My Unforgettable Train Journeys

Endless Journey. Numerous Stories.
Endless Journey. Numerous Stories.

Like most of travelers in India, I have had my shares of Train journeys. True, I haven’t yet had the pleasure or misfortune to travel on rooftop of a Train compartment, but I had my share of experience. Right from my first train journey at the age of two and half till present date I have experience many incidents to share. Many readers may raise their eyebrows and express doubt regarding my remembrance of my experiences as a two and half year kid, but let me assure them that I vividly remember quite a bit of that encounter.

In this blog post I will share some moments from three of my innumerable train journeys. This is bit different from the type of blog post I usually write, but nevertheless many of my friends have been asking me to share these memories. So, here goes my collection of experience.

I will start with my first train journey way back in 1969! Any guesses where I was travelling to? Unlikely most Bengali kids of Kolkata of 1960s , my first journey outside my home town was not to Puri , Galudi , Deoghar or Simultala. I was travelling with my family to Nainital from Kolkata via Lucknow.

Journey 1
Lost at Lucknow Station

Dimly Lit Lucknow Station
Dimly Lit Lucknow Station

I guess travelling has become lot more easy today. People can book train or plane tickets only. You can get information about any place browsing the internet. Back in the 1960s, it was not easy. Getting first hand information about a place and booking hotels were not piece of cake.

My Father’s elder cousin suggested Nainital as he had travelled there with his parents. He described the place in such a manner that it sounded nothing less than heaven. It was not wrong. In the late 1960s or 1970s, the hill stations of India were not full of arm jostling crowd and had much less number of hotels.

Our hotel in Nainital had small waterfalls just adjacent to it. Believe it or not, I still have etched in my memory of tossing paper boats in that small mass of gurgling water.

This was my Father’s first tour with the family after his marraige. By family I do not mean only my parents, me and my brother. It meant the Grand Parents as well. The only time my parents had traveled outside Kolkata after their marriage was a journey to a relative’s house at Burnpur, an industrial town of Asansol. Burnpur cannot be said to be the best of honeymoon destination. Naturally my mother was pretty excited about the tour, nevertheless of the fact it was happening five years after her marriage and she would be travelling with her two kids and both her in laws.

The journey was long. At that time there was no direct train to Kathgodam from Kolkata. We were to reach Lucknow Junction (LKO) quite late in the night at around 10:30 p.m. and then board the connecting train named Naini Express to Kathgodam which started from Lucknow city (LC) platform sometimes later.

Naini Express does not run since last three years. It was a meter gauze line. In fact in current scenario, there is only one direct train from Howrah to Kathgodam. However, now Doon express reaches much earlier at Lucknow and at a comfortable time.

The Journey to Lucknow from Howrah was uneventful. Everyone was in a festive food. Even my one and half year old brother was keeping fine much to the relief of the family members. They were initially bit skeptic about conducting the journey with such a small child. The train journey was around 24 hours, and by the time the family reached Lucknow everyone was at ease.

Like earlier day Bengali tourists, we had quite a lot of luggage with us including the famous “beddings” and “hold-alls” without which Bengali tourists of the 1960s and 1970s seldom traveled.

We hired two Coolies to carry our luggage. We had no reservation in Naini Express. There were tickets with us but the reservation was not confirmed. In that scenario, we were to depend on the coolies to get us a seat in the unreserved compartment. I doubt in present day scenario whether the family would have risked it.

There is an underground tunnel which connects LUCKNOW NR (LKO) alias Lucknow Junction to LUCKNOW CITY (LC). The two coolies started at a brisk pace with the mission to capture comfortable berths and Dad followed them. Before that he instructed Mom to follow him with the Grandparents.

I was in my mother’s custodian and my brother was in my Grandmother’s lap. Except me in her lap, she was carrying a red plastic water bottle. I faintly remember entering that underpass. Maybe for the first time in my life I saw an underpass, thus the memory is still recorded in a recoverable stage in my brain.

The coolies were running at quite a speed and it was difficult to keep pace with them. As they came out of the station, everyone discovered that they were quite a bit of crowd in the station. Worse, the light was very low and quite dark at some places. The crowd was actually for some other train and except for the reserved compartments, Naini express was empty. The Coolies panicked and they almost went on a run thinking that they will not get good compartment for their clients. They boarded an unreserved sleeper compartment and immediately laid down the beddings on the lower berths and the rest luggage on the upper berth. My Grandparents sat down in a relaxed manner and was about to give a sigh of relief, when suddenly Grandmother noticed that my mother was missing along with yours truly.

It all happened so sudden that everyone was perplexed. Dad was wearing a bluish jacket. Mom was following her amidst the crowd when the coolies nose-dived into the compartment. Dad followed suit. Grandparents were coming at a distance, so they could see my father boarding the compartment. It is easy to spot a man in a elevated position from a distance , especially in a crowd.

For my mother thing were different. In the low lit station suddenly she finds the blue jacketed man vanished in front of her amidst the crowd. With a kid in her lap in an unknown station, she was nervous. She increased her pace, thinking that Dad must have gone ahead. Walking for sometimes she suddenly realized that his husband was nowhere to be seen. Nor were the coolies who were leading him.

She turned back to find that her in-laws had vanished too. In her first proper journey outside home she was stranded in an unknown station with her son in her lap!

My mother got extremely nervous, but she walked up to the engine of the train. Here there was no one around and the platform was dark. She turned back and started walking back when the cap of the water bottle came loose and fell down.

This part I remember very well. I can still visualize the cap falling on the dark platform and mom clicking her small torch light on it. She was so nervous that she did not dare to pick it up. Now I realized that Dad was not in the vicinity and said “ Maa..Baba Kothae ?” (Mom…. Where is Dad ?”).

I do not remember exactly what happened after that, but my mother gained enough courage to spot a Ticket Collector and ask whether this train was going to Kathgodam and when it would leave. The man said yes it was and would leave at least half an hour later. My mother paused a bit. She thought “So this is the right train. Then my family must have missed me someway”.

She decided to walk back further and decided to go for public announcement if she cannot trace her family members. Although she was not sure how to reach the station master and was suspecting every soul around, yet she walked on. Her head was feeling heavy and feet were trembling.

In the meantime Dad has come out of the train in the platform. He was at a loss too, as to where to find his wife and son. He did not know whether she walked back or front. Worse, he was not sure if she has boarded any other compartment. My Grandparents were in tears and panicked as what to do about it.

This could have turned into a Hindi Cinema Drama, but fortunately my Dad guessed correctly that Mom must have walked further and not boarded into any compartment. He crossed some compartments after luckily he spotted Mother with me in her lap in that dark platform. Seeing Dad finally, Mom was almost in a collapsing state.

I remember faintly Dad standing in front of us in a perplexed yet relieved expression. I also remember that quite a good amount of food was served in the train by the Pantry boys though it was an unreserved compartment. However, since my mother was almost near a nervous breakdown scenario she hardly could eat anything. She had a good rest in the night and except this blemish our tour to Nainital was more or less enjoyable.

The total missing event was hardly of 15 minutes, but I bet it must have been the scariest 15 minutes in the life of my parents.

Journey 2
Mob Frenzy in Bihar

Broken Glass Pane due to Mob Frenzy
Broken Glass Pane due to Mob Frenzy

Out of the many treks I have undertaken in the Indian Himalayas, I remember Darma Valley Trek of 2010 very prominently. I have only written a single article on it coupled with other treks in a magazine. However, other than the trekking experience I remember the Trek because of a chilling experience in Amritsar Express (13049) on our way to Lucknow.

Amritsar Express passes through that notorious belt of Bihar in the dead of the night comprising of stations like Kiul, Luckeesarai, Barhiya, Hathidah, Mokama, Barh, Bakhtiyarpur and Fatuha before it reaches Patna. I do not know in which exact station the incident I am about to describe happened, but it was much before Patna. The timing was somewhere between 12:00 to 1:00 in the night, so the station must be between Barhiya and Fatuha.

I was sleeping in the middle berth of an AC Three tier compartment when a commotion woke me up. Our berths were located in the middle of the train, so all I could hear some people banging on doors. The train was not moving. Outside it was pitch dark, so it was impossible to say whether the train was standing in a station or midst of nowhere.

Suddenly I could hear sounding of glass breaking. I looked towards the door and saw our tour leader Indranil coming back towards our berth with another team member. The corridor was dark, but there was a light near the door.

Indranil took out his hunting knife and stood in the dark. “Keep still everyone.” He said “This is a mob. If they attack us, we will have to retaliate.” By now it was evident some people were breaking down the glass pane of the door. Unfortunately the door’s metal shutter was missing. So anybody who could break open the glass pane could open the door by accessing the lock.

I grabbed my trekking stick. I did not know what was happening and who were these people? But all I knew they were certainly not peace loving people and for some reason they were after my team mates. Fighting against an angry mob was not easy. All other co passengers were sleeping as if nothing was happening. I am sure most were pretending to sleep.

The door opened soon. A roar followed as I could hear people getting in the train. Were they dacoits? Did they have guns? Peeping cautiously out of my berth I saw at least 20 well dressed people who were switching on lights scanning through the berths. Some had stick in their hand. Suddenly one gave a war cry and pulled a person from a side upper berth. Others followed suit. Within seconds they pulled him down the train into the dark platform and instantly the train started as if the whole thing was pre-planned.

Indranil rushed forward and went towards the door. I could see him staring through the broken glass pane as the train left the station. He locked the door and came back . His face looked disturbed. By now many of the passengers got up with the expression “What the hell was that ?”. The Ticket Collector who was lying down in Indranil’s berth shivering in fright, also got up.

My childhood and teenage has been spend in Bihar. On many occasions, I have seen incidents of people searching a train for a certain guy in my teens. But they were in sleepers or unreserved compartments. Breaking the door and pulling down a guy from a locked AC compartment was something I have seen in Hindi movies and not it real life before. It gives you shivers to think you are not safe even inside a locked AC compartment of a train with so many people around.

“So they were actually after this person.” said Indranil.

“What happened? Who were these people ?” I asked.

“No Idea” Said Indranil “I was coming from the loo, when I heard this crowd banging on the doors of other compartments. The train has been standing on this station since long. When I stood near our compartment door, the crowd asked me to open the door, which I denied. Then they started breaking the glass. They had even tried to break the glass pane of the other door on the side of the tracks. There was another team who tried from the other side.”

He added. “Initially I thought they were stranded daily passengers, although it is too late in the night for them.”

“But who was this fellow ?” I asked “Come to think of it, there was nobody in that berth when I last saw it.”

“He may have boarded this station”  said one of our team member

“Were they beating him ? “ I asked Indranil.

Indranil gave a weird look and said “Very badly.”

I could not sleep well during that night. Next morning I checked the reservation list which was by still hanging by God’s grace besides the door. I saw that someone had occupied that berth but only upto Chittaranjan. The last night’s ticket checker was not available, so I consulted the available gentleman.

“Officially nobody occupied this berth after Chittaranjan. I have no idea whether the earlier ticket checker allotted someone this berth”. He informed.

Long after the trek was over, one day I was having a chat with Indranil when this incident came into our discussion.

“What station was that ?” I asked Indranil

“No idea. It was dark in the platform. But though the train’s light coming out of the window I could see the attackers.”

“They must have beaten him badly” I said

Indranil looked at me with that disturbed expression which I saw in him during that fateful night in the train.

“Sorry, I did not give you people the complete information. You were on to a trek and there was nothing you could do about it. No point to ruin your mood.” He said

Perplexed I looked at him “What do you mean ?”

“The mob was not only beating him. They knived him twice while another muffled his mouth. I saw it as I looked outside though that door as the train was leaving.” said Indranil.

I looked at him.

I am sure after that my face had the same disturbed expression.

Journey 3

Travelling in AC with an invalid ticket

The infamous Ticket (!)
The infamous Ticket (!)

In my blogpost on North Sikkim I wrote at the end :

Actually at that time fate must have looked upon us and said “Picture abhi baki hai mere dost” (the show is yet to go on), as we were completely unaware of the events which was about to happen within another two hours.

The time has come to write that incident. Frankly speaking before this incident I was not aware of frauds around us and how far they can go. Sometimes it is even difficult to imagine.

Along with my three young friends of TCS we were relaxing after having dinner in a restaurant outside New Jalpaiguri Station. My friends have done lot of shopping and we were discussing as to how we will arrange them once we board the train. Usually I purchase my own train ticket unless I am travelling for an assignment sponsored by any client. In this case it was an exception as it was Durga Puja time and tickets were not available.

Another two persons were supposed to travel with us. They cancelled their tour in the last moment. Out of them one was a common friend who had arranged the tickets with a travel agent. In fact he mailed the return e-ticket so late in the day of our journey that we had barely time to print it and rush to the station. We had asked him to talk to his travel agent to cancel his and the other person’s ticket from the list.

We had no problem while coming to New Jalpaiguri from Howrah. So I did not bother to inspect the return ticket, which I normally do. As we hired a porter to carry our luggage, I took out the return ticket and looked at it.

The first thing which struck me odd was the PNR Number. It started with 5 instead of 6. I have never seen a PNR no of a ticket from NJP which starts with anything but 6. But was that always true ? A pang of doubt came into my mind. I tried to wave it back saying to myself that I am getting doubtful about everything.

May be it was my sixth sense which smelled danger. I told my young friends to wait and headed for the ATM. One of my young friends called me back “What are you withdrawing money for Amitabha Da? We have enough money to hire a taxi, when we reach Kolkata. We will lend you some if you need it”

Since we were returning from the tour each of us hardly had Rs 200 – Rs 300 in cash. Perhaps going on a train journey without sufficient cash had irked me, or it was my inner self who could foresee the future prompted me to withdraw as much as Rs 5000 from the ATM.

As we reached the platform, the porter asked for our coach number. I said “A2 “.

The Porter looked at me in a puzzled manner and said “A2 ? Which Train Babu ?”

I looked at him in a irritated manner and said “I think we had told you we are going in Darjeeling mail.”

The Porter looked at me in a puzzled manner and said “But In Darjeeling Mail, there is no compartment with that number.”

My friends looked panicked. I was shell shocked but quickly gained my composure I said “What Nonsense! In my ticket it says the compartment does exist.”

However running from end to other I could not locate any compartment with the number A2. It was only ten minutes for the train to departure. In my mind I was thinking fast. What could have gone wrong?

What if instead of cancelling one ticket the travel agent has cancelled the total ticket by mistake? Then this ticket would be invalid!

I took a fast decision. I told the porter to load the luggage into B2 compartment and told my friends to hop in. I knew we would not get any seat in any other train in this rush season. I was definite now I was holding an invalid ticket, but I did not let my young friends know it.

One of my young friends asked whether the coach printed in our ticket was a Puja Special and would get joined to the train shortly. I was not listening to him. The first thing I did as I boarded into the train is to look for space where to dump their luggage, which was quite a few in numbers thanks to their shopping. I only had a Knapsack and a camera bag and tripod, which I could carry on for some time.

In each AC compartment there are cupboards having huge racks with sliding doors. They are located just besides the door where bed rolls for passengers are kept. In Railway terminology they are known as Linen Table.

At present the racks were empty as they were already distributed to the passengers. With the help of my friends I stuffed the baggages and their gifts into these racks and then decided to check the situation.

One co passenger said that his daughter has internet connection in her cell phone. She asked for the PNR no and checked. Result came “Invalid PNR number” !

The train had not started yet. A ticket checker was passing by. One of my friends approached him.

“This is not a valid ticket” The ticket checker said looking at the ticket. “You should get down from the train if you want to avoid trouble.”

Perplexed my friend looked at him and said “But … we paid to buy this ticket from a travel agent.”

“That is not my business.” said the ticket collector “All I can say you cannot travel to Kolkata with this ticket. You better get down”

With this word he marched forward and my young friend climbed back to the compartment. “What now Amitabha Da ?” asked he.

“Sit Tight. We are not going anywhere. We cannot afford to. Let us handle this situation carefully.” Said I “First let me call our friend at Kolkata and inform him so that he catches hold of the travel agent.”

I was still confident that it was a mistake by travel agent. He must have mistakenly cancelled the total ticket, instead of cancelling one ticket. Little did I know what a sinister trap had been laid to put us into trouble.

I rang our friend at Kolkata. He was also young like my friends of TCS. He worked in an insurance company and belonged to a reputed family at Barasat. When I informed him the matter he shouted so loudly, the phone almost slipped from my hand. He sounded bit dramatic, but said he will immediately contact the travel agent and find out what happened. If the agent had indeed cancelled the total ticket, he would surely get the money refunded.

In 2010, the irctc tickets did not showcase the address or phone number of the person who booked it, so from the ticket it was impossible to locate who paid for the ticket. But in case you bought an irctc ticket through an agent, the agent’s name and address were printed at the bottom of the ticket. Since I had never bought a ticket from an agent before that incident, I had no idea about this.

Anyway the trouble was to handle the Ticket Collectors at train, and it was immaterial who originally purchased the ticket. Already co-passengers were staring at us standing on the corridor. The coach attendant came and asked us what was wrong? I said there seemed to be a problem with the ticket and we were waiting for the ticket collector to come. He looked bit relaxed may be looking at our face and attire but was not entirely convinced.

Meanwhile the train started. I called my friends and had a mutual discussion. I said “Whatever happens we are not getting down from the train. Prima facie it seems to be the agent’s mistake. We will constantly blame the agent. That is our only way to save ourselves.”

“But that means we are literally travelling without a valid Ticket in an AC compartment.” blurted one of my friends “We have to at least pay the fine or else they can handover us to the police. None of us has that much of money.”

For the first time I felt somewhere confident inside. I understood that my sixth sense had saved me. “Don’t worry guys.” I said “I have Rs 5000 cash with me. Come on; let us deal with the scenario.”

The first Ticket Checker who approached us was polite in the beginning.

“Yes, what is the problem?” He asked. I handed him the ticket and told him that the coach mentioned in the ticket does not exist. He looked at the ticket and shook his head. Then he said “This is an invalid ticket. No such coach exists. But still let me see, if mistakenly B2 has been named as A2, although it is highly unlikely.”

Suddenly he stopped. He looked frozen. Then he slowly lifted his eyes and said “This is no ticket at all. The PNR number is wrong. There cannot be a PNR number like this.”

Now it was our turn to be shell shocked. We were thinking that the travel agent has done a mistake. But this means the story was something different.

I was ignorant to PNR numbers, but now I know that any train originating from New Jalpaiguri will have its PNR no start with 6. This applies to all routes in North Frontier Railways, South Eastern Railways and Eastern Railways.

Looking at our surprised face the ticket checker said “This piece of paper was never a ticket. It is forged document. You said you got this made by an agent. Well, he cheated you. Besides, his name is not even in the ticket. What is his name? “

I was cursing myself. As I have mentioned earlier in my blog post on North Sikkim that it was a hurriedly decided tour, therefore I had not checked the nitty-gritty. In fact our young friend at Kolkata never mentioned the name of the agent and we never asked him. But he did deliver a genuine ticket on our journey to New Jalpaiguri from Kolkata.

When I told this to the ticket collector he said “Probably this guy, through whom your friend bought the ticket, is no registered agent. He transacts through a normal account. He did not get a confirmed return ticket, so he gave you a forged document and pocketed the money. I doubt if you can catch him.”

We were getting more confused. I was slowly able to get a pattern and was having some different thoughts. But now the first priority was to handle to trouble at present.

“I fully sympathize with you. But I cannot help you here.” said the ticket collector.

“Your status is similar to a person who is travelling without a ticket. I am afraid you have to have get down at Kishanganj and board any other train and go to Kolkata. I will call my senior and you can talk with him too.”

With this word he left. None of us had faced a situation like this before. We had paid Rs 672 plus Rs 100 extra for this ticket. And now it turns out to be a worthless document. To make the situation worse the coach attendant come towards us and said in a sarcastic tone – “Dekhe to bhadralok bolei mone hoe. Tao erokom Jaali ticket niye train e uthechen. Travel agent er golpo ta kotota jol mesano ?” ( You look like respected gentleman. Still you are on this train with a forged ticket. Is this story of travel agent fabricated?).

We were all mentally exhausted now. This irked everybody’s temper. One of my young friends broke into a brawl with the coach attendant. I had to pacify him as this was not a situation to get agitated. Meanwhile the ticket collector came back with his senior. He speculated our face and said “Sorry, you have no option. You have to get at Kishanganj. You will get other trains like Kanchankanya and Patadik. Since you are actually travelling without a ticket in an AC Compartment, you should be fined. But I can waive that if you get down at Kishanganj.”

It is then I took the initiative and came forward and said “We would like to pay the fine, right now. But we are not getting down. It is not our fault that the agent gave us a false ticket.”

The senior gentleman did not expect this. He was taken aback and looked a bit nervous. He looked at me curiously and said “You want to pay the fine? Do you know how much is the amount for individual?”

“Never mind how much is the fine . We are ready to pay it. Just tell me the amount.” I said in such a manner as if from my childhood I have been paying fine to Indian Railways. I understood that the ticket collectors were feeling a bit uncomfortable now. We four were uncalled hurdles for them at the moment. They wanted us to get down of the train and spare them the trouble.

In that situation it was absurd to get down the Darjeeling Mail at Kishanganj. In the next train or any train there was no chance of getting any berth amidst this season of holidays. We had to stay in the train at any cost.

“The fine is Rs 850/- per person” Said the Ticket Collector.

“No Problem. I hope you have change.” Said I

“ You want to pay that much of fine ? See, I will tell you… why don’t you shift to sleeper coach, you will have to pay much lesser fine.”

It seemed a good idea at first. But where would we keep our immense luggage in sleeper coach ? Here they were secure inside the bed roll racks.

“Thanks for your suggestion. But all the same, we are not moving from here. We will pay the fine for AC.” I replied.

With that I took out the fresh 500 rupees note withdrawn from ATM sometimes ago in the most careless manner. The coach attendant standing nearby looked at me with awe. I wanted him to look at the notes carefully. It was very important that we were not be considered as frauds trying to get a free ride with a forged ticket.

I counted the notes leisurely and handed the Ticket checker seven 500 Rupee notes.
“Count it please. And give us a receipt” said one of my friends from TCS.

“Of course I will give you a receipt.” snapped the railway personnel. He returned me Rs 100 and the receipt.

That gave us a bit of relief, but the Ticket Checkers and the Coach attendants looked uncomfortable. We four were standing near the door and passing by passengers were enquiring with the railway staff as to what was the situation about.

Tired of standing, we sat down on the floor. I had faced situations of standing in train for short distance like Kolkata to Durgapur, but my young friends had no “standing” experiences before! Anyways they encountered the situation with a brave face.

At Kishanganj we had some Tea to boost us. The earlier ticket checkers had gone down at Kishanganj. Another ticket checker who was present in the train spotted us while passing and questioned us. He inspected the ticket and fine receipt and expressed surprise. He asked our profession. At that time I had started professional photography for just one year. After my friends declared their profession, I said I was a photographer. Some respect came into his eyes and he said “Oh Really? Which Newspaper?” I told him that I was a freelancer and named a few publications (at that time there were only a handful) and handed him my card. That satisfied him and he did not bother us anymore.

My friends were wondering whether we will have to stand the whole night. I was almost sure that now nobody was going to put us off the train. Now, I was waiting for an opportune moment to do some arrangement with the coach attendant to manage some seats for my young friends. I had already decided to sleep on one of the top long racks as I was not a tall person.

The next stoppage was Malda which was scheduled around 12:00 in the night. From Kishanganj to Malda it takes almost three hours. I meanwhile called our friend back at Kolkata. Somehow I was now not sure if this was entirely the fault of the so called “travel agent”. He said that it was the travel agent’s fault, he cancelled the total ticket. Our friend said he will try to recover the money and transfer the amount to my account. However, I was skeptical. Now, I did not trust fully this young friend from Barasat.

At Malda, there was another ticket checker. Since this gentleman was in a different zone of Railway (North East Zone), he was not impressed with the fact that his colleagues had not thrashed us from the train. He said that the North Frontier Zone checkers were soft on such passengers. He said by just paying fine we are not entitled to travel in the train.  He blamed irctc too and said it is always safe from ticket from counter.

This was a hilarious statement, even four years back. Now a days if any ticket checker would have said this, the answer would have been “P.K. Ho Kaa” ( referring Aamir Khan starrer movie “PK”).

His dialougues enraged us all. We charged him back saying that if he considered irctc as illegal, why not the Indian Railway bans the website. The brawl continued and he seemed to soften up a bit. In the end he advised us never to buy a ticket online. I wonder if that gentleman ever reads this blog, he would definitely be amused at his own dialogue.

He then enquired with the coach attendant if some of the attendant’s berth could be arranged. The Railway staffs were now sympathetic with us and they tried their best. Only three berths could be arranged. As planned earlier, I decided to sleep in one of long racks of the “linen table”, despite protest from my young friends. I cleaned the place with tissue papers, got rid of several small cockroaches, used my knap sack as pillow, folded my knees to accommodate my legs  and went to sleep.

Amazingly, I had a sound sleep.

My Makeshift Berth in the Darjeeling Mail
My Makeshift Berth in the Darjeeling Mail

Maybe it was actually not amazing as I was mentally exhausted. I was thinking in my mind about the chain of events. First – a guy whom I know over two years decided to go on a tour with us. Second – He arranges the train tickets and even books the hotels. Third – He decides not to go at the last moment. Fourth – He delivers the return ticket so late that I do not have time to verify it. Fifth – He is still insisting that it was a travel agent who did the fraud, when we now know that it could not had been a travel agent who booked that ticket.

The answer to this was not very logical. It seemed this “friend” of us deliberately planted us a fraud ticket. But why? What was the logic? He was a photography enthusiast like us and regularly went to photo walks with other amateurs. He even sold me an insurance policy and paid my premiums. The fellow was from a good family. Why would he do such an act?

The rest of the journey was uneventful. In the morning, the young girl who had initially checked our PNR number in her cell phone was quite shocked to know that I could sleep in my makeshift “berth”.

The train reached Sealdah in right time. We said good bye to each other with myself taking the initiative to recover the money.

Since this blogpost is only about my train journeys, I would not go into much details of the following incidents. To satisfy to interest of my readers it will be enough to mention that the ticket collector was right. There was no travel agent.

The young person who we thought to be our “friend” was actually a impostor and to some extent a psychopath. Not only he made a fraud ticket, but he made false policies and provided false receipts. He even booked false packages in the name of renowned travel agents. Anyways, with the help of other friends all money was recovered. Rather his parents paid the money, as this guy actually never did a full time job. There was plan to lodge F.I.R and arrest him, but considering the poor health of his parents he was spared from that humiliation. He was banned from two prominent photography clubs. The news made quite uproar in Kolkata’s amateur photography community four years ago.

In spite of this incident I still believe in believing and trusting people. Only thing is from that incident, I usually purchase my own tickets through my own online account through the itctc website. In very rare case when someone purchases for a team through irctc , I make sure that person is travelling with me. When I have to buy tickets through Tatkal Service, I personally stand in the line. Anyone can be a fool first time, but if you make the same mistake twice – it is your fault.

Sincere Thanks

I sincerely thank the following persons to refresh my memory in some areas and providing me information while writing the blogpost.

A. My Parents , who accompanied me in the first journey
B. Indarnil Kar, who accompanied me in the second journey
C. Amitava Das, who accompanied me in the third journey
D. Prabir Chakraborty, who gave me information about PNR Numbers



  1. My god. Those are such eventful journeys. I would have been very scared in the 2nd scenario. Wasn’t it true that at some point people had avoided traveling on trains which went through Bihar, because of such occurrences? The fraud mentioned in the last incident is simply unbelievable.

  2. I felt so nostalgic after reading the first journey. The beddings and hold all and red water bottles from Eagles or Milton and a bamboo food hamper used to mark our childhood journeys. Now we travel with back packs and trolley bags and hardly depend on the coolies but in those days the coolies were our saviors…loved the post

    • You are referring to the first Journey ? Yes… even I have carried Leather Suitcases and V.I.P. Suitcases before I shifted to Backpack from 2008 or so. Have experienced almost hanging from the door of a train with a suitcase too. 🙂

  3. Lovely read. Quite scary first incident, horrendous second and shocking third. Your easy way of writing makes the reader go through the total post like a thriller !

    I was wondering one thing. You have mentioned the names of the people who have helped you writing this blog , but I wonder why you did not mention the name of the guy who had cheated you.

    All said and done, its quite easy to identify the infamous cheater Aruni Sengupta here.

    Like many people (mostly photographers) I took had my share of trouble with this man. He took a loan of 10K from me on the ground of his father’s hospitalization. Then he was not repaying it back.

    After lots of fights over telephone with him, I finally approached his father for repayment of the loan taken by his son.

    His father was a gentleman. He paid back the money. But he was shocked to know that his hospitalization was the reason for the loan when he was having NO health problems. I know many more incidents pertaining to this chap.

    One thing is very clear. Aruni Sengupta has a very cool brain to plan his step and actions, but his luck runs short. I will not be surprise if he gets into some huge problem down the line. Wish he had used his brain for some good work rather cheating people.

  4. haha..Good to read this ,specially the third journey as I was one of the youngsters unfortunate enough to be duped with a bogus ticket like my other friends alongwith Amitabha da.

    I remember I had a splitting headache while descending from Sikkim altitude to sea level,and then realizing that I might not get a berth for the entire night during the return journey home. Desperate ,I had walked the entire length of the train twice round asking strangers if they might spare at least one seat for the night and getting a stare and a No every single time!!

    And I remember making a mental note to beat the shit out of the person responsible for the entire fisaco after reaching Kolkata -the one who had originally duped us — the fraud Aruni Sengupta!

    • Yes… It was one horrific journey…. we were innocents duped by a Psycho Fraud…. ! I have heard that Aruni Sengupta hasn’t changed a bit and his parents still dish out compensations to the people he dupes.

  5. Good that you penned your train journey experiences. Just an opinion reprimanding a criminal without proper punishment will allow him to repeat such acts in future. In interest to safegaurd others you should have taught him a lesson.

    • Criminal ? If you are talking about Aruni Sengupta, he was given a proper bashing by the members of two photographic communities of Kolkata, after the incident of his fraudulent activity was found. Aruni was banned from the two clubs.

      All the money was recovered. He would have been put behind bars, but was spared because his friend Amlan repeatedly requested me to spare him considering the ill heath of his parents.

      Everyone knows Aruni Sengupta is a fraud. I did not mention his name in the blog intentionally to see how many can recognize his act. Many have recognized and two persons have commented about his notorious act in my blog mentioning his name.

      Majority of the photography and non photography community of Kolkata knows Aruni Sengupta’s fraudulent acts. If knowing all, some people still mingle with him, it is their problem.

  6. Oh…I read the Nainital train trip… I can imagine how difficult it must have been to plan for travel those days without knowledge of place or hotles there…now things are easier… I had a few train experiences as well… one was getting into the wrong train from Chennai to Delhi, that is I was supposed to board Tamil Nadu Exp at night but thought my booking was for Guntur Exp in the afternoon…second was my trip from Mumbai to Gujarat to catch the Rani Exp… I never been to Mumbai or Gujarat and so had some hiccups reaching the station. I actually asked the auto guy from the airport to drop me to the Mumbai station and he dropped me at a local station. From there I asked one guy on the door weather the train came to Mumbai Central, he said yes and I was hurrying to get into the local train because it started moving. I was falling and that guy pulled me up and saved me from falling, I did not even thank him because I was a bit embarassed, but that was very nice of him. Anyway…nice stories, you must be really young here, and to notice your mom’s tension at that age seems unprovable. Nowadays, there is a tread in travelling, its much easier and we can find some group or other to travel thanks to these travel groups and trekking groups …anyway

    • “I was falling and that guy pulled me up..” !

      Wow ..reminds me of DDLJ and Jab we Met ! I guess we all have our share of train journeys.

      Yes … during Nainital I was only of two and half years… but strangely some moments of the incident are etched vividly in my mind till today which seems unbelievable.

      Yes..Travelling has been relatively much easier in these years.

  7. Oh yes… the best lessons I have leart is that there are good people around and I was lucky to be helped by them…the other trip where I got into the wrong train is another story as experienced by the then timid 19 year old person… anyway maybe narrate it another day(:

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