Sunday, 29 May 2011

Confessions of a Railway Reservation Clerk!

 A middle aged man glares at me across the counter and i show him the appreciation is indeed mutual! He asks the umpteenth number of time- "so you can't give me a ticket now?" I now nod my head sideways pursing my mouth, careful my girl, one word out of your mouth and he will seize your throat. His next question is just what i guessed- " I want to make a complaint. Where should i give a complaint against you?" I try to imagine i am talking to the Prime Minister and put up my best smile and say- " You can please contact the Station Master to lodge a complaint, sir". There, i said it. He looks at me bewildered, why is this lady unperturbed when i say i am going to complain against her? What dear Customer Inc. doesn't know is, i have piles of complaints on me and loads of punishments handed over to me. He did complain that day, the enquiry clerk in the counter did not give me a ticket at 2.30 pm on Sunday, asked me to do whatever i can and directed to write a complaint rudely. The Complaints Inspector kind of looks at me with disdain and hands over a memorandum asking my explanation two days later. Customer dear had directly faxed the complaint to GM's Office and i am taken up for behaving rude with him. Now, the concerned section wants to close the file as soon as possible and they compel me to apologize to the concerned complainant.

Cursing dear fate, i land up at his doorstep two days later with a condescending colleague. His wife supplies coffee to us and disappears. He argues what he did was right, he never knew he could not get a reservation ticket on Sunday afternoon after 2 pm but it was my callous behavior that insulted him. My foot! He books tickets every week and knows pretty well reservation offices don't function after 2 pm on Sundays. He remains stubborn and my colleague tries his level best to convince him to withdraw the complaint. Ignorant of timings of reservation office, this learned man has directly faxed complaint to GM's office, the address of which he knows as the back of his hand! After deliberations and pleading, he finally agrees to give a withdrawal letter if i say the inevitable word- I am sorry, sir! I don't remember having done anything wrong except the fact that i directed him to the SM's room. Forced by my colleague who had already deliberated with the learned man for more than two hours, i am now in a tight fix. I have to say a simple sorry, else my colleague who has come to help me, will feel put off. To avoid an unpleasant situation, i mumble- I am sorry, sir, and step out of the house. I see the lady of the house peering through the window grills of the house and i suddenly feel so sorry for her. Imagine how life would be for her with such a man! A disaster!

Scene 2:

It is a chilly morning in Reservation Office, raining cats and dogs outside. I try to get up from my seat for more than an hour to get to the restroom, without success. When i finally clear some rush, i see only one elderly man standing before me, writing a form. All other counters are free. I tell him earnestly- " Sir, please get the ticket in the next counter. I will be back in five minutes." He looks up at me, shrugs his shoulder and continues his writing. I lift myself up, rub my aching hands and start my walk to the restroom slowly, my pot belly pulling me back. Well into my third trimester, my delivery is due any moment and after using the restroom, i feel suddenly uneasy and sit back in the dining room. After five minutes there is commotion outside and i walk back to see what is wrong. 

Our elderly man is yelling at the counter clerk nearby- " why should i come to your counter? I am here and i want to get ticket only from this counter. Ask the counter clerk to issue the ticket. I will not move from here, until she herself gives the ticket. How dare she leaves the counter for ten minutes?" This happens when all the counters are free, devoid of any living being. Ignited beyond control, already in delivery blues, i start arguing with him. My blood pressure must have sure shot like hell. Supervisor dear comes running and picks up the application from Mr High and Mighty and gives him the ticket, trying to pacify him. Mr Mighty leaves huffing and puffing. Thankfully, he forgot the incident as he had more interesting quarrels on the way back home and i am saved. Amen!

Every now and then we meet people like these- those who think themselves High and Mighty and undervalue anyone under the sun. A counter clerk is just a chit of a person who has to act as per their own whims and fancies. If not, well, they know how to teach them a lesson, don't they? Wherever i see MK Gandhi's quote- “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.” I feel like laughing out aloud whenever i read this. And whenever i meet one such Customer(Kashtam-er!) all i can do is- sigh* urgh...sigh*

Interested in reading more? Check this confession of a fellow reservation clerk...


  1. Cool Nivi... I knew u alwayz had a flair 4 writing... But nevr was ur fan then... But now on i am... I really am... May u write volumes n volumes...

  2. Dear Prabhu! Welcome to my blog:) I am glad you finally took to liking it:)Hope i write volumes and volumes more and make you people dizzy:P

  3. You've got a fan in me too. I totally understand what you've been through. The problem with these high and mighty people is that they are so full of only themselves that they do not recognize or respect others as human beings too. It happens all the time. The only way is to pray that one day, somehow, they learn to find themselves. The important thing for you is to retain this sense of humor and see things as they are - with fun and a beautiful smile! All the best!

  4. Overbearing people.. I too dislike them strongly. For them, the whole world is centered around them.

  5. Just think of the guy..he is on the Queue, probably standing, for a long time (one hour?)anxiously waiting whether he will get a confirned ticket or not! If the counter clerk leaves at his tern, really he will loose his temper! I have bitter experience at Victoria terminus standing from 7 AM (believe, I was the 300th person in the Queue, while the counter opens at 8 AM)) and getting ticket in hand at 10.30 AM!

    However, people with horns are there everywhere, need to digest such incidents! They feel happy in lodging complains on somebody! (Villain character?)

    I have seen certain ticket issueing clerks treat the customer as begger, thinking that they are doing favour to the customers!

  6. hi nive...nicely written...hats off to u...any frontline job is a thankless job , but as far as ECRC is concerned we are ill fated people who have to face the ire from all the fronts.the public, collegues i mean rly staff of other departments,in ur words"the omnipresent and omnipotent'
    rly boss, ur immediate supervisor,ur auditor etc etc etc.

    the public's first impression is u r a 'fraud". u must understand that they approach u with this idea in their mind. they think all reservation clerks are hand in glove with touts. they dont belive whatever u say and they think u always conceal information. u have to satisfy all of them and an intersting point is they want u to issue tickets very fast to others and when their turn comes u have to attend their enquiries n number of times.u r expected to allot 'lower' berth only to all passengers irrespective of their age.u have to give correct change irrespective of time(i.e the first passenger will tender u invariably a 1000 re note and i use to wonder if a 10000 re note wud have been there he wud have tendered it)

    our rly collegues will bring their friends, relatives etc etc and u have to issue 'inside ' tickets otherwise u will be branded as arrogant,high handed. even when u r in counter u r expected to attend their call instantly.

    our omnipresent boss.......well what i can say abt him....he is ever pervading omnipresent and omnipotent. he can do whatever he likes. u r a poor guy. ur fate is his hands. he can transfer u ..punish u and he will always form an opinion abt u not based on ur work but on some chamcha's opinion of u.u r expected to do ur work promptly and regularly.u r expected to know ur rules which are n number of books and u have to know it verbatim. but ur boss will be ignorant of all this rules but he will punish u for not following rules.
    the strange part of rly adminstration is its audit dept.inspite of heavy rush u have to issue tickets esp concession tickets by checking throughly. the audit dept person in a later day will cooly find out some silly mistake..then u r expected to pay the difference amount which in present day will normally run in thousands. i have seen once an auditor has disallowed a PTO and raised debit for 4 adults by dis allowing conceession. i told him that the PTO itself is only for 3 adults and how he can raise debit for 4 adults? he then told....'he heee...i have done by oversight..i will correct it!!!!" poor ECRC..he cannot do any such mistakes even by over sight.

  7. i would like to add one more thing. whenever i see gandhi's quote i think about one thing..customer is king.. ok ,but he should behave like a king ....but always behaves like a clown. he wants other to follow rules and be pucca but he dont want to follow rule.he always jumps the queue but doesnot allow others to do the same. he wants others to be honest but he always will be corrupt willing to pay extra money to tout. this seems to be the mind set of an average indian/indian rlys customer.

    best wishes nive and hope to see more such articles from u.

  8. I really liked your dig at the kashtamar.
    I think we are to blame too, for we are so stressed, and on top of it the concerned person is not bothered about us makes us lose our cool, and we do things that is not really good.We have to understand just like us, you people are also human beings, and may be going through some stress just like us,and if only we could be more willing to understand and adjust, we can get get many things done in a jiffy.
    I think both the customer and the server must learn to respect each other.
    You are really a very good writer, and very funny too.

  9. PART I:
    1.U might have easily solved the prob telling "SYS is shut down.. and will not produce tkt// i like to help u ,but see i could nt..". Have u dealt with Drunkards ... imagine this customer like tat.
    2.Principal holds Larger RESPONSIBILITY: Like we supply material to some customers. At times they may slip commitments citing some reason or other.. whic is easily forgiven.. If it s vice-versa it will b a v big news...and u will b put over across and u r reqd to produce a long apology letter before gettin congenial with him.

  10. PartII:
    The person is really stupid.. may b a one in laKh,,,, and even if there were some fellow customers they would have corrected this person...

    If u dont mistake me.. they maynt fall undercategory CUSTOMERs..Bcaz it s service provided by state and U were cited as SERVICE FACILITATORS.. These foxes know if we raise voice then these ppl will come beyond us. we have experienced this while running a GAS AGENCY (a Subsidised product of GOI).we make consumers (see not cust)wait for 10-15 days for a supply.. if one makes a huge cry ...and tell that im goin to write a letter to Field officer or AREA MANAGEr.. then we become lame goats and secretly deliver to that particular case atleast in a seperate Two wheeler..(where cost of DLVRing one cyl exceeds the profit generated of the sale.) i find some connection bet two cases.. do u agree

  11. Dear Niv,

    10 reasons why I love my Railway job.

    1.I hate to sleep
    2.I've enjoyed my life in childhood
    3.i can't live without tension
    4.I want to have a disturbed family life.
    5.I believe in GEETA 'Karm karo,phal ki kamna na karo.
    6.I don't want to spend time with family members
    7.I want to take revenge on myself
    8.I desperately need to break up from my friends
    9.I want social boycott
    10.I love to work on Holidays also.

  12. Hi there... Long time since I enjoyed your talents... Happy to see your article... Quite interesting... Hope to see more

  13. Dear Swapna, thanks for the visit and lovely comment. Praying Almighty to give me the strength and courage to smile on and have fun. Yes, some people never understand who they are....they just think of themselves, least bothered about others...

  14. Dear Harish..thanks for the comment yaar, yes, the world today is filled with such self centered people...

    Dear Janaki, thanks for the comment dear. Though i agree you were made to wait for more than two hours for a ticket, is that fault of the duty clerk? On an average, we are asked to deal with 120 applications a shift, at the rate of 20 forms per hour. Do you know how much we actually deal? 250 to 300 on average in a shift. It is bigger in major stations. How can you expect quality when the quantity is just too much to bear?

    It is the customers who treat us like beggars, not vice versa:)

  15. Dear Ramnath...Whoa! That was a lengthy but superb comment. We are ill fated, agreed, but what is done to save us on all fronts? Literally nothing. Bosses boss over, supervisors write funny CRs, colleagues from other Railway depts still pester us for Inside Bookings, touts try to set us up in traps. The only organisation that can help us- the Unions are having a field day collecting funds and doing NOTHING! Ill fated..what else are we?

  16. Dear Rama...thanks for your visit and comment. Agree with you 100%, both the sides must learn to respect each other...but that can seldom happen:)

    Dear Anonymous- we are no better than you. Private sector or Public sector, Kashtam-errrr is the King! I have indeed dealt with lots of drunkards, will write a post specially dedicated to them;) Apologies can be given if they are of use, but these days, getting apology is nothing but emotional blackmail...

  17. Dear Jiji....hahaha to that comment! I just could not control my laughter. Hope you are following the Ten Commandments verbatim;)May God grant you Nirvana!Yes, we are just pieces of furniture like tables and chairs that come on time and issue tickets, go on time...Superb to have quoted Geetha here..hahaha again!

    Dear Sri, thanks for the comment here. Hope i write more and keep you entertained;)

  18. That is really irritating behavior, such people need to be taught a lesson! Their main interest seems to trouble others for no reason, quarrel, win the fight and satisfy their egos rather than getting the work peacefully done and moving on...!

  19. Nivedita this is second blog of urs I am reading through and first urs straight infact - the other was - ur blog for the competition titled beauty. Fine, what should i say -- the flow is amazing and ur have succeeded in bringing the text just infront of my eyes. Having been a fellow Counter clerk, I too had experienced many as all my friends who commented. Harsh was/is our life as a frontline movers and shakers.

  20. Nivedita this was very interesting! Gave us the other perspective to the problem. We customers rarely understand what th eproblems of the service provider may be...! Good post! With employees like you the Indian Railways is sure to surge ahead- Lalu or no Lalu!

  21. ...hmm...I am in Cutomer Service and meet such people time to time...

    Before I used to take their cursing and abusing personaly but now I know that it is not me they are is my company...

    And so now...I am happy...and remain chilled....

    Customers are like...your HEART....

    It will beat more loudly when you want it to slow down....

    And everyone is gentle to his/her heart...

    You can't control your heart's let it do whatever it want to do and be cool....

    Nice article.

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  23. Dear Meera! Thanks for the visit and comment. Shall sure do my level best for Railways, be there Lalu or Didi;)

    Dear Arti...thanks for the visit. Yes, there are people like these who love quarrels at any cost:(((

    Dear Redheart, thanks for the comment. Agreed 100% with you, counter staff's lives are not easy:(

  24. Dear Thinking, thanks for the comment. Yes, we have to keep our cool against all odds:)

  25. you must be a sweet looking woman for the guy to insist it must be you for the fact that you are in your 3rd trimester!..some customers can make one go..URRRRRRGH!...ahahaha


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