Indian identity is a rope that is famously stretched thin. The nation's astonishing diversity makes for a democratic high-wire act that elicits, by turns, cheers and gasps of horror. Following Fish: Travels Around the Indian Coast Samanth Subramanian Penguin India Dh40 But in its geography, India is a rather well-defined, if sprawling, land, described by mountains in the north and the plunging, v-shaped subcontinental coastline heading south. In the delightful Following Fish, Samanth Subramanian travels the country's watery edge in a clockwise direction, from Kolkata in the northeast to Tamil Nadu in the south, then back up the west coast until he lands in the shipyards of Gujarat.
His journey focuses on the most intimate intersection between sea and land: the kitchen. But Subramanian, an occasional contributor to The Review, also travels among ship-builders, sport anglers, and fishmongers. In his most artful chapter, he examines a Hyderabadi faith-healing tradition that purports to cure asthma by administering medicine via a tiny, live fish. The picture of India that emerges in this slim volume is one of radically unique cultural practices played out along a continuous shoreline - followed by a long trail of tiny, well-cleaned bones.