Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Our first trip on an Indian train

You can have very interesting discussions with Indians on a variety of subjects, like religion, culture, society… There are however certain topics that it is better not to touch if you don’t want the conversation to catch fire and get stuck.

Indians in fact become extremely sensitive and nationalistic on certain topics. One of these is the English colonization and its legacy. You can easily discuss for hours on whether the English did anything good for this country or not without reaching any consensus.

So, while it is pointless to argue whether the Indian railway system has been developed thanks to the British or whether the Indian would have developed it anyhow, it is undeniable that this network is impressive for its extension and capillarity.

We had our first experience on an Indian train to go from Varkala to Alleppey. 108 Km, 2h 20 minutes (+ 50 minutes delay). Almost as fast as my scooter…

Picture: "Find the intruders" (Tip: look for those without moustaches...)


  1. well, you don't know half of it - large numbers of Indian historians have spent their lives (and theses) discussing the very question and not concluding!!!

    Incidentally, did you know why the British launched the railway system in India? It was to prevent another 1857 like revolt. They needed a way to move armies and materials around the country quickly in case of another such case.

    Anyway, inspired by your posts, I am reading up a little more of the history of my own country, especially the politics after independence, which is a time usually forgotten, and since this period has great significance in terms of economic policies (Keynesian, planned economy vs. market/export oriented) is also very interesting.

  2. happy to have inspired you... :)

    and thanks for following our blog, you keep us company! ;)

  3. chiara gave me "in asia" by tiziano terzani to read while i was coming back to italy. terzani is a journalist who spent the most of his life in asia as correspondent for a german newspaper.. well i've discovered that this book is totally inconmprehensible for me because i don't know a single event of the asian history (what a shame!!!). For sure this trip has incouraged me to open my mind also to another part of the world (after Eclipse, of course!!!)

  4. Recently I asked Matt if he knows the novel "A passage to India" written by Edward Morgan Foster (the same who wrote "A room with view").
    I could listen (and appreciate) this novel read at radio a couple of months ago, and in it is described a trip on an indian train (about a century ago).
    I think that this novel is a good way, for us living in Europe, to be introduced into indian mind and world. I like to add that there is also a nice movie directed by David Lean taken from the above novel, I could see some years ago.

  5. we take note of all your suggestions, and (little by little) we promise to read/watch them all...

  6. Assicurarsi Che Eclipse Sarà il prossimo Mathilde .. ;)

  7. don't know why google has translated (in very bad english) my post...
    sure that Eclipse will be the next one for Mathilde!.. ;)

  8. ah, in effetti mi chiedevo che cosa volessi dire...

  9. Hi
    The British were very selfish in building institutions in India. They only built the railways and the telegraph system which facilitated their rule. They only introduced enough modern education to fill their ranks of native administrators.
    A telling statistic is what they did to Indian industry. During the peak of the Mughal empire, India accounted for roughly 30% of world GDP, according to some estimates.
    At independence, in 1947, it accounted for barely 1/10th of 1%.
    Question for you. What were the British doing in India then?
    The majority of Indian industry, educational institutes and infrastructure has been built after independence. The British just exploited the peasants and caused massive famines in Bengal and other parts of the country.