Indian Railways - one of the world's largest railway systems that run over 12,500 trains every day - is more than just the country's transport lifeline. For the 23 million passengers who use it daily, it is almost a way of life -- with a unique charm and special rhythm of its own.
Capturing the nostalgia associated with the train travel in India is a crowd-sourced community page on Instagram titled "Window Seat Project" which has been ruling the social media platform for quite some time now. The pictures and their catchy captions will convince you to start traveling by train once again.
With more than 20,000 followers and 654 posts, the community page is a melange of emotions and scenarios, from the endless sea to lush forests and woods, from food vendors to passengers and from railway platforms to the interiors of the train -- all captured through the camera. Some of these exquisite pictures are in monochrome while others are in color.
The story of the Window Seat Project started a few years ago when Shanu Babar (whose brain-child the community is) began it as a hobby that gradually turned into something he started caring more about. "And now, it has become my reality," Babar exclaimed in an email on the move, while traveling from Mumbai to various places in Rajasthan -- by train, of course.
A graduate from Pune's Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Babar is a cinematographer based in Mumbai. He has been associated with multiple television shows like "MasterChef India" and "The Voice and Taste Down Under", to name a few. But he soon realized that the monotony of sitting and editing had begun to suffocate him and, therefore, he started the "Window Seat Project" as a getaway from his humdrum routine.
Babar had to submit a dissertation as a part of his course. Along with his classmates, he went off on a train journey from Pune to Kanyakumari asking a variety of passengers just one question: "What kind of India do you see from the window seat?" "I realized that I was not the only crazy person who loved trains; there are thousands of them out there. And it is because of them the page has flourished," Babar added.
Babar finds Indian Railways "a mixed bag of a plethora of expressions, emotions, and cultures", something worth exploring. He finds a story in every passenger and likes to take these stories -- captured in frames clicked from different angles -- to the world through his community.
"Trains are like the veins of this country, they are a platform to enter people's lives. Every passenger is a story. They come from so many different walks of life. Railways give you a wholesome experience, not only in terms of languages and ethnicities but also food and so much more," he added.
So, how does he select the best picture in a day for the Window Seat Project?
"There is no process as such. The pictures have to be about trains, of course. But the primary criterion is that the pictures should speak for themselves. They should be relatable. Almost everybody has traveled by a train at some point in time in their lives. The pictures should make them relive those nostalgic moments," he responded.
Despite much popularity on the social media platform, Babar said that Indian Railways probably has no clue about the page. But that does not disappoint him.
"I have not been approached by them but I would surely love to work with the Railways. There are so many railway publications that need pictures, so many new trains that have started that need to be featured. I would love to be the one covering them. It would be like a fan working with his superstar," Babar quipped.
Planning a railway journey soon? Don't forget to take a picture and share it on Instagram with the hashtag "windowseatproject". Till then, keep clicking and happy journey.