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The death of Reservations

List of Computerised Railway Reservation Offices in India

No, it is not about THE reservations. I am not a serious guy, who has strong opinions about societal issues. This is a favourite activity of mine. Railway reservations, to be precise, are fascinating by themselves, just like reading the railway timetables. Back home in Thoothukudi, the railway station is very close to the sea. A thin road divides the old harbour from the main station. The station thus gets a pleasant sea breeze throughout. There used to be a good macroon shop on the way to the station and every trip to the station, be it to book tickets or to travel or to receive guests, included a stop by the bakery. Tickets were issued manually to start with. Being a small town, the station did not have much of a rush.

I got involved with regular reservations once I joined college. I always had a copy of the Railway Timetable and sometimes spent hours just reading the various routes and the trains. Vacation trips always were special, with all ‘oorkaaranga’ (town-mates) travelling together. People from towns on the way like Kovilpatti, Sattur, Virudhunagar and Madurai also joined us. I always cribbed about the partial treatment the Railways gave to Madurai passengers on the Pearl City. Student concessions were in demand till the final year, though in decreasing priority. The college office staff made us wait long times for such a simple issue of concession ticket. After that, we had to go to a railway station to endorse the concessions. What a pain it used to be! Most times we had to book our tickets first and then get them re-done with the concessions. Getting all the guys together and the concessions was a chore.

The Mambalam PRS complex comes first to mind. Being in the busy T.Nagar area, it was full of people especially as we used to get free only in the evenings or during the weekends. But we had no choice. We wasted two hours every time. All citizens used to abuse us given that we used to go in gangs of 2 or 3 and used to take maximum time at the counter. The counter folks did not help things by scrutinizing the concessions carefully and rejecting them for minor mistakes. “Boys” showed vividly what happens in T. Nagar. I used to hate the crowds that when I discovered the Besant Nagar Rajaji Bhavan office, I was simply delighted. That was at cycling distance from campus through the tree-filled lanes of Adyar. It took less time and at the end, you could have a stroll through the famed Elliotts Beach.

Come Bangalore. Indra Nagar was the first centre I visited. Innovations like seats while waiting and “one queue, multiple counters” were pleasant surprises. There were so many days when I will feel bored at office. On few such days, these booking counters gave me good rest. I shall take a book, read it there for an hour and get my tickets as well. I had the added pleasure of meeting my good friend RL during fewer of these days, who was looking for her job. The nearby parks proved to be our talking grounds. We commented on the many couples that frequented these parks in those times. When we moved to Wilson Garden, it was the turn of the Jaya Nagar 4th complex centre. Finding it in the maze of the shops there is a great trick by itself.

While at Bangalore, how can I forget the Tatkal days which had me at the Koramangala BDA complex by 6am, all decked for the day at office and still be 10th at the queue? (Of course, this might remind some of you about the passport experience of which I was part of, where the early morning 47A left you at The Passport Office, Shastri Bhavan very very early indeed and you are 40th or 50th in the queue.) This usually happens during peak holiday seasons when the trains seem to be full on the 50th day before the journey date. The Koramangala centre is one of the best, with thoughtful quotes, disciplined queue managers and flower pots to add. At Bangalore, there is the 23rd floor centre at the Utility Building on MG Road, which must boast of the tallest railway reservation counters in India. Walking up the stairs is a delight, except that you don’t have a choice when the lifts don’t work. But the sights of Bangalore up there make up for everything else. Where would you find a free skyline view of the city otherwise?

At Indore, it was a difficult time looking for the main reservation station. Here it is back to those dark ages when you had to stand all the waiting time. It reminds me that Southern Railway must be the most modern of them all. Later we discovered our very own Rajendra Nagar centre, which has 10 people at its peak. It is nice and quiet, typical of an out-of-the-city atmosphere. It had to happen. All the good times come to an end. I was not convinced when they talked about i-tickets. Who wants delivery when it comes at a price? But when they talked e-tickets, I was hooked inspite of the 25 rupees they charge for the convenience. From last April, I have not used any paper tickets at all. I know, I am losing out on a significant portion of my living experience, the physical booking touch. But I have to move on…

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Categories: Society
  1. sk
    28 July 2006 at 7:34 pm

    Hey nice account of old times Sparkie! I have never reserved train ticket.. except once in India, at the Airport. Otherwise, nope.

    Sari EPPPPO NZ?

  2. A
    28 July 2006 at 11:25 pm

    In college, I remember going to the main train-ticket reservation center in Chennai (was it at the central station or was it in Mambalam?) a couple of times when in the hostel. I also remember accompanying my dad to reservation centers in a bunch of cities :-). Nowadays, of course, my parents do the booking online!

    The wonderful Amtrak trains here require you to pick up tickets from a person at the station even if you book the tickets online. Some progress!

    Nice post :-)!

  3. 29 July 2006 at 6:26 am

    sk, kishore used to be another reservation guy. i know, i don’t have to tell you this 😉

    A, not many girls used to go to the stations. of course, they had their boys to do the stuff 🙂 Amtrak requires you to pick up the tickets. Bah, Indian Railways is better!

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