How to book a train ticket during Diwali
It’s the festival of lights. You convince your evil bosses to give you a week off. You are so close to home, and sweets, and loved ones. And then Indian Railways tells you that a lot of people had the same thought 120 days ago, and there are no tickets for you. You are ready to die.
No more. This Guide will tell you how you, too, can make it home on time for the first round of teen patti. As you will see, it’s not easy. Once you have decided to book a ticket, you’re at war!
1. Cut through the lines: In war, the hardest thing is to break through the enemy lines. When you’re at a railway booking counter, facing rows and rows of people with hardened, soldiers’ faces, you know all those men and women have nothing to lose; they have a glint of hopelessness in their dead eyes.
What you do: You’re outnumbered, you know you’ll be out of ammo without making a dent, so you bribe the tenth person in line 100 bucks to let you stand in front of him. It’s money well spent; if you don’t bribe, you’ll have to pay extra for a tatkal ticket anyway. If you’re a young woman, you look for the most gullible guy in the line and chat him up. He will then offer you his spot. Mark this soldier, it’s what we call strategy.
2. Keep a stiff upper lip: This is war, and no one is going to hold your hat. When the roaches infiltrate your trenches, when you see WL 183 staring at you through your ticket booking screen, you gotta get tough.
What you do: Crush the urge to throw up your arms and beat the retreat with a tearful call to your mother. You have to wait, and watch, and possibly pray for cancellations. Sometimes, losing a war is blinking first.
3. Don’t crib about the equipment: The country’s going through a hard time, so make peace with your outdated arms. Yes, using the IRCTC site is as pleasant as being dragged backwards on sandpaper for 10 miles, but it’s all we have.(You won’t be seeing those shiny rifles they use in America, so just get used to having your shoulder dislocated every time you fire.)
What you do: When the IRCTC site crashes, gives false information or makes you wait 48 hours before it refreshes once, grind your teeth, but don’t shoot the bugger. After all, when octogenarians rule the country, it’s gotta show somewhere.
4. Beware of the agents of the enemy: Just when you think you’ve won the day, the Quislings and spies throw open the fortress gates and turn victory to defeat. Just like what happens when you turn up 4 hours earlier than the tatkal booking time and feel sure you’ll be the first one at the counter, and then agents get all the tickets anyway.
What you do: Whenever you see someone at a station that keeps talking into three phones at once, know that he is a booking agent. Shout out to everyone else there that you’ve found an agent, and watch with pleasure as his behind gets introduced to a lot of new chappals. This won’t work if there are more agents than real customers, though, so be careful.
5. Put the C in RAC: War, little soldier, is a game of attrition. Keep the army at your gates starving for 6 months in the cold, and they will leave. This is what a lot of people do in today’s world; they book tickets much in advance, and only cancel them at the last possible moment, by which time you’ve gone and booked a flight instead.
What you do: Hold on to hope, sometimes it’s all a soldier has got. Even if you are RAC 13 10 hours before your journey, land up at the charts just before the train leaves, and see that not enough people cancelled, at least you get a seat, right? What’s the worst that could happen? You already know your berth mate will be an unwashed, snoring, seat-hogger. Or you could lobby for the ticket cancellation fee to be raised to one Raja, or one lakh crore. This might deter bulk ‘maybe’ bookers.
6. Remain loyal to the motherland: No deserter ever got a full military burial. Stick to your loyalties, and put on your blinkers when you see people being gifted tickets on ‘full’ trains through every quota imaginable.
What you do: Don’t give in to the propagandists; resist the temptation to get into one of those cushy ‘categories’. You can’t prove you’re 80 when you don’t have arthritis, and no TC ever fell for “I used to be a girl when I booked this ticket”. Keep the honor of a soldier, and they’ll remember you when the war’s over.
7. Fight the Great Indian Family: Even if you do everything else right, you need to win over the local civilians for a final, decisive victory. And our problem is that there are too many huge joint families that decide to take over trains in Diwali, and leave no seats for students who want to go back home.
What you do: You cannot fight the Great Indian Family with firepower; they have inexhaustible reserves of food and crying babies. No, you must be subtle, and spend decades spreading the message of family planning throughout India, so that the Great Indian Family will become the Small Indian Familiette. It’s a long game, is war. But, at the end of those decades, people will finally be able to book railway tickets during Diwali!
The IRCTC website