Anushree Fadnavis is not just a daily commuter in the Ladies Only section of Mumbai locals but also a prolific photojournalist – one of the most followed Indians on Instagram.
Her current project has the attention of more than 93,000 people because it is attempting to do something very unique. Anushree photographs the women she meets on Mumbai’s local trains every day, captures their poignant stories and shares them with her followers on social media.
Her love for travelling on local trains started very early, thanks to her parents who swore by their efficiency. Many years later, Anushree expresses similar sentiments: “I prefer taking trains because they’re a faster way to commute and I don’t like getting stuck in traffic. In a private vehicle, you are in your own cocoon but while using public transport you get to see and experience the lives of hoards of people.”
When she started commuting on locals alone as a teenager, she was fascinated by the lives of the multitudes around her, often wondering about the stories behind the faces that passed in and out of the doors of the trains all the time. Now, she spends about two hours on the local trains every day, apart from other occasional trips she makes related to her work.
The other day I was alone for a brief period in the train. I thought of taking selfies. And then the cop sees what I was doing. What followed later was a beautiful conversation with with the cop, Bhanudas Bhosle (56 years) . Cop : what are you doing? Me : Taking selfies. Cop : why? Me : to show I am alone in the train. Cop : no you are not alone. I am here right behind you. Me : That is very true. You are here that's why I can travel alone without any fear. He then later asked me what I do and he told me joined the police force and he has completed 33 years in service. I asked him why he joined police force to that he replied that when he had joined the force it was all in its glory and men were proud to be a part of it. So I joined and now I do my job diligently. #traindiaries
Anushree works as photo-journalist for a Mumbai-based news agency. “I wanted to do journalism for the longest time but I was stuck in the IT industry. So, out of my own interest, I started learning photography and then I found my mentor Arko. When I met him, I felt like he was the one person who could guide me and he did just that,” she says.
Anushree thinks of her collection of photographs as a visual diary. She calls them #TrainDiaries: “I don’t have any criteria for the photos that go up on my page; I click on the spur of the moment most times. Some frames compel me so I pick them for their visual beauty and in others the stories are more important. The friendships, the different kinds of relationships between the women, and the environment in the compartments are important to capture.”
Sheila (15 years) was very curiously holding on to the handles in the ladies compartment of the Mumbai local train. She has come to Mumbai with her family from Gangapur, Rajasthan for a short period. She works with her mother on the beach right now when the crowd is at the peak due to the Ganpati visarjan. Usually such families come from far away villages come, work in Mumbai for a while to earn some money and then they return to their village. #traindiaries #Mumbai #mumbaidiaries #dailylifeindia #everydayindia #everydaymumbai
Surprisingly, her beautifully composed and immensely detailed pictures are clicked on her phone. So why is the phone her first option when there is a plethora of professional cameras that are at her disposal? “I wouldn’t say a mobile camera is the best device to click photos discreetly, but any camera that is small and would not draw the attention of the subject or disturb the moment is useful.”
“People definitely tend to be a lot less conscious around a simple everyday device like a mobile,” she says.
Many of Anushree’s photographs are accompanied with well-written captions that add to the depth of the subjects she is photographing. When asked if she probes every subject for a story, she says, “If the moment is really sensitive and I see something spontaneous happening, I don’t wait to ask for permission. But if I’m sure that they don’t feel happy with me clicking them in a vulnerable way, then I don’t. If people aren’t happy with me clicking I put the phone away because it is important the action takes place regardless of someone being there to record it or not. Sometimes, I do talk to my subjects and ask them to tell me more about themselves. But at other times I just let them be because I don’t want to lose the moment by making them uncomfortable or self-conscious.”
Mustafa is seen sitting on the wheelchair in the handicapped compartment which next to the ladies compartment of the Mumbai local train. Mustafa (35 years) travels to Bandra everyday for work, his brother Rehman,sitting on his wheelchair, helps him get on and off the train. He is physically challenged since birth. #traindiaries #trains #mumbaidiaries #Mumbai #dailylifeindia #dailylife #everydaymumbai
An interesting and delightful aspect of Anushree’s photo-series is the range of sexual diversity in her subjects. Hijras and trans-genders make a regular appearance on her Instagram feed. Apart from talking about their tightly knit community and the kind of discrimination they face, they also show off their tattoos to Anushree because they are very well acquainted with her by now.
Women in the ladies compartment interact with Kajal(person with low cut back) , a transgender, on the Mumbai local train. It's been quite sometime that I know her. Earlier she used to ask me to call her Nazia. Much recently I got to know her real name. Sometimes if she encounters me in the train she hugs me. She is quite known for her singing and She is quite an entertainer. Everytime she meets me she asks me to click pictures/videos of her and tells me to whatsapp her. #trains #traindiaries #Mumbai #mumbaidiaries #dailylifeindia #dailylife #everydayeverywhere #everydayasia #everydaymumbai
You too can follow Anushree Fadnavis on Instagram here.