Trains offer a unique kind of journey, giving passengers the freedom to move, interact with others and watch the world as it passes by. Now, these wonderful experiences have been captured in an Instagram account called the Window Seat Project, which shows the magical beauty of train travel in India.
The account is the work of Shanu Babar, a Mumbai-based cinematographer who films for food and travel shows. A lover of train travel since childhood, Shanu’s passion started back when he was five years old when he first remembers taking a train to Viashnodevi in the northern part of the country.
“The train was packed and as a mischievous kid, I was adding to the ruckus,” he told Lonely Planet. “My parents tell me that they had to put me away in a corner, right by the window, to shut me up – and shut up I did. When I looked out the window, I gasped when I saw big towns pass me by; they were moving at a break-neck speed. When they slowed down, I saw different people, interesting people, with stories. It was like watching movies.”
Those movies were all seen through the frame of the train’s window, he explained. Later, at college, he started the Window Seat Project as his dissertation project, exploring India by train from the perspective of the window seat. After completing school, he decided to start sharing the images on social media. The response quickly showed that he was not the only one captivated by train travel, with the accounts gaining followers and people starting to contribute images of their own with the tag #windowseatproject.
While the account captures some of the beautiful scenery that can be seen from trains, it is perhaps best at showcasing the travellers that occupy them. The photos often have long captions that provide amazing context to the culture of train travel in India.
This particular culture stems from the fact that people from almost any economic background can travel on the trains, which themselves are part of a vast network around the country, says Shanu. “It is my observation that any long distance train is like a microcosm of the whole country.”
When it comes to contributions, Shanu looks at the images and scans through as many as 100 a day. The ones he chooses are not necessarily the best looking, but the ones that best capture the emotion of train travel that he holds so dear.
“I hope the account achieves what it set out to do: capture the life and stories of people from the window seat. If the pictures can convey – through social media – the eccentricities, the cultures, the personalities of a variety of people and places, the account has achieved exactly what it wanted to.”