Book Review: Railonama - Anupama Sharma

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The railways have been my life ever since I left the cocooned world of school days and entered the “grown up” world. So when I came across a post mentioning the review of a book on Railways, I immediately jumped at the opportunity (I was already in a train while I read the post!). Anyone who has come to India cannot miss (and shouldn't) spiderlike reach of the Indian railways. “Railonama” by Anupama Sharma is a compilation of the brilliant (and sometimes not so brilliant) experiences that people have had on the railways over the years.

As soon as you see the book, you are (atleast I was) charmed by its old-school steam engine cover art which is just a sweet snippet of the goodness that’s present inside. I have a little confession, I decided when I saw the book that the only way to honor the stories in it was to read it on the trains, so the entire book was read over a span of four days while I commuted to and from work. The book has short stories which have been submitted to the author who has curated the best ones for us. Every story is unique and gives you a little rail-like experience. Just like a train journey, where you meet and befriend strangers, share a small time of their lives and then move on to the next destination, the bite-sized stories give us a similar experience. In many of the stories, I could imagine the scenes described unfolding in front of my eyes. Lets be honest, I’ve even seen some of these, lived them, in a way, during my time on the railways. I still remember the time when I asked a lady not to throw trash from the compartment window, and while like one of the stories, I didn't really ever see the lady again, I felt I could relate to the writer.

Some of the stories, written by visitors from other countries to India, give a fresh insight into how the world perceives us. Truly, we’ve become so used to the craziness that’s associated with railways stations, but then when you read something written by an outsider, you realize it is a shock to the system.

Another thing the book puts forth extremely well is the hospitality. Over the years, with the advent of technology, I've noticed that the companionship that complete strangers have on the trains has been replaced by Ipods and cellular phones. However, its stories where you see a person show kindness to a stranger, just because they have a sad demeanor, or a person who notices that a fellow traveler hasn't eaten since boarding and offers some of their meager fare to them. These are the stories that we never hear but they are the ones that show the true colors of India. There’s a particular story about a little boy and his chocolates which is one of my favorites (I may have a couple or more) and I think I’ll forever remember it as something quite commonplace but magical. Trains give you the freedom to forge new relationships, some, last a lifetime, some, just for the duration of the journey. If you read the stories carefully, you’ll realize they aren't just about a journey with some interesting anecdotes, they are about the basic nature of people in our country. Over the long journey through the country, while you observe the changing landscapes, food and cultures, you realize that the inherent feeling is the same, anywhere you go, you will definitely find a people who are always willing to help. People who will never gain anything by helping you, but they still do, because you’re taking this journey together. I don’t think this is found in other places in the world. For every story you read about someone trying to cheat a foreigner to a particular place, you’ll find about three which show you that not everyone is trying to cheat you. There’s something for every mood and I appreciate how it reflect the multi-faceted culture that we have and which can be best experience in a cross-country train journey.

This book is a must read for anyone who has ever felt a kinship to the Indian railways. I for one, have always been in a love-hate relationship with them and greatly appreciate the subtle nuances of train travel captured in this book! The train is a microcosm that will let you experience true India, so if you can’t take the journey in person, this book is an excellent way of enjoying the journey from the confines of your cosy home.

Name: Railonama
Author: Anupama Sharma
Publisher: Good Times Books Pvt. Ltd

My Rating: 4.5/5

PS: The writer will be donating ALL of her proceeds from the book to the needy in India. So I suggest you get it now!! BUY on FLIPKART or AMAZON


This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

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