Two Stations

This blog is spread over two towns in two parts of the country. Santiniketan, in the east and Bhilwara, on the west. Culturally, geographically and also demographically, the two regions have nothing in common but are connected by a thin thread of a traveler.

The charm of the old world

Santiniketan is a cultural and intellectual town, which is known for its university. It’s also the hometown of Rabindranath Tagore, a poet, artist and writer, who is known worldwide. Throughout this sleepy town, you will meet with artists and writers, poets and singers who would be more than happy for a conversation over a cup of lemon tea. This conversation over a cup or cups of tea is called an adda. Sit on a cycle rickshaw and ride through the streets!

Cycle Rickshaws are still the main mode of travel

Though the purpose of the trip was to see some art, it was the journey back to Calcutta, which I remember. The station, small and sleepy, was brightly covered by a mural and I could hear Bengali songs playing all around. I may not understand the language but I knew that it wasn’t Movie songs which they were singing, but songs of patriotism and devotion. There was a hypnotic melody which even an outsider like me would get captivated in.

Be inspired!

I wandered around the station for a while. A man stood at the foot over bridge looking into emptiness. Maybe looking for an inspiration or waiting for someone to return. A sign, which mentioned an eating hall and its delicacies invited me, only to see that it was still under construction. The train soon announced its arrival.

The Non-Existent Diner

The train journey itself is filled with hawkers and singers. Many people came selling lemon tea (which I assure you is tasty) or Jhaal-mudi, a snack made of spices and puffed rice. Another must to try. But what one must do, is to listen to the many singers who come to entertain the travelers. And they are not aggressive. If you’ve enjoyed it, pay what you wish. My co-passenger requested him to sing a particular song and the musician earnestly performed. So well he performed that the patron had tears in his eyes. Not only he got a financial reward but also a hug, which I also felt meant more to him.

Tears in Heaven

On another hot summer day, I traveled to Bhilwara. It’s a tiresome journey as it involves a connection and practically no services like food on the train. But the people you meet provide enough food for thought. Mr.Mukesh, an engine driver, was my co-passenger and was on his way to Bhilwara, from where he would take control of a goods train. A father of four and settled in Ajmer, Mukesh spends most of his time on rail. He is upset about the fact that the personal life is non-existent as he misses out on weddings and festivals and also misses spending time with his children. Given a chance, he is willing to sacrifice everything to be with his family but then he is also the sole bread earner.

Mr.Mukesh- The driving force behind Indian Railways

Is it exciting-driving a train and enjoying the beauty of the country? Exciting, no, it’s not. There are always two good months and then two bad ones. The engines are not air-conditioned and thus are a furnace in the summers. In winters, they turn into a freezer and in monsoons damp. All the time you are inhaling smoke and dust, so the drivers are more prone to diseases. Even though there is not much to do now after the automation of the engines, but drivers need to be alert and they need to hear, see and smell any problems. Many a times, animals wander over on the tracks and then there is no options but to run them over as the train usually fails to stop on time. It’s not an easy job at all.

A retired railway officer still spends his time at the Station

Another man on Side Upper Berth constantly spoke on the phone and loud enough for everyone to hear his family problems. I pray for his happiness and that he is invited back into his family from both paternal and maternal side.

We soon arrived at Bhilwara and went on in our separate  directions. He was taking over a goods train and I was a vagabond, a ghummakkad who was looking for more experiences. At the ticket counter, don’t miss it out the amazing Phad painting above the counter, which has been painted by the famed Joshi family of Bhilwara.

Phad-Bhilwara's Own

A Phad is a horizontal scroll which narrates the story os Pabuji and Devnarayanji, two local deities. At the first glance, it is impossible to figure out the narrative as there are million figures in different sizes, various horses and elephants at war and a couple of deities. To understand if the Phad (which means cloth) is of Devnarayan’s or Pabuji’s, simply look at the biggest figure in the painting. In front of the Pabuji figure is a spear and in front of a Devnarayan is a snake. A Ganesha is always painted at the top left corner at the start of the painting and then come the Vishu Dasavatar in the case of Devnarayan. The rest of the scroll talks about a story which moves in all direction depending on the location where the event took place. To understand that, you need to experience the narrative given by the bhopa ( the narrator) who sings out the story with the only light coming from a diya (oil-lamp). The tradition is quickly ending and the bhopas are now seen performing outside commercial establishments in Rajasthan.

Time to think and plan my next travel

India is a country of stories and the best way to experience it is through the Indian Railways. You will meet and see people who would open their hearts out and tell you about their version of this country. Sometimes, their tips are also very handy, so keep your eyes and ears tuned in. The railway station is a bustling place to spend some time and soak in the atmosphere, especially if it’s a small town. It is the centre of all action when the train comes and then for hours remains deserted, waiting for the next lot of ghummakkads.

This entry was published on June 14, 2011 at 06:27. It’s filed under India, Photography, Railways, Travel, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

83 thoughts on “Two Stations

  1. very very nice 🙂

  2. Tabby pm on said:

    traveling on trains it’s a great experience, nice Indian ride shots…

  3. Beautiful images. This is one of the primary reasons I enjoy blogging so much: getting to share experiences I’d never seen/heard of/imagined before.

    Thank you!



  4. Amazing photos, so colorful and vibrant.

  5. Cool pics! I’ve been on a rickshaw before, though not the cycle kind. The area I visited didn’t have those…

    • Hey thanks! You have an interesting blog as well. I agree with some on the blog but the major addition after marriage are the number of jokes that float around!

  6. I love train journeys and so it was a great experience reading your post.

    I have written few posts related with the world of trains.


    Have a look at these articles.

    -Arvind K.Pandey

  7. Great pictures. Vivid images. I loved how you have used the ‘Ghumakkads’ and through them showed the true way of exploring India. India is truly an experience.

  8. its so different culture n feeling from our modern home in world~…

  9. Beautiful photos. I love the colors in the non-existent diner’s sign. Who could ever resist a yellow and green diner sign?!

  10. heavens! I never see things like this on my travels:) Thanks for sharing

  11. Great post and what a wonderful adventure you are on. Love the last post. The thinking chair. Congrats on Freshly Pressed.

    • Hi Jennifer, I didn’t know I was on ‘freshly pressed’. Only after reading your comment I realized that and its a good feeling. I was in Italy two years ago and loved every bit of it. I am a pizza fan and I think Naples and Capri had the best!

  12. Nice pics, thanks for sharing your expierences 🙂

    • Appreciate your feedback! I saw some camels on your blog. Where was that? Northern Africa?

      • It was in Egypt, 3 weeks ago 🙂 I have a lot of more pics of Egypt, Tunisia and my life. If you have the time for I would be happy if you would have a look at my blog again.


      • I had recently seen a documentary on Paul Klee and the two weeks he spent in Tunisia, thats how I figured it. It on my mind to travel to these places and I hope I will too one day. I re-visited your blog and enjoyed the pictures.

  13. the best part of travel is meeting and talking to the locals. great post!

    • Its all about the people. We are sometimes so afraid to talk to a stranger but it could be delightful once you start doing it! Unfortunately, my stomach doesnt allow trials in food- miss eating all the street food! Good blog!

  14. I saw a great documentary on Indian railways…. and how it really is a one common thread in such a diverse country, Your pics are stunning!

  15. I loved your pics and your narrative. Congrts on being pressed.

  16. thor27 on said:

    Interestig microcosmic peek into the culture. Nice pics I like the blog. Come visit mine sometime.

  17. Loved the pics. Looks like an amazing experience.

  18. so beautiful. what camera did u use?

    • I have been using a Nikon D70 for the last five years. It’s one of the most popular models they took out. I love it though this year, I would need to upgrade!

  19. Mary on said:

    Nice pictures!

  20. Great shots. Natural flow of a story. Get some video clips on the next journey. You might give us interesting films.

    • Thanks a lot! I have been thinking of Moving images for a while now but for some reason always come back to my love i.e. still. Will keep you in mind in case I ever do a film.

  21. Some great photos here but I like your intro even more- the only thread connecting the two locations is your travel. Something to think about.

    • Isn’t that the only thread anyways. Take a map and mark the two cities and draw a line. That line is the traveler and I hope that I can make many of such lines!
      Saw your blog. I loved Prague. Beautiful city. Unfortunately, my camera was stolen on that trip!

  22. Really enjoyed the photos and your guiding us through them .. Cheers! MJ

    • Thanks MJ! Lots more to share in the coming months! A folk artist , who paints on her life, was asked about how long will she keep painting her life. I loved her response, ” As long as I am alive, I am stories to tell.” I do hope I can live up to that!

  23. Great pictures and lovely descriptions! Keep travelling and give us more beautiful blogs to read.

  24. Blake on said:

    These pictures are great!

  25. hey, what a artistic photos. i love them. also the story u’ve written.. it makes me imagine that im there ..

    • Thats the idea! I do hope ti inspire people to come to India and experience this beautiful country. I always wanted to study photography so I guess my passion for shooting comes from there. Am glad you liked it!

  26. Beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing!

  27. maza aa gaya yar 😉

  28. india is one one of the country i would like to visit before i die. now i’m in school. after grad, i come…not to travel..maybe to live there for awhile..
    nice post!

  29. Thank you for sharing this. I was thinking of going to India. I don’t have to think anymore.
    Great pictures too. 🙂

  30. Hey thanks so much for reviving the memories from back home !! I miss all the vibrancy and colors..and the hustle bustle and the evryday small stories tat makes our nation so special and guess every Indian carries it within wherever we are..Keep posting ! Happy blogging !

  31. and yes.. CONGRATS on being FP !

  32. hey i belong to kolkata …so got instantly connected to your post…

    loved it…awesome 🙂

  33. A very evocative post, Ghumakkad.
    On the topic, try and get your hands on this book called ‘Chai, Chai’ by Bishwanath Ghosh. This is a book on stations you pass through (especially back in the day when you had to alight at certain junctions and then take a connecting train). A very different travelogue. Brings all sorts of images in your mind.

    Please keep up the good work

  34. Lovely post, Ghumakkad. And congratulations on being freshly pressed. 🙂

  35. I have never seen a blog by an Indian writer featured on freshly pressed. Congratulations. 🙂

    Loved your post, and more so because I have been to Santiniketan. As for Bhilwara, still need to connect that thread.

    • You made my day by saying that! Though I am sure there are many Indians who have featured of FP. Nice blog you have! Looking forward to receiving notifications from you!

  36. It feels so good to read about India, as I am an Indian.

  37. Lovely post. I spent time in West Bengal recently and took the overnight train from Kolkata up to the final stop before the Himalayan foothills. Your descriptions capture the colour and feel of the place beautifully and you write very well. More please

    • A compliment coming from someone who has studied at Cambridge and that too in English Literature. I always say my English is quite bad and I just write what I feel. Thank you so much for encouraging me! I hope you enjoyed your stay in Calcutta. The next two posts are also on calcutta so I do hope that you follow the blog.
      My best to you!

  38. when I think of India, I think of Three Idiots of Aamir Khan!
    This is lovely!

  39. wonderful post… nice perspective…

  40. India is truly amazing!. Your post just proves that.

  41. lively colours…very vivid…but my fav. shot is the b$w one of the chair….i hope you really do plan a new trip so that we again get to see more interesting visuals!!!cheers!

  42. Bicycles are best…when you don’t have a bunch of luggage to tow.

  43. A captivating story with a soul. Your journey is remarkable. Thanks for sharing. Congrats.

  44. triforceconsultingservices on said:

    I like your blog. Specially all photographs it’s really awesome.

  45. I love India.
    Great blog and Congrats!

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