Nautanki Diaries by Dominic Franks

61rfmalw6mL._SX326_BO1_204_203_200_I received Nautanki Diaries by Dominic Franks as a review copy from the publisher, Rupa Publications and  would like to thank them for the book.

The blurb:

Nautanki Diaries sits comfortably in the travelogue niche, yet in the best traditions of travel writing it does much more than just describe the passing scenery. With candour and a quirky sense of humour, the author carries the reader on a twenty-two-day journey on a cycle from Bengaluru to New Delhi, aiming to reach in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

As a schoolboy, Dominic Franks looked up to his sports coach, Shikaari, as a mentor and inspiration. Shikaari inadvertently planted the seed of a journey that he himself had made in 1982 in his young student’s mind. Eventually, the author decides to use the same sort of ‘doodhwallah’ bicycle and names her Nautanki.

Replete with anecdotes and (un)conventional wisdom gleaned from the conversations he has along the way, Nautanki Diaries is a ‘cycling book’—one that allows the reader to share the intricacies of cycling as a sport, as meditation in motion, and as a craft.

As for Nautanki—she plays her role perfectly, in true heroine style, right till her very last act.

My take:

The book has been written in first person from the author’s point of view. It is a detailed account of the author’s 22- day adventurous journey from Bengaluru, atop his bicycle named Nautanki, to reach New Delhi in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games inspired by his sports coach, Mr H P Shivaprakash, Shikaari as he was famously called by his students, who did it during the 1982 Asian Games.

The author, a doctor by qualification, having worked in the television industry for five years also has a documentary team covering his entire journey on tape. To make things easy, he decides to break his journey into parts.  He goes through different villages and towns, even towns with the name Timbaktu, Peapulli; meets people from different walks of life; sleeps in Pandals; encounters policemen; and even expresses his desire to meet Saina Nehwal when in Hyderabad. He talks about braving the weather, asking people for a place to sleep, having buttermilk from a pink plastic mug, and inventing games to overcome exertion. And his Nautanki accompanies him.

The cover of the book is beautiful, the language is simple and the story just flows. The book is an interesting account of the adventure and has been written very well. Certain parts have been described in such a way that I felt I was watching the scenes unfold right before me. I immensely enjoyed travelling with the author from Bengaluru to Delhi.


Dominic Franks graduated from Bangalore Medical College. His passion for sports led him to give up his career in medicine and join a premier sports channel. In September 2010, he decided to go on a cross-country bicycle journey from Bengaluru to New Delhi to witness the Commonwealth Games. It’s Not About the Cycle—winner of Best Adventure Film at the 2017 Toronto Beaches Film Festival—stars Nautanki, his bicycle, the central character of Nautanki Diaries.

Currently, he is working on producing his first documentary feature about human-animal relationships. When not working to travel, or travelling for work, Franks holes up in Bengaluru where he lives, laughs and loves.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in return for my honest review. I have NOT received any monetary compensation for the same.

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