Writer Mira Jacob finds
inspiration in travel and family—and
records it all in her journals.
Mira Jacob’s debut novel, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, deftly spans decades and leaps continents, taking the reader from 1970s India to the modern-day
United States and back again. It’s no surprise that
Mira was (as she puts it) “born traveling.” She credits
early travel with cementing her identity as a writer.
“I was always an outsider of one sort or another,”
she says. “I learned to observe and retreat into journals when I felt overwhelmed.”
JWM: What’s the first thing you do in a
MJ: I get a cup of tea and a map and pull out my
journal. The tea and the map are orienting; the journal
is for sketching. You never see things quite as clearly as
the moment you land somewhere unfamiliar.
JWM: How is it di;erent traveling with
family versus traveling alone?
MJ: I moved my family to Barcelona for six months
last year, which was everything it was supposed to
be — siestas and tapas and learning how to live differently together. It was wonderful. But there’s a lot of
negotiating you do with a small child, a lot of interpreting the world for them that requires filtering things
that, as an adult, you might just absorb. So I was
thrilled last week to go to Mumbai by myself, to step
into the tumult solo, and see where it all led. I could
spend hours in the Colaba Causeway market, procuring sandals and scarves and Ganesha nesting dolls.
JWM: Tips for traveling in India?
MJ: There are two kinds of travelers in India: those
who try to find the familiar and are undone by the
rest, and those who take it all in and just go. Taking
it all in, or as much as you possibly can, makes for
a hell of a better trip.
JWM: Favorite traveling moment?
MJ: A few years ago I took my then two-year-old son
to India. I was nervous that it would be hard for him,
as it was for me growing up, when I couldn’t handle
the food or felt homesick. But he loved it. The food,
his relatives, the rickshaws! On the way to the airport
in Chennai, the morning we were leaving, he opened
the window and sang, “Goodbye, India, we’re sad
to see you go!” It broke my heart and put it back
together again in one swift moment. p