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?
19 Responses
  1. Praveen Says:

    That lady didn't care to apologise?! That is really disgusting!

    Time to find the chain next time I guess. I am guilty of laughing at such "chain" maamas and thathas too.

  2. Raj Says:

    My commiserations on being 'out-of-box' for some time.. But, good that you got it back.

    Interesting that you should refer to it as 'box' by the way. Haven't heard the word for some time.

    A good result from the incident is that it prompted you to get back to blogging after two months.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Ah I'm definitely going to learn from your experiences. Don't want to have to learn from my own! Also, will never laugh at the chain maamas and thathas, as Praveen has said! (;

    And yes, that was disgusting behaviour on their part but definitely does not surprise me. Pity you were caught in all this.

    -shraddha [New to your blog!]

  4. I'll comment something when I finally recover from the shock this post has subjected me to!

  5. Altoid Says:

    Oh gosh Usha

    Thats just terrible. And thanks for sharing this story just as I am about to head to the station and happen to be traveling by Indian Railways after a gap of about 6 years or so. *shaking head*

  6. sandhya Says:

    Firstly, it is great to have you back. Was wondering why you weren't posting for so long.
    I AM one of those maamis who get laughed at as I meticulously carry the chain and lock on train and bus journeys, something that my mother does always.
    And yes, we live in a world inhabited by all sorts. What to do? Good that you got your box back, though.

  7. R's Mom Says:

    It great to have you posting after such a long time :)

    The lady is really a moron...!!! and its surprising that people are so selfish :(

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Oh it did bring some old memories back!!!

    Also, though being a regular reader of your blog, I am commenting for the first time! And just wanted to tell that I enjoy your blog a lot :)

  9. What a bleddy pain, life is certainly not fair. very shameless of the lady

  10. Usha Says:

    Praveen: Apologize! ha, her husband kept saying that I had made a mistake too!!
    This is the curse of such thathas and mamas only - so always carry chain.

    Raj: then what do they call these boxes now - oh, suitcase?
    Ya, I am rediscovering the joy of blogging , thanks to that stupid woman.

    Shraddha:You know if I lived there I might have tried to make life miserable for them too by taking their box to the police station in coimbatore. But unfortunately that was not to be..

    SnS:It took me a while to recover from it all too...Can you believe the level to which people sink?

    Alt:Do be careful with your luggage in night trains.

    Sandhya:Now you know that wise ones get laughed but but in the end, they have the last laugh!

    R's Mom:Oh people are selfish alright. We live in an i,me,myself world.
    But somehow I believe that she will pay for this some other time.

    Puja:Will check you experience.

    ITW:Yes Shameless is the word.

  11. I'm getting more and more used to people being rude and selfish but for some reason it still catches you off guard sometimes doesn't it?

  12. Hip Grandma Says:

    Priya had a similar experience when she visited this year. Her suitcase with all the baby stuff like diapers and drinking chocolate (Her two year old won't drink our very own Boost or Bournvita) just because a passenger traveling by the same shuttle to the Mumbai air terminal walked away with her suitcase and boarded a flight to Indore. To add to the misery he claims that he did know that the suitcase was not his but he walked away with it because he would miss his connecting flight. She got her suitcase back after one and a half months when her brother in law's neighbor collected it from Indore and handed it over to her BIL in Pune.He conveniently got Kingfisher Airlines to deliver his suitcase at his door step because Priya had the sense to leave it at Mumbai air port. So we are not short of morons and thickheads.

  13. dipali Says:

    Uff- what morons they were:(
    And so unkind as well. What a punishment for you:(

  14. oh my God. what a nightmare. i think we should all start chaining our luggage now.

    i was about 12 when all our luggage was robbed from the train. including our shoes. we walked out barefoot at madras, feet burning on the platform until we could buy chappals.

  15. Uma Says:

    That's terrible! And the lady had the temerity to insist that you go and pick up your stuff!
    Like you pointed out, I guess they had nothing to lose and they knew you would take the effort to collect yours since you had some valuables!

  16. Oh goodness....thank you, I'll chain my suitcase/strolley firmly, in future.

    Thank you for the "chain mail"!

  17. diya Says:

    You should have written a letter stating what you think of the lady and placed it in her suitcase!! I feel like shaking her senseless myself!

  18. What makes some people so selfish and inconsiderate? I am glad you shared this experience, yes, this can happen to any of us.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for sharing this Usha. I love you posts! Well, am planning to forward this to my hubby. He always makes fun of me when I insist on buying the" chain"! :-). At least you got back you box, thanks to God for that. Yes, people have become selfish... Some incident made me say that aloud while travelling in an auto in Mumbai and the autowala told me... "madam you need to be selfish and take care of yourself first then only you can take care of others!" Sigh!