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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Railway Diaries


We Indians have an incessant inevitable relationship with Railways. Our happiness and sorrows both pass through the labyrinth of the railway tracks. I have faced my most emotional moments standing on the platform of railway stations across the length and breadth of our country.

It was just day before yesterday when a friend of mine shared a picture on his facebook wall in which two Indian soldiers where  travelling by sleeping next to the toilets in absence of reserved berths. The gentleman TTE of the coach obliged to people who paid him hot in return for the adjustment of available vacant berths and those two soldiers did not fit into his criteria of business.  So they were destined to acquire the floor space with two attached toilets and two doors on either side. Yes ! I mean the place near the toilets.  The post abused the  Railways for not respecting and helping enough the men who not only sacrifice their lives on the borders but also surprise the people of the country during the times of natural calamities and civil disorders. Only the victims of such catastrophe might know the efforts and the attitude of men in uniform to go a mile beyond the call of duty to save someone who is not even remotely associated with them. Only a soldier can do that. They are bred and trained to do such acts of bravery till eternity no matter how they are treated and looked after in return. The man who took the pain to understand the soldiers plight and shared it on his wall should be appreciated but he should have done a more noble job of sharing his seat instead of sharing his facebook post. None of us do it actually but to think over it should not be a crime. 

Expecting the TTE should have only helped those soldiers to me seems completely unethical. Why the rest of the coach precisely five dozens of them be spared ? Wasn't it their onus too to accommodate a soldier who might just be returning to base after his rescue operation during Chennai floods ? We like to applaud them on televisions when the media sing their saga for TRPs but when it comes to situations like this the whole patriotism thing in us takes a backseat.

My yesterday was emotionally turbulent and the very reason for why I am writing on a Sunday evening. A friend of mine who is serving in the Armed forces lost his father . The news of his father's sudden demise came in the afternoon. The situation needed him to be available at his hometown along with wife and children. His village is far away from the reach of Airways and the only resort was a train journey the same day. At 5 pm we were at the railway station to see him off. We checked for the current reservations but nothing was available. Finally we were hard press to buy general tickets for him and his wife with two children. The plan was to upgrade it to Sleeper class or  a 3 AC as per the situation in the running train. But it is not as simple as it sounds. There are very bright chances of one not finding any type of accommodation. So in order to make things simpler, we approached the TTE of that train and explained him the circumstances. He flatly refused us and showed us the reservation chart to understand his inability. But he was kind enough to refer to us to a passenger who had one berth in a compartment away from his rest of the berths. The TTE knew the fact that the passenger would never let his 7 yrs old daughter sit in a far away compartment from his own. So we went up to him and requested him for his isolated berth. The TTE also persuaded the man in our favor and at last he obliged although in return for  some cash. It was more than anything that we wanted at that point of time but the man did not shy to use the criticality of the situation to make some extra buck. His behavior again hurt me.  

I could sense the frustration due to insensitivity of that man on my friend's face of which I carried a part on my face.  His decade of service as a soldier of this country did not make sense to this man. A soldier's father death has no gravity for that man. Isn't it insensitivity on our part as a countrymen of this soldier ?

But every darken sky has a shinning ray. My friend in acknowledgement to TTE's unexpected help offered him a currency more than the one he was supposed to pay as charges for conversion of a general ticket. The TTE emotionally refused to accept it saying "Sir ! Ab hum itne bhi bure nahi hai ki aise time pe bhi paisa kamaye."and left the place proudly. I was touched by his gesture and so were the rest of our group. Humanity has not left the earth completely. 

The signal turned green and the train began to move. We bid our goodbyes till the time we lost the sight of each other. 

This post is exclusively written to encourage people to cooperate with soldiers during train journeys. It is the least we can do in return for what they do for us. We will never get to know about their hardships and circumstances because these men in uniform are stoical in nature. They never express their pain because that is against the spirit of military. They move from place to place to attend various duties within short notice of time. Their movements cannot be cancelled on the pretext of unavailability of railway reservation. The protocols cannot be changed but what really can be changed is our outlook.  We can do our least bit by sharing our confirmed berths in case we get a chance. So next time you see a soldier, remember he is the man you cheer for !