Happy Independence Day!
Trains are interesting to me and I have used them twice in the book for different purposes. First is the reference to Indian Railways (which always fascinate me by the stories they have to tell) and the other is slightly out of this world. I’ll leave the second one for the book, but here are few lines from the first reference and a snapshot from Chandigarh railway station.
What can one say about railway stations? And that too the Indian ones? These harbors of persistent and constant commuting are a true reflection of any country’s populace and so it shouldn’t be surprising to find chaos, crowd, poverty and resilience well and truly alive in here. The bickering and haggling between coolies and travelers might make a first world citizen stare in shock but when such a service is available in abundant supply, who will pay two hundred bucks to carry 5-6 suitcases across three platforms? For fifty rupees or so, one can find many willing porters putting unspeakable weights of luggage on their head and lanky shoulders and run up and down the stairs. If one were to give Olympic medals based on weight-one-can-carry to body-mass ratio, these coolies could probably beat professional weight lifting athletes. When a hungry stomach growls, a body develops the stamina without gym and protein shakes. When one is eating only one meal a day, it’s not a matter of shame to sleep on the station floor with no chaadar. When one is barely making ends meet, hygiene or its lack of thereby becomes a non-issue.
The air was filled with the smell of rodents, tea, sweat, piss and shit. The upper classes grimaced and covered their noses, the common man walked off. Indian railways carry a record 25 million passengers every day. When a train stops at a platform, the class distinction in Indian society manifests itself in the descending and ascending lot of passengers. Couple of elites from first AC, a handful of middle classes from second and third AC coaches, a multitude of lower classes from sleeper and general coaches – the constitution displays the fragmented Indian society in its crude reality.
Nistha Tripathi, Seven Conversations