THE CENSUS TAKER: STORIES OF A TRAVELER IN INDIA AND NEPAL by Marilyn Stablein (Madrona: $8.95). Traveling on a shoestring (or a sandal strap in this case) in India and Nepal takes fortitude and a great deal of open-mindedness. Stablein has both. She wandered fearlessly through the street life of India and Nepal in what sounds like the heyday of the '60s hippie culture, cringing not at all before decapitated sacrificial bulls, the antics of pariah dogs, high altitudes (and attitudes), poverty, drought, the attentions of sadhus or holy men, and the Hindu holy city of Benares by the Ganges. She was a census taker for the International Census Committee in Bhutan and came up against a lama and his definitions of bodies (for count). She tried many forms of meditation and fasting and generally indulged in what the hippies of the West longed for, myriad psyche-altering substances and communing with Eastern philosophy, the real thing. Stablein has a piquant, brusque way with words, but this slender volume is the stuff of late afternoons and reminiscing over herbal tea. In 1985, this all seems a bit, well, dated and quaint.

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