Wherever a train goes in this country, chances are that I have been there. And in those hundreds of journeys across thousands of kilometers I have come across uncountable men, women and children some of whom have left an indelible impression on my being. I was lucky enough to capture some on my camera but a vast majority of them are out there is some corner of this country, going about their business – oblivious to the fact that there is a soul grateful for the short moment that they crossed his life.
The water carrier of Titlagarh Junction
The August air was heavy with the monsoon’s weight. Underneath the tin platform canopy, the mid day heat was stewing those waiting for their trains. An old man, his back bent by the load on his shoulders walked from person to person offering them water and a kind word. He took no money for the bottles he filled or the thirsts he quenched. He bore no smile, nor any sadness. But the lines that creased his face were like the map of his life.
The Runaways of Patadrdih
The huge Patardih yard lay in ruins. A busy mining town laid waste by fire. Among the lumbering hulks of rusted, decaying coaches and equipment lived two boys, not very different from Oliver Twist and Jack Dawkins. They did odd jobs at the station, cleaning the coaches with the shirts on their backs, braving the constable’s lathi and getting high on paint thinner. Yet they were happier than most people I know, including myself.
The Doe Eyed Beauty of Araku
She crouched by the window, peering out – fascinated by the ethereal beauty of the Eastern Ghats. The constant whirr of camera shutters broke her reverie. She turned and looked at me. And her eyes took away my breath.
The Pink Lady of Zawar
She stood there, resplendent in Pink among the brown dust of the Thar. She had a question, the answer to which no one had. She walked from window to window, door to door asking the same thing over and over again. She asked me too, and I didn’t have an answer either. She left the station. I think her heart was broken. So was mine.
The Villupuram Maami
An old lady sat on a blue bench at Villupuram. She knew everyone, and everyone knew her. Passerby stopped to talk to her. She had a kind word for them all, and a smile. She liked her betel nut and her coffee. She had a thing or two to say to those littering the platform. I think she had seen almost everything life had to offer. I think she had the Buddha in her.
The man who had put up his feet…
Life is like a train. It takes you from start to finish. You can either be busy in driving the train or choose to be a part of it and watch the world go past you.