At Burdwan we came face to face with the hardships that a third class passenger has to go through even in securing his ticket.'Third class tickets are not booked so early,' we were told. I went to the Station Master, though that too was a difficult business. Someone kindly directly me to where he was, and I represented to him our difficulty. He also made the same reply. As soon as the booking window opened, I went to purchase the tickets. But it was no easy thing to get them. Might was right, and passengers, who were forward and indifferent to others, coming one after another, continued to push me out. I was therefore about the last of the first crowd to get a ticket.
The train arrived, and getting into it was another trial. There was a free exchange of abuse and pushes between passengers already in the train and those trying to get in. We ran up and down the platform, but were everywhere met with the same reply: 'No room here.' I went to the guard. He said, 'You must try to get in where you can or take the next train.'
'But I have urgent business,' I respectfully replied. He had no time to listen to me. I was disconcerted. I told Maganlal to get in wherever possible, and I got into an inter-class compartment with my wife. The guard saw us getting in. At Asansol station he came to charge us excess fares. I said to him:
'It was your duty to find us room. We could not get any, and so we are sitting here. If you can accommodate us in a third class compartment, we shall be only too glad to go there.'
'You may not argue with me,' said the guard. 'I cannot accommodate you. You must pay the excess fare, or get out.'
I wanted to reach Poona somehow. I was not therefore prepared to fight the guard. so I paid the excess fare he demanded, i.e., up to Poona. But I resented the injustice.
In the morning we reached Mogalsarai. Maganlal had managed to get a seat in the third class, to which I now and asked him to give me a certificate to the effect that I had shifted to a third class compartment at Mogalsarai. This he declined to do. I applied to the railway authorities for redress, and got a reply to this effect: 'It is not our practice to refund excess fares without the production of a certificate, but we make an exception in your case. It is not possible, however, to refund the excess fare from Burdwan to Mogalsarai.'
Since this I have had experiences of third class travelling which, if I wrote them all down, would easily fill a volume. But I can only touch on them causally in these chapters. It has been and always will be my profound regret that physical incapacity should have compelled me to give up third class travelling.
The woes of third class passengers are undoubtedly due to the high- handedness of railway authorities. But the rudeness, dirty habits, selfishness and ignorance of the passengers themselves are no less to blame. The pity is that they often do not realize that they are behaving ill, dirtily or salfishly. They believe that everything they do is in the natural way. All this may be traced to the indifference towards them of us 'educated' people.
We reached Kalyan dead tried. Maganlal and I got some water from the station water-pipe and had our bath. As I was proceeding to arrange for my wife's bath, Sjt Kaul of the Servants of India Society recognizing us came up. He too was going to Poona. He offered to take my wife to the second class bath room. I hesitated to accept the courteous offer. I knew that my wife had no right to avail herself of the second class bathroom, But I ultimately connived at the impropreity. This, I know, does not become a votary of truth. Not that my wife was eager to use the bath room, but a husband's partiality for his wife got the better of his partiality for truth. The face of truth is hidden behind the golden veil of #maya#, says the Upanishad.
Next : 105. (130-205) -WOOING
To be continued ...