Most of us fantasize about quitting our day jobs to listen to our inner calling – to pick our bags, jump on a caravan and head on a spontaneous backpack trip. And here we are – stuck in our cubicle, staring at our laptop screen and wondering what to cook or order for dinner. Let’s be practical – we have mortgages to pay and life ain’t any Imtiaz Ali movie (mostly) :).
People who follow such inner callings are indeed inspiring – and one such couple is Saurav and Devapriya who published a book called “The Heat and Dust Project: The broke couple’s guide to Bharat” (part of a trilogy). It is a rollicking saga based on the true stories of a couple who quit their jobs, picked up their backpacks, traveled on a shoe string budget of Rs 500 per day and experienced eccentric encounters over thousands of kilometers.
Saurav is a commentator on energy, security and geopolitics, contributes regularly to World Politics Review and The Diplomat. His first book – The Upside Down Book of Nuclear Power was published by Harper Collins in 2010 While Devapriya is the author of two popular novels – The Vague Woman’s Handbook (2011) and The Weight Loss Club (2013).
SoulCafe spoke to this lovely duo on their journey, the Heat & Dust Project and above all the transformation in their relationship.
SoulCafe – “She wanted to write and he wanted to understand India that is Bharat and that was the birth of an idea – The Heat & Dust project.” Was the decision to quit your regular jobs, move out of the comfort zone that one is so used to that easy? What were the most difficult aspects that you had to convince each other?
” A decision such as this, is never easy. There is always the anxiety of having to leave a stable source of income. But it was a mutual decision. One that did not really involve convincing each other. We both knew it was a difficult decision to take, but also knew that it had to be done.”
SoulCafe -Should life be planned or should it be spontaneous? Who is the planner amongst you?
” Let us put it this way, life gives you just enough leeway to plan your own spontaneity. Of course, a larger corpus of savings before we left our jobs would have helped. (laughs). But neither of us is a classic ‘Type A’ person and we have seen the limits of planning as well. Though during a journey such as this there has to be some semblance of planning, and I (Saurav) was the purveyor of that.”
SoulCafe – Has this extreme budget travel been your Ultimate Relationship Test? Did living in extreme budget constraints bring out the best and worst of each other?
“It certainly has been a major test of sorts. A tight budget naturally reduces the choices that one has in the material world and that leads to either compromise or conflict. I think our book documents instances of both. But when you take away the cushion money offers, it is then that you see the truth about a relationship whether good, bad or ugly.”
But when you take away the cushion money offers, it is then that you see the truth about a relationship whether good, bad or ugly.
SoulCafe – Has this experience changed your outlook to life- individually and collectively? How has this experience changed your relationship? Has it helped you see each other in a new light?
“It has. We aren’t the same people anymore. We both find it difficult to settle down to the rhythms of city life. This experience has definitely brought us closer. We know that we have each other’s backs and that is fundamental to a relationship. Most importantly, this journey has made us respect each other more than we did before.”
We aren’t the same people anymore. We both find it difficult to settle down to the rhythms of city life.
SoulCafe – How different are your personalities and what are those key aspects that keep you together in difficult times?
“We are both similar at the core. But outwardly, Devapriya is an affable, even charming person. I am more of an introverted person, given to dark moods. But I guess the key aspect that keeps us together through thick and thin, is trust.”
SoulCafe – When you set out to travel, did you experience a plateau phase- in terms of the initial euphoria dying down, and finally coming to terms with reality? How did you support (or tear each other apart) during this phase?
“Oh we kept hitting troughs and crests throughout the journey. The breakneck pace that we inflicted upon ourselves ensured that kind of emotional movement. And we have documented this rather candidly in our book.”
SoulCafe – How important is personal space in your relationship? Was it put to test as you traveled together for so long?
“I think this journey has actually helped us in that sphere. We can now share the same space while inhabiting our own little worlds without dissonance.”
SoulCafe – It’s fascinating to see backpacker couples on Instagram and read their blogs. How different is fantasy from reality?
“I am sure what they put up on the internet is a reflection of reality. But so is whatever else they choose not to put up. Our book is more tuned to the layered experience that backpacking provides.”
SoulCafe – From a regular working couple to living a not so regular life – you have seen life transform. What would be your piece of advice for couples who are pondering over taking an offbeat path to pursue their passion?
“Do it together. This journey is best undertaken together. And stick to whatever you have decided, together. There will be phases of intense anxiety, but that too shall pass.”
This journey is best undertaken together. And stick to whatever you have decided, together.
SoulCafe – The heat and dust project is the first book of the trilogy. What’s in store for the readers in the coming series?
“The first installment of ‘The Heat and Dust Project’ series is called ‘The Broke Couple’s Guide to Bharat’ which is what you are referring to. The next book in the series is called ‘Man, Woman, Road’ and it chronicles a three month journey from Delhi to Kanyakumari via the length of India in the heat of summer. Believe me, nobody will be disappointed with what we have to share with that one.”
We wish this soulful couple all the success with their up coming books in the series and also many more adventures in life. To read more on their project check out their website: http://www.theheatanddustproject.com/