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Vishesh Unni Raghunathan

By Premola Ghose
Year 2016, pp. 135, Rs. 795.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 11 November 2016

Train journeys are always fascinating, especially in India. The Indian railways are the arteries of the country—they traverse the length and breadth of the nation carrying passengers and goods, all the connecting distant places past myriad drastically different landscapes—no two stations are the same, no two routes look similar. A journey in a train teaches you not just about the people, it also teaches you about geography, culture and heritage when you look out of its windows. And for children the coveted window seat brings unbound joy as the wind ruffles their hair, and everything is fascinating and new. The Kangra Valley Train is one of the two mountain trains in Himachal Pradesh, the other being the more popular Shimla train. The train starts at Pathankot Junction in Punjab and saunters along Joginder Nagar in around nine hours. The book written and illustrated by Premola Ghose along with a few illustrations by others and photographs by Ram Rahman covers the history of not just the railway line, but the stories, legends, culture, traditions and the past of the places along the route, and even a few detours. Travel writing is a tough form—words can never quite capture the essence of a place, and photographs never seem as beautiful as the place is actually. Long winding descriptions of places can not only leave the reader confused, but also feeling lost in unfamiliar locales. The best writers of this genre learn to narrate a story, which isn’t just about places, but about the people, their way of life and the culture which is nurtured and refined over a period of time. The descriptions are crisp, relatable and paint a picture. Premola Ghose does a masterful job in taking us on a journey through one of India’s most beautiful regions. She tells us stories of kings and rulers, wars and forts along with art forms which came to define the places. We learn not only through her narration but also through snippets spread across the book. We cover temples from the idol less Jwalamukhi to the Marsur which legend has it that it came to inspire the Angkor Vat, and and Tibetian monasteries in and around Dharamshala and McLeodganj. The writer also weaves in quotes from historical accounts and books to add to the narration. Photos by Ram Rahman tell a story of their own. We not only ...

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