My saga with Indian Railway

What is “adventure”? There can be multiple explanation of this term. According to me when you do something without much planning, will automatically become adventure. Isn’t it?

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Traveling in Indian Railway will also turn in to adventure when you haven’t have planned the journey in advance and booked the ticket 3-4 months prior to the departure date. The population pressure is so much on Indian Railway that getting a confirmed berth in the train on short notice is a humongous challenge. Tatkal Ticket is an option but it is very dicey. You cannot be certain that you will secure a berth due to multiple factor associated with it, such as your typing speed, internet speed, payment gateway response, server side response etc.

Recently I had to visit New Delhi from my hometown, but the concern was that I haven’t planned the journey in advance and hence getting a confirm berth was next to impossible. Even after trying on three occasions on three different days with two different devices simultaneously, I failed to get the Tatkal Ticket. I was disheartened but did not lose hope. Next day I thought to book a ticket from Howrah Junction, as it has very large number of train towards Delhi than that of my city. I checked the availability of berth in different train for next five days, but again I met with disappointment as all the AC coaches of all the trains were in waiting list. Then I searched for sleeper class, the story was more or less same. I thought what has happened to whole country, why they all are heading towards Delhi now. “Delhi Chalo” was a slogan propagated long ago. My father said that due to convergence of summer vacation of schools and colleges and the being an auspicious time for marriage (Lagan as we call it) for Hindus, getting ticket will be difficult. But then suddenly my eyes lit up on seeing that Durunto Express was having seats in sleeper class and showing RAC/103. I instantly booked the ticket hoping it will get confirmed as it has four days left before the departure.

The D-Day arrived but I became perplexed after knowing that my seat did not get confirmed and I had to share my seat with one more guy for whole 22+ hours journey (that’s what happen when your seats remains in RAC i.e. Reservation Against Cancellation). The problem with me is my height, though am not very tall but tall enough that side berths of the train coaches always seems a restrain for me to completely stretch my legs and now on side lower birth, sharing with another person, who is unknown to me for such a long journey that too in very hot summer in sleeper class was frightening for me.

I just left my luggage on my bert and ran in search of the Train Ticket Examiner (TTE). On searching multiple coaches I finally reached to him. I requested him that since my RAC number is now moved to 6 so there must be chances that I will get a confirmed berth. That TTE was very rude! He spoke in Bengali Language, which I can understand but can’t speak fluently, that no seats are available and there are no chances of getting it available. I asked why you are so sure without examining the passengers and that too my RAC is just at 6 and it’s very probable that I will get one. He responded scathingly “Don’t teach me my job”. Seeing the situation getting worse, I left the place and sat on my allocated berth.

A person in his 50s was already there. He seems to be very serious person. I thought, this journey is going to be a tough one for me. Then suddenly a gentleman came to us and asked “Would you mind giving this berth to us?” My co-passenger became furious and said “We have already got half of the seat from the government, even when we have paid for whole and you still want to relinquish this for you, do you expect me to sleep on floor?”.

That gentleman responded politely “Sir I will offer both of you a separate berth which is in different coach. We are four and two seats are here in this coach and two are in different. So if you both will vacate this seat then we will have three berths at one place and four of my family member will settle here together and you both will also get comfortable berths there”

I was simply ecstatic. Partly because I needed a sound sleep desperately because I hadn’t had any since last 24 hours and partly because, I felt very annoyed by the response of TTE. I am pretty sure that if I had offered bribe to him, he would have readily gave me the separate berth.

Anyway, I thanked the gentleman but requested him that once the TTE will come I will show my attitude to him first and then leave the place. Soon TTE came and asked for tickets, when he asked me. I presented it before him and said to the person (who offered his berth to us) next to me “some government appointed person considers himself as the king of the institution where they are supposed to serve, thank you Sir for giving me your berth I am really very grateful to you.” My only purpose was to make the TTE hear that I got a seat till Delhi that too without offering him bribe. TTE looked very disgruntled but nothing he could do about it. He left the place agonizingly. I was smiling cunningly as he was leaving the place. I was happy. My purpose was completed. I got an upper berth where I could stretch my leg without any constrain and also I had made the TTE role a little subdued.

But even though I got an upper berth, situation was not pleasing. It was very hot inside. My every attempt to dose off was in vain. People around me were also not helping the cause. Many of them were furious about the way BJP tried to “Kill the Democracy” in Karnatka and some were defending their act.

I decided to step down and thought of drenching my head and washing my face with water so to get some relief from scorching heat. Indian Railway has done a curry favor that it has let the coaches of sleeper class and AC class connected and I fully utilized this arrangement. I went straight to the washroom which was meant for the First Class for the obvious reason of its cleanliness and hygiene. Inside it, first thing which I did was to see my face and my hair which seems to be like someone after electric shock. It was flying all around. I looked towards wash basin just to get some water so as to wet my hair with it, but suddenly I saw a phone was lying on the rack just beside wash basin.

Without hesitation I picked up the phone and you won’t believe it was of the same brand which is considered best in the world. Yes! The same which you may have thought. Someone must have forgotten it. Frankly speaking, N number of thoughts came to my mind. Who’s phone it might be. Even if, I would like to return it, then whom to return? If I will ask any person they will surely stake a claim. If I give it to the TTE, he will surely devour it. Why should not I keep this phone with me as it’s me who have found it and in any case if I give it authorized one(TTE), every chances are there that they will not let this phone to reach the right person. Then a parallel though came that how the person would feel if he will come to know that he has lost his phone.

After entertaining all these thoughts, I finally decided that I will wait near the door of the coach just near by the washroom and if any person will come searching for it then I will return to him/her by asking the security code to unlock the phone. I waited there for 15-20 minutes. Nobody came with that intention, I became puzzled and though what to do now?

I picked up the phone in my hand and pressed the unlock button. I was flabbergasted to see that phone didn’t have any security code and it got unlocked. Now a hell lot of option opened in front of me. I can dial any numbers from it to anyone in the contact list. I searched the recent call and dialed a number which was named as “Son Mohsin”. The man picked up the call and I narrated him the whole story. He sounded very much desperate as well as grateful to me. He said that he has recently gifted this phone to his dad on his 55th birthday. But the question was not solved. How I will recognize his father? He was also unaware of the coach and berth number. He asked to wait me for 5 minutes so that he can get the details from his younger brother who came there to see off his father at the station.

Within few minutes I got the call and details and it was Coach A1 Berth-4. Again the man showed his gratitude and said that it is very rare gesture these days which I have shown. To tell you the truth I also felt very happy as my ego was gratified by hearing my praise. I went straight into the compartment with the intention of returning the phone. As if destiny has more surprises for me, the person on A1-4 was none other than my Physics teacher of 12th standard Imran Ali!!!

On seeing me he immediately recognized and expressed his happiness. Then I asked him “Sir! Have you lost anything”? Then he searched his pocket and brought out one basic phone and his wallet from it and said no everything is with him. Then I showed him the phone and he was shocked and said “Oh! Yes this is also mine. My son has gifted me few days back. I almost forget it, but where did you get it”? I narrated the whole story and he said “Thanks to Allah! In the holy month of Ramzan he chose this method to bring you in front of him. God is great”! He again continued “Do you know this is very costly phone. I scolded my son when he gave me such a big phone, as this small phone is sufficient to fulfill all my needs. If anyone else has got this phone surely he would not have returned it. I am proud of you, not because this phone belonged to me but because you chose right path, this is the success of a teacher”. We talked for another half an hour and I touched his feet on leaving the coach. He patted on my back. I smiled back.

I was very satisfied and smiling, but when I was exiting the coach and returning towards my sleeper class another person was looking at me with cunning smile, he was the same TTE. He asked “you were in AC first class compartment, show me your ticket” And whatever happened after that was embarrassing for me. Rest is up to you to imagine what might have happened to me….

Hope you would have liked the narration. Do let me know your views!!!


Ethics, Morality and a Passenger Train

Last few days were very hectic for me. I traversed across various cities and some villages of Jharkhand and Northern Bihar. Cloud Atlas once told that “Travel far enough, you meet yourself”. I am not sure that I met myself or not but I am pretty sure that, if we are receptive, travelling teaches us many lessons.

In my itinerary, the first leg was from Jamsehdpur to Capital of Jharkhand, Ranchi. One can reach Ranchi through various means such as Cabs, Buses or trains. I always give preference to the train over other mode of transportation provided that I have sufficient time. I was supposed to be accompanied by one of my friend on the whole journey, but when he heard that I will opt for train and that too a passenger train, whose average speed hovers around 30 kmph, he ditched me and preferred to travel via cab. I was also determined. I told him that I will meet him in Ranchi, from there onwards we will move towards in next destination together.

I get into the train in an early morning. Oh!!! Passenger Train!!! It reminded me all the contradictions of our country. Contradiction between rich and poor, rapidity and slowness, high class and low class, cleanliness and filthiness, comfort and uneasiness, talks of bullet trains when we are not even properly running the trains at the speed of 30kmph and many other contradictions were easily perceptible.

Our train was very humble. It stopped at every damn stoppage. It virtually had a halt where even 2-3 persons were standing on the platform. Probably it really meant that it will give service to the last person of the society as our leaders famously claim. As I told you our train was very humble, I did not mentioned it without reason. It gave the way to every other train which was on the same track, at one instance it was stopped so as to allow passing even a goods train!!!

Anyway, despite of all these, I truly enjoyed the trip. The surrounding besides the railways track from Jamshedpur to Ranchi is very natural and very serene. The railway track is flanked by many hills which is part of Ranchi plateau. There were some rivers, rivulets and when the train passed over it made the travelling very relaxing. The day was also cloudy and it made the travelling more pleasant. I virtually travelled by standing near the door and stepped out of the train at every single station.

Everything was smooth until the moment, when the train stopped at an uninhabited area or one can even call it a practical forest. A continuous shrill sound of honking from engine was coming. The continuity of the sound made some people think about the possible reason. Train was stopped there for more than 10 minutes. Everybody has their own interpretation of the stoppage of the train. But suddenly one gentleman’s interpretation changed the atmosphere of the coach entirely. He said “Jharkhand is a Maoist affected area, they might have sabotaged the track and might possibly carry loot in the train”. Now the whole coach became perturbed and so was I. On numerous occasions I have read the stories of sabotaging the railway tracks by maoist or naxalites, but if this was one, it will be a firsthand experience, which probably no body would like to have. Amidst all these, the shrill sound of honking was continuous.

I don’t know from where it came, I stepped down from the coach and moved towards the engine to see what was really the case! When I came near to the Engine, the driver of the train also stepped down. I asked the reason of the stoppage and he pointed his finger towards the railway track.

A calf was sitting on the railways track and despite the continuous honking, it remained unmoved. Then driver along with some other co-passenger tried to move the calf out of the way by freighting the calf with sticks, some even threw small pebbles on him but all efforts remained futile. I was the mute spectator when all these things were happening but my phone camera was making shuttering noise when I was clicking all these events.

Later it was discovered that the calf was injured and hence was unable to move out of the track. Later some people came upfront and collectively helped the calf to move out of the way. The rail coach driver was also among those.

When the calf was moved away from the track everyone was going towards their respective coaches. I went towards the railway driver and shook hand with him and told him “Thank You! You are very compassionate and kind person, only due to you the life of the calf saved today.”

But his response was quite unexpected. He smiled and said “Kindly delete all the pictures you have taken of this event. It is undesirable for me to stop the train without proper signal and it may cost my job. It is considered unethical in our profession”. When I was taking these pictures, I had in my mind that I will use these pictures to substantiate the whole incident of compassion, but as the driver requested me, I deleted all of them without reconsidering. I was happy. The driver smiled back. I was again on the door of the train. Suddenly it started raining, as it happens in any Bollywood movies after happy ending. Train was marching forwards just like a big snake in a forest.

The words of the driver “It is considered unethical in our profession” was reverberating in my mind. I thought, is it unethical to save the life of a dumb creature?

The train was in its peak speed and probably for the first time I got to understand the nuances of Ethics and Morality. The train driver was Morally Correct, but was he Ethically? Well I don’t know.