Rs 250 | pp 214
Travels in Places Where You Stop But Never Get off is a travelogue with a difference. The places that journalist Bishwanath Ghosh travels to are where most of us never venture into: towns linked with childhood memories of eating greasy snacks at the platform, but that seem to be devoid of any history of their own. Ghosh travels to these towns, built for and sustained by the railways, that are always en-route a journey but never anybody’s destination.
This is an intriguing history of the Indian Railways told through the history of these ‘railway towns’. But Ghosh also offers us a glimpse of a changed India by providing us views of these altered towns. Ghosh describes a mill in Guntakal as the “pride” of the town. After a workers’ unrest, the mills came to a standstill. Gradually the unions behind the unrest also disappeared. “No one knows when exactly it died, but it breathed its last one fine morning when people woke up to swanky malls and to the ‘imported’ brands that were out of reach all this while.”
A unique aspect of his narrative is that Ghosh connects the history of these towns to his personal history. In that it becomes a reflective work, where the writer and his subjects are connected through shared memories.
Strangely, women are absent from Ghosh’s narrative and if they are mentioned, it is often in rather sexist terms. Twice, Ghosh observes “buxom” women, one selling railway tickets and another a housewife, and wishes he could spend time with them. Despite such a desire, all of Ghosh’s ‘sources’ in the book are men. What sort of a narrative would it have been had the author been a woman? Would the narratives be the same?