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Discovery of India

Sloshing through the mud and rain in Coorg,Karnataka,a Delhi-based couple is paving the way for a travel experiment titled “The Heat and Dust Project”. Devapriya Roy,26...

A couple’s trip across the country,with travel tips from Facebookers,is the subject of a new book

Sloshing through the mud and rain in Coorg,Karnataka,a Delhi-based couple is paving the way for a travel experiment titled “The Heat and Dust Project”. Devapriya Roy,26,and Saurav Jha,28,decided to pack their lives into two backpacks and move away from the monotony of desk jobs to travel across India on a board-and-lodging budget of Rs 50,000. What makes their trip different is that the travel itinerary is being decided by Facebookers. “In every state,people who are following our journey on Facebook are giving us tips on the places to visit,the buses to take and the delicacies to try,” says Roy. Their adventures will be part of a book to be published by Harper Collins next year. “Hence,it is a travelogue being written as much by us as by the readers,” says Jha,whose last book was on nuclear power.

The couple was inspired by the film The Motorcycles Diaries. “We decided to call it The Heat and Dust Project because this is the ultimate cliché attached to India,” says Jha,who runs Energy India Solutions Consulting Company. Roy,who has put her doctoral research from JNU on hold,adds: “We had apprehensions about quitting our jobs but it has been worth it till now.”

The “Heat and Dust Project: A Book in Motion” page on Facebook is full of stories (dinner at an auto driver’s house in Rajasthan),pictures (every shade of green in a Coorg hillside) and warnings (which eateries guarantee food-poisoning). “There are around 750 members,with 10 new names every day,” says Jha. Groupies like food blogger Priyanka Mukherjee loads them with information on local delicacies like Chironji ki Barfi in Sagar,a small town in Madhya Pradesh,while a persistent member made sure that the couple changed their travel plans and visited Khajuraho. “The Facebook page is full of excitement as the ‘groupies’ suggest shortcuts to different places as well as bus routes. In that sense,the journey is becoming a real discovery of India as we are guided by those who’ve been there and done it before,” says Roy.

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“I like the concept of involving readers in the process of writing a book,” says Nayantara Chatterjee,a member of the group. V.K. Karthika,Chief Editor and Publisher,Harper Collins,adds that involving Facebookers was initially a marketing strategy but now “the Facebook chapter is inclusive to the book. Most people write books in isolation but this one is interactive and this concept makes it very convincing.”

The duo is visiting almost every state of India,and reader inputs have ensured that they’ve gone to little-known destinations like Sanchor (colonial heritage) in Rajasthan,Verawal (beaches and Portuguese architecture) in Gujarat,Orchha (grand 16th century palaces) and Mauranipur (attractive temples and colonial architecture) in MP,and Wai (where films like Omkara and Swades have been shot) in Maharashtra. Trains have proved unreliable and the couple travels by bus.

Their journey has already stepped beyond Facebook — a class XII student Ashiya Ghosh has written in to say that she will be backpacking across India instead of Europe as she had earlier planned.

First published on: 16-06-2010 at 23:29 IST
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