Intellectual Idiots on a Train

Have you ever traveled in Indian railways without prior booking? I’m sure many of you have. I have seen so many people travel without confirmed tickets and then ‘manage’ with the TTE. But, I prefer to have a confirmed seat before boarding a train to save me from the hassles. Sometimes I even book multiple tickets to have flexibility and then cancel all the unused ones. This post is about what happened when I violated this rule.

I had gone to Jamshedpur for some work on a weekend in March’15, of course with confirmed tickets! I had my return tickets on Sunday night. But my friends persuaded me to extend my stay till Monday (No, not because I’m extremely popular, but to finish the business I had gone for!!). So, I cancelled my return ticket and looked for one on Monday. Unfortunately, I could not find any available tickets and finally decided to ‘manage’ somehow!

So, I booked a general ticket and went to the platform to board the train. Just when the train was about to come, I saw a TTE (rather someone in TTE’s attire I would say, as I didn’t check the ID) promising people confirmed seats. I asked him whether he could give me a confirmed seat. He demanded Rs 200 and said that the TTE in the train will take another Rs 500. He gave me verbal ‘guarantee’ of a seat but wasn’t ready to upgrade my ticket officially. That made me doubt his credentials and I refused his offer. Cursing me for wasting his time, he proceeded to other ‘customers’ and I proceeded to the train to look for the TTE on train duty. Eventually the TTE came out of the train and I discussed with him my position. He asked me to sit on berth no 58 in coach no B2 and wait for him to come and upgrade my ticket. I wasn’t alone and there were others who were allotted seats in similar fashion. In fact, my compartment and the adjacent one had most of the travelers with general tickets waiting to be upgraded. After the train had moved a mile or two from Tatanagar junction, a person (let’s call him Mr. F) dressed as a bed-roll guy (again, I didn’t check his ID) came to us.

Mr. F – Aap Jajpur Road ja rahe hain naa? TTE saaheb ne aapko B2-58 diya hai naa? (You’re going to Jajpur Road and the TTE has given you berth no 58 in coach B2, right?)

Me – Hanji. (yes)

Mr. F – ticket number dikhaiye aur 500 rupaye dijiye, TTE saheb maange hain aapka ticket banane. (Okay, give me your ticket number and Rs 500. The TTE has asked to collect it for upgrading your ticket)

This was not an isolated conversation between me & Mr. F. He had similar conversation with 3 other fellow travelers in my compartment. He told them their seat numbers and destination and asked for ticket number and money. One of my fellow travelers joked that the TTE had one job and that too he outsourced to bed-roll guy!

We wanted to go to sleep, but waited for some time for Mr. F to come back with upgraded tickets but it was taking longer and longer. Now, some of us started doubting Mr. F and one person went to look for him. As you might have guessed, he could not find Mr. F and instead came with the TTE! The TTE heard our stories and we realized that there were a total of 6 persons who gave him money for ticket up-gradation. The TTE also tried to find him, but in vain. Mr. F was in fact Mr. Fraud and probably got down at some station immediately after looting us. So, we gave the TTE another Rs 500 each to get our tickets upgraded and went to sleep with peace!

Though at a cost, I learnt some important lessons for life from the incident. The incident got me into thinking what went wrong. The same person refuses to give Rs 200 to a person in TTE’s attire at the station and readily gives Rs 500 to a person in bed-roll guy’s attire. What made me believe Mr F? I guess it was something similar to peer pressure. At the station, I was making independent decision and did what I felt was right. But, in the train, there were other fellow travelers and somehow the responsibility to establish the identity of Mr F got diluted. Everyone thought, “Since no one else is doubting him, why should I!” In decision-making, individual responsibility is very crucial. It makes the person feel responsible for the decision. In collective decision-making, the sense of responsibility somehow gets diluted.

Someone has rightly said, “Kyon Darein Zindagi Mein Kya Hoga, Kuch na Hoga to Tajurba Hoga!!”