Tuesday, October 10, 2006


There was a long queue at the railway reservation counter. Though, this one was the credit card counter, yet, the queue was longer than the cash counters - sign of technological advancement or 'India shining' perhaps. But the booking clerk belied these feelings. Firstly, he had occupied his seat about ten to fifteen minutes late, as against the timings marked on top of the counter window, after availing his recess and secondly, his working speed matched that of a narrow gauge toy train of Darjeeling. Customers standing in the queue were making different types of comments. One of them remarked that our charismatic Railway Minister needed to take the class of his own staff to improve their speed and efficiency instead of going all the way to IITs and IIMs to do the same. I would have shifted to one of the cash counters but, since in addition to booking a ticket I also had to cancel the one previously booked with my credit card, for which I will not be entertained at the cash counter, so I did not have the option of changing the queue. When my turn came, the clerk took the reservation slip and the credit card from me, while still attending to the person in front of me. I think, to counter his slow speed, he was trying multi tasking. After going through the rigmarole, he finally handed me my tickets, credit card and the charge slips. I checked the ticket for the correctness but did not bother to check the charge slips. That was my mistake, because when I reached home and had a look at the two charge slips (one for the reservation and the other one for the cancellation), I found that one of these did not belong to me. It bore some one else’s signatures and also mentioned a different amount. I once again rushed to the reservation office. The queue now was longer than before. People were looking visibly agitated, owing to the slow motions of the booking clerk. When I headed straight to the counter they started shouting, thinking that I was jumping the queue. I raised my hand holding the charge slip and somehow elbowed my way to the counter. I attracted the attention of the booking clerk by tapping on the glass partition showing him the charge slip. He gave me a blank look and told me to come close to the counter as he was not able to hear me properly. There was a hefty lady standing at the window and when I requested her she frowned at me but nevetheless moved a bit back to make room for me. I told the booking clerk that he had handed me a wrong charge slip an hour and half back. He reluctantly took the charge slip from me, examined it carefully through his thick glasses with a wide frame and handed it back to me. He told me that since I had not pointed out the mistake immediately after getting it from him at the time of leaving the counter, I had to accept the same. I admitted my fault but requested him to give me my own charge slip, which I needed as a proof of the transaction, for which I would be paying later once my credit card bill arrives. He shuffled the papers lying in front of him and told me that he could not find any other charge slip bearing my name (which, he most probably must have handed over to the other customer) and told me point blank that he could not help me. I did not find it useful to stand at the counter any longer as I would be merely wasting my time in addition to testing the patience of the customers waiting in the queue who had been somewhat sympathising with me till then. I prudently decided to withdraw from the counter.

I entered the administrative office behind the counters from the side door and went straight to an official sitting there. A wooden plate fixed on the wall on top of his seat indicated that he was the Chief Reservation Supervisor. There was a group of persons surrounding him and by their look I could make out that they were all trying to get reservation through some special quota etc. I waited for some time and then finding some gap throegh that group pushed my self and told my story to the CRS. He told me to go out and come back after some time as he was very busy. I did not do so but instead pulled a chair and made myself comfortable in a corner. The crowd around him had depleted but he was not showing any signs of paying attention to me. I also did not show any sign of agitation and every time our eyes met I passed smile at him. After some time he called one of the attendants and told him to call the booking clerk of the concerned counter. I sat up in my chair with some hope. When my friend clerk arrived he gave me a disgusting look and blurted out something in his lingo to the CRS. The CRS looked at me and I passed another smile. He told the clerk to help me out. The clerk again confronted me and asked me that when he was not able to find my charge slip on his counter, how he could help me. I told him that since they had retained the original charge slip, he should simply take a xerox copy of the same and give that to me. He once again gave me his signature lethargic look with his brown , paan stained teeth protruding out of his thick, dry, black lips. He stood there for some time and when he again looked at me I smiled at him. He reluctantly went out and after some time came back with the xerox copy of my charge slip. He advised me angrily to check such mistakes before leaving the counter in future to which I obediently nodded and came out after thanking him and the CRS. Well friends, the Gandhigiri works.


Roaming Scorpion said...

having known you for sometime, I would not expect any other behaviour from you under the circumstances. Lage raho balli bhai!

P.E.Thomas Panicker said...

Gandhigiri lesson a bit too hard to practice in busy insensitive places. You have experienced but would you be prepared for another show? Next time check the receipt you are handed with rather than going through the consequent torture. Toms

Chugh said...

You are a very interesting and colourful person. Your blogs are signs of a budding writer and we do expect a Book of Short Stories soon. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr.Balvinder,

I really liked your story on Gandhigiri. It shows Bengalis are amenable to that form of persuasion.


Sharmila Thakur

Anonymous said...

Dear Capt. Balli,


Read your article in your blog GandhiGiri . Enjoyed and learnt a lot. One should accept that only this attitude works. Give my regards to Mam Balwinder and Love to Dear Sunny and Bunny.

Capt. Jaswal

suvendu.pati@gmail.com said...

Is in't it quite strange that despite being close, its finally the blogsite that we communicate through. Well, this story quite epitomises your personality.

Its nice to know that such wonderful art of story telling is amidst us. Did you try for the Without Reserve Building brand of RBI?

Do keep us posted of such little snippets.


Suvendu Pati

Mampi said...

I am impressed.

anant said...

maine shayad wahaan ladtha

Balvinder Singh said...

Mampi, thanks

Anant, yes that would have been the immediate reaction of any one, but i wanted to try Gandhigiri and it worked.

Anonymous said...

Gandhiji was against industrialisation. His charkha is a proof of that.

Trying to apply Gandhigiri in a computerised reservation system is like spinning a charkha with a motor.