The Indian Railways have historically bound the country, not only by connecting the people and the economy but also by influencing literature and films, a new book says.
"What began as an imperial project to foster colonial industries, transformed during the freedom struggle into an important symbol of our national movement. Gandhiji changed the way people perceived the Railways. Post-colonial literature, cinema and television further changed the cultural narrative of the Railways," said the author Arup K Chatterjee at a function to launch the book.
While the aura of Indian trains and railway stations have enchanted renowned authors like Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, R K Narayan and Ruskin Bond, Karl Marx had also predicted that the Indian Railways would foster the growth of parallel industries not immediately connected with it, Chatterjee and other speakers said during a panel discussion.
Chatterjee, who penned 'The Purveyors of Destiny: A Cultural Biography of the Indian Railways', is an Assistant Professor at Jindal Global Law School which had organised the event.
Shakti Sinha, Director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, released the book saying trains have percolated deep into the national psyche of Indians.
"The Railways represented imperial hierarchies and its penetration into India. Today, trains have percolated deep into the national psyche, and are a part of our identity as a nation. What is a matter of pride for us is that no other country uses train as much as we do. The Indian Railways, in a sense, binds us together, culturally, socially, and economically," Sinha said.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, in a video message, congratulated Chatterjee and said, "I am a book lover and I am extremely happy" with the book. He also congratulated the author and the Vice Chancellor of the O P Jindal Global University "for promoting this kind of meaningful research".
Vice Chancellor C Raj Kumar said he hoped the work will inspire others to think "how big the institutions like the Railways influence societies in a larger context, beyond economics".
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