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170 years of Indian Railways and The Hindu: 3 racist, elitist op-eds that denigrate Indians who use Railways simply to peddle anti-Modi agenda

It's really strange that The Hindu has provided space to racist authors who don’t have a single clue about Railway travels to write so disparagingly low about our fellow citizens and their aspirations. Even by The Hindu’s low standards when it comes to anything Anti-Modi, these articles were an insult to our intelligence.

On April 16, 2023 Indian Railways completed 170 years. In their Sunday magazine published on the same day, The Hindu published three long articles. The disdainful tone and the absence of coherence made me wonder how these were published in the first place. The answer lay in the common theme across all three articles. 

Coverage in The Hindu

The article “The Folly of 5-star Railway Stations” was written by Gautam Bhatia who is “an architect and sculptor and the author of Blueprint”. Gautam Bhatia is very angry. After reading the entire article, if you think Gautam Bhatia is perhaps angry because Modi didn’t award him the task of redesigning the railway stations (because he is an architect), I really wouldn’t blame you for reaching such a conclusion.  

It’s one thing to be angry. It’s a different thing to be racist. And it’s a whole new thing to get your bigoted piece published in a paper like The Hindu. Do you think my words are harsh? Sample for yourself what he wrote:

Gaurav Bhatia in The Hindu article

Gautam Bhatia tells us that when families are comfortable dining ON the railway tracks, how dare Modi decides to not allow them to do that? Gautam Bhatia is angry that when the “daily passengers are illiterate and willing sit on the ground”, then who the hell is Modi to provide them better facilities? Why must Modi even think that these “illiterates” deserve a better life? The blatant racist overtures are not just limited to poor India but even extend to Ghana in Africa, Bogota in Columbia and Abuja in Nigeria. Gautam Bhatia asserts in the firmest of tones that “For a long time to come, Indian trains and terminals will retain their affinity to African and central American standards than to European ones”.  

At one point in his article, he criticises the addition of food plazas and 5-star hotels in the station upgrades; at another point, he asks why are the Railways not considering “hotel attachments” while upgrading. The hypocritical and condescending article ends with His Lordship telling us that the 16 million passengers who travel daily do not deserve their trains and stations to have cleaner interiors, better seats, malls, escalators, graphic displays etc. The racist tone of the entire article would have made any editor reject it for publication. But this article passed the ultimate test for The Hindu – it criticizes Modi’s plans in strong English. 

The author of “Getting the Future on Track” is a certain T. Kartik. He is a “research scientist whose first love is trains and the Indian Railways”. Now, that’s an interesting bio to boast of. I was looking forward to reading some nice stories or unknown trivia about our Railways from the guy whose “first love is trains and the Indian Railways”. Instead, what we got was an article with a collection of disjoint thoughts that ranged from berating the plan to upgrade our railway stations to questioning the need for Vande Bharat trains to even quoting vloggers and Vishal Dadlani! 

The author wanted to show his command on the English language (using words like zeitgeist, talismanic, wanderlust, esoteric etc) and knowledge about art historians, while wanting to berate efforts to upgrade our infrastructure. He sounded severely upset that “colonial-era station buildings are all set for modernisation that will almost certainly produce drab, mall-like monoliths” He cites the example of 2 stations to tell us how awesome their structure is. The plan obviously is not to demolish the structures but Karthik makes it sound like the Kacheguda station (in Hyderabad) will lose the entire building! A mention is made Prime Minister Modi laying the foundation for upgrading the Secunderabad railway station with nearly 720 crores. I get a feeling that the author is from Hyderabad given how he gave examples of 2 stations from Hyderabad itself. If you are from Hyderabad and if your “first love is trains”, it really beats me why you cannot see the desperate need for the always crowded Secunderabad station to be upgraded with better infrastructure.

The author, Karthik, then suddenly and mysteriously jumps from the topic of modernisation to how vloggers have begun to capture train journeys from across India and are catering to the “wanderlust” of travel-starved people during COVID times! The topic consumes multiple paragraphs and ends with quoting Vishal Dadlani from the year 2020 and then mysteriously he moves to question the need for Vande Bharat trains! Someone who claims to love Indian Railways actually posed the question of “Who does Indian Railways cater to?” just because he doesn’t like Vande Bharat trains! 

Reading this disjoint piece gives the impression that the only reason it was published is that it passes the ultimate test for The Hindu – it criticizes Modi’s plans in strong English. 

The lead article, “Railway Cuisine and it’s regional makeover” was written by Priyadarshini Chatterjee who is an “internationally published food and culture writer”. She starts her lengthy article by telling us – “On the rare occasion that I travel by train these days”. Wouldn’t that be an automatic disqualification to write about Railways in the first place? You don’t travel by train anymore but have been commissioned to write a lengthy piece on food in Railways? 

She goes back in time all the way to 1996 when as a 10-year-old, she travelled in the 2nd AC of Rajadhani. Her condescending description of the coach also reminded me of Gautam Bhatia’s filthy description of the first-class coach. See below for their language. 

Coverage in The Hindu

Are these even their real experiences in the first place? Or did they just write these to make them sound like they’ve descended from another planet and come here to insult the people of India? Priyadarshini Chatterjee’s disastrous article continues by glorifying how awesome the food was in the Railways during the British era. 

Coverage in The Hindu

We are then told how the food quality has degraded over the years with only the Railway Mutton Curry being the saving grace and how even that was removed from the menu in the 90s! The article, which began with the author telling us that she rarely travels on the train, now suddenly deviates to what a co-passenger told her during a “recent journey”.

Coverage in The Hindu

What exactly is “constant deterioration of quality”? If you are an international food author, shouldn’t you atleast be able to explain these simple things? Isn’t it amazing how these people find cab drivers and co-passengers as a convenient cover-up for their own views? Isn’t it amazing that these people don’t have the courage to even own up to their views? The article which began with a vivid description of the British-era food service ends with the detailing of menu in various Vande Bharat trains and asks the weirdest question – “Will the gamble pay off?”

Coverage in The Hindu

How is serving Indian Food on Indian trains a gamble in the first place? Why are these folks so upset that we are making attempts to popularise the variety of our awesome food in our own country? What is this obsession with the British colonial era offerings of food and infrastructure? 

Plus, what is with the horrible style of writing in the first place? Train journeys for crores of us are about some really wonderful memories. If the author has to talk about food on the train, why restrict herself to the 2nd AC compartment? If I ever to write about food in Railways, I will talk about the Idli I had in Gudur station; the bread omelette I had in Vijayawada Station; the Aloo Bonda I had aboard the AP express; the Upma Pesarattu I had in Secunderabad station; the dosa in Kakinada station; and what not! I will write about the amazing bonhomie amongst the passengers when they all open packed boxes from home and share their tamarind rice, chapati curries, and biryanis with strangers! 

I am really proud that we are upgrading our railway stations with modern facilities; not sad that some random British heritage will be lost. I am really proud that we citizens will get to have better experiences when they walk into crowded railway stations. I am definitely not crying that those poorer than me cannot be treated as my equals. If I were to complain, I would complain about the overcrowded trains in certain routes (and why we are not able to add more in those routes); I would complain about the fluctuating punctuality of the trains. 

It’s really strange that The Hindu has provided space to racist authors who don’t have a single clue about Railway travels to write so disparagingly low about our fellow citizens and their aspirations. Even by The Hindu’s low standards when it comes to anything Anti-Modi, these articles were an insult to our intelligence. The only criteria for publication seemed that all of them were anti-Modi in their undertone. Indian Railways will rise to even better heights while this batch can continue to crib and live in their British era. 

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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S. Sudhir Kumar
S. Sudhir Kumar
Obsessive eater, Compulsive sleeper, Repulsive Writer

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