Saturday, June 12, 2010

To err is human

If so, both Indian Rail and I proved our humanity this week. And that is a good thing, right?

At 5am on the 9th, I wobbly-ly (and if that isn't a word, it should be) ran onto the platform lugging a heavy suitcase and continued running past D7,6,5,4 to get to D3, seat 96. The instant I passed D4, I heaved my suitcase into the train, stowed my luggage, got into seat no 96, and fell asleep. When the TC- a young Shahid look-alike- came along, he told met that I was in the wrong coach, this being D2, "but you just keep sitting there, Madam". well ok. I did keep sitting there for all of 90 minutes when a chap came up and showed me his ticket.

Well, fine. That's ok. I did have a legit ticket, right? All I needed to do was find the right carriage. So balancing my suitcase on my knee, I set off in search of it. Not so easy. After wandering up and down a couple of carriages, I found the TC,  grabbed his sleeve and implored him to lead me to it. "Never mind that," he said, "you just go to the next carriage and sit in seat no.33."

When I went there, the seat was occupied by a little old lady who gave me the dragon eye. I blushed and walked by to stand near the loo-which had an overflowing basin. There were some policemen there and after chatting for a little while, they offered to look after my luggage while I looked for the TC.

"What are you doing here? Didn't I tell you to sit in 33?"
"yes," I yelped "but there is a little old lady in it!"
"there shouldn't be. Come with me."

Well, he went to the seat, and barely opened his mouth to speak when he got the dragon glare. which is why instead of speaking to her, he addressed the carriage at large," Is there anyone with Maaji here?"

One man- standing there by the basin- owned up to being her son. They were traveling ticket-less, he said and apologised. He had seen the empty seat and told her to sit there, but now he would tell her to get up. "No, wait! Why could I not go to my own seat", I asked. Because it wasn't there. Turns out that while 106 passengers had been booked into D3, the coach only had 81 seats. As a legit ticket holder, I had priority over a ticketless traveler. But of course, I couldn't allow that, and volunteered to stand there.

I didnt really mind it, especially since the chaps who had seen the incident all found a place for me to stow away my bags out of the wet. But everyone else did. And they all told me how soon, some seats would be vacated and i could sit there. And sure enough, they often were, and i would sit down for a while, till the next people came on.

One of these times, when I was standing in the corridor and being jostled, a man gave me his seat. Thank you, but I am fine, I tried to say. I have been sitting long enough, he said and insisted I take his place. After that, every half hour, on the half hour, I would try and tell him that I've sat enough. He always refused to take his seat back. He stood there for two hours, just so that I would not be jostled by strangers.

So it was not a bad experience after all. It was reassuring to know that the Mighty Indian Rail was human after all. It was nice to interact with my fellow-passengers. It was extremely nice to meet truly kind people. This experience was all about humanity then, and it was good.

But humanity is not all good. When I was standing by the loo, something sticky was thrust into my palm. I looked down and saw  a grimy little  paw holding my hand. Its owner was a little boy who stared impassively at me and did not flinch as I raised an interrogative eyebrow at him. His mum then spoke to me," look after him, will you" and disappeared into the loo before I could reply. I was left holding the kid and trying not to think about the cause of the sticky palm. See, he wasn't eating sweets, and his nose was running. If this woman had thrust a parcel into my hand, I would have been justified in calling security. Now, I could do nothing, despite that this had immense potential to explode and was a biological hazard to boot. Sometimes there is too much human contact


Grumpy Granny said...

Oh, this is a wonderful post! Sadly, we don't have many trains in the US and I love train travel. It is a wonderful way to meet people, and experience much of the good part of humanity, as you say. Of course, there is the chance that you could run into "sticky" situations along the way, too! ;-)

Have you ever seen the movie "Clockwise"??

Highly recommend it.


mabel said...

Hey i missed your post and just saw it today. What is with lil ol lady's and us. Why do they hate us so? haha. Miss you

Ellie said...

Bloody brilliant tale.