The Schmancy-ist Guide to Bangalore

bangalore_bookIn 2004, former Faith Popcorn protégé Fiona Caulfield chucked her job to move to India and start Love Travel Guides: “handbooks for the luxury vagabond”. The first title, Love Bangalore, came out this past Valentine’s Day. Its 108 elegant pages are a quick trot through town, with an emphasis on art galleries, fancy restaurants, and even fancier boutiques.

The first thing you notice after picking up a copy is how beautiful and skinny it is, as pleasant to hold as it is to flip through. The web site has all the trigger words for anyone who likes looking at and buying labor-intensive, pretty things: the guides are “crafted with care,” with “handmade paper” and “handwoven,” hand-printed” raw silk covers, plus “hand-stitched” bookmarks. That’s a whole bunch of hands darting in and up and down. Luckily, those hands are of a reasonably large size — we’re also assured that the process was “child-labor-free.”

It doesn’t come cheap. At 1,200 rupees ($29), this is a luxury item in a country where that much cash goes a long, long way (the book is pricier outside of India). Judging by the boutiques selling the book, sales are directed mainly at the high-flying expats in town, with a smidge of fashionista and nightclubber thrown in.

But are expats enough of an audience? The website’s prominently displayed “Retail and Corporate Enquiries” is one clue that the main audience for these book slivers are the big IT companies and BPO’s in town. With any luck, they’ll buy up cartons and pass them out like cups of chai to their clients.

The preciousness of the whole enterprise grates a little, but there’s no reason a book shouldn’t be beautiful and cost accordingly, even when the book’s something as theoretically utilitarian as a travel guide. Definitely grab a copy of Love if you can spare the bones, but first try to get someone in Corporate to buy it for you.

(Full disclosure: I’m updating sections of the upcoming Fodor’s guide to India. It will lack raw silk covers.)

[from Gridskipper]

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