Devapriya Roy and Saurav Jha’s The Heat and Dust Project – the broke couple’s guide to भारत sounded an interesting project, and the mission that the authors had set out for themselves appealed to me, so I decided to give it a try.
A young couple, quit their corporate jobs and decide to travel around India and experience the country at ‘a hurtling pace’ on a shoestring budget of Rs.500 per day for boarding and food, so as to write a book about it.
Devapriya or Dippy and Saurav start from Delhi, where they were students at JNU, and later are working there (though what Devapriya does is not clear, perhaps transitioning from studies to a job). They go to various cities in Rajasthan, and then on to Gujarat, experience the sights and sounds of each place quickly, and move on so as not to sprout “roots” in any of the cities.
They meet various people and experience various things. They even make friends with a pair of Iranian twins.
They return back to Delhi on an emergency and then go to Mathura. If not their ambitious project, at least the book ends there.
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- The writing style is candid and slightly flowery at times. The narration shifts between Devapriya and Saurav. Saurav’s narration is mostly the history of the place, which appears to be out of a history text book. I conveniently skipped most of it. Devapriya’s narration is more about perceiving the odd in an otherwise mundane life. Honestly, though I liked her part of the story, I found it incomplete. Firstly, there is a middle between Saurav’s impersonal history of the place and Devapriya’s highly personal trivia, which is missing. Secondly, I would have preferred a tighter narrative which kept well within the scope of their project than meander into their marital squabbles and personal problems. Lastly, I was looking forward to reading their journey around the entire country. Just two states was disappointing, though there appears to be a Part 2!
- The Israeli boys, the couple’s bonding with them, the window to their culture and the universality of parents’ thoughts serve to keep one’s interest in the narration intact.
- Devapriya has an uncanny ability to capture scenes and trivial events in her words and they do not fail to amuse.
- The cover could have been more imaginative. The back cover, which has the couple seated in a vikram, does more justice to the supposed travelogue than the insipid front cover.
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- Rs.500 per day for boarding and food in 2009-2010? Really? They even claim of decent rooms and clean rooms. I am stumped! Am I deluded into thinking that travel is expensive?
- Honestly, whoever survives on the German bakery through a long travel project? Am I the only one to suffer from outside food during travel?