Playing the White Knight for the first time


Part 2



On my way to the toilet, I had seen the attendant squatting in the near-empty luggage-enclosure before the toilet and had given him a knowing nod. In my field of vision, I had also noticed cursorily a guy in civvies standing close to the attendant – in itself not an out-of-the-ordinary act. When I returned, in there filling a good part of the cubicle was the same guy in civvies (G) firmly planted in front of Co in a posture of authority and the attendant as usual hovering outside the cubicle. There was silence all around with Co fixing his comprehension-less gaze at about the mid-rib of the guy in civvies.


The authoritative tone and posture discouraged me from asking why the guy was in civvies. I politely inquired what the matter was. Our conversation went along these lines as best as I could recall:


(G is guy in civvies, S is self)

G: Are you with him?

S: No, I am his co-passenger. May be I could help.

G: I don’t see how. He has to pay 250 rupees as fine. (It was a punch in the gut)

S: You mean he doesn’t carry tickets with him?

G: No, he has a railway-pass alright. (That was some relief)

S: Then, he pulled the alarm chain needlessly? (I couldn’t see how. At that very moment, the train was picking up speed)

G: It is not that.

S: Then? (Didn’t know where this was going. I ran out on my list of possible offences)

G: His attendant travelled by first-class yesterday night.

S: If I heard you right, you said the gentleman had the pass?

G: Yes, but, I told you his attendant traveled by first-class yesterday night. The pass does not entitle him to that. (His voice showing some irritation at having to repeat the obvious)

S: Are you sure he was here in the night? How do you know? I had not seen him.

G: The railway coach attendant told me he had spent the night here in this coach. (The prosecution had laid all the cards face-up on the table. An iron-clad case, you would say?)  

S: That’s explained easily. As you see, the gentleman is not quite well; he needed help in the night. That’s why the attendant remained close at hand.

(I did not know for a fact what happened in the night. So, I rationalized, it wouldn’t be a white lie; may be I was stretching things a bit, all for a good cause)

S: In fact the attendant was around here all of yesterday too helping the gentleman with this and that. (It was too late to retract. Was I shooting Co and myself in the foot?)

G: During the day, he could. But at night, he is not allowed to remain in the first-class coach. (I must grant it to him; G was a square-shooter on the privileges of a pass-holder and his attendant)

S: What happens if this gentleman wants to go to the toilet in the middle of the night, does not have the attendant around, tries to go on his own and falls down? I didn’t think Indian Railways was so heartless? (I was appealing to mitigating circumstances)

G: If he produces a doctor’s certificate, the attendant could stay at night too. He does not have one. (This was end of the road, I could sense)  

G: Now enough is enough. Ask him to pay up (wagging his finger at Co). As a penalty, his attendant has to get off at the next station. He can travel by second-class to Bombay. Let me get him out of here first and then come back to collect the fine.


He exited from the cubicle and proceeded to conduct the attendant towards the door at the end of the coach.


(To be contd.)

















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