Disclaimer: This short story is inspired by a real-life incident which recently happened to me at the Guwahati railway station. Any resemblance to a person or similar experience of the reader is purely coincidental.
It was raining heavily in the evening of 11 April 2014. The time was 5 pm. Akash was running around frantically in his hostel room; his eyes were scanning every nook and corner and his face bore a highly worried look. His train was scheduled to depart at 8 pm and he couldn’t find the ticket!
The taxi was already parked outside and the driver was honking loudly, inviting the ire of everyone who were still present at the hostel. He had called the taxi early because the roads were in a poor condition and he didn’t want to risk reaching the railway station late and miss his train. It was the season of Bohag Bihu – the spring festival of Assam and Akash had planned to visit his native village in Dibrugarh for a week and spend time with his family. He was an engineering student in the state engineering college and at this time of the year, due to holidays, there was a severe rush for tickets, both bus and railway. Akash did not want to buy another ticket because he surely knew he would not get one at the eleventh hour! His forehead was completely sweaty, so he put his hand inside his trousers’ right pocket and drew our his handkerchief and unfolded it.
A folded piece of paper fell out. It was his ticket which was trapped inside the folds of the handkerchief! Akash heaved a heavy sigh of relief and let out a low scream. YES!
Soon, he boarded the taxi after calming the driver who seemed bitter due to the unnecessary waiting. Akash promised to pay him some extra money for the waiting and silenced him. Money is the solution to everything, though Akash! Fortunately, the roads did not have heavy traffic and the driver managed to reach the railway station half an hour before the departure time. After paying the fare, Akash headed towards the platform with his duffle bag held on his shoulders. When he reached Platform Number 1, he noticed that the train had already been parked there but its doors were closed. He was glad he did not have to rush to other platforms and could easily board the train. He took out his ticket and glanced at it; his eyes instantly hovered to the place where his coach number was written. It read “B6”. He lazily trudged towards his coach and leaned on a nearby pillar when he reached B6. He was a little exhausted.
A few minutes later, the passengers list was pasted on the coach and some people rushed towards it to check their names on it. Akash did not bother as he had a confirmed ticket, so he coolly boarded the coach and proceeded towards his seat. He hoisted his bag on the side upper berth and sat on the lower berth, which was his seat, and watched other passengers come and gradually fill the coach with their hustle-bustle! Suddenly a man came up to him and demanded to see his ticket. Akash was surprised as the man was not the Train Ticket Examiner and had no right to demand to see others’ tickets unless he had a genuine purpose. With proper courtesy, Akash greeted the person and asked him why he wished to see his ticket. The man replied that the lower berth was his seat and inquired which seat belonged to Akash. Akash was startled as he had a confirmed ticket and firmly believed that the railways wouldn’t commit such a mistake in ticket booking. He also asked to see the ticket of the elderly man. Both the persons opened their tickets and began to scrtunize them thoroughly.
Oh no! Akash let out a small scream. He had committed a big blunder.
The date on his ticket was “11.05.2014”!
“How could I do such a blunder?” He cursed himself. He had mistakenly filled in the month of ‘May’ while booking the railway ticket online and did not realize what he had done. And all this while, he did not care to take a proper look at his ticket. He felt miserable and foolish!
The man was very arrogant and asked Akash to vacate the seat immediately. Akash was too overwhelmed with worry at that moment so he did not notice the man keeping his luggage on the seat and prodding him with his elbows, thus insisting that Akash leave at once. A nearby person, who was witnessing the whole incident, walked up to Akash and instructed him to approach the Train Ticket Examiner and discuss the matter with him, for he could arrange a seat for him in another coach. The train was about to leave in 2 minutes. Poor Akash had lost his peace of mind and instead of heeding to the man’s advice, he took his bag and rushed towards the ticket booking room.
The train blared its horn. Akash took a sip from his tea and continued narrating the story to his friend Mohan.
“There was a huge crowd near the ticket window. People were inquiring about trains and booking tickets. I barged through them and by the time I reached the counter, I heard the train blow its horn and move; the sound of the wheels rang in my ears. What a fool I was. I shouldn’t have come out of the train; somehow, I could have managed the night-long journey and reach home. I did not bother to rush towards the moving train for guilt and anger filled my head and I decided to let the train go. My carelessness and stupidity cost me heavily and I missed my train. I had no option left than to book another ticket for tomorrow.”
Akash kept his half-filled tea cup on a piece of paper. It was a train ticket. The date read: 12.04.2014. He smiled, feeling slightly amused for everything that happened last night.
He wished he had not found his ticket while in his hostel room!
Moral of the story: Always check your travel ticket thoroughly before boarding a train. Better, be careful while booking the ticket itself!