Book Review: Inside ‘The Heat and Dust Project’ with Devapriya Roy and Saurav Jha

Saurav Jha and Devapriya RoyThis is not a honeymoon or an escape. It is a conscious journey into a world as yet far removed from their own. It will become a permanent break from their unsettled city lives and a portrait of what has for long fueled their relationship. Coming together during their years spent at Presidency College in Kolkata, India, Saurav and Devapriya never harbored dreams of a life linked to a monthly paycheck. Moving on to the creatively charged milieu of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, their intensely passionate environment left them searching for their own version of a fulfilling life.

The answer came in 2009 as an idea that involved traveling across the length and breadth of India, with a budgeted restriction to boot. While it was Devapriya’s idea to put the daily ‘bed and board’ budget to Rs. 500, it was Saurav who proudly owns to having executed it. Soon they pitched it as a book and within months set off on a commissioned, rickety ride across India.

The Heat and Dust ProjectThe book finally shaped up into The Heat and Dust Project: The Broke Couple’s Guide to Bharat, a title released by Harper Collins India earlier this year. Initially struggling to describe the entire journey in one book, they soon realized the enormity of putting their experience into words and restricted this first part to only a section of the journey – a thirty-three day leg. The book is as much a delineation of their step by step journey as a historical, anecdotal account of the regions they visited. It is also a reflection of the rigmaroles that a relationship, in their case a five year marriage at the time, goes through on a journey.

The writing process seeped into their plans, with people, places and stories needing to be noted down, in a diary by Devapriya and in his mind full of a hundred stories by Saurav. Devapriya mentions an instance during the journey, in Gujarat, where they left the hotel room with the mission to ‘look for a story’. Most others simply happened to them. In addition to the budget, having set other rules such as not staying in one place for more than three days, a learning from monks who believed that to be enough time to ‘sprout roots’, the couple were forever on the go.

During the journey, where they were back in Delhi, while taking their Israeli friends (twin brothers who readers encounter more than once in the book) on a tour across their city, Devapriya admits to feeling a sense of “intense loss” while crossing the area of South Delhi they used to call home. Now having circled back to the same apartment they held before their journey, they are happily, permanently “dislocated”. Neck deep in the manuscript of the second leg of their journey, the ninety day sojourn from Delhi to Kanyakumari and back up via the Coromandel Coast, they are forever inching closer to their ideal, of an itinerant idler. The second book slated for a June 2016 release will also introduce someone they consider having come closest to their dream state, Anon Ananda, a Canadian of Gujarati descent, whom the couple met in the hills of North India. The release will be followed by their journey to East and North-East India, again for a pre-commissioned book.

While readers await this introduction, the world of these young writers has heralded them into events centered on their book (launch events are soon to be held in Delhi, followed by Mumbai) and the trappings of being a writer among today’s ever diminishing reader class. Seated at a coffee shop in Vasant Vihar in South Delhi, close to their home and a few meters away from ‘Fact & Fiction’, a bookstore that announced closure last month, the reality is playing out in the couple’s own neighborhood.

As we walk outside Devapriya points to a stall at the entrance of the complex, which once stalked only books. These have now been moved to a corner on the ground, while clothes of indeterminate shape and design take up majority of space. The hawker greets the couple as we move closer, telling them that some new titles have been added. We stand there watching Rushdie sit adjacent to Jackie Collins, while Kafka looks over from another line. We speak of recent reading lists and authors we’ve commonly devoured, wondering if soon writers will be the only ones to find joy in the written word. For the sake of those immersed in a writerly life, may such a time not come for very many years.


To Alwar and Back in a Heartbeat

One fine saturday…

Storytellers of Wonder

The yellow of her odhni, of the mustard in the breeze, of the unabashed sun.

It is the color that follows you through the dusty roads that lead out of Delhi and towards Alwar, the ‘Gateway to Rajasthan’. Sitting to the north of the capital city Jaipur, this erstwhile princely state now beckons weekend free-wheelers to Havelis-turned-hotels, the Siliserh lake, and the nearby Sariska Tiger reserve.

We drifted out of foggy Delhi for a taste of the Haveli life, if only for a night. With the Aravali hills flanking the road in the distance, we were headed to Burja Haveli, an over 200 years old abode reminiscent of traditional Rajasthani architecture, now renovated as a heritage property.

The Haveli in its heyday probably celebrated in solitude. Today the burgeoning town and its accouterments surround it. And yet when you step inside, not without being greeted cheerily by Hari Singh

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Let Her Find Her Voice and Sing

“It’s a girl”.

Immediately after I heard her first cry the doctor informed me that I had given birth to a girl. Perhaps I was just imagining their lack of enthusiasm at the news, but while they ran customary checks on her, I wondered how people usually broke the news of a baby boy’s birth and whether it was as solemn. A little while later they handed her over saying “Here’s your daughter.” I had to stop smiling and purse my lips into a pout so that I could kiss her cheek. Truth be told, I followed the kiss with trying to check if she had my eyes. She didn’t, and I thought, “Ah well, perhaps it is better if she has her own version of everything.”

She was born in 2011, the year the Census in India came out with a grim statistic – the sex ratio in the country had declined to its lowest since Independence, at 914 females to 1000 males (the final population figures since put out by the Registrar General’s office have been significantly upwardly revised to 918). Infant mortality plays truant across the country but so does active silencing of the female voice before and after birth. Countless female foetuses do not get a chance to open their eyes and look at the world. Some who do grace the air with their first cry are forced into darkness, sometimes by helpless mothers but most often by ‘family’ who ask the mother to “look away” and forget all about it. And forget we do, because our collective consciousness has learnt to look the other way.

Nearly three decades before that census, an old woman drove through the summer night in an Ambassador car in central India. Her daughter-in-law was in labour after having laughed her heart out at a humour classic earlier that evening and had to be taken to the hospital. The father had not been granted leave by his (Government) employers. So the two women rode alone hoping to see a healthy, possibly laughter-loving baby soon.

The baby was born in the early afternoon the next day and was immediately diagnosed with infantile jaundice, which is a common ailment among newborns. However, this affliction was severe and the infant was placed in the nursery for nearly ten days with photo therapy that required the eyes to be shielded. The mother, a paediatrician, knew the range of symptoms and how bad things could get if the baby’s condition worsened. She may have cried thinking about all the bad things that could happen to the child. But ten days later, her little girl, was ready to see the world.

My early years were spent around the gorgeous hills in the north Indian state of Himachal. While I created childhood memories of river stream picnics, devoured years later through scenic photographs, my mother worried some more about her shy girl and how life would treat such a quiet child. It didn’t help that relatives did their bit comparing cousins and suggesting that the feisty tomboyish one would grow up to ride a bike and wipe the tears of the wailer. That image, like most other plans hatched too early, didn’t quite play out that way. But I found myself being encouraged to search for my voice, irrespective of the form it came through. Slowly I learnt that your voice that pushed forth your will was the strongest tool a person had, not by trampling on the sounds of others but by ensuring that you made yourself heard. Instead of looking the other way, I learnt that you had to jump right in the centre of the ring and fight; because there were things that needed to be verbalized and others that were waiting for just a little support. It also became amply clear that most people (women included) found nothing more fearsome than a woman with an opinion.

Under-graduate studies took me to an all-women’s college in Delhi, the nation’s capital, where I’ve been based ever since. During the daily commute by bus (living in the suburbs meant I needed to change two), I encountered molestation of the butt-pinching, breast-grabbing, hand-on-crotch variety, where only the degree varied over time. The more comfortable Delhi Metro had not begun then and there was no “women’s coach” to get pushed into. Like all other things a woman must “learn to live with”, we used elbows, safety pins and loudly shaming the culprit to get by.

This was also the time I was exposed to countless stories from around the world detailing the trials and triumphs of women through the ages. The suffrage movement in U.S. and Europe, the closeted yet brilliant lives of gifted women writers and harsher realities closer home that showed up in newspapers every day, and continue to, with increasing viciousness, today.

Rape, acid attacks, domestic violence, female foeticide, all stem from the base desire to silence and force into submission the valiant voice within a woman’s heart. This is the voice that often threatens established ‘norms’ and seeks an alternative life not crafted entirely by others. She questions, admonishes, refuses to accept all that women before her were ‘supposed to do’. This refusal to ‘conform’ and be ‘tamed’ creates conflicts, which unfortunately do not lead to questioning their relevance as much as it does to the silencing of the ‘aberrant’ voice of the woman.


Even as I write this piece, I receive a message from a female friend about having been accosted by two men on a bike at a crowded parking lot in Delhi in broad daylight. She was walking from the metro station, tagging along with the daily crowd, when these two men first started making lewd comments from a distance and then they pulled up closer. Before she had time to react, the rider pulled out a bottle and threw the contents on her face. In those fifteen minutes of chaos she was certain she had been attacked with acid. It turned out to be hot water. She lost her balance and collided with the pillion rider and they both fell. Her left arm was bruised and while she tried to get back up on her feet, the attackers had fled. The crowd that had by now gathered around her was full of people some of whom tried to help, while others simply stared or worse still, laughed at her. She could hear murmurs of “these things keep happening to girls”. Luckily a nearby vendor had noted the number on the bike and armed with that my friend went to the nearby police station to lodge a complaint. The officer on duty looked at her and said she probably invited the boys’ attention because of her clothes, which revealed her legs. He went on to suggest that since nothing was going to happen to the case anyway, she should just get out of the mess and FORGET ABOUT IT. She went on to lodge a complaint against the boys and the police officer. Based on the bike number plate, the boys were rounded up the next day and turned out to be local hawkers. My friend identified them and they were taken into custody.

I relate this incident here to remind us that it is not alright to find reasons for a crime against women in the clothes she wore, the things she said or how she behaved. And it is not alright to pretend like these things happen in a faraway universe outside of our lives. Or that these are everyday occurrences so we must all forget about it. For then we’re teaching our girls to ALWAYS BE AFRAID (or silent) and telling our boys that they can get away with ANYTHING. Neither of those reflects the true meaning of freedom.

Every year we proudly celebrate the decades since India became a free state. And yet it remains unfair to joyously proclaim this freedom when one half of the country’s citizens are denied the right to life with dignity. Why must a woman have to ‘fight’ to survive, thrive and lead a life on her own terms? Why doesn’t it bother enough people’s consciousness to do something about it, in their own, small way? Why must we close our eyes to the reality of discrimination, abuse and inequality and answer it not by punishing perpetrators but by forcing the female voice into submission or silence?


My life has had more in common with many women and most men from a similar socio-economic background than with countless other women across the country. This life has been unhindered by struggles that scores of women face everyday. My education, marriage, motherhood, profession have not been dictated by those around me. I continue to enjoy (or falter at!) the fruits of my labour, with support of those around me. This ‘privileged’ existence has come most significantly from the social milieu of the family I was born into, but it has also come from the uninhibited sky under which I was left free to dream.

As my daughter turns three, I continue to celebrate the things she says and does, to feed her curiosity of all the new things she encounters, to lead the way till she wants to walk alone. In all the things she and I will share over time, I wish we never have to talk about “learning to live with” being a woman in India. And when we do, I hope these words conjure up images of a carefree life, bound only by her will and not by externalities that force her actions.


Every child is born with a song in her heart, one that she polishes over time, humming and setting it to tune. It is for us to let her sing to her heart’s content, without erecting walls that trap her voice within.


This article is part of the #BeingaModernIndianWoman archive, which is being launched on 15th August on Indian Independence Day. This storytelling initiative celebrates womanhood and freedom of (responsible) expression, and it’s a stepping stone to further economic opportunities for women in India. Please visit facebook.com/beingamodernindianwoman for more information.



7 Things I Just Don’t (U)nderstand

1. Mascara at the Mall

Why oh why would ladies wear make-up to the mall? Save some for night time drunken safari I say.

2. Men and Stars Wars

So I don’t know if this is more about Yoda’s wisdom or Princess Leia’s derrière or both, but mention ‘Star Wars’ to a man and the facial expression changes to the look on a well-fed puppy’s face as he’s reminiscing about his recent lunch. And God forbid you should question the worship. Prepare to be given the head shake that says, “Oh, but you don’t get it.” Yes honey, I don’t get it. I might however read this for laughs.

3. Sarees at Sea

Visit a beach in India and prepare to be assaulted by the view of beautiful sarees victimised by being pulled upto the knees. Auntyji that six yard wonder never thought it would have to see this day. The Burqini has made it to the Olympics. Will someone make a swimsaree please? Watch and Learn.

4. Milk, Soggy Leaves and Sugar aka the Indian Chai

This one I will never understand. How can scores of people across the country enjoy this beverage made from the worst tea leaves of a plantation?

<There is no unappetizing Indian Chai photo on the web. It’s a conspiracy>

5. Unsolicited Parenting Advice

What makes random strangers think they can get away with telling you how to hold, cuddle, feed, scold YOUR child. These people I just want to be physically hurt. I’m always trying not to. Grrr.

6. Mother/Sister expletives

How did these even start? One day a band of boys decided they would push the limits of verbal hatred and began spewing female family figure venom? Pass by any group of boys chatting and you’re bound to hear them. And they’re communicating, apparently. And laughing, patting each other. Ha Ha, you sister-what-not. No boys, it’s NOT NORMAL.

7. Bag Elbow

What is that? In addition to looking like a very tiring activity, it is fairly inefficient in helping you do a good job of carrying anything, or managing to do anything while you’re at it. Remember that shoulder girls, get on, work it now. Or maybe I’m just a big bag girl.


We Don’t Need No (Sex) Education

sex-ed-graphicIn high school, around the turn of the millennium, I attended a very heated debate.

The topic: No sex education please, we’re Indians

I can’t for the life of me remember what people who spoke for the motion had to say. They of course had to prove not just that we don’t need sex education, but that we don’t need it because we’re Indians.

We’re almost a decade past that day but the debate continues.

So what makes sex so un-Indian?

Some people will tell you that talking about sex to teenagers is not in line with our culture and traditions. That is a very valid point in a country where child marriage and female-feticide is apparently more in line with our ‘heritage’.

The debate should have never been about whether we should educate youngsters about sex but about what is the best way to do it. Parents often argue that sex-ed classes make no sense as children then start ‘thinking’ about something they shouldn’t be. Wake up mamas and papas, teenagers are anyway thinking about it, but its about whether you want their information to be from Google or you.

I remember the sex-ed class during my penultimate year in school. Girls and boys were segregated and two women from a local NGO came in to tell us all we wanted and needed to know. I faintly recollect certain diagrams being drawn, a classmate asking about why virginity was tested the way it was when we could very well ‘lose’ it while cycling and much ado about contraceptives. I also recall that when the boys were having their ‘session’ we had to go in and get our bags and there was a lot of giggling and awkwardness around the whole deal. I got back home that day and related the whole thing to my folks, sounding all wise about it…made easier by the fact that they’re doctors and I was talking in medical terms.

As it turns out sex-ed classes aimed at teenagers are not a crash course in Vatsyana’s Kama Sutra. Nobody is telling them that sex is great or how it should be practiced for a pleasure-filled life. The argument runs that teaching teenagers about safe sex means giving them the green signal to ‘experiment’ since it’s all safe. Fears emanating from the idea that sex education leads to promiscuity are not well founded.

Adults can’t continue to be prudes all the way. Teenagers across decades have commonalities. But the differences are just as obvious. It doesn’t work to get all nostalgic and think “we got along just fine without our parents telling us anything about sex”. While controversies around this concept continue, so do the increase in stimuli in a teenager’s world. Gone are the days when the first main encounter with giggle inducing topics was the biology class on human reproduction. Television is passé. The world wide web is the answer to all questions, innocuous and otherwise. And controlling access to the same is that much more difficult.

Teen-age continues to be tricky business. So the question really is, are we going to lay out the right information from a trusted source or have them shoot in the dark till they hurt themselves too bad. And teenagers aren’t the only ones who need educating. Parents and teachers require some lessons in dealing with boys and girls who’re too young to vote but old enough to be opinionated about all else.

We certainly can’t turn condom toting sex educators in a day.

In this country where sex is still a dirty little three letter word, getting past pre-conceived notions of adults is going to take much more than prescribed sex education school textbooks for their children.


A Date with the Queen

Pachmarhi, sitting atop a plateau within the Satpura Range in Central India, is often referred to as the ‘Queen of Satpura’. And she is full of surprises. The wondrous beauty created by both history and nature can leave many a traveller spellbound.

In 1920, Captain James Forsyth, who is credited with discovering Pachmarhi, described his first glimpse,

We suddenly emerged…on to an open glade, covered with short green grass, and studded with magnificent trees…altogether, the aspect of the plateau was much more that of a fine English park than any scene I had before come across in India.

On an extended weekend in August this year, an overnight train from Delhi got us to Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh. Two hours of mostly-patient waiting was followed by the second train ride to Pipariya, the closest railway station to Pachmarhi. Scratched windows let in sepia-tinted views of endless greens and curiously-named stations celebrating India’s 66th Independence Day.

Bagra Tawa

Independence Day

Country Road

At noon we stepped into the smoke-filled air of Pipariya amidst shrill cries of ‘Pachmarhi’ from drivers. Options for the one-hour ride to Pachmarhi vary from INR 60 bus ride to INR 900 AC taxi. We settled for a shared taxi in the form of elephant-sized silver vehicles driven by mercenary men intent on squeezing 13 people in a space for 9. Haggling helps as rates per person range from 60 to 100 rupees, depending upon travelling as chickens or in comfort.

Driving through the Satpura National Park, a biosphere reserve that houses Spotted Dear, Indian Bison, Tigers, Leopards, among others, is an experience to be relished in an open vehicle with enough room for wind-swept hair. Countless monkeys and thick forest cover dot the landscape on the 54km stretch. The seamless green expanse is broken only by muddy waters of Denwa River that originates in Hoshangabad district and is often flooded in monsoons, cutting off Pachmarhi from the rest of the state.

Denwa River

Welcome Aboard

Pachmarhi greets newcomers with a busy marketplace close to the main bus station that sells plastic toys, neck-pieces with gods attached on end and other curios found elsewhere. Lord Shiva remains prominent among the figurines on sale, having four main temples in this hill-station. Beyond the bustling lanes lies a small lake with its still and desolate waters, except for a few boats that line the shore.

As the car sped across the bridge overlooking the lake, the views on both sides transformed into flatlands of a vibrant shade of green.

Pachmarhi welcome 1

Pachmarhi Welcome

We chose to stay at Champak Bungalow, a State Tourism property renovated to retain architectural aspects of its colonial past. It lies in a quiet enclosure on Dhupgarh Road, leading to the highest peak in the Satpura Range. Accommodation includes bungalow rooms and AC tents, with rates ranging from INR 2,500 to 3,000 per night. A children’s park and an under-construction swimming pool are added amenities. Behind the compound lies the Pachmarhi Lake, accessible through a narrow road running along the property. Here boating, horse and camel riding are available as leisurely past-times. Peddle boats provide views of misty mountains and greenish waters, punctured only by the eerie silence of bare Nilgiri trees that stand tall in the distance, stripped of their wondrous plume.

Nilgiri trees

As we walked along a narrow path opposite the Pachmarhi lake overlooking an expanse of green, the skies bathed in the glorious evening sun suddenly made way for rain. I shuffled, trying to pull out the umbrella, but in a few minutes the overcast skies had welcomed the sun. Looking up, bewildered at this unexpected change of scene, my eyes shone with the brilliance that filled the sky. Beyond the trees was a giant rainbow.


And it begins

Day tours in Pachmarhi are undertaken by four-wheel drive Gypsy cars for easy uphill riding. Companies that operate taxis from Pipariya station can also help with these tours at INR 1,000 – 1,100 per day.

Day zero was lost getting to Pachmarhi and could only accommodate lazy boating. So we began day two early with a visit to Priyadarshini Point, formerly named Forsyth Point after Captain Forsyth who chanced upon Pachmarhi in 1857 from this spot. The view from this deep ravine is a good way to start the trip but can easily be traded in for superior sites in and around town.

Forsyth Point 1

Forsyth Point

Taking the high road

Serious mountain climbing was next on the agenda and the taxi got us to Mahadev temple at the southern edge of town. This temple is located at the foot of Chauragarh, the second highest peak in the Satpura Range at 1,326 metres. Getting to the top requires traversing endless steps, (approximately 1,260) along a steep 3.5km climb. A hill-top temple dedicated to Lord Shiva beckons pilgrims who can be found singing joyful songs when they’re not waiting to catch their breath. Old women and children, some with bare feet, groups of rowdy young men and scores of monkeys are all fellow climbers. Make-shift shops lie along the path selling water, soft-drinks and packaged snacks. Others advertise freshly prepared lemonade and black chanas.

The sight of the moss covered temple in dark stone sitting resolutely atop the mountain brings cheer to pounding hearts.


Beside the temple stands a colourful array of Trishuls raising their spears up to the sky. These are carried up by devotees who believe that offering a trishul at the temple will answer all prayers.


Outside, the air is thick with the collective feeling of triumph. Within the temple walls worshippers maintain muted tones of reverence. Beyond the boundary wall enclosing the temple are soothing sights of mountains covered in thick green cover.

chauragarh 1

The walk downhill is not as easy as it ought to be but the entire trek (up and down hill) can be completed in 4 -5 hours by the relatively fit.

The next stop is Jata Shankar, a cave that derives its name from the peculiar rock formation that looks like the matted dreadlocks of Lord Shiva and requires stepping into a dark cave while watching for head bumps. The only light inside emanates from an incense stick lit by the pujari sitting crossed-legged on a rock, blessing each passer-by as they wade through freezing water.



History in stone

As the sun began its slow descent behind the mountains, we trespassed onto the park encircling the Protestant Church built in 1875. This Gothic style red stand-stone structure stands quietly hidden behind thick tree cover and the steeple looks over empty green fields where cows had stopped to rest. The door was closed and the windows were barred with barbed wire. Our driver had spoken of regular Sunday mass but the silence belied any congregation for several years past.




In search of the sun

The next morning, our last day in Pachmarhi, we awoke to the sounds of rain that did not bode well for a visit to Dhoopgarh, the highest peak in Satpura Range. It held promises of breath-taking views of sunrise, which had been missed in Pachmarhi for the last few months. Not to be undone by the weather, we drove to the hill on a rocky road, with the fog following us a few metres behind. The top of the hill was covered in thick fog, even as the rain had taken mercy and was reduced to a light drizzle. After walking to the edge of what should have been wondrous views of the mountain range, we returned to the pot-holed road, having taken in only the white blanket views around us.



Centre of gravity

The next stop was Reechgarh, so named for the ferocious bears that once roamed these deep caves and ravines. After walking a few steps on flat ground with deep tree roots running through, we reached the top of a giant cave. Treacherous stones took us deeper and what appeared out of the clearing was right at the centre of the earth, preferably middle earth, conjured up for a scene from Lord of the Rings. Precariously balanced moss-covered boulders lay atop each other, leaving room only for tall trees that all but blocked the light from above. On the left, two large rocks had put their heads together and welcomed lone travellers to pass through. Standing in the centre, looking up and around at the rocks, one could experience the utterly bearable smallness of being.



The buzz stops here

Once outside, the sky, and life, looked larger. The car was making its way to yet another attraction created by nature. The Bee falls, also called Jamuna Prapat, begins as a stream that jumps into the valley with a buzzing sound (hence the name) and can be enjoyed by those who don’t mind cold, very public, showers. Getting to the bottom involves walking down steep steps, making the post-shower climb up its uninteresting side-effect.

Bees Fall

Brothers in arms

The last place on our Pachmarhi trail was a quick visit to Pandav caves. Legend has it that Pachmarhi dates back to the period of the Mahabharata, the name panch (five) madhis (caves) referring to the five caves where the Pandav brothers are said to have spent a considerable part of their years of exile. Conspiracy theorists, however, allege that this story is hogwash and Hindu propaganda, as these caves are actually Buddhist caves from another time. For countless visitors to these caves in the centre of Pachmarhi town, the origins matter little. With panoramic views of the manicured gardens below and the mountains beyond, it is perhaps the perfect place to round up a visit to this hill town in Central India.

View from Pandav Caves



7 lies to throw around for a food-filled guilt-free Karva Chauth

It is that day of the year again. Women in their glitzy best wake up before sunrise and hog to hell before spending the entire day (till the moon is up) fasting. The annual festival of Karva Chauth keeps many a married woman (and some unwed ones) in full preparation mode with heena-ed hands and glorious shopping. Husbands, for their part, fulfill the single duty of coming home on time. Some men of honour have begun fasting alongside their wives, to profess their love by NOT eating one day of the year.

Traditionally, this day meant freedom from housework and much laughter and bonhomie with other women in the family. For those who can manage that, it sounds like a fun day of the year. But for corporate drones who’d like to save holidays for better things in life (skinny dipping in Goa maybe), it is an uninteresting proposition.

If your idea of love does not involve giving up food for one day of the year, then you might need a fool-proof way to survive the stinks and stares as you eat normal meals on this day of community farce.

Having trouble answering “Aren’t you celebrating Karva Chauth?”

You can play these 7 easy cards anytime during the day:

  1. Incredulity: What! Is that today? Ah, well. Now that I’ve eaten already, I might as well continue.
  2. All year Love: I love my husband every day of the year. I am sending love his way with every bite.
  3. Peg it on the in-laws: (Looking distraught) The festival is not celebrated in my husband’s family.
  4. Confusion: Sound all mysterious and say “Do you know the real story about Karva Chauth?” and then launch off on a diatribe designed to confuse. Infuse dungeons and dragons if it helps.
  5. Eating for one: Say you’re pregnant and you’re eating for the baby. To be used judiciously as you have to play another card after nine months when no baby pops.
  6. Watch them turn green: Oh my husband refuses to let me fast for him. But he is taking me out on a shopping spree and cooking dinner tonight.
  7. Preparing for the Hoopla: I’m a feminist and we eat well every day to keep things perky. Who knows when the next bra burning hoopla might begin?

Don’t: Fast, abuse, hate

Do: What makes you Happy

Always: Give dirt if you get dirt