Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jaago re... you say! Yes, but how?

I was recently watching the Jaago Re-Tata Tea ad about 'donation' for a college seat and the ensuing half-a-minute mini-lecture on corruption in the education system. It reminded me of this little (okay, not-so-little) episode that happened a few months ago on board the Prashanti Express during my trip to Bangalore for a close friend's wedding.

Our tickets got confirmed only in the last minute despite booking it two days in advance (that too in Tatkal). And when we got into the train it was so full it wasn't funny. Luggage was stuffed under all the three berths with not so much as an inch of space for our really cutesy small single suitcase. But we did manage to magically tuck it in. After breakfast, I had calmed down enough from the fretting-fuming-frustration, and  settled to enjoy the coolness of the AC coach while taking note of my surroundings and co-passengers.

A middle-aged couple, a young married girl, another young guy, besides a bunch of young Wipro employees who were returning to Bangalore from their conference-cum-fun trip at Bhubaneswar, were to keep us company for the next 26 hours. Fine! But what wasn't fine was the way 12 people (four of whom had Sleeper Class tickets) were seated in a eight-seater coupe! The TC didn't seem to have a problem with that! So far so good!

Now starts our real (read juicy and gossipy) story... Once upon a time there lived a queen bee who wanted to travel to Bangalore... To cut a very long story short, let me begin with my reaction and then proceed further. I was very impressed initially with the bee and her battalion, and the bubbly atmosphere in the compartment. But let me admit that I was totally shocked when I realized that the queen bee (or should we call her 'Her Royal Highness' for the treatment she had received through the journey), who made herself extremely comfortable in cool red-and-black striped pyjamas and off-white kurta, doesn't even have a confirmed ticket?

So who is this HRH? Called Naksha, this bubbly employee of Wipro seemed to be the blue-eyed daughter/daughter-in-law of a well-connected dad, and/or dad's best friend-cum-future father-in-law. It all looked quite mysterious as I tried to figure out which among the two big guys is a top cop. Of course, I couldn't solve the mystery to this date.

Anyway... thanks to madame Naksha, our compartment was the most sought-after at every station (big and small) that the train stopped. At every halt, two cops in mufti would get in, ask for madam-of-seat-number-so-and-so, salute HRH, pass her packets of chips, biscuits, bottles of Coke/Sprite/ Fanta... you name it! It was fun to watch for an hour or two as our compartment was getting the attention of the entire Railway Police Force, the TC, the Station Master and every Tom, Dick and Harry.

But as evening gave way to night, I started getting irritated with the people swarming in and out of the coupe. It was peak summer and the AC in the compartment was not sufficient with so many of HRH's personal attendants, friends-cum-colleagues and well-wishers visiting her at regular intervals. The TC, unfortunately, couldn't confirm her RAC ticket till late in the night, and post 10 p.m. the visitors at the station kept waking us up not knowing madam's new berth number.

Gawd! I would have died of shame for putting so many people through hours of inconvenience and torture. But HRH Naksha was oblivious to all this as she was not only enjoying the attention but also looked like this treatment is not really new to her. And all this made me wonder... if this is not corruption at its most base level, then what is! I was feeling worse thinking about all the time, money and energy of the RPF jawans that was spent on pleasing/impressing one woman - all for the sake of promotion, recognition or whatever favor they're after.

I agree there is no happy ending to this story - but that is purely because the moral of my story is bitterly clear: As long as there are Nakshas in this world, there's bound to be corruption.

So let's just go with the slogan - 'Long live HRH, and long live corruption'!


christelle said...

On the other side... I've also seen a TTE refuse money from someone with an WL ticket trying to get priority above RAC tix saying "if you are the one with the RAC ticket, would you like it if I gave the ticket to someone else?"

memories said...

hmmm... well Christelle, I agree there are a few good men (read TTEs) out there but it's a known fact that they are a rarity. And you should be happy to be one of the lucky few to encounter a good and strict person :)