Editor’s Choice: Howrah Rajdhani – Hilarious Short Story
I, as middleclass Indian, am blessed with many typical “Indian” characteristics. (No hard feeling bro – my other Indian brothers and sisters – if you do not agree, I fully agree to that. But being an Indian, I have right to classify my own atypical characteristics as “Indian”).
My first characteristic is “be cautious”. I confirm everything at least 3-4 times whatsoever the case to be. Let a simple case of locking the main door when I, with family, started for a trip (to attend a family function as we middleclass “rarely” waste our valuable earnings for exotic vacations), leaving our “so called” valuables in “soon to be temporarily deserted” house on mercy of a 7 lever “Goddrej” lock. Firstly I pulled the poor rusted lock multiple times after locking the door to stress test reliability of the lock, then looked back just after taking four-five steps before lock goes out of our sight to again cross verify whether lock was still there, and the most irritating one – was asked again by wife in auto-rickshaw when nearing railway station, “did you lock the door properly.”
Until we reached railway station, everyone tried utmost effort to badly entangle my cautious mind further with layers of confusion, “have you taken the tickets”… “Did you switch off fans and lights”… “Papa, did you inform my class teacher”… “Count the bags… it must be seven including two children (Five bags are minimum count of bags we travel with – light journey is always better – two suitcases, one big bag as eatery – even in Rajdhani Express in which Railway ministry provides food and beverages – not free – price included in tickets, one bag for both kids – they are still small, and one with all remaining valuables the purse of the lady of house)”…
My cautious characteristic was still dominating when we reached Mughalsarai railway station at 11:45 PM – total one hour fifteen minutes before schedule departure of Howrah Rajdhani Express. But it was totally acceptable – better early than never. I was busy in counting our bags and kids while taking help of coolie to carry our luggage to board in our reserved 3-tire AC compartment. Suddenly I could clearly see my second characteristic, doubt everyone, started going hand-to-hand with the first one. I took out the ticket to verify train number and timing, and kept doubting knowledge of coolie who, as per generally accepted Indian principles, seemingly knows more than the sophisticated computer system and the babus sitting at Enquiry Window. I looked at every computerized and manual display, demonstrating my cognizance to my wife and kids, and finally declared when the coolie turned to step down on platform number three, “On Platform number Three at 1:00 Hrs.”
Train arrived at right time (until now I had not paid to coolie – my second characteristics. You never know these coolies, they will disappear once they get money, leaving you helpless on the crowded platform with seven big bags including two sleeping children). We pushed everyone to locate (to be precise, “capture”) our already reserved births. Third characteristic woke up in late midnight – “always be in hurry”. The train was still standing. (I already checked with many co-passengers – it was Howrah Rajdhani. My brother-in-law had warned me that there would be many Rajdhanis going at the same time.) Within less than three minutes, we locked our bags with railways chain, brought bedsheets and blankets after a small fight with coach attendant who was asking us to wait for few minutes, changed our clothes — including those of our already sleeping children — to sleeping dress, and lied down on our births covering us with Indian Railways’ typical blankets.
Suddenly a “pehalwaan” (wrestler) looking person with his wife and ten big bags including two children entered in our section and shouted, “This is my birth, get down”. I was intimidated by his physique and voice but sill gave him free suggestion (my fourth characteristic) in imperceptibly protesting voice, “Bhai sahib (respected brother), it is my seat… please check your ticket again… many Rajdhanis go at this time… my brother-in-law told me already… it is Howrah Rajdhani…” I could not complete… he dragged me down from my upper seat. My wife could not protect me from falling… all four kids were fully awake and frightened (to be honest… not more than I was) and started crying loudly in chorus.
Suddenly God sent my savior (ticket checker). He checked our tickets and addressed to me, vindicating the pehalwaan looking person,
“Sir, your ticket was for yesterday’s Howrah Rajdhani – see November 3, 1:00 AM”
I put forth my argument (my fifth characteristic), “Today is November 3”
“No… after midnight date changed… it is November 4… 1:00 AM. Now train may start anytime… please get down quickly… hurry up!!!”
This was no problem… my already awaken third characteristic – “always be in hurry” – first time in my life helped me to get down with my light luggage and also with family safely. Train was almost running when I jumped out of it…
My wife, “I told you many times, check the tickets… check the tickets… but you never listened… ”
But I was busy in counting my luggage, “…5, 6, uhhhh… the purse 7… Complete!!! – thank god”