“Train No-12526 Mumbai-Latur express is shortly arriving on Platform no-4”. A hustle finally started on the sleepy platform of otherwise vivacious Pune. I had gobbled up a whole pack of Kurkure imagining it to be ‘chicken legs’ from my favourite KFC and the train had still not arrived! It was a complete 2 hours late. Never in my life, I had such a chance to observe people on the platform. They are all the time incessantly eating or drinking while waiting for the train to come; may be one reason for rising obesity in India could be late running of the Indian Railways!
Even after the announcement, it took a complete 15 minutes (17 to be exact) for the train to reach the platform. Till that time I quite resembled a “Chocolate Brownie”, my hands and face had become as cold as the ice-cream, head hot as the cake and chocolate sweet feeling of finally getting into the train, phew!
“Excuse me, what seat number is yours?” I tried to be as ‘loudly polite’ as I could be. All the seats had already been pulled up, and half of the people were asleep. ‘This seat number 46 belongs to me’, I said with a temper which was just rising underneath my cool exterior. A sleepy teenager yawned at me and told me to check my seat number again. I pulled him up and asked him to show me his ticket. Surprisingly seat numbers on both our tickets was the same.
‘Lets go out and check the charts’ I suggested. ‘Are you traveling for the first time in a train? This is my seat; I am sure either your seat number is different or you are on the wrong train!’ was his curt reply. That was it! I could no longer take any more non-sense from this kid at 3 at night! Then something struck me! 3:00 AM it was! Technically this would mean the next day; and I was supposed to board my train on 18 Nov, 12:45 AM whereas here I was holding a ticket of 17 Nov! The train had started to move and a TT came into the compartment. I was in a complete soup; and this one was going to be ‘HOT n SOUR’, I was sure! He checked my ticket, and looked puzzled. “How could I tick the seat number, when I am holding the ticket for the same berth now’? Then, he suddenly realized my folly.
TT: ‘Sir, do you know you are on the wrong train?’
Me: ‘Actually I think my ticket is wrong, not the train’ Just after I spoke this, I realized my cheekiness could land me in trouble today. ‘Being shocked’ would have been a better option, I guess! But how could I shut up?!!
But it was correctly the opposite reaction! He smiled at me and said ‘What do you expect me to do?’ I blurted out,‘How do I know? You are the one who had studied for it, you decide. I am NOT a ticket-less passenger, just a passenger with the wrong ticket! Such a rude yet straight-forward reply from my side was either going to kill me or make my day! ‘Your biological clock seems to work a day earlier than ours’ he joked. But the joke did not end there. He asked me to pay for the ticket which was a complete Rs 996. I looked at him with great guilt; the same expression as a child is caught eating chocolate cookies which Mummy told not to eat! ‘I have no money’ I told him. He laughed again. ‘Surely sir, you don’t want me to believe it’ He said pointing towards my laptop and Air-India tag still on it! I pulled out my wallet and showed him the last 150 bucks in it. ‘Sir the fact is that I don’t even have money to buy a general ticket in this train till my home’ His face got grim; and so did mine! ‘Sir, I ensure that as soon as I would reach Latur (my home-town), I would get the money back to you, please trust me.’ He laughed again, ‘Who in correct senses would get back the money once gone out of station. That too the nearest ATM is only 10 kms there. People in our country aren’t as honest. But I like your sense of humour, you can take my seat and continue the journey’ saying this he moved on. This was not the first time, my fiery tongue and presence of mind had helped me get off; it had always been on my side! Keeping my fingers crossed, I continued on my journey home but I could hardly get any wink of sleep.
A knock on the door of restroom for TT was answered with a puzzled look. . ‘Can I meet Mr Vishwanath Wagh?’ ‘The Look’ then turned into a smile then finally into ‘happy tears’! ‘Sir, I came to give the ticket amount; all people are not dishonest in
After reaching the last station, Latur, I had taken the first auto and went to the nearest ATM (which was in fact more than 10 kms away). It was raining cats and dogs in the morning. By the time I was back with the money (Total Rs 996), train compartments were empty and I was totally drenched.
He could not speak for a while; hugged me hard and then turned towards his colleagues, ‘See I told you he would turn up!’ I was welcomed in the room with a towel, dry set of clothes and tea (and well Kurkure. Bet you can guess what I was still imagining them to be?)
My sharp mind and fiery tongue save me all the time, but my honesty is what always helps me to sleep peacefully at night. Now, with a pride on my tongue and a tale in my heart I continue cherishing life and KFC!