Travel Book Review: Life in Local Train by Paresh Godhwani
Life in Local Train by Paresh Godhwani is on a subject dear to my hear- trains. I’m fond of them and even more of local trains. They are a godsend in Bombay. However, Paresh travels on local trains in Gujarat which is a longer and more arduous journey. Read on for the full travel book review.
Paresh covers a gamut of subjects- from rushing to establish a rhythm of catching the right train from the right platform to beggars- people we’ve all encountered on trains.
I was not sure what memu trains are in the beginning- an explanation earlier on would have been nice, but Paresh does explain the full form later. Didn’t know the colors on a train coach indicate it’s for ladies! Colors are a shortcut to reading- never thought that would be helpful in catching trains.
Next, Paresh touches on a somber topic- death by train. In Calcutta also, many people try to commit suicide by throwing themselves in front of a Metro train.
His categorization of people on the train could also work for the most part for those of us who travel every day to work in Ola Share or Uber Pool. I sit with my feet up for the hour I have to commute, so I’m guilty of falling in the Those who Think They Own the Vehicle category!
Through local trains, Paresh touches on many pressing social, societal and sociological issues, like groupism and untouchability. Filth of course is a reality while traveling in India. His tale of jumping to get in the train after stopping for a snack while remind you of a similar adventure you are sure to have done.
Thieves and robberies are another aspect of trains everyone identifies with. Paresh also narrates a love story that happens, which is sure to remind you of the many Hindi and Hollywood movies which have a similar setting.
He touches on changes happening in India and trains, like the metro. Much like a local train, the book ambles along, without a goal. It’s all about the journey. The TC escapade is fun. Paresh and his commuters do a cost benefit analysis to decide whether to pay the fine or not!
Sharing sensitive political views on the train is risky as the dissidents have nowhere to go. Egos can get out of hand and fisticuffs can result. The Indian tradition of jugaad appears when railway authorities would rather change a train’s name every hundred kilometres than provide sanitation facilities.
The commuter community is united in a price rise protest. Traveling by train is a social activity, whether you like it or not. Paresh also shows us vendors who do experience marketing. They become brands, differentiating themselves, raising emotions in people. That’s what they have in common, although they sell a range of unrelated things- peanuts, books, jewelery.
This book is a light read, at 78 pages. Read it to feel nostalgic about the train journeys you took in childhood, or to identify with it if you commute by train. Trains are a microcosm of India and you will get to know your fellow countrymen better after reading this book. Download it here. Here’s another non-fiction book review.