The TC

Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ticket Collector, Western Railway, stood calmly under the indicator. As the lady announced the arrival of the Churchgate local. His shrewd eyes were surveying the platform for offenders. They fell upon a young boy lugging a battered bag looking lost. He was clearly a student, not native to the city. Hari walked upto him. Slightly nervous at facing the TC, he meekly wished him Namaste as he was taught to and started scrambling for his ticket. Hari placed his hand on the boy's shoulder and asked him where he planned to go. He told him he had come to give the Railway Recruitment Board exams and was headed to Thane but couldn't figure out how to get there. Hari smiled and gave him clear instructions. He also wished him good luck.

No doubt Hari identified with that boy. Several years ago after his dreams of becoming the collector of a district never materialized, he had somewhat reluctantly given a similar exam to become a TC. They were burdened with targets and had to fine passengers who traveled without tickets. This was not a simple job. Most of the offenders were poor migrants who would often board the first class compartment and get caught. Some wouldn't even have a single rupee in their pocket but would travel to far away places in hope of finding some work. The system was simple. Based on past experiences, TC's would conduct sample checks from the hoard of passengers that would descend on the platforms. If you got caught, bad luck. If you didn't it was okay.

Hariprasad had always dreamt of becoming an honest IAS officer. With a steely resolve he had written the exams four times to fail at one stage or the other. Somehow he could never go all the way. There were always some problem. The deteriorating financial condition at home never helped. In the end, reluctantly he donned the black coat, wore the IR tie, slipped on running shoes and started checking tickets for a living in Bombay. His uprightness had not worn him a lot of honour. His wife complained of the measly salary he would bring home, he never took a bribe. He would always detain the poor and let them off with a warning but never took pity on them. He would be firm with the rich and educated making sure they paid up every rupee.

It was a Sunday. He got into the first class compartment of that train. Before he embarked he had noticed his offenders. A mother and her young daughter had boarded the first class. Normally only working class women possessed a first class pass and nobody bought a FC ticket. It was going to be a simple hit. He walked in, waited for the train to pick up speed and then wasted no time in asking them for their tickets. In the meanwhile, a group of underprivileged children had also boarded the train. All of them had got in in a hurry, none of them seemed to be aware of the classes that existed. Most of them had boarded the second class,however, one enterprising fellow jumped into the FC unknowingly. The compartments of the new trains are separated by steel rods and one has a clear view of the next compartment.

Seeing the TC, his companions panicked, asking him to slowly slip away as Hari got busy filling the challan that the mother-daughter duo had agreed to pay. The boy clearly scared, fidgeted near the gate. Deciding on the exit route perhaps. The train was now pulling into the next station, mustering all the courage he had, the boy slowly moved past the TC who was still engrossed in filling the challan and jumped off. Still in shock that the TC hadn't noticed him, he made a dash for the next compartment where he was welcomed by his friends with the choicest swear words and hugs. Hariprasad tore the challan and handed it to the lady. The boys were surprised too, they kept looking at him, wondering if he was a real TC afterall. He slowly looked up in their direction. His sombre expression changed and he did something that Hari hadn't done in ages. He winked at them. Their jaws dropped and before they realised what had happened, they were clapping and hooting. Some even took a bow to salute him. He smiled to himself and left the train at the next station. He had a smile on his face and a spring in his step the entire day.


Anonymous said…
I love the way you make your characters come alive. Even in a short story. They are so real and relate-able. And that's because you are such a good observer :)
Rushikesh said…
Kalyani :) And Anon, hey thanks so much. Truth be told, this actually happened the other Sunday. Hari's background is just a figment of my imagination but he does walk around on the platforms of Bombay :)
Anonymous said…
He comes alive in the story :)
Anonymous said…
I smiled when I read this!
And you know what??
...I'm still smiling :) :)
Rushikesh said…
Anon :) And Kalindi Just like Hari? :)

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