Chai, Chai:Travels In Places Where You Stop But Never Get Off by Bishwanath Ghosh

Anyone who loves traveling by train will be lying if they say they haven't looked forward to the sometimes watery, sometimes milky, but always addictive chai! I have tasted some of the worst chai in trains or at stations, but that doesnt stop me from eagerly looking forward to the call of the chai-wallahs. And this insane, inexplicable love is what made me pick this book up in the first place.

Now over to the book:Have you heard of Itarsi or Guntakal? Most likely you would have, whether you are a train junkie or not.
What is the first word that comes to your mind when someone mentions these places? 9 out of 10 would say "Railway station" and atleast 5 out of 10 would have passed through these junctions (or other such junctions) at one time or the other.
These, and many other such junctions are embedded into our minds since this is where you would have filled water, had oily snacks, stepped out onto the platform to stretch your legs or changed trains, but almost never to get off and go into the town beyond the station. But have you ever wondered what sort of a town/city lay outside the railway stations of these rather famous junctions? If you have a 5 hour wait at Mumbai Central, you would have walked out and "explored" the city, but would you do the same at Itarsi or Guntakal (where you are more likely to spend 5 hours waiting for the next train)? I am sure it did not even cross your mind!

And that exactly is what Bishwanath is out to figure. The book is free flowing and takes you along, as he explores what lies outside these sacred railway station precincts and finds, more often than not, a small town that is quite different from the hustle bustle of its railway station, with little other than the railway station to claim fame. From shady hotels to dinghy bars, from helpful auto-wallahs to suspicious locals, the towns are as similar as they are different.
While Biswanaths writing makes for an easy read, it is not a conventional travel tale. He does try to make it one, adding well researched tid-bits and often looking for the uncoventional (in true traveller style), but the subject lacks the scope to make it compelling enough for the reader.
A good attempt, but the book ends up falling short of making it to your reading list!


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Sophie Grace said...

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