"Akhil Bakshi has seldom been content simply with satiric bite or verbal brilliance: he has usually aimed to confront broad and challenging themes. In Escape From Heaven: Power Places of South Asia he covers territory where dust is raised and tempers are quickly lost. In this sharply original travelogue, his bold and entertaining accounts of his visits to holy shrines across South Asia are entirely satisfying, pertinent and funny.
Yarns about gods and saints balance popular views. The revisionist versions of immortal religious epics and legends are hilarious. The narrative about the magical powers of the Tooth Relic Temple at Kandy, Sai Baba’s shrine at Shirdi, Panja Sher in Kabul and Milarepa’s Cave in Tibet pulls you along, leaving you properly thoughtful. Descriptions of the self-whipping Shia gladiators during the tazia procession; statues engaged in gynaecological probes at the Sun Temple; the revered rats of the Karni Mata Temple; an avalanche of three million sinners at Kumbh Mela; his struggles with the pick-pocketing priests of Ajmer Dargah – are full of wit and punch.
Escape from Heaven will have a worthy place in an anthology of contemporary humourous writing."
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