - all have their theories and perspectives. One of the things that makes the book really good is the author's reading and chronicling of the milieu he has been pulled into - sociocultural, economic, political and so on. His meeting with Kamala Das, the death of John Abraham, (Malayalam movie director) the Ambassador car's preeminence, all add flavour to the narrative. I also have much to thank the author for - the little tutorial on Cochin and its history. (beginning from Nero who linked Rome to Kochi) I actually learned quite a bit of what lies behind the names of roads in a favourite part of the city. In fact, a large portion of the book is taken up by Kerala, justified because of its importance in the scheme of things in this context. Goa was next, and again, personally interesting for me. Bombay in the late 80s and its famous spirit can be clearly seen in the narrative. The anecdote of the mathematician who claimed to have made a -rain-maker' device, the conversation around rain-making music are all wonderful examples of the unique things that are built around the phenomenon. There's also a conversation with Pritish Nandy. Delhi and its bureaucracy take the spotlight next, with some excitement around small trips, that also give glimpse of the poorest of the poor in India. The author's struggle to get to Cherrapunjee is also well chronicled and also simultaneously show the machine-like coldness of the bureaucracy and that one individual who goes out of the way to help. The part about Kolkata also makes for an interesting read, and so does the last section - Shillong (it had an airport then, albeit a barely functioning one) and further on Cherrapunjee. I could identify the places mentioned thanks to the recent trip.There is a good amount of humour thrown in into the narration, and that adds to the overall easy tone of the book. That also makes the brief philosophical/geographical meanderings all the more delightful. It's quite a wonderful read, despite the technical details that intrude occasionally. Early in the book I realised that it was written in the late 80s, and that meant that like my favourite travelogues, this too involved time travel.

  • Raghu
    2018-07-28 06:09

    Alexander Frater's book is a tribute to the phenomenon of the monsoon and the romance associated with it in the popular culture of India. Frater is on a journey through India with the sole aim of following the monsoon from the tip of the south western coast of India all the way along the west coast up north to Delhi and then hopping on to Calcutta and then on to Shillong in North East Meghalaya and then ending the 'pilgrimage' in Cherrapunji, the wettest place on earth which gets nearly 500 inches of rainfall a year. Alex Frater brings out the importance of the monsoon to the people of India as he journeys on. For the rich people, it is a romantic event as they have parties welcoming the monsoon with whisky and wine and rejoicing in the company of family and friends in nice resorts. For the middle classes, it is at the same time a relief as well as a problem due to the enormous volume of water affecting their daily routines and plans. For the poor, it is God's punishment as nature's deluge washes away their roadside dwellings, leaving them with no cover and bringing diseases and death in its wake. But Frater puts everything in perspective, showing how in the millenniums, Indian culture has welcomed the monsoon through its arts, poetry, music and dance. Kings of the past who ruled in the waterless deserts of Rajasthan have built palaces in honour of the monsoon and artificially created the ambience associated with it. Ayurveda, the Indian medicinal system, takes into account the impact of the monsoon on the psyche of a patient and pronounces treatment accordingly. Classical Indian music has specific ragas associated with the monsoon to bring about the deluge of rain. There are paintings in the past that are dedicated to the phenomenon of the monsoon. Frater touches upon all these aspects as he travels following the monsoon.One of the inetersting asides in the book is the struggle of Frater in securing permission from the Indian bureaucracy to visit Cherrapunji in North East India, the wettest place on Earth. The struggle brings out both the good and the bad in Indian public life. But Frater is mostly focussed on the positive side of it as he finally succeeds in visiting Cherrapunji even though an insurgency was going on there against outsiders (read Bangladeshis and Nepalis). The funny part of it is that after he returns to England, he gets a letter from the Indian External affairs ministry declining permission for him to visit Cherrapunji and regretting it!To me, the book was a revelation of how much the monsoon means to us Indians as a people. I think the idea of chasing the monsoon across India itself is a great romantic thought and one has to give credit to Alex Frater in carrying it out in spite of many dangers and problems. It is an enjoyable narrative, often interspersed with solid meteorological and other scientific details. I would recommend the book for anyone inetersted in the phenomenon of the monsoon as well as in India as a culture.

  • Mithun
    2018-08-09 14:07

    “Chasing the Monsoon” was a captivating title for me, it was a long awaited read and it was worth the wait.This book captures author’s journey following monsoon from Kerala to Cherrapunji which got sparked off by an unexpected conversation when meeting an Indian couple at London and Alexander Frater’s fascination towards a nostalgic wall hung portrait of Cherrapunji during his young age.Book started off promisingly, topics like arrival of monsoon to the south western shore (Kovalam Beach) being a talk of the town, how each and every individual is curious about the onset of seasonal monsoon also irrespective of one’s occupation people are constantly updating themselves about the monsoon arrival date is explained vividly, here we get to see the emotional attachment of people with the monsoon and how superstitious they become at times also author has encapsulated the significance monsoon has gained among other weathers because people welcome the first shower with so much grenadier and celebration, parallely the tension mounting in metrological office is a splendid thing to know all these set in time period of late eighties of 20th century.We do get to know how Indian bureaucracy functioned during those days also its effect on author’s scheme of chasing the monsoon indeed it was successful in making me smile while at last few pages nevertheless this bureaucratic hurdle kept me hooked all the way, it was kind of suspense while I progressed through the book.I always wanted to know how it rained in Cherrapunji for which I got the below mentioned lines from the book:“I watched the approach of the Cherrapunji rain.A fountain of dense black cloud came spiraling over the hills, then rose steeply into the sky. It formed a kind of tent, apex high overhead, sides unrolling right to the ground. It was very dark inside but I could just discern, trooping towards us, an armada of shadowy, galleon-like vessels with undersides festooned with writhing cables of water. They gave off thundery rumbles and a noise like discharging hydrants, the rain descending in hissing vertical rafts of solid matter that lathered the earth and made the spokes of the poet’s umbrella, under which I had taken shelter, bend like saplings.” It was a treat reading about Cherrapunji and equally engrossing, I was awestruck by the special use of orange flavored honey in Cherrapunji for embalming; overall this was a beautiful read.

  • Grady McCallie
    2018-08-14 09:27

    This is magnificent. Alexander Frater, suffering from an odd medical condition in his upper spine - a sharp jolt could paralyze him permanently - travels with the South Asian monsoon from the southern tip of India up to the wettest place in the world, Cherrapunji, in the East Khasi Hills of northeastern India, which gets upwards of 38 feet of rain each year. This is also a journey deep into Frater's childhood - going to Cherrapunji was an unrealized dream of Frater's missionary doctor father - and, in a larger sense, into the fading imprint of British colonial rule around the world. Frater's practice seems to be to talk to everyone, and he ends up in fascinating and informative conversations, without straining to freight them with thematic significance, as so many travel writers do. What comes through strongly is Frater's respect for each person he interviews as an individual rather than as a type. Certain adventures (view spoiler)[- such as the trip to see a 'monsoon palace' that results in a car accident and, later, an unplanned night hike through a tiger sanctuary - (hide spoiler)]are both funny and hair raising, even knowing that he survived to write the book. The background theme of receding empire might have made aspects of the book feel dated even when it was first published 25 years ago. Frater quotes, reads about, and visits with figures from that vanished world far more than a boomer or millenial traveler likely would. But this minor focus feels in keeping with Frater's own life story. It would be illuminating to read a present day account by a gifted young Indian author following a similar route, traveling with the monsoon.

  • Akhila
    2018-08-01 07:19

    An excellent meteorological travelogue, if such a genre even exists. I loved how the author effortlessly marries the complex science with the intense poetry of the monsoon. He covers adeptly all the drama, romance, sorrows, relief, and blessing that the monsoon brings to the Indian subcontinent - in many ways the monsoon is the very heart of the country. Frater's writing style flows just like the subject he has chosen. His story is more than a travelogue - it is a personal journey, following the often unpredictable monsoons throughout India and studying the impacts it has on the country and finally culminating in Cherrapunji. The whole book is infused with warmth and subtle humour. It displays a deep understanding of the intricate soul-connection that people in India have with the monsoon rains. He touches upon subjects that are grave and light-hearted about the season with equal panache. Excellent read, highly recommended.

  • Pranay Gupta
    2018-07-31 06:23

    It's a romantic novel which makes you fall in love with the majesty of the rains. Alexander Frater, impelled by his tenuous connections with the Indian culture, starts off on a journey following the monsoon in India from the southern tip, and undergoing on a sinuous tour through the thick and thin of Indian culture, culminates his amazing journey in Cherrapunji. Or does the entangled Indian bureaucracy let him reach his destination? The book is full of chance happenings, and meetings with people who are affable and whimsical at the same time, acting out in a typical way which has come to be characterized by the melange of cultures that India is. A readable book for anyone interested in experiencing the monsoons of India and her culture without actually stepping into India - that's how vivid the narrative is.

  • Subhash Chandra B
    2018-08-15 14:10

    A pleasant read. Based on an interesting idea of following the significant annual phenomena of Indian weather, this book perfectly portrays the beauty and the bitterness surrounding the Indian monsoon. During the process of pursuing this exciting journey, apart from describing the nature's behavior the author also explored few interesting pre-indpendence events,the Indian bureaucracy in action, the perplexity of Indian life when viewed by an outsider. The author really excelled in capturing the mood of the places he visited. The entire narration was so lively that the completion of the book left a sensation in me that I was his companion throughout the journey.

  • Sonia
    2018-08-13 08:27

    As someone who loves the rain very much, this felt like the perfect book to read. The stories were not just rain-centric. A whole view of India in the late 80s as the country went through doubt and fear with its usual 'chalta hai' attitude was expressed so well by Frater. It is a lovely travelogue and a great project for those who love the rains. The best part, though, is that Frater gives his outsider view of the country without coming across as judgemental or pitying the country.

  • Ram Kaushik
    2018-08-06 07:21

    Fascinating travelogue but slightly inconsistent narrative. Mr. Frater sprinkles his journey accompanying the monsoon with fascinating anecdotes in Kerala, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Cherrapunji. His sudden references to his childhood in the Pacific Islands, although interesting, seemed somewhat irrelevant. Still, an interesting book for sure.

  • Girl from Mumbai
    2018-07-17 09:30

    For 3 months in a year India experiences a unique phenomenon called the Monsoons. It is a part of our very existence, it defines us, it makes us resilient and even a little bit hopeful about new beginnings. The term मूसलाधार बारिश (torrential rains) must have been coined keeping the monsoons in mind. Relieving us from the terrible humidity the clouds batter us with a downpour like no other. It feels like mother nature is lashing out at us in full fury, punishing us for the extremities we commit on her. It causes constant headaches, never ending traffic jams, sickness, potholes, flooding, mud slides, logistic nightmares and even death but we still love the rains. Every year we wait for rains with bated breath because our lives and livelihoods depend on it. And no one could have described this obsession that we have with rains better than Alexander Frater in “Chasing the Monsoons.” The book is a beautifully written travelogue of the author's quest to travel with the rains in the monsoon season all the way from Kerala to Cherrapunji, the wettest place on earth. Without being judgemental or rude, the author has simply written about the challenges that he faced traveling the length and breadth of India to watch the rains arrive He discovers Ayurveda in Kerala and its impact during rains and how important rains are for the treatment. He finds out how deeply the rains are ingrained in our psyche that even kings who ruled the water deprived state of Rajasthan build palaces that honored it. He talks about the romance that the rains bring in its wake. We have songs, movies, food and a whole culture that revolves around this phenomenon. We laugh at the unintended humour an sympathise with him when he gets caught in the never ending foreplay with the Indian bureaucracy as he tries to get into Cherrapunji. Surprisingly it was raining in Sydney as I finished reading this book. But rains in Sydney are a better behaved version of the ones back home and it made me my heart full up with so much yearning that I wanted to catch the next flight to Mumbai just to feel the rain drops fall on my head and inhale the मिट्टी की खुश्बू. A must read for Monsoon lovers like me.

  • Nimitha TR
    2018-08-08 09:36

    Growing up in Kochi, I have fond memories of wading to school on opening day, all drenched in monsoon rain. The narrow roads adjacent to ponds and remains of paddy fields, waterlogged up to knee level were fun to wade. It's only outside Kerala I developed a phobia for water-logging! I loved Frater reminiscing about his childhood, especially his Paama stories. In general I liked the deadpan humor, though a few ones about appearances of women and old customs were a bit on the offensive side.In this book Frater follows monsoon through Trivandrum, Cochin, Goa, Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta and Shillong, on the way to his desired destination Cherrapunji (places like Calcutta was included due to flight delays) . A lot many pages are dedicated to the famous Indian red tape and his struggles to secure a visit to Chirapunji. I'm sure he could have found more interesting stories, had he chased monsoon through lesser known towns and villages of India, but given his limitations as a foreign national probably he couldn't plan such an itinerary. Even with all the limitations, an entertaining read. 3.5 stars

  • K
    2018-07-29 07:11

    I found the book overall a pretty good travelogue of India. The first half of the book was really interesting as the author described the genesis of his journey and his start of following the monsoons. About half way through, I became a bit bored by the seemingly endless description of his permit process to get to the far north. I found the descriptions of him traveling from office to office tedious and took away from the central narrative of following the monsoon. After the long descriptions of the permit process, I found. the book never really got back on track. It was difficult to finish the book.

  • Anne
    2018-07-19 12:32

    A personal travelogue of the author’s journeys through India in an attempt to follow the monsoon. Well-written with careful attention to details of place and personality. A good read on either a rainy day or a scorchingly hot one. Excellent at giving a sense of a very different culture. Good for meteorology buffs.

  • Angela Lewis
    2018-07-24 12:23

    A rollercoaster read. Traveling the length of India from Trevandrum to the scene of a painting from his youth the subcontinent becomes real and incomprehensible. Frightening, funny and horrific, a great record that only India could provide.

  • Sallie.Neill
    2018-08-14 07:15

    Beautifully written but a little too long. Too much scientific information about the weather.

  • Karthik S V
    2018-08-13 14:37

    This was enjoyable for the most part until the story reached Delhi and its bureaucratic labyrinth. I get it that it was a frustrating experience for the writer to go through but I didn't really get the point of making the reader go through that pointless circular narrative around this. That complaint being out of the way, this was a fun travelogue to read filled with interesting personal and geographical anecdotes. I'm not sure how much of it is really relevant/existent in the current times, like insurgency issues in Meghalaya, virtually everyone in Kerala awaiting the monsoon and coming out to dance at its arrival, the political and journalistic class in the country awaiting the monsoon's arrival with bated breath etc, since this book was written in the late 1980s. But it still left me with a warm feeling of getting a glimpse of life at a distant point of time in the past, in places I've never been to (I'll take away a bit of knowledge of New Hebrides/Vanuatu too which I hadn't heard of until picking up this book). A minor quibble would be the esoteric terminology used around the portions explaining the monsoon phenomenon. I could perhaps have looked these things up, but I was lazy/disinclined to. Nevertheless, overall, a good read.

  • Aperna Deb
    2018-07-27 11:29

    The book describes the journey of a Scottish reporter across India literally “chasing” the monsoon. Frater starts off the book beautifully describing his birth and early years in an Hebridean island, and how rain, thunder and lightning became an integral part of him which purportedly leads to taking on the mission many years later. Cherrapunji becomes his White Whale; memory of a portrait from his childhood becomes his muse. Those days (mid 80’s) Meghalaya was an area of extreme unrest, and Cherra was out of bounds to most civilians, let alone a white foreigner. And yet, Frater embarks on the journey.Spurred by a chance conversation with an Indian couple in a neurological waiting room in London, Frater starts his journey from Kerala. He welcomes the monsoon at the Kovalam beach(or is it vice versa), journeys northward to Quilon, Cochin, Goa and Bombay; leap-frogs to Delhi, and then on to Calcutta with a hiatus in London during a period of despair, with a climactic ending in Cherra. Along the way, Frater discusses his multifarious experiences in the Indian milieu, including scary ones such as being assaulted by druggies in Bombay and being involved in a multi-car crash on an off-Delhi highway. A constant backdrop till the very end is Frater’s experience of Indian bureaucracy while he tries to obtain his permit into Cherra. The inefficiencies in the 80’s were (marginally) worse than what it’s today, but it gives a candid glance into how things can be bent in India, and how, if one has his mind to it, providence often hands the wrench to bend them with.Frater’s language is fresh and breezy (much like the harbinger winds of monsoon). In my opinion the first two chapters are written fantastically -- it’s hard for anyone to put down the book after that. All in all, a highly recommended book.

  • Prathiba Swaminathan
    2018-07-17 12:10

    Having lived in hot and humid Madras almost all my life, I look forward to the rains each year with great excitement. This book captured a lot of that excitement - a wonderful and romantic idea it is, to chase the SW monsoon from Kerala to Cherrapunji. I absolutely loved the beginning stages of this chase (in Kerala) - the anticipation of the people, the prayers for a good monsoon, the politicians' fears for a good monsoon, and the glimpse into the workings of the Meteorological department, all made for some wonderful and lively story telling. I do wish we had seen the author travel more by road - India is beautiful, in the rains, and from a train window - would have loved to read some evocative description of that. I had built up the finale of the book - the author's visit to Cherrapunji -quite a bit in my head, and that part was a bit of a letdown for me. Too sparse in details, but I can imagine the difficulties there - limited time, xenophobic citizens, curtailed movement. Overall, I'd give this book 3 stars - captivating beginning, but I wish the book had been a bit shorter overall, and delivered the ending better.

  • Su_ghosh
    2018-07-19 14:34

    ‘Chasing the Monsoon’ is an engaging, humorously written travelogue by Journalist Alexander Frater. It documents the experiences the writer faced during his travel across India, following the monsoon right from its origin in South India to the North, and thereafter chasing it through the East and finally culminating in Cherrapunji. The book is rich in descriptions; the writer comes across as passionate and knowledgeable in the passages where he describes the bursts and associated phenomena. It is also an exposition of how bureaucracy works in India, and around twenty odd pages or so of the 270 page book highlights the inaccessibility of the North East (a region in which I grew up) for foreigners. If you have a dream, chase it…that’s what strikes us in this never-say-die spirit of the writer when permission to visit Cherrapunji was consistently being denied to him. The book is highly recommended.