Shanti Bloody Shanti: An Indian Odyssey

Aaron Smith. Roaring Forties (IPG, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-1-938901-11-9
Following a messy divorce, a bad rebound romance, and a drug dealer's death threat, Smith heads to India on an impulse, aiming to "study yoga…bathe in the Ganges…try to get a part in a Bollywood film, and party on New Year's Eve on the beaches of Goa." What follows is a drug-fueled journey, with Smith's attempts at enlightenment often derailed by harsh reality. Along the way, he encounters an ever-changing group of tourists, travelers, and ex-pats from all over the world, a colorful assortment of people who become friends, confidants, even lovers. From Merav, the Israeli girl who gives off mixed signals, to Charlie, his old friend who reinvents himself as "the Kobra," to Dhalia the Swedish Ice Queen, they come and go with dizzying regularity as Smith follows his heart and soul from one destination to the next. His impression of India seems to be one of a giant, dangerous playground, full of communes and yoga studios, drug dealers and quick paths to enlightenment, and though he sees the everyday reality, it doesn't quite intrude into his personal journey. But as he summarizes, India is "a country of sublime paradox," a place with "a durability, resilience, and endurance like no other." Smith's tale is part travelogue, part psychedelic journey, part coming-of-age, and strangely engrossing. He writes with an honest energy that makes up for his narcissism and frequent digressions. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/09/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
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