It was on a bright summer’s day in 1982 that I boarded the ‘KK’ Express bound for Delhi at the Trivandrum Central railway station, on my way back to Vijayawada after a short sojourn at home. The train was flagged off on time and I settled down comfortably with a book. I shared the air-conditioned second class cubicle with a couple and their two children who were quite friendly. They attempted to make small conversation with me though I tried to keep to myself and my book. The Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) came around and checked the tickets.
Just after the train left the next major station, Quilon, I went to the toilet to change into more comfortable dress for the long journey ahead. However, during the process I watched in horror my wallet falling through the toilet outlet.
In panic, since all my money and the train ticket were inside the wallet, I pulled the emergency chain inside the toilet. The chain just came off in my hand. I came out and pulled the first chain that I saw. This time the train screeched to a halt, after maybe 500 more metres.
I faced a barrage of questions from other passengers and officials who jumped out of the stationary train along with me. Of course, there was no chance of recovering my wallet, for the train had travelled at least 2 km from the point of the mishap. So everyone got back in the train and the journey resumed.
My co-passengers expressed their sympathies and consoled me. The TTE, a stern, no-nonsense person, came over to find out about the incident and asked me for the ticket again. I informed him it had been lost along with my wallet. He asked me to take a new ticket since I cannot travel without a valid ticket. I explained to him that all my money also went down with the wallet and I was left with just a 50-paisa coin. He was not willing to listen to my pleas and asked me to get down at the next station.
However, after some time he came back and asked me to meet the Train Superintendent who was in the last bogey and get his permission to travel.
I walked through numerous bogies jostling with crowds and virtually fighting my way through at times to reach the officer and tried to explain the situation to him. But he flatly refused to give any such permission and said the TTE had no business even to send me to him. Dejected, I found my way back to the TTE and explained my predicament.
Finally, he agreed to allow me to travel up to Palghat where he would be handing over charge to another TTE, and it was up to the new TTE to allow me to travel ahead.
To my pleasant surprise, he offered me Rs. 20, to see me through the journey. In fact, he was apologetic about not being able to give me more money. He insisted on my taking the money, saying I could return it after reaching home.
At Palghat, I waited anxiously for the new TTE, concerned that he would evict me. He came, not to evict me but to assure me that he would allow me to travel up to Vijayawada since the previous TTE had explained to him my situation and requested him to take care of me.
Still to go
The rest of the journey was uneventful. When the train rolled into the Vijayawada station, I still had about Rs.10 left in my pocket, since my co-passengers had ensured that I did not go hungry by sharing the food they were carrying.
I was humbled beyond words at the Vijayawada station when the TTE took me personally to the Stationmaster and requested him to allow me to pass through the gate, explaining the circumstances.
This was an experience I cherish, which not just changed my opinion of TTEs but also rekindled my belief in humanity and the confidence in providence.
Children generally love to go out. As such, they are very fond of making journeys frequently. They love all kinds of journeys. I have frequently travelled by bus with my parents to different places. However, last Sunday I had a memorable journey by rail.
We reached the station at about 10.00 a.m. The train was to start at 10.15 a.m. My father bought tickets for mother and me as also for himself. Immediately, we moved to platform No.1 where the train was to arrive shortly. We had not been there on the platform for more than a minute or two when the train arrived. We at once boarded it. We had first class tickets with us. So, we found no difficulty in boarding the train.
I got a seat near the window. Soon, the train started. I felt thrilled. I saw the platform moving backwards. At first the train was slow but soon it gathered speed. Within a few minutes, it gained the speed of the wind.
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All the houses, poles, fields and trees seemed to be running backwards. I saw farmers working in the fields. Animals were also grazing there. Some women were picking up weeds from the fields.
It was an express train. So, it did not halt at small stations. Even at big stations and junctions, it halted only for a few minutes. As the train halted some people bought eatables and drinks from the vendors at the platforms. Some vendors also came within the compartments. A travelling ticket Examiner came and checked our tickets.
It was late in the afternoon that the train reached Kolkata. We alighted from it and through the exit gate came out. Again our tickets were checked, now at the gate. We left for our uncle’s house where we had to go.