Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vignettes from the Intercity

Every Monday morning I take the Intercity Express to Pune, where I teach an undergraduate course in Quantum Mechanics at IISER. On Tuesday evenings, I anti-commute. The train journey is extremely pleasant. Modern technology allows me to browse the net (I use Tata Photon +, which is generally very good but unfortunately works only as low-speed CDMA in Pune!). At this moment we are somewhere around Karjat and the net is fast.

Today's vignette: a young woman orders two cups of tea from the vendor on the train. As he is pouring the tea into paper cups, she starts to complain that she doesn't like the "malai" (clotted cream) floating on it. The vendor graciously offers to take the tea back. She foolishly tries to stack two full paper cups on each other, leading to a major spill. When she asks "how much" the vendor says, even more graciously, "how can I charge you when you haven't even drunk it?". Thereafter he vanishes and returns with malai-free tea for the lady.

A few minutes later I hear a passenger whining to the same vendor: How can you charge an odd amount like 23 rupees for an omelette? Who has 2 and 3 rupees' change these days? The vendor replies: Sir, I don't fix the rates. They are determined by the railways. But don't worry, I will give you change.

A few minutes later another passenger to the vendor: Why is it so freezing cold in here? The vendor (who doesn't handle the air-conditioning, obviously) replies: It's just been reduced sir. Passenger (whining tone): but why is it always so cold in here? Vendor: Maybe so that people buy more of my tea and coffee, sir (and he laughs lightly). The passenger laughs back.

Where do Indian Railways find such amazing people to work for them?


Rahul Siddharthan said...

Two very important questions:
1. With whom do you commute, and anti-commute?
2. If you both commute and anti-commute, do you vanish?

On a serious note: I've seen railway employees get treated like trash so often that, I suppose, they've learned to grin and bear it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! It was delightful!

Rahul Basu said...

You clearly travel very rarely by train. I have always found railway employees, particularly catering staff very nice (the south is a bit of an exception, surprisingly) and the ones on Western Railway are particularly nice. I have also found them firm but polite with difficult passengers and that takes some talent.

Perhaps Air India should swap cabin crew with them. Here they actually make that extra effort to not smile, even accidentally.

Costis said...

Thank you for this wonderful snippet of India Sunil. It made me smile.

Raju Bathija said...

Thanks Sunil for sharing.

ath said...

Although many people have traveled by train in India, not many can bring to life routine or minor incidents like these. You definitely can write and I love reading your blog. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

A delightful vignette of wonderful India... thanks, Sunil, for sharing!