• Photo essays

    What a beautiful world #4 – The Longest Train Ride

    One of the most fascinating aspects of travel in India, are it’s extensive rail networks. And what better way to explore the diversity of the country, than by getting on board the longest train ride India has to offer. Snaking it’s way from Kanyakumari at the southern tip to Dibrugarh in Assam in the Northeast, train no 15906 is eponymously named the Vivek Express after the revered Indian philosopher Swami Vivekananda. Befitting moniker as well, since the Swami toured the Indian subcontinent extensively, wishing to understanding the conditions prevailing in British ruled India in the late 19th century. National geographic photographer Matthieu Paley got on board the Vivek express and…

  • Karnataka,  Travel Bag

    A road trip following the Kaveri

    The Kaveri (or Cauvery) has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. For peasants and the gentry, it is a source of life and livelihood, for pilgrims it is as sacred as the Ganges and for politicians, it is a pivot that might decide the fate of the next election. For tourists and travelers though, the river can be a source of great inspiration. For it is born in a spring adjoining a temple, been a witness to kingdoms and civilizations of great importance through the ages, it’s waters irrigate the great rice bowl lands of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. A gently flowing river, I have often wondered…

  • Nostalgia

    The lost romance of train travel

    “The trains [in a country] contain the essential paraphernalia of the culture: Thai trains have the shower jar with the glazed dragon on its side, Ceylonese ones the car reserved for Buddhist monks, Indian ones a vegetarian kitchen and six classes, Iranian ones prayer mats, Malaysian ones a noodle stall, Vietnamese ones bulletproof glass on the locomotive, and on every carriage of a Russian train there is a samovar. The railway bazaar with its gadgets and passengers represented the society so completely that to board it was to be challenged by the national character. At times it was like a leisurely seminar, but I also felt on some occasions that…

  • Photo essays

    What a beautiful world #3 – the Nilgiri Mountain Railway

    Nilgiris 1989. John Sullivan, the father of Ootacamund, in a letter to Thomas Munro the future governor of Madras. * This is the finest country ever…it resembles I suppose Switzerland more than any part of Europe…the hills [are] beautifully wooded and [there is a] fine strong spring with running water in every valley. To be fair, Ooty has lost much of its charm to crass commercialization. There are tourists thronging all the roads leading to the hill station and much of the city center. But there are a few experiences that still retain their old world charm, like taking a ride in the decades old Nilgiri Mountain Railway, built by the Britishers…

  • Photo essays

    What a beautiful world ! #2 – Grand Trunk Road

    There can be no doubt about the fact that Steve McCurry is one of the greatest photographers ever. Award winning contributions to leading publications notwithstanding, there is a very humane, down-to-earth appeal that is immediately evident in all his photographs. One of my favorite photo essays are his vignettes of the Grand Trunk Road. This road crisscrosses the Indian subcontinent, stretching from Kabul to Kolkata, and is dripping with history at every turn. Virtually all of these photographs will transport you to a different era, in a different place. Pay attention to the way he captures the proletariat in these places, going about their daily lives, while cinematic scenes unfolding in the background (for e.g., a…

  • Photo essays

    What a beautiful world ! #1 – Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan

    India’s neighbor, and erstwhile inseparable part of the family is no different when it comes to being blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. How naive it is though, to be a tiny part of a massive universe and see more of the differences between us than the similarities. In his series of photo essays from the magical land of Skardu-Baltistan (geographically contiguous with Ladakh and the Tibetan plateau), Bukhari gives us a glimpse of the treasures that his country, Pakistan, has been blessed with. After going through it, there lingers a romantic hope that someday, there will be no borders.   “I was walking on a narrow strip, when a window of a nearby home…