Honesty is always the best policy
N J Ravi Chander
My octogenarian maternal-uncle, M D Umapathi, is a trove of real-life stories. These nostalgic recollections bring fond memories of his service days at the Office of the Accountant General in Bengaluru or while on tour playing or managing the office, state or South zone hockey teams in the closing decades of the last century. A dependable full-back during his playing days, he earned the moniker “The rock of Gibraltar”. Also known to be a no-nonsense auditor, he seldom spared erring employees and companies. The uncle once boarded a train to Chikmagalur from Bengaluru to conduct an audit ignoring his colleagues’ pleas to accompany them by bus, which covered the distance in a shorter time. Holding a RAC ticket, the uncle had his fingers crossed and hoped it would get confirmed.
For some reason, the TTE shrugged off his repeated pleas to allot a berth. The uncle grew impatient after a while, but his eyes caught the TTE resorting to dubious means. The wait-listed passengers whose names appeared lower down the RAC list were tipping him off generously to grab a sleeper berth, and the sly gentleman was filling up his pockets in a hurry.
Armed with the finding the uncle stomped off to a senior railway official sitting at the far end with a written complaint. The ploy paid off with the official summoning the erring ticket checker and giving him a rap on the knuckles.
An apology followed, and the uncle allotted a berth. The ploy, though, sent a shiver down the spine of the TTE so much so that he begged and pleaded to tear up the complaint while promising that he would never repeat the folly!
Some decades back the AGORC hockey team with the uncle as the manager left for Delhi from Bengaluru to take part in the All-India Audit and Accounts Department Hockey tournament. There was no direct train to Delhi then, and one had to board the connecting train – Grand Trunk Express – at Madras (now Chennai) to reach the national capital. An hour after the Grand Trunk chugged out of Madras Central and the players developed an urge to empty their bowels, they noticed that one particular washroom stayed bolted from the inside for a long time.
Curious to trace the culprit the team members began peering through a small opening near the door and figured out somebody draped in a green shawl squatting on the toilet floor. Despite pleas to unbolt the door, the mysterious traveller refused to budge or mutter a response. With every effort coming to nought, the team hit upon a ploy to flush out the occupant. When the train pulled up at the next station, the players armed with hockey sticks leapt out of the train and through the small opening in the washroom’s window, nudged him to come out.
Unable to put up with the pushing and prodding, the mysterious occupant flung the door open and emerged outside. To everyone’s surprise, Mr Mystery turned out to be a foreign national. He had taken refuge in the washroom after discovering that miscreants had picked his wallet that held the journey ticket, cash and other valuables.
Having understood his predicament, the entire squad threw their weight behind the stranger, including mobilising funds to meet his immediate expenses. The team also camouflaged him with blankets on the upper berth and kept him concealed from the prying eyes of the ticket checkers. Grateful to the team for extricating him out of a hole and thanking his lucky stars, the Brit completed his journey unscathed.
(The author is a former banker who has taken up writing as a pastime. He writes for the Deccan Herald, The New Indian Express, The Tribune, The Hitavada, The City Tab, The Hans India and Kashmir Vision)