16 Dec 2008

Peep Peep Don't Sleep: Book Review

Peep Peep Don't Sleep
By: Ajay Jain
Kunzum
Non-fic (Travel)
Price: INR 350, US $19.95, UK £11.95

Available at: Ajay Jain's Blog






We thought travel was about visiting places, soaking up the atmosphere of new territories, and relishing the journey. Who could have known Road Signs could be part of the travel entertainment package as well? Yes, Road Signs, those inevitable pointers along the way that we take no more seriously than empty coke cans strewn across the terrains we travel through.

Welcome then, to the world of Border Roads Organisation (BRO), the Indian agency responsible for construction and maintenance of all roads in areas along India’s borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, and Bhutan. For, BRO, with its BROtherly (even fatherly at times) attitude, can turn the toughest of driving trips along India’s edges into the funniest. Many a traveler journeying through these often rugged stretches must have enjoyed a smirk or four reading BRO’s imaginative Road Signs. Author-journalist Ajay Jain has, however, done a favour to those of us who are yet to grab the fun for ourselves. With his book, Peep Peep, Don’t Sleep.

Jain drove more than 10,000 kilometers, all by himself, through Indian highways for more than a year to photograph some of the most hilarious, and at times, indecipherable Road Signs and advertisements. He didn’t stop there, though, but went on to add witty captions to these images, along with some chuckle-provoking commentary.

Ready for some sampling?

“I am curvaceous, be slow.” Relax, this is no porn movie dialogue; it’s just a hilly road in Ladakh, nudging you, the driver, to go easy with the wheels. And if you still don’t get the message, you are again poked to just “Feel the curves (do) not test them.”

The extent to which BRO can go to encourage drivers to play it safe is amazing. On a road from Dehradun to Mussoorie, a sign speaks thus for a distressed husband:


But BRO can’t place such a sign in just one place. And so they warn female partners again at another spot to not gossip as their male companions control the steering.



Jain’s caption to that image can’t stop wondering though, “…Do only ladies gossip?” My question too.

Then there are the cryptic signs. Ones that instead of making you more cautious with your feet on the accelerator will likely leave you scratching your head. Like the following sign. If you can decipher it, kindly do the author and me a favour by letting us know what it means.


And while you are at it, please crack this one too:


By now, you can make out how earnest BRO is in its aim to keep a check on travelers, especially drivers. If one still fails to heed their message, though, one must be prepared to face embarrassment at some point. With a message that says, “Cution. Short cuts may cut shorts.” With such a warning, one can never take any chances, can one? And if the driver still doesn’t listen to the BRO, well, he or she might have to contend with the deadliest of outcomes:


Ajay Jain didn’t just compile funny, inane, and quirky Road Signs in these 200-odd pages. He also went on to put together some of the most bizarre advertisements found across India. A lot of these he found in Dharamsala, the sanctuary of the Dalai Lama and a large number of his followers. His commentary on this section of the book says it all, “Welcome to the Dharamsala School of Quick Learning… You can find enlightenment and knowledge being sold—fast food style—all over Dharamsala…"


Did you know shopping discounts led to tension? So if you are in Dharamsala, spare yourself needless anxiety by shopping at:


In case you thought all shops selling similar stuff are the same, think again. Or rather, know for yourself by visiting this store in Ladakh:


In the short space of a review, it’s hardly possible to capture the amount of fun “Peep Peep Don’t Sleep” (one of the Road Signs in the book, by the way) packs. As I laughed, smirked and found myself bewildered through Peep Peep’s pages, I also realized this excellently produced book is a keeper. Not only is it a testament to what can happen when the English language is twisted albeit inadvertently, it’s also a manifesto of the BRO’s sincere, if a bit over-the-top aim of cautioning the (sometimes) sleepy, reckless, or drunken driver.

All photos © Ajay Jain

Cross posted at: A Reader's Words

9 comments:

cesarcarlos said...

This book sounds like a keeper indeed! It's amazing how many wonders we can discover just by opening our eyes and looking around.

Wonderful post, Sury!

Alex Moore said...

fun and cheery -- thanks for posting about this book! the early morning smiles produced will much improve the day :)

Paul West said...

I think this is a great insight into life in India. We Westerners don't often appreciate your culture as we should.

Is English still the official language of India? I thought with the end of the British occupation, Indian people would have reverted to their native tongue.

Bhaswati said...

Cesar, I couldn't agree more with you. That's what travel is all about, isn't it?

Glad you like it, Alex!. This book has tons of material to tickle the funny bone.

Paul, thanks for dropping by! English isn't India's official language; that would be Hindi. However, these signs are for tourists from all over the world, posted as these are along some of the most popular travel destinations in India.

Paul West said...

Ah. That's what I thought. Thanks for the clarification.

Jessie Voigts said...

I love this book - it makes me laugh! I am always bringing it out and showing it to guests. Great way to start laughing with friends.

Bhaswati said...

Just what you said, Jessie. This book is a keeper for sure, and also a fantastic collective laughter generator.

Ryan Hunter - Writer said...

Looks like a book worth checking out!

The strangest road sign I think I've ever encountered was after driving a couple hours through hills and trees on dirt roads, finally emerging into some semblance of civilization to a street sign that said simply, "Nowhere".

Bhaswati said...

That sounds like a place to visit, Ryan! It's just amazing to note how much entertainment can be had by just reading road signs. LOL

Related Posts with Thumbnails