‘Nothing to hold on to’

“When the train starts your feet will shake and you will automatically try to hold something, but there is nothing to hold on to. From 2005 I went up the train. Sitting or lying on the corroded metal roof of a train moving at 40 kilometers/hour is dangerous. By knowing that any time accident can happen you obvious to be nervous. It gives you an insecurity and makes it more risky. In that time there was no one who can tell me the rule of hanging in a running train, there was no example of photograph by which I can inspire myself to capture moments in camera. But I did not think twice to step into the slippery train and attempted to make a new series on the bravery of some insignificant heroic lives.”

Gmb Akash

Train new (3)

 © GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Seven years ago I had to travel many times by train to come to the city. During traveling I noticed low income people were traveling in the roof of the train and even in between joining line of the train. Most of them were low wage working class and traveled with high risk of severe accident. I was surprised to the fact when I discovered few of them traveled many times of the day with life risk. For knowing the reason my interest had taken me to the root. I pick my camera and leave my seat. Thus my journey starts in the running train. I had a basic curiosity to know about people whom I intend to photograph. From beginning of my journey I work for those people who are fighting endlessly to survive without anything but a smile. For taking photo of them I blended myself into the same conditions which help me to get the insight of the story. This inquisitiveness leads me in the top of the train. And I become one of the free passenger of regular running train. Thus I got familiar with the scary situation of the fearful journey; discover people and above all I took pictures.Train new (14)

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Train new (1)

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Train new (8)

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Uncountable times, I went to the roof of the train. Often traveling made me familiar with scariness of a running train. People become well-known to me. I find out so many different stories of people and their determination of surviving. When I manage myself to step straight then I pick my camera and start capturing my feelings. No one travel to risk their life to get pleasure. All were unable to manage travel cost as they were living under the margin. Many of those travelers work as day laborer, many of them goes for selling fishes in city which they collect from their villages. All of them have to return also. These travel costs can not manage by them so they risk their life in the top of the train.

Train new (6)

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Train new (16)

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

This traveling is very addictive. When you will discover people who have power on them, who were bravely setting without caring anything the something will happen to you too. These people inspire you to live life without getting frustrated. They have nothing with them only have bravery to fight against all odds of life. So this journey put power inside me to fight in rest of my life with bravery and inspire to take any risk to live a life.

Train new (10)

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Train new (7)

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Train new (9)

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

In winter surface of the train get slippery, once I stepped without been concern and attempted to fall. It is difficult to take picture in opposite of the direction of the running train. Along other passengers I have faced terrible winter, unwanted rains and continual heat in the top of the train. Many times wires hit me, every time I thought I should not go more. But again I can not resist myself. Getting a good picture is toughest thing while you need to spend days and months for the right moment and for the right click. I won travel photographer of the year title in 2009 on the series. Besides all I am fortunate to be able to stand in this fearful journey which will continually give me power for rest of my life.

Train new (11)

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Train new (15)

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

“I recall all these journeys repeatedly. My achievement is that I established this series as one of favorite topic for photographers. I feel happy when I see photographers come from around the world to get a free ride in the top of the train and takes pictures. All these make me happy. I collect all these treasured moment and I am working for publishing a book soon on this series. I have to say, I am fortunate by killing fears of me to become able to go to the top of the train. There is nothing to hold on to, only your fearlessness”

– Gmb Akash

Train new (4)

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Train new (13)

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59 thoughts on “‘Nothing to hold on to’

  1. Akash, this is indeed a great series. Must say its a great tribute to people who have to take this risk to make a living. I can only imagine how many would have lost their lives to such travel. This is but a sad truth of the world we have created.

    • I traveled around the world. I went to many places & meet many people. But the train journey in top of the roof is an unforgettable experience. It will take you to a different world. The noise, the whistle, and people! every day the journey is different from another. Every train is similar at the same time the experience is different. For me it was adventure & experience for knowing people I am photographing. But for others it was their helplessness.

  2. I can imagine the train’s speed and my fear were I to stand or sit on top of this running train, brother. But like you, the chance to photograph here is very tempting. Always wishing you well, Akash!=)

    • Yes sister, it is fearful. I have seen many accidents where I & other passengers were unable to help in spite of only seeing.
      I am happy that risking my life worth by displaying their helplessness to the world. Best wishes to you.

  3. Dear Akash,
    Beautiful. Only you can take these pics and show the path to others. I am forwarding your mail to my friends.
    When are you visiting Kolkata ?
    Hearty congratulations.

    • When in the winter the train rushes poor people do not even have any cloth in their body. People suffer in many ways here but they do not complain. They want to find a new way to deal with difficulties of life. But they have to face immeasurable difficulties & unhappiness to proof their patience & bravery because of continual poverty.

  4. Work of a truly gutsy photographer ! Akash, your photographs give me the shivers !! Even if I were 45yrs younger and could manage to scramble up to the rusted, slippery top with my camera, I’d probably cling for dear life onto a fellow free-tripper’s ‘lungi’ !!!
    Photography would be the last thing on my mind !

  5. love this series and the effort you took to document this and bring the story to us the readers !

    “When the train starts your feet will shake and you will try to hold something, but there is nothing to hold on to…” – very well expressed !

    • I spent my life to meet with those voiceless people; whose cry can never reaches to the up. still I am moving. This ferocious free journey allowed me to love my life more.

  6. Your blog just blew me away..I am going to show these images to my 7 yr old brat of a nephew and tell him that life is not all warm bed and roses, and he needs to appreciate what he has got.

    Great work!

    • Yes you can show the kid – how people who has nothing, smiles & cherishes their moments by dreaming to live a happy life everyday. Believe me, it is inspirational & sad thing. . Best wishes.

  7. man you are just firing me on to go into photojornalism and not jst photography …
    i’m follwing you since you made your Facebook page …
    thnx for sharing these extreme photos… many of your shots are far far better than NAT GEO photographer…
    wishing u good luck and i hope we would learn a lot from you … :)

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