Railonama - Unforgettable train stories by Anupama Sharma
My memories of trains travel several years back into childhood and college days, just like everyone else’s probably do. Those were the days when I travelled annually, sometimes even more frequently, and a rail journey was not only the most convenient and financially viable mode, but also eagerly anticipated. I regained that excitement back again after 5 years when I took a train journey with my husband almost a year back. It was totally enthralling and full of all the usual fun filled moments, from sipping the extra sweet tea to playing cards. These memorabilia moments added up to the enthusiasm of reviewing Railonama.
What made me want to get my hands on this book was its name- Railonama, and as I love to travel, I was sure something in this travelogue would interest me. When I started reading, I knew for the fact, the anecdotes might connect to a train journey and cover up tiny things like hurriedly catching a train, waiting for the TTE to confirm your RAC ticket or sipping on to a varied tea cuppa which changes with every other station, and to my bewilderment, I have found each element present. The stories are diverse; some are very emotional and make you feel connected, some funny and light hearted and some simply bizarre. To break the monotony of the narratives, there are poems, short but conveying something very tender, that you feel amazed of how perfectly a feeling has been wrapped up in some lines.
I surely have some favorites this time too, not characters, but the stories. 'Morning magic', filled me up with the exact feeling of how I would want my train mornings to be, it was descriptive enough to shift me in that zone where I actually understood what the feeling would be like if my mornings were as perturbed as that of Renuka. 'A very special passenger' left me patriotically excited at the thought of seeing Mahatma Gandhi. Just when I was reading through the pages, in my sub-conscious mind I thought- how come there is no story about an army man- and there it was- a calm army personnel taking a long journey to Ahmedabad in 'The passenger to Ahmedabad' , having a different companion throughout the travel and the solitude when he gets off at his destination. 'The human face of the Indian Railways' totally showed me a mirror image of myself in Dilshad, who desperately waits for the tea vendor, and continuously keeps asking the attendants of his arrival. One such description was totally unbelievable -'A forgetful mind and unforgettable journeys'- I was amazed at how a particular journey earns you friends special enough to care and maintain the camaraderie throughout life. Leaving aside the Indian railways, the picture was well painted for the Mumbai locals too; the lifeline of the city, and it definitely reminded me of my days of travel in the bustling city. While these stories impressed me and I could connect to something or the other, some others left me completely blank, not because of the incidents but various other reasons- either the emotional quotient was missing, literary upbeat was required or they were less expressive. 'Jab we met' had a very sweet plot and I was looking forward to it but before I could start connecting to it, it ended, whereas I really wanted to read the expressive prose of it. Overall, while some stories have struck the right chords, some have disappointed as well, but the connection to the Indian Railways was apt throughout the book, which keeps the book on the right track.
I certainly recommend Railonama as it is a light read, but you will unquestionably find yourself connecting to it, and end up thinking in your mind- "Oh! This has happened to me." with a content smile, reminiscing your rail travel days. Anupama Sharma, the author, has excelled in trapping the appropriate emotions and sentiments towards Indian Railways in the form of stories, so the readers will associate more with the journey of reading the book, instead of reaching the end, and read from heart rather than mind. So, go grab your copy now!
It is good to have an end to the journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
- Ernest Hemingway