Along with Shanti Express, schedule of most of the express and superfast trains was disturbed. The reason was track work between Vadodara and Surat. Shanti Express was habituated to getting late but other express and superfast trains were running on time before the start of track work. Though Shanti Express was running late, it was not affecting running time of memu. Due to the track work, most of the express and superfast trains were running late by at least half an hour. Local trains were running on time. Thus there was no difficulty in reaching office on time in the morning. In the evening, we were facing difficulty. Saurashtra Express had started to get late by 45 minutes to one hour.
At the time of Saurashtra Express, Navjeevan Superfast Express used to arrive at Anand station in the evening. Navjeevan Superfast Express’ schedule arrival time at Anand was of 5:15 p.m. and due to that track work, it was arriving at 5:50 p.m. Monthly season ticket was not allowed in that train as it was a superfast express. So we used to let it go. After Navjeevan Superfast Express, Saurashtra Express used to arrive between 6:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. Despite being late, Saurashtra Express used to take same time to reach Ahmedabad. Suppose, if it arrived at Anand at 6:30 p.m. then it used to drop us at Ahmedabad at 8:30 p.m.
We tolerated such behavior of Saurashtra Express in the first week of June. In the second week, we decided to go by Navjeevan Superfast Express. The cost of going home by Navjeevan Superfast Express daily was more than the opportunity cost of going home by Saurashtra Express running late. Thus after buying the general ticket for couple of days, we started travelling in Navjeevan Superfast Express without the ticket. The days on which we bought tickets, there were no ticket checkers in the general coach. As travelling without ticket became regularity, Dwarkesh Kaka and Mahesh Kaka stopped coming in Navjeevan Superfast Express. They preferred to wait for Saurashtra Express.
Me and Dharmendra Sir were afraid of getting caught but the absence of ticket checker in the general coach gave us strength to get in the train without ticket. We travelled like that for couple of days and TC did not come to check the ticket in the general coach. TCs were there in the train but they were in reserved and AC coaches. Navjeevan Superfast Express was reaching Ahmedabad in one hour and ten minutes. So it was very convenient for us. And with no TC in general coach, it was the best train for us. Getting a seat to sit in general coach was bit difficult but that factor was not enough to let that train go. Reaching home early by cutting the time of journey was more important than fatigue.
In third week of June, TC arrived in general coach of the train. He got in the train when the train started leaving Anand station. Seeing him getting in the train, people who were standing near the door got down from the train. He blocked one door but the remaining two doors of the coach were open to get down from train. Me and Dharmendra Sir were busy in finding the seat when he got in train.
“TC is in the coach.” Dharmendra Sir spotted him as we got the seat to sit.
“Where?” I asked while thinking about the money he was going to ask for travelling without ticket. Dharmendra Sir pointed a finger towards a man in white shirt and black pent with a small book in his hand. He was approaching us.
He was accompanied by a guy who looked like a student. He was coming towards us by checking tickets of each row.
“Ticket?” A big hand came forward with a solid voice from the top floor of the six and a half feet man.
“Sir, pass,” we replied while finding it in our respective wallets.
“Don’t you know that pass is not allowed in this train?” That voice was getting louder. We had no reply to that question. “Pay the fine now,” He opened the fine book. “Come on! Get up and come here.” He snatched our monthly season tickets from our hand.
“Ticket?” He asked from other people in the row. He checked the tickets of everyone in the coach before taking fine from us. We quietly followed him. By the time he completed checking the tickets, three of us became the group of fifteen.
“Sir, kindly understand our situation. Trains are running late that’s why we are in this train. I will catch another train from Ahmedabad to reach my hometown. I request you to let us go.” One of the commuters expressed his story in the right tone and at the right time.
“No. No. Whatever the reason is! You have to pay the fine.” Ticket Checker was firm on his decision.
“Sir, kindly understand. Leave us this time. We will not do it again,” we allowed him to talk on behalf of us because he had a strong reason and he almost convinced the ticket checker.
“Okay. How many of you are there?” Ticket checker asked.
“Fine. Raise Rs. 900 and give me.” Ticket checker told that guy. Fine per head was Rs. 300 and he asked us to divide the fine of 3 people among 15 of us. Everyone of us gave Rs. 60 to that guy who had to catch another train from Ahmedabad and he gave that money to ticket checker. TC gave us three slips and warned us not to commute by this train again.
Next morning, we discussed and calculated the cost of the whole month and came to a conclusion that we can give money to TC like that twice to thrice a month. So instead of stopping the journey in that train, we decided to commute in that train daily. We also decided that if TCs start appearing regularly then we will entertain them thrice and after that we will stop going in that train.
By the end of the June, trains were back on time and we started missing Navjeevan Superfast Express.