September 01, 2014

I am a PhD too

Kirti Dua

I booked my railway ticket in IIIrd AC of Hemkunt Express for my journey from Jammu to Ludhiana. On the day of the journey, I boarded the train and kept my suitcase underneath my lower berth. On the opposite lower berth a middle-aged lady was lying.

A gentleman boarded the train, and after having a glance at the berth, told the lady that it was his seat. The lady replied that the TTE had allotted this seat along with four other seats to her family members. The man got annoyed and told the lady in a little loud voice that he had a proper reservation for the seat. He was well-educated and a PhD, neither the TTE nor that lady could befool him.

In the meantime, her husband came and after a careful examination of the ticket of the gentleman, told him to go to IInd AC compartment as his reservation was for that class. The husband of the lady then said that a PhD did not guarantee wisdom and common sense; one had to be careful and alert. After listening to all this conversation, I said to myself that 'I am a PhD too, but I am not like that'.

After some time, one couple in their late sixties arrived in the same coupe. They had their seat reservation for the middle and upper berth on my side. They kept their suitcase underneath my berth. Soon after the train chugged off the railway station, we had a good discussion on various aspects. From the discussion, I came to know that the couple was going to Haridwar on some family function and they had the plans to return the same evening by Hemkunt Express.

Then we opened our packed dinner and shared it with each other as a goodwill gesture. Soon after the dinner, the middle berths opened, lights of the coupe were switched off and all slipped into their berths for the night. The train reached Ludhiana at midnight and everybody else in the coupe was sleeping. To avoid inconvenience to others in the coupe, I took out my suitcase gently from underneath the berth without switching on the lights, got down the train, took an auto and reached home. The next morning when I opened the suitcase, there were suits, saris etc in it. Then I realised that my suitcase had got exchanged with someone else's of the same colour, size and shape.

I recalled that when the elderly couple had boarded the train, they had pushed my suitcase forward to fit in their suitcase and that resulted in this mix-up. From a diary in the suitcase, I found a phone number of their son in Delhi. I called him and explained the whole episode. After contacting his parents at Haridwar, he gave me the details of their return journey on Hemkunt Express.

Within 24 hours, I was again at Ludhiana station at midnight and after sincere apologies from my side, we exchanged our black suitcases. It appeared like a scene from a film in which two smugglers exchanged their stuff. The person told me that they really had a tough time because his wife had to attend that function in the same suit she was wearing as her suitcase was exchanged. I was feeling sorry for the couple and at the same time wondering if it was just a coincidence or my PhD too had a role in it.

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