Travel Diary: finding mom . finding coal

That was it. I lost my mom on a fine day in December at Ghoom Train Station.
It could have been pay back time after more than 2 decades. 
Well, mom has a heck of losing us kids. 
And forgetting our names. 
I will be Val. And Val will be Penny. uh huh there’s just the 2 of us! go figure. 
I mean, she still hesitates for a good 5 to 10 seconds before replying with a 50-50 chance if you ask her this: what’s Penny’s full name?
We play this ‘game’ every so often. It’s an inside joke. No one ever gets offended.

But in this case, it’s a bit different …
ME: Finding Mom; MOM: Finding Coal.

It’s totally possible to displace one’s mother. Especially if it’s mine. I guess like me, she gets acquainted and absorbed into the natural surroundings very quickly. Most probably a trait I had inherited from her that has proven to be extremely valuable with my photo walkabouts and projects I take (mostly in delicate situation).

So, whilst I was busy chasing the infamous Himalayan Bird attached to the Darjeeling Toy Train that was puffing and pulling its way out of the Ghoom station (snaking its way back to Darjeeling, while spitting fine coal into my face – yucky, but honestly all I could think about was my poor ‘glass’ as I clicked away), mom busied herself to more important (and sensible) business: assisting an old homeless man to collect spent coal ‘chucked’ out by the train earlier on the tracks.

 Photo © Penelope Gan – All Rights Reserved – Mom and a homeless man, Ghoom Train Station – Ghoom, West Bengal
 Photo © Penelope Gan – All Rights Reserved – Finding coal with these bare hands, Ghoom Train Station – Ghoom, West Bengal
Through my fixer, I was told this man lives with his wife in squalor conditions. His children has not returned for years. He can’t remember how long. He collects coal twice a day (the Toy Train only runs twice a day) as fuel. It burns better than dried cow dung. It’s cheaper (free) than liquid gas.
What’s truly interesting about this coincidence is, it happened on the day the press was buzzing about COP15, the leaked draft, China and India’s probable move … et cetera et cetera
Naturally, this got me pondering (as he would have wondered about my fascination with him – photo below) and I buried my nose into piles of literature on the environment, COP15, research papers on India and China’s energy consumption and development upon my return; re-living life at 14*-years (minus the zits) and 19**-years (deprived of cheap coffee from Lygon St) all over again.
Photo © Penelope Gan – All Rights Reserved – Ghoom Train Station – Ghoom, West Bengal


*  won a summer term work-study scholarship on wetland conservations in the UK.
**  research paper on China: The Emerging Giant and Environmental Degradation for a course in Georgraphy, which I embarked on purely because I MUST have at least one course in that particular architecture marvel on Melbourne University’s campus – yeah, that building facing the Student Union Building! No wonder my undergraduate scholarship sponsor didn’t like me much … and boy, did I learned the true definition of ‘unorthodox’ the hard way with them. :) 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Check out Penelope Gan | Photo Blog for a slightly ‘heavier’ read on the topic: 
The Homeless, Rural India and COP15

7 thoughts on “Travel Diary: finding mom . finding coal

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