Latika Bourke always hated it when people asked her where she came from. As far as she was concerned she was Australian with a brown skin. The first eight months of her life in an Indian orphanage was something to be put aside as she made her way in the world, becoming a successful broadcaster and journalist.
The reawakening began when she realised one of the characters in the Indian movie Slumdog Millionaire had her name, and with the support of her partner, decided it was time to discover something of her origins in the country of her birth.
What follows is a story of discovery. Not so much of herself because Latika is Australian to the core and nothing will change that, but of a country like no other, whose fascination has captured and engulfed people (including this writer) down the ages.
She also discovers how incredibly lucky she has been, first to survive at all in a nation where childbirth remains a dangerous exercise among the very poor and then to have been one of the infinitesimal number of babies adopted into the relative wealth and safety of Western countries.
I enjoyed her description of travel in Bihar, a State off the tourist route but embedded deep in the Indian consciousness, as anyone who has had experience of the recent election there could testify.
If I have one quibble, it is that Latika spends too long ‘setting the scene’ dwelling on her average childhood and adolescence in regional New South Wales, but it is her story and autobiographies should please the writer first and then hope to please the reader second.
It pleased this reader. I note that Latika is now visiting India regularly and hopes at some stage to live there. This should be sufficient to spawn another book about the country she has come to love.