A discovery of India, with suggestions on Facebook
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A discovery of India, with suggestions on Facebook

Tuesday, 29 June 2010, 06:31 Hrs
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New Delhi: They have taken a break from their routine lives and embarked on a journey to discover the 'real' India with a budget of 500 a day. And guess what is 'guiding' this Delhi-based couple in their excursion - tips on social networking site Facebook.

Saurav Jha, 28, a consultant at Energy India Solutions, and Devapriya Roy, 26, doing research at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), left their work and began their journey through the country May 1. They will return by the end of July after a period of nearly 100 days.

The couple even did a 'pilot run' of 20 days to check the feasibility of their idea in January-February.

"We wanted to see India as it is. The only way we could do it was to have a travel budget, eat budget and sleep budget. We decided to move the way the locals do in an area - talk with them, hear their stories and become a part of them," Jha told IANS.

The couple calls it the "Heat and Dust project".

Their experiences will eventually find place in the pages of a book to be published by Harper Collins.

The Facebook page, through which they are seeking suggestions, is appropriately named "The Heat and Dust Project : a book in motion" and has nearly 850 members.

When the couple were in Bhopal, their Facebook friend Sarajit Jha posted a suggestion: "No trip to Bhopal can be complete without visiting four places: Raja Bhoj lake, Hotel Jahnuma (yes the buildings are a piece of work and they have a mini museum), the old city, and the Union Carbide factory."

To which Saurav replied: "Thanks we are in the old city now and we will try to visit those four places; let's see if we can."

In Gwalior and Kannur, they got suggestions like "Try out the fort in Gwalior" and "While in Kannur play with these elephants".

While going to Mahabaleshwar from Panchgani, they received a suggestion to stop at Mapro garden on the way.

Some of the places they have travelled so far are Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra, Kerala, Bhopal, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore.

For the near 100-day journey, the total budget is 50,000 - only for bed and food, which does not include, say, the price of tickets to historical monuments.

"In most states we have been able to eat and sleep for around 500 a day. But we certainly have had to do a fair degree of scouting, sometimes late at night, before we have found a place that suits our budget," Jha said.

The route map is not strictly followed. "We move on impulse, local tips and suggestions from our group members on Facebook," he explained.

The couple even share their experiences through posts and photos on Facebook.

"Notes on Coorg: Red earth, pouring rain and a thousand degrees of green!," Roy posted June 16.

The uncertainty of their journey and place of stay has of course added piquancy to their project.

"The typical problems that we have faced thus far are essentially related to the uncertainty of transport schedules and of landing up in unknown places at night without knowing where we would be staying till morning," Jha said.

While staying at small, out of the way places, the couple had often to prove their marital status in order to get a room.

"Being a man-woman duo, we have had to prove our marital credentials in quite a few places before we were provided accommodation," he said.

But the payback from the trip has been more than generous - through wonderful moments like a homemade lunch with their auto-rickshaw driver in Barmer.

"It was a lovely meal - bajra rotis with brinjal subzee and lots of homemade ghee followed by dessert. As we were finishing dinner, a sudden shower came. There had been no shred of clouds in the sky. Right on cue, the lights went off. It was an awesome moment," Jha reminisced.

On being asked whether this journey was worth giving up their jobs, Jha said, "Absolutely, it's worth it because ultimately it is an inward journey. Through it we have been able to discover stark insights about ourselves."

According to Harper Collin's V.K. Karthika, the book will naturally be positioned as a unique travelogue.

"It will mainly be a travel book which will have their day-to-day experiences. It will be out by next year during the month of June," he added.
Source: IANS
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