WHAT IS MY BOOK, “JUST THE TICKET”, ABOUT?

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Some readers say this book should be judged by its cover.

While the book records my travels around India and Europe with Kuldip in 2011, it also touches on our journey through life since we became an item in 2005. In the book, I also tell why Kuldip really is Just the Ticket and, therefore, the inspiration for the title of my book.

My first trip to India to attend a traditional Sikh wedding was the catalyst for me to write Just the Ticket. And, to be honest, being recently retired, I also had the luxury of time in which to do it.

Just the Ticket comprises two parts – the first is about my very own passage to India, which began with an invitation to a Sikh wedding in the Punjab, in India’s northwest. The latter part of the book is about the four-months in Europe that followed.

We have all, at times, regretted having said we would never do things we have ended up doing. I’m as guilty as the next person and fess up, in Just the Ticket, about my lack of foresight after I had told Kuldip, on more than one occasion, that I would never wear a sari and that I would never, ever go camping. (It’s not that I didn’t like India’s national dress; it’s just that I thought I would look silly in a sari compared to every Indian woman who looks simply sensational in one.)

When the glitzy invitation to Roop and Tania’s wedding in Chandigarh arrived, I immediately reached the conclusion that I had nothing to wear for the five-day event. Although I’ve got a wardrobe full of glamorous and flashy gear, none of it would do. None of it would make me fit in. None of it would help me integrate into India.

Once I had told Kuldip: “When in Rome. Do as the Romans do”, I was off and running to call Kuldip’s sister-in-law, who was also the mother of the groom, for advice on how I could arrange to get wrapped in a sari or two, or three in which to swan about at the wedding with the sari-swathed sisterhood.

Just the Ticket is aptly billed as a travel memoir, because it’s also about my first trip to a sari shop, what happened there and what, unfortunately, was to come. Slipping into a sari isn’t simple, but then simplicity isn’t India’s thing, which I discovered soon after my inaugural arrival at Delhi airport.

After Roop and Tania’s wedding, which I write at length about in the book, we travelled south to Goa where I was bewildered to find that bi-pods aren’t the only idle beach bums lounging beside the Arabian Sea.

Although Kuldip had travelled it twice before, after Goa he took me around the Golden Triangle that comprises Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. It’s a glorious part of the world and a must-do for first-timers to India like me.

In Delhi, we stayed in a top-class hotel, which if there were such a rating, I would score nine-stars and tell why in the book. It was heaven on earth and a perfect haven after seeing the sights and bargain hunting in Delhi’s main market, which makes the big bazaars I’ve been to in Cairo and Istanbul appear quiet.

Delhi left me breathless, but the blingy Rajput-style architecture in Jaipur took my breath away. It was here that I ate in the most spectacular dining room I have ever seen … the food wasn’t too shabby either!

On our way to Agra to see one Mogul ruler’s greatest triumph – the Taj Mahal, we stopped off at Fatehpur Sikri to see, what I consider being, another Mogul ruler’s greatest failure.

While Just the Ticket gives my impressions of these landmark places and the many ode-to-bling palaces, I discuss some of India’s social issues in the book too; such as the apparent fascination that Indians have with fair skin and why I find the advertising industry’s response to it anathema. I also write about the traditional approach to arranged marriages versus today’s matrimonial trends.

The connection I make between the bigger than Ben Hur Indian weddings and doing the laundry also features as do my thoughts on the juxtaposition of what is acceptable behaviour for Bollywood and the realities of ultra-conservative life in India.

I will always regret having said to Kuldip that I would never wear a sari because I lived in one, two or three during my passage to India once my very sad and sorry sari state of affairs was sorted.

I mentioned earlier that I had also said to Kuldip, in no uncertain terms that I would never, ever go camping. Undaunted and undeterred, Kuldip proceeded to buy a fifteen year-old campervan in England over the Internet, sight unseen, which would become our mobile European home for 4 months after our glamorous five-star hotel stays in India.

The campervan quickly became known as ‘the truck’ and along with Tom (our TomTom satellite navigator) Kuldip and I drove across eight European countries while sometimes driving one another up the wall, around the bend and, thank heavens, always to drink at the end of every day!

Throughout all this, as the publicity blurb on the back of my book says, I really did manage to keep a stylish stilettoed foot in all camps at all times. In the book, I tell what happened at the handover of the truck when Kuldip and the truck’s previous owner went pale when I asked to see the vanity unit, wardrobe space, shoe storage and the on-board laundry and ironing facilities.

Kuldip went even paler the following day when I equipped the truck with a range of lifestyle prerequisites and creature comforts that he considered crazy for campers. One of the items was a very classy sandalwood scented candle, which Kuldip said had cost the same of money as a half a tank of diesel.

Getting to and from, and in and out, of some of the towns and cities we visited in a vehicle close to the size of a semi was, at times, thanks to our navigator Tom, enough to age a girl ten years. The horrendous day’s drive we had on Italy’s Amalfi Coast is a good example. Those of you who have had experience with satellite navigators, will understand when I say that Tom was lucky to survive that day and, regrettably, there were many more times like it, such as the time, thanks again to Tom that we knocked over a security gate while under the watchful eye of the gate owner’s security guard.

While Kuldip and Tom had their moments, Kuldip and I had some very memorable moments in Europe too, which are all an open book in my book.

History was my best subject at school and continues to fascinate me today, as do the principles, values and religious beliefs of every country I visit. My love of cultural exchange extends to the local food and wine, plus the performing arts, literature and architecture so, when I travel restaurants, museums, art galleries, theatres and opera houses are my favourite haunts and there are plenty of them in Europe.

Kuldip loves all of that stuff too, but my amusia man draws the line when it comes to going to the opera and ballet. Amusia, for those who wish to know, means, in clinical terms, to be tone deaf!

Undaunted and undeterred, I ended up persuading Kuldip to take me to operatic performances in Venice and Vienna and to pas de deux at a ballet performance in Prague. And while I thoroughly enjoyed writing about these times in Just the Ticket, you will probably equally enjoy reading about Kuldip’s impressions of each performance!

Handsome men fascinate me as much as history and culture. And, ladies, there are plenty of them in Europe too. Apart from my constant swooning over Daniel Craig, aka the latest James Bond, I did meet a few good Daniel Craig substitutes in Italy whom I introduce in the book. If you want to know where they can be found, I suggest you go straight to chapters 41 and 42.

Like with men, they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but that’s not the case with Just the Ticket; the designers at Horizon Publishing were spot on. So should the cover inspire you to buy a copy of “Just the Ticket”, I hope you enjoy the read as well as the ride as much as I did.

And what do I think about camping now that I have done it for four months?

Well … you’ll just have to read the book.

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