The Heat and Dust Project by Devapriya Roy & Saurav Jha
The Heat and Dust Project is one of the most disappointing books I have ever read. I have read bad books, badly written books, but it is the books written with an agenda in mind, with no sincerity that put me off.
Authors created a project called Heat and Dust – to travel through what they call ‘Bharat’ – a patronizing attitude that certain people from urban elite institutes love to carry. This book The Heat and Dust Project is about 15 odd days of journey from Delhi to Gujarat via Rajasthan, a small trip to Mathura from Delhi and a quick trip to Dharamshala. Yes, they did these trips on state transport buses. But they still missed the fact that these rickety buses carry Indians around the country. Yes, they stayed in hotels that cost them less than Rs 500/- per day. But they discounted the discounts and freebies they took in the name of the book they are writing. At no page they let you forget they are from JNU and Presidency College – little aware of the reality that these institutes mean nothing outside their own cocoons.
For that matter no Institute does. They keep mentioning giving up their jobs. But never mention what jobs they were doing. They, of course, mention the rates they get for their freelance writing. And I wonder if the book is meant to entice the future editors only.
It would have been nice if they had called this book, traveling with the Israeli twins because that is all they did. They were not taken in by India or Bharat. They would jump at any sight of good food or free food. And talk primarily to foreigners on the same trail. They take pride in living in places where only foreigners stay. Nowhere through the book, I felt a connect they had with any of the places they visited. 20 places in 20 days with substantial time in Delhi, how much time are you giving to a place while worrying about the next place to go.
Most of the book has been written by Devapriya and her fatigue shows through her writing. It almost feels that they were given a legal notice to submit the manuscript and they just managed to put something from their notebooks and their pictures. Formula being – start by describing the sky in the place. And write 18th CE flowery English – who can question that! Then she jumps into a teen world language. Somewhere they refer to each other as S & D, which is kind of cute. But somewhere they switch to spouse and something else. Somewhere it becomes a long sentence narrative. And then it takes the shape of a diary with date and time mentioned. She loves to jump into family’s personal history. And I felt if they are writing a personal memoir.
All the emotional points are rightly pressed. I later realized that there is a gap of 5 years between traveling and writing Heat and Dust– so inconsistencies are bound to be there unless you maintained your journals very well.
Saurav jumps in between with history lectures that can very well be written from anywhere. There is an attempt to write the academic language without realizing that the rest of the book is written in the teen language. His write-ups come up like fillers to meet a certain word count.
Both the authors remain either in their personal past stories or in future where they would be celebrities writing books – they forgot that travel is all about ‘Being in the Present’. There is no Heat and Dust that they faced given that whatever small travel they did was in cold January.
I wrote to the authors of Heat and Dust that I am disappointed by the book and I would like to speak to them before I write the review. I do this when I have extreme views on a book. Their answer confirmed that I am not the first one to be disappointed. They said ‘This is not the first book we have written, nor is it the last. Readers are disappointed because of the expectations they have from the book.’ Can’t disagree, but the attitude that I sensed in their book comes across even more strongly in this email. We are on a pedestal and we do not care what you think of our work. Not sure if it works for the new age socially connected authors, whose selling point is their social media following.
Good things about the book – the cover design is lovely, as Pinaki’s most covers are. But in this case, it misleads the readers and makes a perfect case of ‘Never judge the book by its cover’.
You can learn a lot of book marketing techniques from the book The Heat and Dust Project. And how to make the book contract work to your advantage. I am amazed that they abandon their travel plans just to attend a book launch for which their publishers invited them. Marketing first, content later… It even leads me to conclude that someone up there in the publishing house is benevolent to them. To the extent that they care a damn about the quality of books they publish.
My views are absolutely based on the book. I know they have an FB group Heat and Dust with (I assume) huge following.
I strongly recommend not wasting your time and money on The Heat and Dust Project.