In 1853 Karl Marx predicted the Indian Railways would foster the growth of parallel industries 'not immediately connected with the railways.' But the most successful industry-which Marx could not possibly have dreamed of-was that of cultural representations of the railways, which began even before the railways, themselves. From Rudyard Kipling to Mark Twain to R.K. Narayan to Ruskin Bond-the aura of Indian trains and railway stations have enchanted many.
What imperialism made opulent, nationalism embraced a swadeshi tool, Partition turned into theaters of the macabre, and the nation's destiny marked for its favorite foster child, came to embody the portable architecture of India's modernity. And, what with iconic railway cinematography from Aradhana (1969), Sonar Kella (1974), Gandhi (1982), Dil Se (1997), or Parineeta (2005), Indian cinema has forged mythical railroads in the national psyche.
The Purveyors of Destiny brings together all these elements together, for the first time, in a book replete with anecdotes from colonial and Indian accounts, the battlefronts of the Indian nationalist movement, Indian cinema, advertisements, and much more, in an ever expanding cultural biography of the Great Indian Railways.
`In this fascinating cultural history, Arup K Chatterjee charts the extraordinary journey of the Indian Railways, from the laying of the very first sleeper to the first post-Independence bogey. It evokes our collective accumulation of those innumerable memories of platform chai and rail-gaadi stories, bringing alive through myriad voices and tales the biography of one of India's defining public institutions.'
- Shashi Tharoor, Author, M.P., Lok Sabha
`The Purveyors of Destiny is a fascinating and well-researched cultural biography of the Indian Railways-those intricate arteries of the soul of India, as have been experienced, written, filmed, and dreamed. We cannot all travel by rail to know India, as Gandhiji did, but we can and should read this book!'
- Tabish Khair, Author, Professor
`Drawing on an impressive repertoire of literature and film, this elegantly crafted biography of the railways takes us on a riveting journey through the cultural history of the Indian nation, from the 1850s to the present. Written with wit and verve, it is a delight to read.'
- Sugata Bose, Author, Professor, M.P., Lok Sabha
`A deeply engaging work that comfortably straddles, and masters, the worlds of academic research and modern nonfiction, offering countless delightful gems of India's railway legends and narratives for the curious reader. Crafted with great skill and a keen understanding of modern culture from the region and beyond...a remarkable achievement!'
- Kaushik Barua, Author
`...a wonderfully eclectic account of the Indian Railways and the vital place they occupy in our cultural history, with memorable moments and motifs from literature, cinema and other elements of our collective imagination. A great train journey, replete with all of the essentials from garam chai and A.H. Wheeler to historic arrivals and departures...'
- Stephen Alter, Author