Mu aunt's husband was an extremely cautious man. While leaving the house he would lock the house and practically hang from it to check that it is properly locked. Same with the boxes during train journeys. He would lock them, pull the lock three times and hang the key on a thick thread around his neck and then chain the boxes to the hooks provided in the trains. We used to find his ways hilarious and also bordering on the paranoid. But I wish I had learned some lessons watching him rather than just imitating him behind his back and having a good time at his expense.
Last friday I had to travel to Coimbatore for a function and since it was a short trip I had packed a small box and securely placed it under the lower berth. I had been allotted the upper berth on the aisle side of the coach. The passenger in the lower berth had gotten off at an earlier station and walked away with my box.
At my station, I picked up the only box under the lower berth. At this stage I did not realise that my box was gone. I must admit here that although the box felt strange I did not double check it. Despite all the warnings we are given some of us do not really believe that some things could happen. Bad mistake!
Lesson #1:Precautions are advised for a reason. Such things happen ( not just to others. They can happen to you. Yes, you, yourself.)

Anyway all this gyan is from hindsight. At 7 o clock that morning I sleepily got out of the station with a stranger's suitcase in my hand and was not aware of it.
As soon as I reached my destination, reality dawned and we called the Station Master immediately. He listened to the facts and promised to call us if anyone came to him with my box.

I had already caused enough stir in the house just as the function was about to start and so I decided to play it down and was hoping to trace the passenger's details over phone.
Lesson #2: Phone calls do not help under such circumstances. Immediately lodge the box and a written complaint with the Station Master. Otherwise it will not be acted upon.
The best part is that when we called him the SM did not advise us about the correct procedure to follow. I am sure his shift was due to end and he was happy to avoid the unnecessary paperwork..
Irctc helpline was more helpful but they said they could help us trace the details of the passenger if we could furnish her pnr number or passenger name. The station master would not pick up the call which meant we had to make a trip to the station personally which had to wait till the function was over.
What is impossible for ordinary mortals like us is possible for a select few in this country. Help came from an unexpected quarter - My uncle's neighbor, a retired chief engineer of railways just dialed a few numbers and was able to get the complete details of the erring passenger in matter of ninety minutes.

Now that I had the lady's number and I thought I just needed to call her and that she would apologize, come over and exchange the boxes. You think so too? Nuh huh, such behavior is passe. Now things happen differently. (what? you didnt get the memo either?)

I dialed her number and a man spoke - her husband- and this is how the conversation went:
I: hello, I believe you have my box. do you know the trouble you have put me through because of your mistake?
(All my clothes, jewelry and cosmetics were in the box)
He: What mistake are you talking about madam? We reached home, found that the box was not ours and immediately came to Tirupur station? what more can we do?
I: what use is it if you are in Tirupur station? Did you contact Coimbatore station?
He: We have done what we could. Ok speak to the railway policeman Mr.Ramesh.
The railway Policeman came on the line and asked me to verify the contents of my box. Then he said, 'Ok madam, it is your box. Please come over to Tirupur and collect it. And make sure you bring their box intact."
I was dumbstruck. Now I have to go to Tirupur and collect it? and also take their box and hand it over?
I asked him why they could not come and hand it over to me in Coimbatore since it was they who started it all.
He said that the lady is old (60 years) and so it would be difficult for her to travel. (Why? she surely travelled from bangalore to Tirupur?)
I was shocked but checked with the people around and they said a taxi trip to Tirupur and back would take me about 4 hours and 1200- 1500 rupees.
I tried to reason with them saying I was not familiar with the town and it was my only day in Coimbatore as I had a return flight to catch the next day.
No, they will not come.
Ok would they at least share the taxi fare?
The lady said: 'oh you might want to hire a plane. we cannot bear your costs. We will leave your box here at Tirupur station. If you want to, you can leave our box in Coimbatore. we will pick it up later."
And then, they. switched off. their. phone.
(yes, such people exist. And they walk amongst us, so beware!)

They lived near Coimbatore. They could come and take their box any day they wanted.
Their box had 5 tee shirts and 2 old saris. Nothing of value. So they could afford to take this stand.
And they had a railway policeman taking up their case. And all this was fine according to the railway rules.
But what about the fact that it was their mistake? what mistake? and who cares?
What about the fact that I did not even have a change of clothes? Too bad indeed, but not their problem.

If I lived there, I too could have done the same. Lodged a complaint with Coimbatore station police and then waited while the boxes would have been brought and sent through trains at our cost and delivered in a day or two or nine depending on how convenient it was to the railway system. The lady was absolved of all her sins by the very act of having brought my box to the nearest railway station.
And I became the culprit because of holding on to the box and not filing a written complaint.
Because I did not have the time to go through their leisurely processes and my contents were more valuable, I had to spend my time and energy in tracing my box and undertaking the trip to retrieve it. Since my box was to be delivered only if I brought her box intact, that idiot passenger got her box prettily sitting in her house and without spending a paisa. (well, I am not even sure who was the idiot in the whole deal finally!)
For the railways all is well that ends well.

Lesson #3: Right and wrong are irrelevant in railway rules. Procedure is of supreme value to the system. So follow Procedure. Be aware of the correct procedure. ( why do you think I am writing this long story for you?)

Lesson#4: Always secure your boxes to the hooks in the luggage space using a chain.They are there for a reason.
It is not only thieves who can make your life miserable. There are plenty of stupid morons traveling with you.

And oh yes, you can walk away with any box you like. There are no penalties for that provided you know how to follow the correct procedure.
And what about right and wrong - come on, which planet are you on?