Intriguing India: The Alluring North by Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

Harry Potter’s Hogwarts is a magical place. But it’s an unreal one: it does not exist. Hugh and Colleen Gantzer have discovered magical places in India that are real and accessible.

What is the origin of the fear that a monster lies beneath the surface of the high, blue, lake of Pangong Tso? Who was the Englishman who carved out his own kingdom in the Himalayas? What gourmet dish was created by a ruler to feed his famished subjects? What is the epic tale of the white shrine where the weapons of a martial saint are revered?

This is not a travelogue, or a guide-book, or even a retelling of ancient folklore. It is, however, a little bit of all three. It is a conversation with two well-informed people who have travelled, and questioned, and analysed. They are convinced that every legend, every custom has grown out of a hard-core of fact, a historical event whose impact was so great that it was branded into the racial memory of the community. It then became encased in multiple layers of myth.

In ‘The Alluring North’, while describing their experiences in their gently evocative style, Hugh and Colleen Gantzer also uncover many fascinating gems of other, enduring, realities that glitter within our ‘intriguing India’.

Hugh and Colleen Gantzer live their dream. Colleen had always wanted to fly and she did pilot a plane in the Swiss Alps while Hugh sat behind saying a rosary, just in case! Hugh had longed to see those faraway places with their strange-sounding names so he joined the Indian Navy. Hugh took premature retirement when he was the Judge Advocate of the Southern Naval Area and Hugh and Colleen decided to become a travel-writer-photographer team.

Suddenly, things changed. They found themselves surfing on the great travel wave that was sweeping across the world. In quick succession they launched India’s first travel column carried in all editions of a national daily on the editorial page. They hosted fifty-two weekly episodes of India’s first nation-wide TV travel show, wrote the first travel scripts for dot.coms, won national and international awards, toured India and the world as guests of eager tourism organisations. They have, possibly, visited, photographed and written about more places in India than anyone else in the long history of our land.

Once, a greatly revered maternal uncle, who had just retired as India’s Naval Chief, had asked them, “How long more will you continue to travel?” That was before they were invited to a winter ball in Vienna. Today, for six months every year, when they’re not in their Victorian cottage in the oak woods of the Himalayas, they’re still travelling…and they’re still having a ball.

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