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article imagePhotographer chronicles train-surfing in Bangladesh

By Kim I. Hartman     Nov 14, 2011 in World
Dhaka - The deadly sport of train-surfing was recently spotlighted by a Bangladeshi photographer who hitched a ride on top of a train to capture train surfers in action with his camera.
Because of overcrowding on passenger trains and lured by a free ride, the people of Bangladesh risk their lives daily "riding on the corroded metal roof of train's that move 40 kilometers per hour," reports Slate.
G.M.B. Akash, a native of Bangladesh recently joined the roof riders on their daily trip, photographing the daring young men and women as they clung to the moving trains.
During his time documenting the train riders of Banladesh, Akash met many people who rode the rooftops for economic reasons. He also met riders of all ages who danced across the tops of the shaking trains, strategically avoiding electrical wires and tree branches, while participating in a sport called train-surfing. Akash said, "regulars often grow so comfortable that they doze as they ride. But all it takes is a sudden stop or a crazy dream, and then even these veterans run the risk of rolling right off."
“When the train starts your feet will shake and you will try to hold something, but there is nothing to hold on to,” says Akash, "who learned to balance while shooting the photos above. Knowing that at any time an accident can happen will make you nervous [and] give you insecurity, making it more risky."
Akash said he met women with babies, homeless children, and hundreds of low-paid workers riding the roofs of the trains during his exploration of Banladesh's rail system. He said avoiding the train fare of 5 taka, the equivalent of seven cents in the United States, was their main objective, with most being too poor to afford the fee.
Among the roof riders that Akash photographed were young men known as train surfers. Their daring exploits have been documented in a number of YouTube videos on train-surfing in Bangladesh.
The sport of train-surfing is not limited to Bangladesh. In Soweto, South Africa, train surfers have been filmed in a number of videos showing off their dangerous moves for the camera.
Injuries and deaths resulting from roof riding and train-surfing continue to rise with decapitation, electrocution from overhead wires, falls occurring when getting on and off the train, being crushed between trains or run over by a moving train all reported by rail authorities as causes of train related deaths.
Akash's photographs from "Riding the Rails of Bangladesh" can be seen here.
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