Thursday, May 15, 2008

Being Smart - II

Last time I had shown you the brighter side of 'being smart', but I guess its fair only to balance it with the darker side too. The following is an account of what happened to me recently in the presence of smart people.

This time I was traveling from Bokaro to New Delhi by Ranchi Rajdhani Express. I was accompanied by my sister who is currently studying in Delhi. And this was her first visit to Delhi, so I wished that the journey would be enjoyable for her. Alas! This was not going to be the case as I would come to know later.

Anyway I was in a good mood and expected that the journey would meet her expectations (and mine too). Upon boarding the train, the attendant served us with packaged drinking water (this is the first thing these people have for you in Rajdhani express). And it began from here itself. The water was not chilled (well it was at normal temperature for a summer day). And more importantly it was some local grade bottle, not the usual "Rail Neer" made especially for Indian Railways.

My sister promptly objected to this (because other passengers did have 'Rail Neer' which was probably chilled) to which the attendant mentioned that the freezer was not working and the train was overloaded so there were not enough bottles of Rail Neer variety.

The term 'overloaded' gave quite a shock to me because, well, the book says that a Rajdhani Express cannot be overloaded (only confirmed passengers allowed here), but I did not want to create a scene over such a thing as packaged water so I ignored attendant's reply completely and asked my sister to bear with it. After all its India! She was not very comfortable with this treatment, but I ignored that too.

Half an hour later it was time to serve the soup in order to prepare for the dinner. The soup along with soup-sticks is served in a small tray. And in this case I was in real awe! The attendant asked us to share the soup in a single tray because he had probably guessed that we were from the same family. The train is really overloaded man! They don't have packaged water, no trays and what not.

I got damn frustrated and exploded, "What do you want? That we share the soup in same tray, the dinner in same dish, sit on the same seat and sleep on the same berth! What the hell is going on here?" He was taken aback by my rush of adrenaline and gave us separate trays for the soup.

Passengers next us to were trying to calm me down and explained that there is no need to create a fuss over petty things. I was enraged even more. I pointed out that if I am paying Indian Railways every last paise of the fare then I should get every last bit of their service if I want to. And I told that this time it was me, next time it could be you. Well this prediction came true during dinner time!

The attendant was scared way beyond with us so he did not create any issues for us while serving dinner but two passengers next to us did not get their usual 'curd' even when they demanded it twice. The attendant just ignored their request as if he hadn't heard it.

It was really awful. In fact I would say it was my worst journey in Rajdhani for the last three years. I got curious to find out about this strange 'overloading' thing. Before taking a nap on my berth I decided to survey my coach. The AC - 3 Tier coach has space for 64 confirmed passengers and 4-6 RAC passengers. But the survey revealed something really shocking. There were more than 90 passengers in total. On one berth I saw a man, his wife and his son, all sleeping together. There were many such berths. Hey man, the train was really overloaded.

What really happened is that many 'smart' waitlisted passengers bribed their way into the train (through the TTE) and gave the attendant good tip to get the food. The amount of food in the pantry car is such that it can handle 5-10 extra passengers per coach, but handling 20-25 extra people is really out of question. However, because of the heavy tip the attendants had to do something about it. Guess what, they made the confirmed passengers pay for all this nasty stuff.

The whole episode shows the attitude of passengers who are out to do anything to get a seat in Rajdhani. The government is definitely at fault (the TTE could have refused entry to the waitlisted passengers), but the primary fault lies with the people who try to break the rules at any opportunity thinking that they are too clever.

The moral of the story is: Don't try to get more than what you deserve. Sometimes you will be on the winning side by being smart, but at other times you could lose because someone turned out to be way smarter or just because of plain bad luck. If people choose to play by the rules then it will automatically discourage miscreants who try to take advantage by trying to get more than what they deserve.

For people who are yelling, "Why do people keep telling us about problems but not solutions?" I only need to repeat what I said earlier:

"Being smart is not about fooling people, but about doing things a better way (efficient, economical etc.) compared to others. When you bribe someone you are not actually being smart, but you are committing a legal crime."


Blogger Wanderer said...

Great food for thought - and action. I also happened to read your comment on DY's blog - very thought provoking. I wonder why did you stop blogging.

2:26 AM  

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