5. WOES OF THIRD CLASS PASSENGERS
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 directed 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 shifted.
I acquainted the ticket examiner with all the facts, 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 casually 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 selfishly. 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
tired. 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 bath room, but I ultimately connived at the
impropriety. 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.