> Photograph > Photo Story  
Himashree Deka and Pampi Rajbongshi
Date of Publish: 2017-06-15

Take a Break. Take a Local Train Journey in Assam

A melodious Zikir crooned by a folk singer with visual impairment soothes the ear. The tune played by him on the Dotara is equally relaxing. The lyrics inspire the passengers to strike a chord with the co-passengers and engage in a free-wheeling discussion.

As the whistling sound of the train horn fades out, the harmonious beats of the Dogor played by another folk singer with visual impairment resonates with the rhythmic sounds made by the train wheels on the rails.

The passengers feel more relaxed and those sitting by the window seats do not miss the opportunity of enjoying the breath-taking view of lush greenery outside as they listen to live melodic music.

The passengers of New Bongaingaon-bound local train that left Guwahati railway station, located in the heart of Assam’s capital city, at 8.30 am, looked quite relaxed. They include office-goers, students, teachers, industry workers, small traders, vegetable vendors, businessmen.

However, they seemed to be enjoying the journey to the fullest perhaps to be energised by the relaxing ambience inside the train coaches and get ready for the day’s routine activities.

The activities in and around Guwahati railway station are no different to most train stations in India. Passengers, their relatives and friends who accompany them either to see off or receive moving in and out of the station.

Rickshaws, auto rickshaws, cabs making their own ways to drop off people. Porters extending a helping hand to carry luggage of passengers for some daily earning from the service. Some in a rush to catch their trains while some finding out space to rest as their train must have been late. The Northeast Frontier Railway run several local train services connecting the state capital with different destinations within the state.

Once the passengers settle on their seats and the train chugs out of the capital city, the vendors boarding at different stations start taking their turn for selling food and utility goods.

Relax, they are not going to offer you stale, spicy food packed in aluminium foils. The vendors sell fresh pineapples, cucumbers and bananas grown by local cultivators. They slice the pineapple, peel and slice the cucumber and add salt and chilly powder in a unique style which only add to the appetite of the passengers.

Sizzling menu offered by the vendors also include fried peanuts, salted whole fried gram, fried green peas, candies. At some stations the vendors offer you Tekeli pitha( steamed rice cake), a traditional ethnic breakfast delicacy in Assam to be relished with a cup of tea as a quick healthy breakfast.

Gauri Kanta Das, an employee of National Insurance Company's branch in Barpeta Road, and a regular traveller of this train, says the train-journey is comfortable as well as less expensive. “We can travel for three months for just Rs.500” – he says.

The passengers offer the food they purchase from the vendors to co-passengers. A minute observation of the salesmanship of the vendors may perhaps help learn few tips on improving communication skills.

Talk to the vendors and they will reveal that these local trains have not only helped them earn their daily bread, the warmth of their bond with the passenger fuels the hearth of humanity. The smiles on their faces say it all. On an average, these vendors earn in between Rs 300 to Rs 600 a day.

Md. Ashraf Ali, a vendor hailing from Barpeta, sells toys, wallets and other utility items regularly earning Rs. 400 to 600 a day. He carries with him a minimum of 10-12kgs of items every day.

“I have been selling these items for the past ten years. Life is much better now compared to the years when I used to toil as a daily wage earner on somebody’s field for Rs 200 a day. I don’t have to sweat as there are fans in the trains and even no worry when it rains. These train has helped me run my family well so far.”

Mor monot Bhed Bhab Nai O Allah ( O Allah. I am not partisan)- the melodic Zikir line crooned by the singer in the New Bongaigaon-Guwahati passenger train to enthral the passengers echoes the most beautiful essence of a local train journey in Assam and you get down at your destination with a wonderful feeling.

Zikir – Popular Assamese devotional song composed by medieval saint Azan Pir.

Dogor – A traditional percussion instrument used in Assamese folk songs

Himashree Deka and Pampi Rajbongshi

( Himashree Deka and Pampi Rajbongshi are students of M. A. (Second Semester) at the Department of Communication and Journalism, Gauhati University. This photo essay has been produced as part of their internship at NEZINE)

Comment


Of traditional headgears and attempts to win heart and minds in hinterlands!
A few poems by Sananta Tanty
Cartoon of the week ( May 1)
MYANMAR - THE LADY WILL HAVE TO WAIT
Struggles of the sandbar people
Breaking the Gender Barrier: Women’s voices in Contemporary Assamese Short Stories
Cartoon of the week (Sept 1)