Books, India & Around, Nature & Wildlife, Sports & Adventure, Travel
comments 20

A journey along the Brahmaputra

Just finished this really interesting travel book called River Dog. I found it most enthralling since it takes a lot to undertake a journey of this nature. Not only is it fraught with dangers and risks of all kinds; but the Himalayas, Tibet and Arunachal are not very friendly terrains for travel.

Mark Shand, the author of the book, follows the source of the mighty Brahmaputra from Tibet, through Arunachal Pradesh (where it becomes the Siang), through Assam and then finally empties out into the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh.

Journey along the Brahmaputra
Picture taken in 2004 when I last visited home, from the banks of the Brahmaputra in Guwahati.

His journey is peppered with his experiences with interesting people, harsh terrains, his many challenges and adventures (like falling off a swinging bridge, nearly bitten by a snake etc.) on the way. I liked it more because of Shand’s sense of humour that is woven into the very fabric of all his adventures, making for really interesting reading. In the beginning itself, Shand starts off looking for a dog. His reasoning is that all great explorers had dogs and besides, if he was stranded somewhere with nothing to eat, at least, he had the dog!

Of course, it never comes to that! Shand in fact, finds a wonderful hunting dog from the Lushai hills of Assam. Somewhere in between his journey, Shand has a weird conversation with his dog. And though it’s under the influence of opium, it’s really funny never the less. Especially, if you have a dog or a dog lover, it won’t even seem that improbable! We’ve all perhaps had similar conversations with our pets (of course not under any influence :).

Read this one for several reasons. Mostly because you get a taste of the verdant and unexplored North East; and also to get a glimpse what it takes to become an intrepid traveler And of course, for the dog, who he names Bhaiti (younger brother in Assamese).

I might be a little partial to it because of its references to Assam, the Brahmaputra and Bhaiti, but I think it will be an enjoyable book for anyone who likes travel and/or dogs! So Usha, Vaish and all those of you who have dogs – this one’s especially for you!

Some facts about the Brahmaputra (source:
– One of the major rivers of Asia. In Sanskrit, it means “son of Brahma”.

– It originates from sacred Mount Kailash in the Himalayan mountains in western Tibet, and passes through India before flowing into the sea in the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh, 2900 km from its source. The river is known as Tsangpo in Tibet, Siang or Dihang in Arunachal Pradesh, Luit or Brahmaputra in Assam, and one of its main branches is the Jamuna in Bangladesh.

– This river eventually joins the Ganges (known in Bangladesh as the Padma) and the Meghna to form the largest river delta in the world, most of which is in Bangladesh.

– The river is prone to catastrophic flooding in spring when the Himalayan snows melt.

– Most Indian rivers bear the name of a female,but this one has a rare male name (putra means “son” in Sanskrit).


  1. I remember that you told me about this lovely book. Dying to read it. May I borrow it from you please??

  2. hey, can you remove the (China) next to Tibet? Or better still, can you add “occupied by” next to it.

  3. some body says

    we first read a book called “traveller’s tales – india”. this excellent (must read) book has a chapter from another of mark shand’s books, on elephant travel (or something like that).

    we got the book and it was really great. it was about his purchase of an elephant in orissa and his adventures with the elephant through to bihar. that is a must read too.

    – s.b.

  4. some body says

    just wanted to follow up – “traveller’s tales – india” also has a great write-up on a trip to assam’s kaziranga national park (the author of this trip wrote of his search for the indian rhinoceros, if memory serves me right).

    – s.b.

  5. Thanks for the regular posts, last few days 🙂
    I have not read Mark Shand. I am putting it down as a “must purchase” item, when I am in India, this year.

  6. I read Travels on My Elephant by Mark Shand..His was first travelgoue I read and fell in love with..I like his childlike curiosity and the eventful journey

    Interesting fact I found abt his was he is Camilla Parker Bowles Brother..

  7. Wow! I’d read any book that has “dog” in the title! This one sounds really interesting! Have added it to my must read list. Merci beaucoup, Mademoiselle! 🙂

  8. Paran says

    By the way, Mark Shands is the elder brother of Camilla Parker Bowles ( yes he is !!!) and he is a sort of unofficial ambassador for the Kaziranga National Park.

  9. nice post anita… Its amazing, how rivers of India has shaped Indian way of life. I still remember your dad explaining the food nuances as the brahmaputra meanders through ahom… He was mentioning the method of preparation for Khar….


  10. aqua: your wish is my command maydum!

    thanks sb for the additional info! i shall look our for the book 🙂

    you must venky! when are you coming to india?

    sangita: very interesting. i am putting it on my to buy list!

    thanks paran!

    fontzer: thank you 🙂

    lic: thank you and same to you!

    vasu: so right. would make for an interesting photo essay na? 🙂

  11. Hi Anita. Sorry, when I’d written earlier that I’d come to your site from another blog, the typo (sha)was s’posed to mean Usha. If you’re into travelogues, may I recommend “Music in every room: around the world in a bad mood”? The author is Mark something.

  12. Hi!

    I came across your blog through a search engine. I was really glad to find that you have touched upon areas that has little or no information. I am also from the North-East. I love to see people like you who are trying to utilize blogs to inform others. Great work! Keep it up.

    By the way I am a D.Phil researcher in Delhi University. I am researching on Internet Sociology. That makes it pertinent for me to get the opinion for serious bloggers like you. Hope you don’t mind sharing your blogging experiences with me.

    Could you kindly visit my research blog and proovide me a detailed writeup of how exactly you started to blog — who compelled you. Are they issues, persons or some other latent desire inside you. I would appreciate if you send me the complete story. I would like my research work to benefit from your experiences.

    Alternately, if you choose not to share your personal experiences in blogging in the public domain, you can mail me at

    Hoping to hear from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    Asim Choudhury

  13. I just finished reading mark shands “travels on my elephant” and was completely moved. i discovered the book through a recent write up in American express departures magazine. i laughed, cried….and of course fell in love with tara his beloved new child. i an excited to dive into “river dog”, i hope i love it as much! thank u for the recommendation.

  14. souvick bhattacharya says

    i really like shand’s books , if u do have the time check out the others ,and i can properly sympathize with u and ur biased views of ur native place !!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.