Around India in 80 Trains

Twenty years after leaving India for England with her family (for the second time) Monisha Rajesh, as an adult, decides to see India her  own way.

In a twist on Jules Verne's tale, she decides to do it by train, using eighty of them as her  means of transport. She chooses a friend to accompany her who, as a 'militant devout atheist'doesn't always fit the ethos of this  multi-religion country, causing endless friction between them. Understandably her mood plummets more than once too. The book could have been subtitled 'India or Bust!'. Nevertheless they gamely haul their backpacks on and off this formidable number of trains and somehow make it around the country.

India has a vast variety of rail transport she found - often crowded, sometimes dirty and possibly dangerous, but never boring. Her account rattles along between the eighty chosen cities, covering an amazing 40,000 kilometres of track and providing a unique perspective on travel in India.

Indian railways carry over twenty million passengers every day and is one of the largest civilian employers in the world, featuring luxury trains, toy trains, Mumbai's infamous commuter trains, and even a hospital on wheels.

This book is an ideal armchair read, for those too nervous to try such a journey, or with sufficient time. The book's view through a train window is alluring and informative, and within the carriage there is even more to learn and experience.

Others, though, may find the story of Rajesh's adventure seductive enough to race off immediately and buy a ticket to India and then (laboriously, as the book shows) purchase tickets on the various trains to replicate at least part of her trip.

Around India in 80 Trains,  by Monisha Rajesh, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2012, paperback. Keep up with Monisha Rajesh.....

- reviewed by Sally Hammond

 

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