It was a Saturday afternoon. I boarded a Churchgate-bound slow train from Borivali. It was a rather ordinary day. A child was asking his mother for water, three old Gujarati women were chatting, two young girls were having a serious discussion about their boyfriends, others either had their earphones plugged on or were reading/browsing through their mobiles as I sat there observing all of them. Just then a young boy walks in. “Ek ka das, ek ka das, ek ka das, teen ka bees,” he said in a rather old-fashioned way as he tried to sell keychains. He tried to entice the little boy with the Doraemon keychains. His lips were parched and his eyes tired. The scorching heat had drained him completely. Yet, he moved on, onto the other side.
“Oh shit,” exclaimed the girl. Her friend squinted at her and asked, “What happened?”
It was that moment when the young girl saw a ticket collector (TC) board the train. She realized that she was carrying a different bag and that she did not have her pass on her.
“Great! Let’s leave from the other side,” said her friend as she forced a smile. “No, it’s my fault. I will pay a fine, if she asks me for it. What if a TC catches hold of me on the platform?”
I was amused since you rarely come across such people. I just advised her to ask the TC for a receipt.
Finally the TC came and asked us for our tickets. I showed her my pass. She checked and returned it. I asked her for her identity card as I stuffed mine in my bag.
She turns around and glares at me and says in a rather impolite tone, “Tumhara ho gaya na?” Indirectly she was telling me that I am done with checking your ticket, so why don’t you shut up and sit down.
I was in no mood to do just that and this is the conversation that followed:
Me: Can I please see your ID cards? (In an equally polite, yet firm voice.)
Both of them showed their ID cards.
Me: Great! Can I see your steel badges please?
TC: What steel badges?
Me: See, you aren’t even in your uniform which is against the rules. So, can I see your steel badges please?
TC: Madam these ID’s are genuine.
Me: And I am the Queen of England. Can you please show me your steel badge or I am afraid I would ask you to step out of the train.
The certainty in my words made her flash her steel badge. “Thank you, you may now proceed.”
She was now fuming with anger. Next she asked the girl for her ticket. The girl said that she had forgotten her pass and was ready to pay a fine.
“Five hundred,” she bellowed. The girl fidgeted with her purse for the cash. I was surprised cause the fine is supposed to be Rs. 250, plus a full ticket charge. I frantically motioned her friend to ask her for a receipt. And as soon as she did, it made the TC furious. She scribbled on a receipt and asked the girl to sign. The girl looked up and questioned her how could she take Rs. 500 and make a receipt of Rs. 260. “Maine 260 hi bola, change de rahi hoon.” The girl was confused. “Nahi aapne five hundred bola,” she reaffirmed in a more confident tone.
“Nahi nahi, unhone five hundred nahi bola, aapne shayad kuch galat suna hoga,” I said. The girl stared at me and so did the TC. The TC literally dumped the change of Rs. 240 in her hands and moved on. The girl turned towards me and said, “but I heard five hundred.” “Yes, you’re right,” I said. “She said five hundred, but there is no point in arguing. The good thing is that today a lot of people who were merely aimless spectators to this entire episode have hopefully learnt a lesson; the TC should always be in their uniform, always ask the TC for their ID card and steel badge and never pay a fine unless you get a proper challan/receipt. Just imagine she would have walked away becoming five hundred rupees richer if you hadn’t asked her for a receipt.” I emphasized on the last line and made sure I was loud enough for the TC to hear.