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July 11, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE SEARCH FOR THE PINK-HEADED DUCK: The Himalayas and Down the Brahmaputra by Rory Nugent (Houghton-Mifflin: $10.95; 222 pp., illustrated). In this unlikely odyssey, Nugent roams northern India seeking a rare bird--and adventure. He attends political meetings with Ghurkha separatists, drinks tea with monks who attempt to smuggle him into Tibet, paddles down the Brahmaputra River and, most difficult of all, battles an intransigent government bureaucracy. Nugent never sees a pink-headed duck (the last one was sighted in 1935), but he finds plenty of offbeat experiences, which he recounts in a highly readable armchair adventure.

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