June 08 2010
I started out as a journalist writing guidebooks, so I’ve always been a snob about quality and corner-cutting: so many of them read as if they’ve been written from a desk with a nimble Googling finger and a tight deadline. That’s why I was so impressed by Fiona Caulfield’s Love guides, a mini collection of guidebooks to India that stand out from the generic titles that jostle for shelf space in every store.
For one thing, it’s their appearance: each is hand-bound using old Indian paper-making techniques, with a hand-woven, khadi cover, and is sold in a khadi pouch with silk trim. I cherish the slubbed pages and rough-hewn edges.
Another reason I rely on them is because Caulfield’s local knowledge is compelling, especially her encyclopedic shopping savvy – always handy in India. It was her know-how in Delhi that sent me to Lodi Market, the spiffed-up colony now home to iconic designers such as Manish Arora and Rajesh Pratap Singh, India’s answer to Versace and Calvin Klein respectively; the shirt I bought from Singh almost a year ago is still one of my favourites.
Sure, her writing style can be lumpy and a little home-spun, but the loving way she has compiled each book – there are now four in the series: Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Jaipur & Rajasthan – is a rarity in the mass-produced guidebook market. And I’ll never shop in India again without her.