5 Questions

Jini Reddy

18 September 2021
Headshot of Jini Reddy.

Multi-talented, multi-faceted and amazingly well travelled – meet Jini Reddy, journalist, adventurer and the author of Wanderland. She will be discussing the book at Wigtown Book Festival – but we caught up with her in advance to find out more about her work and her many different sorts of journey. 

Your book Wanderland is described as a search for "the magical in the landscape" – can you tell us what you mean by ‘magic’?

I guess I was seeking a more spiritual dimension to my roaming. It was a desire than ran quite deep, and which grew originally  through my own experiences. For instance I’d had an uncanny experience atop a mountain in the Pyrenees –  that’s in the first chapter of the book. But I’d also occasionally had opportunities to meet people from indigenous cultures on my earlier travels abroad and I was struck by the way that for those I spoke to, having a meaningful, reciprocal relationship with an animate nature was a part of life. I was fascinated by this, and wanted to know if I too might be able to experience a glimpse of this kind of deeper communion, in Britain. So that sowed the seeds for the journey. Also, I was one of those kids who had a natural fascination for the things we can’t see. I’m interested in the physical beautiful of wild and natural landscapes too – all of it, really. And there is a memoir element to the book too. 

You are described as a travel writer, but would it be fair to say it's people and experiences that interest you as much as places?

These days I think of myself as a cross-genre writer – I’m interested in that place where spirituality, travel, culture and nature all connect. And yes, of course, I’m interested in people and experiences! I think by its very nature travel writing is about taking an interest in people and places, and obviously you’re having experiences in the places you’re visiting … 

People's search for healing seems to take them, and you, into some unusual situations - what have been the most unusual? 

Hmm. I’ve  been on a couple of solo fasting retreats in the wild, both in the Pyrenees and the Sinai Desert – those have been profoundly healing and have stayed with me. In Colombia I once received an impromptu blessing, a dunking in a waterfall by an ex drug dealer, and I remember visiting an underground healing cave in Austria – that was unusual. I had a beautiful session with a Maori healer a couple of years ago in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and not too ago, I had a near-death virtual reality experience, in London, to open a conversation about death. That was interesting. I’ve taken plant medicines, in a ceremonial context. I remember once, in Canada, having a massage on a boat – while a harpist played live, next to the treatment bed!  All sorts really. I like to follow my curiosity and  stay open, but I exercise my judgement too.       

Has your multi-cultural and international background given you a distinctive perspective on the world and human culture?

I think it has given me more than a single pair of eyes with which to view the world. In the polarised world we live in, I consider this a gift. Growing up in Quebec, my childhood was dominated by politics, because the province wanted to separate from the rest of Canada. There was a great divide between Anglophones and Francophones. I also loved to tell everyone I was British, and I remember being very attuned to the anti-apartheid movement as my parents were born in South Africa in that era. They were Indian, so that was a part of me, expressed in food mainly! As a child, I suppose I had to suppress parts of myself to fit in, so I’m glad we’re having conversations now about identity and belonging. I love exploring and celebrating cultures other than my own, and I find it a struggle to get to grips with insular thinking. It seems so life-sapping. 

You don't seem to sit still for long - even though you'll only be in Wigtown shortly will you spend time exploring?

Definitely! I’m car-free so I’m keen to do some walks, and maybe hop on a bus  and go a bit further afield. I love that the town has so many bookshops and want to pop into all of them. Of course, I am keen to attend some festival events too. I have fond feelings for Scotland – my nieces were born in Lochgilphead, and I’ve been to the Highlands before and to the Hebrides.