All adventure craves inspiration. Whether you’re planning you’re first expedition to the subcontinent or are dreaming of your return, these little pieces of India will fuel your wanderlust to the place Rolland described as “where all the dreams of living men have found a home.”
Watch: Forget Julia Robert’s in an ashram, and try these Indian cinematic experiences instead. For a lovingly crafted portrayal of India’s strange beauties and elusive quirks, check out Outsourced, the story of an American man sent across the world when the call center he manages is outsourced to India. While it’s certainly glossier than the better-known Slumdog Millionaire (also a fantastic choice – double feature?), Outsourced captures the juxtaposition of everyday spirituality and unconventional practicality that pervades India. For a twee jaunt into Indian train travel, hop on to Wes Anderson’s idiosyncratic tour, The Darjeeling Limited, guaranteed to make you itch for adventure. And of course, there’s always Bollywood, India’s ecstatic cinema. If you’ve never explored the wonderful world of Bollywood, blockbuster Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, or This Youth is Crazy, a romantic coming-of-age film featuring a group of friends ready for an adventure, including a protagonist with a bit of a lust for travel himself.
Read: Once again, put Eat, Pray, Love at the bottom of your list, and let these expertly woven words carry you away instead. Gregory David Roberts’ ever-popular Shantaram is a fantastic place to start. Chronicling what is said to be a true-story, Shantaram carries both a deep sense romance and an unapologetic acknowledgement of India’s deep-seated problems, allowing them to exist together in the way only a true lover of India can. After that, try any thing William Darymple has ever written about India. The Age of Kali and City of Djinns, for starters, are both excellent, revealing the history and culture of India in a lovingly human, caringly anecdotal fashion. For a feel for true “Indian-ness,” whatever that may mean, grab a copy of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies. These beautifully crafted short stories avoid the trap of exoticizing Indian culture while exploring the ways it manifests in the everyday, for Indians both in and out of India itself.
Listen: For crafting your Indophile playlist, traditional kirtan is always a good place to start. Krishna Das is perhaps the best known, and his recognizable voice is truly entrancing. Another great introduction is Bhagavan Das, in particular his Now album, which combines Western musical traditions and devotional music with traditional bhajans. For something a little more dance-worthy, checkout Cornershop. Most famous for their tune “Brimful of Asha”, which celebrates the Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle, Cornershop crafts Indian sounds, spirit, and culture into songs that will have you singing all day long. And, last but not least, there’s always the illustrious M.I.A. The British artist’s jams are often-political and always catching, drawing on influences from her Tamil heritage and childhood in Sri Lanka. Her 2007 album Kala is a great place to start, including “Jimmy” her cover of the song “Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja” from the Hindi movie Disco Dancer, and “20 Dollar,” which mixes Indian-influenced vocals with smart, sharp political rap.