Riding the Indian Railways
Dusty and monumental, India’s trains often seem as ancient as India itself. – Paul Theroux
Ever since the British built the railroads in India that stitched that vast subcontinent together, the trains have connected all of its disparate parts.
When I was on assignment shooting a story on the Indian Railways, I would go to the station every day and wander around the platform each time a train would roll in, carefully stepping over bodies and around huge mountains of luggage, and would start to photograph the swirl of life that assaults and saturates the senses.
Anything and everything takes place in a station; there is nothing that the depot hasn’t observed. The train station is a theater and everything imaginable happens on its stage. People endlessly wait, they camp out in the stations, and many call it home.
Travelers must share it with the occasional cow or even monkeys foraging for scraps, tolerate ever-present shouts from vendors trying frantically to attract business, and demonstrate patience with the endless queues.
“India is peculiarly visible from a railway train. I have the idea that much of Indian life is lived within sight of the tracks or the station, and often next to the tracks, or inside the station. It is not only part of Indian culture, but it is an ingredient in Indian life; it is dynamic, energetic, powerful. It is impossible to imagine India without the railway, or to think what could conceivably replace it.” -Paul Theroux, The Imperial Way