Travel accounts fascinate because they hold a mirror to society. The intrepid traveller intrigues–Why take the trouble? What are the returns? The well-known Hindi author Priyamvad hints in his brief introduction that the reason could be some inner urge, the ability to be alone and a quest to absorb the larger world, that is why the title of the book is Ektara Boley–the one-string instrument that can sing on its own. Knowledge was an important goal, as the famous quote from the Hadith advised, ‘Seek knowledge even if one has to go to China.’
The author has chosen to focus on pre-modern travellers to India, many of whom had faith as their central concern. Others let their wandering instincts get the better of them and followed ancient trade routes. Merchants had long braved tortuous land journeys and tumultuous seas. These travellers attached themselves to caravans and merchant ships, braved hostile foreigners, pirates, wars, unpredictable patrons, willingly choosing the life of an exile. Many returned home after decades only to set out again for another long journey.