Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Perform without making a promise

-by KParthasarathi Wednesday, June 18, 2008
It was summer vacation and all trains were overbooked with long waiting lists. The railways managed to overcome the rush to some extent by running special trains.There was no online booking those days when everything was done manually. Touts were thriving then in collusion with some corrupt officials. I had to go to Delhi at short notice on an urgent official business. Air travel was very expensive and allowed only to the top level then.The office managed to get a berth for onward journey from state government quota normally utilised for high government officials. My return ticket was waitlisted way down with remote chance of getting a berth. Nevertheless I left for Delhi hoping to cross the bridge when I actually meet one.
I was given one berth in a first class coupe. No passenger came to occupy the seat till the train was about to leave. Just as the train slowly started to move one middle aged man boarded the train with the porter pushing his suit case in the passageway. I was wondering why people could not manage their time well and are putting themselves to considerable hardship. It was then he entered the cabin and smiled faintly. I told him “You were about to miss the train. Lucky you could get in by the skin of your teeth.”He replied “True, I was held up in a meeting and had to rush,sir.” He was short and bald with a a deferential tone in his voice and he ended his sentence with ’sir’. It was late already and we went to sleep without much of conversation.
The next morning while we were sipping our coffee, he asked me “Sir, are you from Tamilnadu cadre?” I told him that I was no IAS officer and that I was working for a public sector company. He became instantly relaxed and started chatting with me about Chennai and its peculiarities. Being a North Indian he must have faced difficulty in getting his regional cuisine as hotels those days were small and catered only to the local tastes. He asked me about my work and the purpose of my visit to Delhi. It was then that I casually mentioned about the difficulty faced in getting the berth and about my apprehensions of being stranded in Delhi without accommodation in the train for my return journey on the second day. I showed him my ticket with waitlisted number beyond 300.He scribbled something in his pocket note book and said “Let us pray that you get your berth as luckily as you got for the onward journey.” He did not tell much about him except that he was a resident of Delhi and worked in the government. I did not also pursue the matter. The rest of the journey was eventless with me busy with my big novel. He slept most of the time except when he came down for lunch or dinner. When the train reached Nizamuddin station, he took leave of me and wished me a pleasant day and good luck in getting the berth for my return.
My work in Delhi was over that day. I sought the help of local office in getting accommodation in the train next day. They were not sanguine about the outcome of their efforts for the holiday rush was beyond imagination. On the day of my journey the office assistant dealing with arranging tickets came to me running around 4PM and said” Sir, I learn a berth has been released in your name. It was not based on our efforts as even our application for release of emergency quota was not accepted. When I cross checked with the reservation office, I was told that the berth has been released from the quota of Chairman, Railway Board.” I then realised the unassuming gentleman who travelled with me must be someone in particular in the Railway Board and must have helped me. I recalled his scribbling the particulars in his note book. He neither revealed who he was nor made any promise to help.
I was reminded of the Sanskrit sloka
sharadi na varshati, garjati, varshhati vaarshhaasu niHsvanaH meghaH
niichaH vadati, na kurute, vadati na saadhuH karoti eva….
In the autumn, the clouds thunder but yield no rain; during the season, they rain without thunder.
The inferior man talks but does not perform whereas the great man simply performs without talking.

1 comment:

  1. This is an outstanding post, Parthasarathi.The shloka you have quoted is beautiful.