Beyond those yellow boards

In those numerous trips I have made to Delhi by train, I have always wondered if these big railway junctions are just places for loading food? Has the rampant modernisation made any impact on these otherwise sleepy towns that only wake up to the familiar sound of a train, assuming that they haven’t grown immune to the noise?

Well, I have stopped with just concocting these questions, and never bothered to disembark and find answers.

If you too have wondered what existed beyond those pallid boards in some of India’s biggest railway junctions, wanted to know about the lives of those who inhabited those towns that are highlighted in bold only in the country’s railway route -‘Chai, chai: Travels in Places Where You Stop but Never Get Off’ by Bishwanath Ghosh- is a must read.

Mughal Sarai, Itarsi, Jhansi, Shoranur, Jolarpetai, Arrakonam and Guntakal are familiar towns for a regular traveller, but they are rarely destinations. Ghosh makes an earnest attempt to extract interesting stories of the people who reside in these towns.

The author meets a homemaker-turned-prostitute, a dhaba owner, who has big dreams for his younger brother, and a sports goods shop owner in Mughal Sarai who tells him that the Jana Sangh ideologue, Deen Dayal Upadhyay, was found murdered in the railway yard in 1968.

These junctions are caught in a time warp and stand as a stark contrast to the modern India we know. Yet, outlining the difference, Ghosh doesn’t slip into mundane banter about disparity or other issues. His humour and simple prose coupled with engrossing encounters with locals, introduces you to ‘India hiding’. And, as if by magic, you see a new India that suddenly seems to shed its cover- an India that stands tall and untouched, retaining its identity among rootless modernisation and convoluted culture.


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9 Responses to “Beyond those yellow boards”

  1. Nice start 🙂 I feel like picking up this book! As a reviewer you’ve done your job if you have convinced the reader to read (or not read!) the book you’ve reviewed!

  2. Janu,
    Nice attempt. Keep up the good work. You brought back our good old memories of Delhi.

  3. J,
    Great write 😉

  4. I agree with Anusha …. your review definitely intrigued me to pick up the book and read further. Looking forward to more insights from you … 🙂

  5. Wow , never thought about places we cross on our way to our destination , but am sure this book testifies the fact that every face and every place has a touching story behind……cool Janani, you inspire me to read this book … besides dreaming more …….

  6. Passing through smaller stations, I used to imagine what the life would be like for the people beyond the visible walls of the station that we pass by – used to picture different scenes as a kid! 😀

    Sounds like a pretty good book – maybe I will pick up one when I see it the next time! 🙂

  7. Hi Sindhu, Iam sure you will like it.. I loved it 🙂

  8. Yeah, i guess eveyone has atleast once in their lifetimes thought of it.

    Good Going Janani

  9. JSa
    Just by reading the gist here, i feel nostaligic (sooo much that hav already read ur blog 10 times now!)… But it still interests me… i can recall myself as a kid… and obvsly fights with my bros for that window seat! Also the hustle bustle at any station, regardles of the time (night or day)…
    Gonna visit a bookstore soon… 🙂

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