Book Review: Railonama by Anupama Sharma


Railonama is a collection of short stories put together by Anupama Sharma. The stories are warm and poignant, and anyone who has traveled by train in India can relate to the experiences narrated in this book. Short stories with their quick narratives are always interesting, and this book was no different! 

Anupama Sharma has done a commendable job curating the stories – it must have been a mountainous task sifting through the submissions, because these were memories of not just anything, they were memories of the Indian Railways touching the lives of people from all walks of life! The variety and humor, insights and lessons, even romance had me hooked, sometimes eliciting smiles, other times leaving me with a sense of wonder or with tears in my eyes!

Most of the stories were well-written, and in every story, I was able to catch the essence of the emotion or event. Barring a few typos and grammatical errors in a couple of stories (I am presuming they might have been last minute inclusions that couldn't be edited as thoroughly as the others), the presentation is brilliant! I am amazed that Sharma has managed to put 45 stories into this collection, and it’s a job very well done indeed!

I think I loved the food stories best, because food is an integral part of my train journeys, every time! While fellow-blogger Roshan Radhakrishnan’s story about the boy with the chocolate éclairs made me smile indulgently, Sharada Balasubramanian’s “From Chennai to Punjab” spoke about the intrinsically Indian virtue of sharing food with strangers. Anupama Sharma’s “A slice of apple” tells the story about the selfless Indian who didn't look too well off. He had just one apple, but he cut it into as many slices as he could so as to feed his co-passengers in a stranded train.

Most stories have either good or bad endings, but you will love the mixed endings in “The castaway” by Vibha Batra and “Blue Hawai Chappals” by Yogesh Sharma! All good books need an element of romance, and the beautiful love stories that originated because of train journeys like “Jab we Met” by     Rohit Khanduri, and “The Romance of the Mountain Railway” by Susmita Bhattacharya are beautiful and true love stories.

Would I recommend this book to you? Absolutely, especially if you are embarking on a train journey soon! I enjoyed this book thoroughly, but to read it when actually traveling in a train – my, that would be grand! I think this is a book that has found a place in my Christmas gifting list quite easily!

As Sharada Balasubramanian says in this very book, “The experience of traveling in Indian trains is unique in itself. You lose sense of time, place, language, and yet you are never alienated. The friends you make take care of that!” I think she has nailed it! This is the essence of train travel in India, and you will find it in each story in this lovely book!

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