Monday, January 01, 2007

Who Wants to be a Billionaire?

My holidays in Portugal are coming to an end and I must start planning the trip back to Brussels. One of the problems which are worrying me the most is the fact that I have a lot more things to carry back than the ones I brought in, and I assume it will happen the same to Pedro… Moreover, in the way back we will be three, as my elder brother will join us until Brussels, from where he will continue his journey until Cluj, in Romania. One of the main reasons for this increase of the luggage is Christmas and the enormous amount of presents exchanged… Even though I hate this consumption fair that Christmas has become, I have to confess that I love to receive presents and even like to give some back. I also enjoy knowing what others got, especially if I can benefit from their presents too.

This is the story about two books: one that was offered to me and another one which was offered to my dad. The first one is a novel by Vikas Swarup, called “Q and A”. Set in India, it is the story of Ram Mohammad Thomas, one 18-years-old waiter who lives in a Mumbai slum. His troubles start when he wins the biggest prize in history on the television programme “Who Will Win a Billion?” and the producers suspect his ability and send him to jail on accusations that he cheated. The novel unfolds as Ram tells his life story to Smita Shah, his lawyer. Reviewing the show, Ram drives us through an amazing trip, from the day in which he was found in a trash-can, to his encounter with an Australian colonel obsessed by security and the period in which he worked as a guide in the Taj Mahal. Using what the streets teached him, Ram finds the correct answers, not only for the quiz-show, but also for life. In young Ram’s story, it is possible to find the mirror of all the comedy, tragedy, joy and bitterness of modern’s India. Lovely!

The other book is called “Unforgettable Places to See before You Die”. It introduces some of the most exciting destinations in the world. Some, like the already mentioned Taj Mahal or Machu Picchu, are relatively well-known, but many others, like the incredible temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the amazing sand dunes of Dead Vlei in the Namib desert, are very much off-the-beaten-track. Some, like Venice, involve comfortable journeys, and others, like trekking at high altitudes to see the stunning Himalayan scenery around Mount Makalu in Nepal, present a real challenge. International travel writer and photographer Steve Davey has drawn on his years of experience to select these 40 unforgettable places. Filled with tips for both the experienced and novice traveller, the book reveals a host of spectacular sites that can be visited in two weeks or less. Beautifully illustrated, the book inspires to travel beyond our own backyard and visit some of the world’s truly unforgettable places.

I’m not very keen on New Year’s resolutions, but reading these two books made me take one decision. Or, actually, two: the first one is to travel more for pleasure only; the second one is to visit India. As soon as possible!


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