Travelling Horrors of First Class

By Shobha Diwakar

Finally, the day arrived when our tickets were confirmed. Since we were all set to leave for Gujrat in the blasting heat of June, our tickets claimed that First Class AC would keep us cool and pamper us with its healing touch. When we entered the cabin, our happiness was short lived. The cabin was shabby, the seat was torn…ripped across and the gap sealed with a long strip of raxene.  As if that was not enough we were in for more surprises. After a while, the train whistled and noisily began creeping out of the station. The fans blew hot air the sweat trickled down the forehead, the spine, and the passengers walked in the corridor seeking relief from the stuffy cabins while the women folk busied themselves wiping off the sticky, itchy sweat with the end of their ‘pallus’ and their ‘chunnis’ because the AC was dead.

The attendant was called every now and then to ask why the AC was not functioning but with a sly grin and a twist, he informed that as the train sped on the AC would resume its obedient duty to cool the passengers and dry their discomfort. It was a repeated answer… mugged up from years of service, keeping up the trend to fool the public. Afternoon set in with increased weariness as passengers struggled to keep their cool and resist from jamming the wheels by pulling the chain. Every time upon enquiry the repeated answer came ‘the problem will be solved shortly’… of course, it never did.

Even as the passengers grew restless, someone decided to lodge a complaint with the authorities. Pat came some electrician at the next halt to look into the problem. The passengers heaved a deep sigh of relief … but their happiness was short lived. At the next station, the fellow disappeared as anonymously as he had appeared out of the blues and the desperate passengers gaped foolishly at each other only to be calmly told by the attendant that the so called electrician could not locate the fault and that the team at Bhopal would take care of it. The unfortunate ‘educated passengers’ were once again taken for a ride because at Bhopal there was no team to look into the matter and so the train stealthily moved out of the station unaware about the passengers trauma of travelling First Class.

Someone deliberated upon this grave issue and recollected that everyday papers were reporting how our ‘winsome’ railways was  constantly fooling the passengers by charging for AC fares for those privileged who doled out money to travel by AC  but deprived them purposely of the AC. Most of the passengers buying second or first class AC fares in every train were constantly jamming the wheels because they were suffocating in this gruesome heat and were being compelled by the Railways to travel without it assuring and attempting to pacify the passengers’ fury to get it repaired at the next stop which, never came. A day before the local newspaper reported how four people lost their life because of AC failure. All that the Railways will now do is to find out some other reason for their death or give a  compensation to the family as if the dead ones will revive and pronto join their families ‘all intact.’

Where does the problem lie? Why is the public being fooled every day? Who is responsible for this immoral, unsocial behavior? Why do responsible officers not check the faulty AC’s when the train is lodged in the yard for check up? What does the maintenance department do for the upkeep of such constant faults and complaints? Who is responsible for the deaths of those passengers who have recently died in the train due to suffocation? Why shouldn’t this loss of lives be considered a criminal act because it amounts to murder?  Why shouldn’t those responsible for their carelessness in performing their duties not be punished severely and put behind the bars without bail for this grim criminal offence?

It is the responsibility of the Railway authorities to take drastic action against those ‘maintenance offenders’( in the department) who are risking the life of the passengers by their laziness and lack of interest (for public concern). Such offenders should be dismissed from their jobs for CHEATING not only the public but also the Railways and bringing it a bad name.

About the Author: Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India and retired as the head of English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems and essays in national, international and online journals. She contributes regularly to writerslifeline and Indian Periodical. Dr Diwakar  servers on the Advisory Board of www.writerslifeline.ca. 

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