On my most memorable (and longest) train trip through India my poor friend had food poisoning... it was a 27 hour journey. Each time the train stopped she rushed to the bathroom. I on the other hand, didn’t pack a blanket and spent the night completely numb from the cold.
On the train there’s little to do but watch life go by. The windows open so you get fresh air which lets you experience both the sites and smells of the outside world. If it wasn’t for catching the trains I would have missed seeing a lot of distinctions of everyday life and culture which can be so easily overlooked when travelling.
From the window I watched the cows in the streets. More often than not there was rubbish on and around the train track. Driving through the slums I witnessed mountains of garbage where bare footed children with tattered clothing and knotted hair played. The make shift houses were formed from sheet metal and various items including tires and sheets which housed large families. Beside the people, inhabitants included animals such as chickens, cows, goats and wild pigs. They existed harmoniously. The slum was a community formed by circumstance. It was in a slum that I witnessed for the first (but not the last time) a small boy in dirty clothing with his older sister pooping in the middle of the open space.
Through the countryside farmers ploughed lush green tea plantations. The women adorned themselves in bindis and saris as they transported goods via baskets on their heads or laboured in the fields. There was a carefree elegance in the way that they dressed which contrasted the harshness of the farming lifestyle and stood out against the never ending green behind them.
In a small city a recently deceased person laid lifeless across the road. What was a person so quickly became a corpse who’s face was obscured a blood covered shirt. Although this wasn’t the first dead body I passed in India it was the most shocking and graphic. Blood spilt from the head in a thick mess. The lifelessness of the being was permanently burnt into my brain my only reaction was to gasp. I still wonder about how it happened, about his family, his name and how fleeting life is.
Transit views project a a window into everyday life. A glance of someone doing laundry, playing cards or farming humanises other people and cultures. It makes you realise we’re not all that different. When you see something incredible, shocking or disturbing the train doesn’t stop driving. It is up to you to get off during the journey rather than just the destination.