Latest artwork by artist Bhavya Desai delves into the chaotic energy of Indian railways

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Digital illustrator Bhavya Desai’s latest series is an ode to train travel and its chaotic energy – a warm reminder of life before the pandemic

If you haven’t encountered a “Frenzy Eater Pushpa” at a train station, you have been; the person who hastily grabs a few samosas wrapped in newspaper in a platform merchant’s basket, through the rail window of the train.

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It’s also through these window grilles that we see chunks of life unfolding on a train, as families unwrap boxes of tiffin, lift suitcases from the top bunk, and socialize with strangers to kill time. The pulse of Indian railways is inevitably etched into all of our travel experiences.

For Chennai-based artist Bhavya Desai, a recent train journey from Chennai to Bengaluru opened the floodgates to many memories and observations. He translates this experience into a series of illustrations that delves into the chaotic and nostalgic energy of Indian railways as we know them. ‘Binge-eater Pushpa’ is one of the many characters who make an appearance in this series called Chaotically Organized.

'The In-house Pantry' from the sub-series, By the Window

‘The In-house Pantry’ from the sub-series, By the Window | Photo credit: special arrangement

Bhavya remembers having five hours to kill on this train trip to Bangalore. “I made the most of it. I spent a lot of time walking on the docks. The trip spoke to me straight away, ”he says. “There is so much more life on a train. “

Here, Bhavya adds, you see the people being themselves.

From this treasure trove of interesting sites, Bhavya has listed everything he wants to present. “I created subcategories. One is about life on the platform, which includes everything from water dispensers to coolies dragging heavy cars. Another would be on the train itself – a peek inside the cars. For example, a sketch in progress filled with line art shows a crowded train station – food stalls, passengers waiting, and porters pushing their way through. The chaos is also a warm reminder of life before the pandemic.

An unfinished sketch of the series on platforms

Currently he is working on a sub-series called By the Window which examines the figures and life in a train, through the cross section of a window. Similar sub-series on engines, solo travelers and interior views of train bogies are also in the works.

Bhavya plans to have 12 illustrations in each series and hopes to complete the entire project within the next three to four months. “In all the illustrations, there will be characters,” he adds. Observations aside, a lot of research is also undertaken in the project, in particular for the series on engines. “I don’t really know the engine models. So now I’m reading about the different engines and about the retired engines as well. It’s so vast! he says.

The fact that Indian Railways has such a large number of loyal fans prompts him to dig deeper. “That’s also why I want people to give me ideas. I want to make this more inclusive. Drawing only what I saw is once again limiting the scope of this project.

Bhavya Desai’s works can be seen on Instagram: @desaibhavya


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