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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Booking Tickets In Indian Railways : A Mayhem In Itself

Team Being Cynical
Irrespective of all the bad and filth that's been told and written about Indian Railways journey, I still love to travel long distance in it. I always somehow fascinated sitting in your A/C boggy and ogling the outside world behind those messy glass panels. But having said that, this piece of mine is intended to give a pause to all those chaps who are planning to ride the world's largest railways network. Let me make this clear, travelling in Indian Railways comes with a premium- quite literally and I learned it the hard way this time around.

Being working in a field as deadly as IT where most of the times guys look so utterly disgusted which even would make Alok Nath look a happier person, I had always my travelling schedule up in scrambles till the last minute. As expected getting a confirmed ticket at last minute in Indian Railways is tougher than making Tushar Kapoor do some natural acting. So I always resorted to the generous Tatkal Sewa floated by our railways. Even this sewa is far from the reach of a common man as a huge scam is running behind close doors leaving even the first person in queue going empty handed. Thanks to Ram Babu (a ticket broker) who always honour my request to get me a confirmed Tatkal ticket with a paltry Rs. 400 /- fee. So my journey from Pune was never a problem but always had a problem or two while returning back as till date I am struggling to find a reliable Ram Babu's counterpart in my home town.

The last time when I travelled to my home town my return journey did throw some unpleasant experience as expected - thanks for the nonavailability of a Ram Babu there. To be in a safer side I did booked my return journey ticket some 20 days ahead with a waiting list number of 39. A certain know all did assured me that 39 is a safe waiting number which is destined to be confirmed by the time the chart is prepared. I never bothered for my waiting status till the point it is barely 5 days left for my journey and found I am still stuck at 21 and looking at the trend of last 15 days it looked more bleak a chance than - Pakistan becoming a sober nation, of my ticket getting confirmed. My father who always bothered to the core for my comfort did pitch in with his advise to go for a Tatkal ticket and getting my previous ticket cancelled and in fact he had one tout in the reservation counter who promised to get me a confirmed ticket without we moving our butt an inch even.

I wish I had taken his advise seriously, but instead I tried to be a smarty pant and went with some mathematics. I thought of not paying an extra Tatkal charge and some money to the tout but instead get some jackass around the miniature political circle to get my ticket confirmed in one of the official quotas. Looking at my adventure of going with non corruption my father did asked the ticket tout to go for a walk and started searching his contacts who can confirm my ticket via some quota.

There comes one such chap (close friend of one of our relatives) who hailed himself as the person who does those last minute quota allocations and promised us a confirmed ticket. Not entirely satisfied with one option one of our distance uncle, who happens to have some intimate contact with the P.A of a state minister was accessed and he guided us which lead to my dad biking around 10 kilometers to the minister's residence with the photo copy of my ticket for the P.A to acknowledge and forward it for a ministerial quota. All including my father were happy when the first chap called up and said he has done his job and my berth and boggy number would be known when the chat is prepared two hours before the departure.

The day of my journey did finally come. With the botheration of the ticket well out of the window, my mother started her part of packing (the prawns fry which I usually bring and vegetables of various kind) for me. One of my sister who was more bothered than me for the ticket must have started checking the latest status from the day break I guess. No sooner it hit 12:30 my sister called up and gave us that earth shaking news- my ticket is still in waiting 10 and the chart is already prepared. As they say once the chart is prepared even Momta Banerjee couldn't be much of a help. Both me and my father gave that unspeakable agony in our eyes - how the hell this can happen? How come both the quota allocating chap as well as the minister fail at the same time? All the contacts who were involved in this ticket confirmation activity were called up and we were honoured with some excuses of how the whole thing went horribly wrong at the last minute and how my name was removed from the confirmed list to accommodate some Rahul Gandhi stature fellow.

As I had to travel anyhow in that day and the Tatkal option was never an option anymore, I had to rush to the station to get a ticket of some other train for next day with a waiting list of 239. No one was contacted this time to confirm this as i never wanted to give another Rahul Gandhi some last minute un-comfort but instead to go ahead with my 1700 K.M journey in a waiting ticket.

Let me not write about the pain and torture, those persuasion of our ever so friendly T.T and those unspeakable agony I had to go through in my 36 hours journey. Then and there in the train I decided, at times it is injurious to health if you try to be a smart head. I prayed to God that never make me forgo my father's advise, even if it happens to cozy around with a tout, more so if he happens to be a ticket agent of Indian Railways. So to all those who are planning to travel - get hold of a Ram Babu somewhere down the street corner or plan your journey some 60 days ahead. If you fail in both then I advise you to drop the option of Indian Railways and search the net for some cheap budget flight. Good luck and have a safe journey.

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