31 July 2012

Duo On Discovery Path

The husband and wife writer duo, Devapriya Roy and Saurav Jha went backpacking through the length and breadth of India on a daily budget of Rs 500. The couple is currently turning their travel experience into a book called 'The Heat And Dust Project'
The idea of taking off and getting a real taste of India and its people was long lingering in the minds of this bright, young couple. But taking that decision, which meant having to give up their cushy jobs in Delhi, came with its share of anxiety. More than a year ago, the lovely Devapriya Roy, all of 27, wrote her debut novel, 'The Vague Woman's Handbook' , a theme that refreshingly looked at the younger woman-older woman friendship. Much of the story was inspired by Devapriya's own life, especially parts where she describes the bitter-sweet moments of her 'just married' life with her college sweetheart.

Saurav Jha, energy analyst and columnist, she met while studying for her M.Phil in English at JNU, Delhi. Both fell in love as students and promptly got married. They settled in comfortable jobs, with all the trappings of a successful lifestyle. But in a few years, both started to feel weary within the confines of their bourgeois lives. "Since we got married in our early 20s, we also began our domesticity early. All the restlessness that comes with having to buy a house, pay EMIs we had already gone through. And then we tried figuring out what our options were. We could very well stick to our jobs and let it own us. By then our first books got commissioned. That is when we did some serious soul-searching and the 'Heat And Dust Project' was born," says Devapriya.

Now after the couple has travelled for months and covered over 18,000 kms across India, both have taken a break, after which phase two of the journey will begin. The travel was carried out on a tight budget of Rs 500 per day, and this Saurav says was not a "philosophical indulgence" but a "grim economic reality". "But this all too real state of affairs also ensured that we kept our feet on the ground and saw India the way we had always wanted to because there is just no one 'perfect' time to set out on a journey like this. And that motivation i.e to see India as it is, here and now was what prompted us. We set forth looking to ask some questions, find some answers and completely step away from the India of Delhi studio discussions, which frankly speaking have become shambolic echo chambers," he says.
The couple started from Delhi and chose the places on the fly. From Agra to Pushkar to Junagadh to Jaisalmer to Kolhapur and down South to Kerala and Kanyakumari, the travel packed a lot. And if anyone gets a whiff of another touristy adventure here, Devapriya says it was not meant to be so. Which is why the whole journey happened by bus, she says. "Our next destination from anywhere could be chosen on the basis of historical interest, because it was a name that was heard but little explored and of course on the basis of local suggestions. We also bowed in deference to the wishes of some on Facebook," says Saurav.

The Facebook group started as a page on the networking site where Devapriya and Saurav wrote on their travels, giving out funny stories, pictures and confessions while the journey was on. Devapriya, who doesn't always share Saurav's austere habits, says the biggest challenge for her was the long hours in the bus and relentless journey without stopping anywhere for too long. "We were following this Buddhist idea that you must not sleep under the same tree for over a day, as it sprouts roots and holds you back. Just when we would reach a place after hours of a bus journey, I would learn it was time to move on to the next destination. That was tiring, but we were soaking up the sheer excess of the experience. It also unlocked and brought us face to face with many unknown fears, but the travel also came with the sobering thought that no trouble is insurmountable, especially when you see people battling with bigger difficulties, " she says.

Many of the observations will make its way in the book. "There is one India. But there are several ages of India which are terribly intertwined with each other sometimes in harmony and sometimes out of sync," says Saurav.

The couple has some more travelling to do, but the book has been taking some shape meanwhile.Both being writers, they don't quite know who will really pen down the book, but they do know what it will be about. Says Saurav, "It is a travelogue - a funny hysterical sort of a travelogue but it would also engage with various books on India that have been authored by mostly foreign writers in English - from V S Naipaul to Patrick French and William Dalrymple - which attempt to make sense of India. But in addition to being by Indians, it is also meant for Indians, especially, young Indians, if they would care to read it."


gayatri soni said...

It's hats-off to their attitude of exploring the real India & come up with this travelogue under the constant anxiety of surviving with strict routine after leaving their lavish lifestyle behind.

Hope their endeavours would bring results :)

Shalet Jimmy said...

I loved this feature when I read it in the paper. great blog and will stalk you without any fail...shalet