This is the first book by the author of Tamarind City, and you can see that the author has grown in his writing from first to the second book.

I love the subject of the book, railway junctions or the cities that are hubs for trains criss-crossing through them. These small towns are known only for the giant railway junctions that they have, many passengers cross them, stroll on their platforms and move on. They never step out of the railway station so the only image they carry of these places is that of the interior of the railway station, or the platform to be precise. Some of these towns have emerged around the railways with a large portion of the population being railway employees living in their colonies and the rest of the town kind of servicing them along with providing a service backbone to station.

Author takes this unique journey to these towns surrounding the famous railway junctions in North India and some in South India. In the North he covers Mughal Sarai, Jhansi, Itarasi and in South he visits Guntakal, Arakkonam, Jolarpettai & Shoranur. Bulk of the book talks about the North Indian towns and I think that is also because they are the bigger junction handling many more trains and hence passengers. In each of the towns he finds the railway station as the epicenter of activity.

Author follows a pattern where he lands in the station and then tries to locate a hotel around it, which becomes a story in itself as it tells a lot about the town and brings out the sharp contrast with the established cities. He walks into the by lanes of these towns, gorges on the street food while explaining the scene of the food to you and tries to talk to a people on the street and extract stories of the place. He tries to locate any old heritage building that may exist and if he finds one, he tries to see is there are any stories the place has to tell. Invariably every place has some stories, some historical connection. In the process he ends up meeting old men in town, who have seen say pre-independence days or have played some small part in its history. He tries to figure out how the place got its name, a kind of question that people of the city / towns probably have never bothered to ask themselves or their ancestors.

Journalist card and contacts help the author is each of the places, but I guess it is his inquisitiveness that makes all the difference.  His ability to share his own stories from his childhood and his habits while travelling bring in the personal touch to the travelogue that would otherwise be very dry and bland. His curiosity that takes him to strangers table or invites someone to his table in a restaurant or a bar for the sake of company as well as tales of the town.

Between the two sections he brings out the contrast between South Indian towns and North Indian ones, former being cleaner and their people being more predictable, but not as vibrant. He talks about his feeling at home when he meets a Tamil tourist group in Jhansi – an emotion that I completely connect with as a North Indian living in South India.

Not as polished as his second, still a very unique kind of journey that takes you to towns you have heard, you have stepped foot into but never bothered to see beyond the station, makes it an interesting read.

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https://www.anureviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Chai-Chai.jpghttps://www.anureviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Chai-Chai-150x150.jpgAnuradha GoyalBook ReviewsTravelThis is the first book by the author of Tamarind City, and you can see that the author has grown in his writing from first to the second book. I love the subject of the book, railway junctions or the cities that are hubs for trains criss-crossing through them. These...Book Reviews by Anuradha Goyal