When I first picked up Shivya Nath’s The Shooting Star, I expected a travelogue with some unique leads on truly offbeat destinations. After all, she is one of India’s most popular travel bloggers (you may want to have a look at https://the-shooting-star.com). While I did get a glimpse of must visit places, I was delighted to discover that the book is more about forging new paths and looking at the world with new eyes.
Shivya traces her journey from a young woman with a cushy corporate job who leaves the comfort of a regular pay check to travel in search of authentic experiences. Her travels take her to the most surprising of places in her home country India as well as across the globe. The story of her life is interspersed with the tales from the roads, mountains and villages that she traverses. The reader can almost participate in her transition from an urban dweller to the digital nomad she is today.
Traveling changes your life. This simple truth is reflected in small instances as you travel through the book, and soak in many of Shivya’s experiences. A solo hike around a crater lake in Equador becomes the moment of exorcism of some deep seated feelings of envy; a chat with a fisherman in Maldives makes her feel connected to a complete stranger; living with indigenous tribes across the world gives her a glimpse into the nomadic lifestyle, a part of our human heritage ; local delicacies and authentic food experiences mark her travels; she shares compelling arguments in support of veganism; she lives with a Mayan family and learns Spanish locally ; she traverses the Little Rann of Kutch and gets an insight into the lives of salt miners; she learns as much as she unlearns; finds a heart wrenching story that binds a man living in Fleurieu Peninsula in Australia to India ; lives with a family of Cacao farmers in Costa Rica; gets mugged one time but mostly experiences the love and affection of complete strangers; finds an unlikely inspiration in the ancient walls of Corjeum Fort in Goa…..And, most importantly finds her true calling on one such life changing journey on the barren mountains of Spiti, in Himachal Pradesh.
Just like our ancestors, who had always moved with all their belongings, “following water and food, never rooting themselves to one place, never accumulating more possessions than they could carry with them, never waking up to the same horizon for too long”, Shivya’s life has slowly assumed a nomadic spirit. Thankfully, she stays digitally connected giving us a glimpse into her fascinating world.
Shivya’s story shows how going off the beaten path might just be the route to finding out who you really are. She asks a question at the beginning of The Shooting Star– “What about the tragedy of a mundane, average, unfulfilling life?”. Along with her, the reader discovers the answer as he or she dives deeper into the book.
Penguin has classified The Shooting Star as non-fiction. I wonder what section bookshops would choose to put the book in. Travel? Yes, after all it has reminiscences of journeys undertaken. Self-help? Why not….it is a book about discovering and rediscovering yourself. A memoir? It is a very personal account of the writer’s life after all. But then, I think, isn’t categorizing futile? I recall a scene that Shivya describes time and again in the book, a scene that stays magical across the myriad locations she finds herself at- that of a wondrously starry sky. And just like the twinkling stars merge across the night sky without boundaries, why should I pigeonhole the book and what it offers? The Shooting Star takes a leap into a new realm- that of discovering the world and your place in it.
Title: The Shooting Star
Author: Shivya Nath