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Book Review: Butter Chicken in Ludhiana by Pankaj Mishra

Title: Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India
Author: Pankaj Mishra
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia (December 31st 1995)
Genre: Travelogue
Read: Paperback
Stars: **/5
Buy On: Amazon

Summary: (Goodreads)
In Butter Chicken in Ludhiana, Pankaj Mishra captures an India which has shrugged off its sleepy, socialist air and has become instead kitschy, clamorous and ostentatious. From a convent educated beauty pageant aspirant to small shopkeepers planning their vacation in London, Pankaj Mishra paints a vivid picture of a people rushing headlong to their tryst with modernity. An absolute classic, this is a witty and insightful account of Indias aspirational middle class.

My Review:

Note: This review was first written way back in 2000, for a website that existed way back then. 😀

Cover: So-so…

Paper and font: Good.

Readability, language: Big words…

Why did I choose this book: How could you not want to read something with that title!

Pankaj Mishra’s book Butter Chicken In Ludhiana is not a must read but you could call it a good read.

The book is a travelogue of Mishra’s travels in small (small he says, I would say somewhat small) towns of India. It is a good book in the literary sense, the language flows well but literary isn’t all that is important in a book.

The book is pretty entertaining but personally I didn’t find it very insightful. Mishra seems to have a problem with everything, you hardly find him appreciating anything. He has covered quite a few towns but somehow I felt he has left out North East India and quite a lot of the South. He has a lot of complaints about each town and its people, though some of the stories he recounts of people are entertaining and have a ring of truth to them. He hardly seems to look around the places he goes to. He just keeps meeting people.

Another thing I noticed is that he uses big words where small ones would have sufficed and maybe would have expressed what he wanted to convey better.

What I would give most credit to, would be Mishra’s interaction with people. He looks up someone or the other in almost every place, and his conversations are enlightening at times and ridiculous sometimes. Maybe he should have said ‘People in small towns of India’ rather than ‘Travels in small towns of India’.

I found Mishra very superficial, if he had just looked beyond or below the surface he might have found something’s that would have touched him and things he would have liked.

On the whole this book is one you can repeatedly read, and you will always find something you missed out last time. This book is for a select lot, it isn’t what everyone can read.

About the Author:
Born in 1969 somewhere in North India, Pankaj Mishra went on to complete his MA in English Literature from JNU, New Delhi. In 1992, he moved to Mashobra, a Himalayan village, and has been writing from there since then. He is an author of 4 books and many literary and political essays. You can find out more about him at his website

Buy On: Amazon

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