The line must go on

Have you traveled by train recently?

Did you book your tickets?

If it was self-booked, did you use http://www.irctc.co.in to book the ticket?

If you answered yes to all the above questions, then congratulations!! You are among the lucky few to have successfully completed a task that has stumped many a user over the last few months.  You, my dear reader, are worthy of being honored with the Successful Irctc Ticket Booker Award or SITBA for short though the acronym makes no sense whatsoever.

The rest of us not-so-fortunate mortals have been religiously trying and failing at various stages –  from login till payment authentication. As a person not satisfied with HTML error messages, I endeavored to get to the bottom of this. As you might have guessed, it was not an easy job. But get to the bottom I did and the results were quite surprising, to say the least.

The Indian Railways, it seems, has added junk lines to server side code to slow down, or in some cases completely stop responses from their end. They had to take this extreme step after many threats from supporters of the old ‘line system’. The railways department had initially mocked such threats.They then tried explaining, that people wanting to go to the counter and physically book could still do so. But frustrated old system supporters were in no mood to listen, apparently.

The supporters of the old system largely consist of  ambi mamas from West Mambalam, Mylapore and Tambaram, whose  hobby was to rush to the railway counter  to book tickets for any traveler even remotely connected to them. They are the ones who always have a stack of forms in their hand and look at you suspiciously when you ask them to loan you their pen. They are strict upholders of the ‘Line Rule’ and waste no time in pouncing on unsuspecting people who are just about to break the line.  “All these young IT people I tell you, just sit at home and book tickets. They do everything online these days. Intha generationla (in this generation), who has time to stand in line and all. Ippo pathelna (If you see now), my son, sitting in San Francisco, is able to book tickets for his mother to visit him without having to move so much as an inch. “, lamented an ambi mama thereby using yet another opportunity to talk about his USA settled son and foreign traveled wife. “1998la vaangina reynolds pen saar ithu. Paarungo innum inke theerala. Pena paperla ezhutharthe maranthu pochu polairukku (I bought this reynolds pen in 98 and the ink hasn’t dried up yet. People have forgotten the art of putting pen to paper)“. “I am forced to watch Illavarasi and Kasturi on Sun TV everyday to kill time”, he further added.

The second largest category of counter users are the sexually charged young (sometimes old) men who come to the booking counter with a fond hope of standing in the line behind some sappa figure(very ordinary looking girl) and trying every chance to orasufy(brush against) them. “I strongly protest the use of internet for ticket booking. It is against Indian culture. There is absolutely no line anywhere these days, not even in Sathyam. I still remember those days when everyone had to stand in one long line for any sort of booking” complained a road side romeo before singing “Those were the best days of my life” , the much abused line from Bryan Adam’s Summer of 69, completely out of tune. “I am planning to write to Anna Hazare regarding this. The youth supported his cause and now its just decency for him to support ours” added another RSR who did not want to be named.

The day is not far off when users will return to the counter to book their tickets. When questioned, a recent MBA grad working as a Business Analyst at an IT MNC had this to say “Though this is outrageous we must do what we should to get our tickets. I have already outraged enough on fb and twitter but I guess the government is going to fail us on this one as well”. Another ‘Functional Consultant’ said “I have seen my dad fill up those forms. they look like miniature versions of excel sheets anyway.That is kinda comforting you know”.

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