After backpacking her way around India, 21-year-old Sarah Macdonald decided that she hated this land of chaos and contradiction with a passion, and when an airport beggar read her palm and insisted she would come back one day - and for love - she vowed never to return.
But twelve years later the prophecy comes true when her partner, ABC's South Asia correspondent, is posted to New Delhi, the most polluted city on earth. Having given up a blossoming radio career in Sydney to follow her new boyfriend to India, it seems like the ultimate sacrifice and it almost kills Sarah - literally. After being cursed by a sadhu smeared in human ashes, she nearly dies from double pneumonia. It's enough to send a rapidly balding atheist on a wild rollercoaster ride through India's many religions in search of the meaning of life and death.
From the 'brain enema' of a meditation retreat in Dharamsala to the biggest Hindu festival on earth on the steps of the Ganges in Varanasi, and with the help of the Dalai Lama, a goddess of healing hugs and a couple of Bollywood stars - among many, many others - Sarah discovers a hell of a lot more.
"Funny, touching and addictive"
"British images of India are invariably filtered through the apologetic hangover of the Raj or the ganja whiff of the hippy trail. In this refreshingly cliche-free and highly readable memoir, we are given a blunter, Australian view... frequently wry and thoughtful"
"Refreshingly ambivilent about the country's so-called charms. Part travelogue, part life-changing odyssey, part love story"
"Kathy Lette meets Tom Robbins on a slow train to Varanasi with Bill Bryson supplying the onion bhajis... Very, very funny. Sarah MacDonald captures everything that is frustrating, infuriating and exhilarating about India and presents it in an irresistible package. Will make even the most die-hard atheist want to don a sari and go on a spiritual journey"
"Sarah Macdonald pays up in the spiritual mega-market... Raunchy religion with redemption on the side"