Book: Peep Peep Don’t Sleep
by Ajay Jain
A GUEST POST by Jessica Voigts
Having a sense of humor while traveling is one of the surest ways to enjoy life and all
the riches it has to offer. One of my new favorite books is a hilarious photo journal
from India, called Peep Peep Don’t Sleep. And as we all know, reading while traveling isn’t limited to books – it can be signs, t-shirts, pamphlets, and more.
Written and photographed by Ajay Jain, this book is an inside look at culture, humor, travel, and the intricacies of language. We often read this with our 8-year old daughter, and laugh together. It is a book rich in culture and language, and so very funny. We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Ajay about his book, traveling on the road, smiling, and more. Here’s what he had to say…
Wandering Educators: Please tell us about your book, Peep Peep Don’t Sleep
Ajay Jain: Put simply, Peep Peep Don’t Sleep is a collection of funny road signs and advertisements that travellers can spot in India. In fact, the title of the book comes from one of these signs. Most of these are from the Indian Himalayas.
What prompted me to come up with such a book? We all notice and get entertained by road signs when we travel, but rarely have these been the subject of any books or even magazine features. Especially since most of us don’t travel enough to see all the different signs literally scattered all over.
Being a travel writer and photographer, I took this challenge upon myself. I had no idea how many interesting road signs existed, or what it would entail capturing all of them. If I didn’t get enough, the book would not happen. I had only one choice: hit the road like an explorer into unchartered territory. And be on the job till I achieved my objective. It took a year and over 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of driving but it all came together in the end.
The inspiration was both providing an entertaining read, as well as creating an archive of these signs. They have a value today because they exist; the collection would be invaluable tomorrow when these are long gone.
What was I looking for? Messages for drivers, advertisements and public notices – anything that would entertain and say something about the place and its people. It would be travelogue of a different kind. And were they a discovery! The ones on Indian highways are in a zone of their own. They shower you with words of wisdom, keep your mind sharp as you unravel their cryptic messages, tickle your imagination, amuse you and entertain you. In public interest, they lend a hand to Alcoholics Anonymous.
Since journeys are meant to be a pleasure, they remind you to ‘Smile Please.’ This is the expression this book wants to see on its readers.
WE: What is it about road signs, language, and cultural assumptions?!
AJ: Different signs reflect different aspects. For example, many of these signs are put up by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), a division of the Indian Army responsible for construction and maintenance of roads along India’s international borders. Thought up by the engineers on the site, one only wonders why they put such signs up. Was it their attempt at cheeky humour? Was it a lesser grasp of the English language that makes them sound like this? Likewise, many of the shop signs and advertisements show an earnest effort to attract customers even if one flounders with the language.
To read more of the interview, please visit the book review section of Wandering Educators.
Jessie says she still laughs when she reads the book. Thanks for sharing, Jessie.
Every traveler has read signs–and menus–in awkwardly translated English. Sometimes the humor is intentional. Sometimes it becomes philosophical. Share the funniest or oddest one you’ve seen.
And speaking of India—We’ve raised $41,000 so far. Are you IN?? Here’s a sign you should click on. No kidding!