Bending Over Backwards by Carlo Pizzati

Bending over Backwards is a memoir and a travelogue, of places and experiences that are literal as well as of spiritual significance. It’s also an exploration of the significance of technology in a spiritual quest and whether we can justify its use.

The book starts with the mention of a backache, chronic and all-pervading. It is for a cure that the journeys and fascinating experiences come about, ending in India.

Being an Indian, reading about India from a foreigner’s perspective seemed like an incomplete experience at best, whenever I did read such an account.

Though, a disclaimer here that Bending Over Backwards is not an India-centric experience only. In fact, the author’s journeys and esoteric cure seeking had me enthralled.

It’s quite entertaining to see different places, right from Italy to US to Argentina to India. As the writer gets on flights for yet another stop on his search for a cure, there’s curious stuff happening. We meet aura readers, to medical professionals to meditators, yoga practitioners, past life regression, exorcism, trance-dance therapy, dubious gadgets to inject credibility into esoteric practices, we see it all.

Carlo Pizzati’s writing has a luminescent quality, it illuminates the most banal, simple acts. There’s no pretension, no convoluted facts, things are put down as they are, perhaps it’s his journalistic experience that helps him write about life in a factual manner.

There’s humour in the way situations are recorded, a non-judgemental observation that brings forth how ridiculous something can be.

As a reader, you can see the journey, not just the physical aspect but spiritual as well, as his learnings deepen and become wiser.

In praise of the cover, the art is very typically Indian, quirky and bright and that was one of the main reasons I wanted to read the book.

The very Indian experiences of Ashtang yoga, of Ayurveda, of meditation, of bhajans, satsang, ashrams and gurus, even of the so-called chaos (for me it’s life as usual) and richness of daily life were not the first draws for me. In fact, the way the book distills these experiences and the completely unpretentious way the author moves from one quest to the next is mesmerising.

In the end, I really did not care if the author had his answers, in fact, they were a faithful reproduction of the conversations he had with various learned men and their views but whether he was closer to a satisfactory explanation, I am not sure.

While the author periodically wondered if he was being ridiculous in searching out answers in a non-traditional way that would not appeal to rationalists, I could only read in wonder as I know the leap of faith it takes to move from the concrete world of rationale to something undefined and even scoffed at as being pseudo science or pop psychology.

Reading this book was thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a refreshing read, a breath of fresh air and voice, with subtle wit that underlies the quest for answers and cure.