The Kangra Valley Train by Premola Ghose, Ram Rahman
The Kangra Valley Train by Premola Ghose is an illustrated book. A book that talks about a subject through multiple mediums – text, pictures & illustrations. The subject of this book is Hill train in Kangra Valley or simply The Kangra Valley Train. Let me review this book through each of its elements.
Images in The Kangra Valley Train
Images in The Kangra Valley train are by photographer Ram Rahman.
The cover image is stunning. It can impact your travel plans. A toy train kind of colorful train chugging on its neat and clean railway line with a perfect backdrop of snow clad Himalayas. It almost feels like the train is just walking towards you to pick you up and take you for a dream journey.
Some of the landscape images are stunning – they do port you to the valley of Kangra. Temple images are mostly ok – but then I know that there is not much that a photographer can do with limited access and crowds always being there. Some of the temple pics are stunning like the Masroor Temple and the Vajreshwari Devi temple.
I also liked the pictures of railway passengers in their various moods – mostly busy in their daily routine as if the train is a part of their daily life. This includes the color coded sadhus who are an integral part of the Himalayan valleys.
What I found missing was some important images – like the one of the steel bridge mentioned in the book.
Illustrations in The Kangra Valley Train
There are some illustrations in the book. They seem straight out of a children book. They have a certain vibrancy that comes from the bright colors. There is simplicity that makes them easy to understand.
Text of The Kangra Valley Train
The text is disappointing. There is no story that comes out. It is a random collection of fact from here and there. Dates are all jumbled up and you never make out which era is the author trying to refer to.
I may be a bit biased because I saw a major error on page 1 itself that set the tone for the rest of the book. The 1889 Journal is talking about the 21st-century experience. Is it a date error or an editing error? I do not know but it starts the book with a bad taste. Similarly, on page 107, she jumps from 1927 to 1868 randomly and then goes back and forth. As a reader, I had no sense of time – unless I sit and google everything written about.
It assumes that reader knows Kangra valley. Everything is touched upon but nothing explained. Read the pop-up box on architecture that is in addition to architecture explained in the text. Can you make out anything about the architecture? I could not. Similarly in the food box – is this necessary to write about food if you are only saying there is nothing special and food you get is Punjabi food.
I wanted a lot more on Pahari miniature art and how it is practiced today. I am sure there are more arts & crafts to be spoken about.
It seems the text was written in too much of hurry. There are a lot of spelling mistakes – it is Panjab University and not Punjab – that’s in Lahore. There is absolutely no coherence in language – random sentences put together. They do not even look like the words of a single author.
Images and illustrations randomly mix through the book. Sometimes when I found them on the same page, it was distracting – a kind of break in the flow. I wonder if only images or only illustrations would have been a better choice.
One big thing that I missed out was the Map. It would have put everything else is context. Station names would have got a sequence and readers an orientation of the landscape through which the train traverses. I also missed railway tidbits – except one letter relating to the introduction of toilets in trains – most anecdotes are missing. In fact, there are no anecdotes specifically from the journey of Kangra Valley Train.
I usually do not comment on the price of the book, but at Rs 795/- I find the price quite steep. There are just 135 pages remember. You can finish this book in under an hour that is if you spend a good time admiring the images and the illustrations.
A passionate writer would have done wonders to a book like this.
Pick this book only for some of its images. I am sure you can get much more material about The Kangra Valley Train on Google than in this book.