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Beyond the Sticks and Into Mofussil

oncoming train

(Photo taken by Mimosa Shah)

Amitava Kumar plays with the many ways in which we anticipate and reminisce about trains in his essay “Mofussil Junction” for Northeast Review:

Trains take me not to the future but to the past. Several years ago, while watching the film Trainspotting in a theater in America, with a scene about strung-out boys horsing around the railway tracks, my mind went back to Patna: my friends in school would get high on heroin and stand beside the tracks to feel the rush of the wind as the train blasted past them.

Northeast Review is a literary journal dedicated to the unique melange of literatures created in the northeastern region of India, an area now affiliated with terms like “backwards,” “agrarian,” and “conservative” (instead of cosmopolitan, urban, and liberal). Kumar’s piece on the mofussil spaces, those hinterlands beyond the county limits, makes me rethink other famous trains: Agatha Christie’s xenophobic carriage moving east to west in Murder on the Orient Express; a nostalgic embrace cut short before a surging train pulses through a tunnel in the final frames of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest; and the commuter rails dotting our landscape today, last vestiges of an intricate network now spurned for the efficiency of aviation.

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