In Monkey Hill, a wealthy, middle-aged American couple visiting a Rishikesh spa succumb to the decadent comforts of Tourist India, only to be savaged by the Other India lurking just outside the magic circle of security guards and filtered water. In The Gateway of India, New Age boxwallah Dwight Huntsinger gorges at a banquet of sensual delights in Bombay, apparently unaware of the hidden taxes levied on all cross-cultural carnal transactions. In The Elephant God, Alice, a backpacking Sai Baba devotee in Bangalore, discovers the dark side of call centres, even as she recognises her own complicity in the loss of innocence that occurs.
Theroux propels the reader through these narratives using the cool, brusque prose style that he employs to such good effect in his travel writing. He writes about India with a knowing sneer, so that the odd discrepancies in local detail seem more choices than mistakes: the Gateway of India and Chowpatty beach appear to be adjacent in his version of Bombay and he uses the older versions of all city names. His descriptions of India are as unflattering as his analysis of the personalities of the American characters he brings here.