Free e-book captures the minutiae of offbeat rail travel

Like most, Bharath Moro grew up with a strong sense of the romance of the Indian Railways, associated as they are with holidays, window seats, beautiful views, and the array of edible items on sale through the journeys. All this, and more, is captured in Trackside, a collection of railway stories written by him, released online as a free e-book earlier this month.

Trackside is likely to be a railway enthusiast’s treat: its 12 anecdotes are full of minute details capturing the experience of train travel, from the interminable waiting for delayed trains to chance encounters with strangers.

Simultaneously, the collection tries to consciously move beyond the sense of romance; Mr. Moro points out there was no romance in train travel for daily commuters or the staff of the railways. So you encounter Yadaiah, a 56-year-old gangman, who walks up and down the tracks ensuring that nuts and bolts are in place. Another such encounter is with Rupa, a coal scavenger who is so poor she must eat mud for dinner on some days.

Off the map

All the places described in Trackside have railway history or significance, or are something offbeat, says Mr. Moro. For instance, Jharkhand isn’t on most people’s tourist maps. “But for the interested traveller, there is so much to see and learn,” he says.

The Bangalore-based author decides on the destinations for his travel by picking up an atlas and thumbing pages.

There’s only one other criterion: it must not be a tourist haven. “So despite being major railway places, Agra, Jodhpur, Bikaner and Goa were discarded in favour of Koraput, Jharsuguda, Vijayawada and Bodinayakannur,” he writes in the preface.

He admits that he hopes the book will inspire readers in small ways to travel to obscure locations, “and learn how it is for people who live at the margins of society.”

Cogs in the wheel

Another hope is that people gain some insights into how the Railways are run, into “the people who form important cogs in the wheel”, he says.

Mr. Moro, who works at a travel startup, says he compiled the digital book as something of an experiment, which is why the book is available for download free of cost from his website purisubzi.in

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