It was a friday night. And I was on my way to Kozhikode to spend the weekend. The Chennai Central Railway Station seemed nominally crowded. Got here with ample time to verify which coach my berth was, but I didn't do that right away. I just had small dinner after which it became around 8 pm. I went to the coach and checked for my name against my berth; to my horror, it wasn't my name. It was only then I looked at the date in the ticket print out; it was for a future date.
So then I decided I must get the correct ticket printed out immediately, and rushed to the internet cafe inside the railway station. I informed the guy (the cashier cum cafe-employee) out there I just wanted a printout. I couldn't believe what he told me next: "The printout would cost you Rs. 30. Is it ok?". The train was scheduled to leave @ 8.25 pm. I had to say "Yes". He said that the printer wasn't free for the moment; so I had to wait. The printer was at the cashier's desk too. The cashier looked at me and told me that I can browse using anyone of their free machines. He elaborated that the browsing rate was Rs. 30. So I confirmed that this was inclusive of the printout charges. He confirmed that too. There was a little, if negligible, sigh after he said that.
So I gladly did. I assumed that the computers there were networked somehow so I could adapt the ticket to a word document, and then give that for printing. I quickly browsed to the IRCTC website, logged-in, and found the correct ticket. I selected the option to print. Normally on Internet Explorer you'd be prompted with a Print Dialog box. But the dialog box showed that there were no printers installed. I canceled the dialog, and selected all the text in the page which showed me my ticket, opened up Microsoft Word, pasted the whole thing out there, and was about to hit Ctrl+S to save, when all of a sudden, POOF!
All the UPSs were whining like "I want my power supply". But they didn't have enough backup to power the computer. And it was already 8.10 pm.
Okay do I have to pay Rs. 30 to the cashier or not. Maybe he will ask for it. Maybe he will not. For some strange luck the cashier told me to go to the next building to see if I could get the printout. I ran.
I gave up looking for a cafe, at the other building. In fact I don't think there is one. This was when I decided to go die-hard and board the train. I did make note of my berth for the train I was supposed to be travelling in. So I went to my coach, looked out for my name, and made note of my PNR number. There was a TTR standing behind me. He was answering queries in Malayalam. I went up to him and told him about my problem. He replied that I can occupy my berth, but I'd have to pay a fine of Rs. 50 for not presenting the ticket. And therefore I went and sat in my berth.
After 1.5 hours of traveling the TTR comes. Assuming that the TTR would have forgotten the problem, and, not even caring to see who the TTR was I spoke in Malayalam, I explained my problem. At the end of the explanation, the TTR said that he'd have to write a charge sheet, in tamil. That was the only time I noticed the TTR's face. He wasn't the same person I spoke to before.
Next morning, while still in the train, and only few hours remaining to where I had to get down, I came to realize that without getting the charge sheet I might face a problem if I'm caught in the platform. So I resolved to find a TTR, and get the charge sheet. There were two TTRs I met in the process. The first one was quite alarmed when I told him I didn't have a ticket. But after explaining the whole situation, he told me to meet the second TTR.
The second TTR was even more dramatic. For starts, he wasn't usually in his seat. I had to check every half-hour if he was there or not. Finally I found him in his place and approached him. When I told the person that I needed a charge sheet, he too was surprised. He moved from his berth to the coach entrance door. I told him I had taken the wrong printout; took the printout for the next month instead of the current month. He looked at me and asked: You've reserved a ticket the next month also?!
I was stumped. I mean why was that question even called for? There are probably millions like me who reserve at least one ticket every month. That TTR's astonishment was like he had discovered that I had stolen his favourite berth or something. I didn't was to react to his question. I simply told him "Yes I did".
That TTR then started to red tape the whole affair. He wasn't informed by the previous TTR (the one who came to my berth) that there was someone traveling without a ticket. From what was actually said, I gathered, all the TTRs who board from chennai, get down at Palakkad. That is their end-of-shift. TTRs belonging to a different shift aren't supposed to fine people who have boarded the train before that shift. The TTR admitted that he cannot issue the charge sheet.
This wasn't good news to me. I had to pay a fine of Rs. 250 plus the whole train fare. I only had a debit card at that moment. I accepted the fact that there was no use talking to this TTR. And I was on my way back to my seat. The TTR humbly iterated that he can't do anything about it. And he also told me to try not to get caught by the platform checker.
I sighed again.
I got down at my station. Took the foot bridge which lead to the exit on platform 1. And as i descended the last flight of stairs, the checker was present. I was too frustrated to look scared. I walked normally. He was taking a call on his mobile phone. A few feet from the exit, and his hand was pointed at me. And then all of a sudden, he turned away. I was never checked! I fled the scene as fast as I could.
I am still choked up with the hangover of what happened that cruel day. But then what can one do about it:
Every dog has his day.