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by Yasha Wallin
"Ever since the British built the railroads in India that stitch the vast subcontinent together, trains have been the organizing force that unify all of its disparate parts," says Steve McCurry. The revered American photojournalist has spent a great deal of time on the continent, capturing the vibrant landscape and people that tell the story of everyday India. McCurry is referring to the mid-1800s, when English companies invested millions of pounds into India's rail system, turning it into a vast network that joined Bombay to Calcutta, and later other regions like Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
In fact, India's train culture has such a rich and colorful history that it has inspired countless artistic contributions, like French writer Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, more recently Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited, and of course McCurry's photographic series here, which documents train travel in India and even into Bangladesh. He summarizes:
"As I tried to tell the story of the community that inhabits the depots, I would go to the train station every day and wander around the platform. Each time a train would roll in, while carefully stepping over bodies and around huge mountains of luggage, I would start to photograph the swirl of life that assaults and saturates the senses."
Images via Steve McCurry