Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tatkal tales and travails

Terribly disappointing. I tried booking tatkal on 2 different days to come from NJP [New Jalpaiguri] to Howrah or Bangalore.

Stats from what I saw on both the days:
Both days had one straight train from NJP to Bangalore. I log in at 9.57AM dutifully so I can book tickets at 10.00AM the earliest. 

Day 1 and Day 2:
tickets available:
a. SL : 182 seats
b. 3 AC: 32 seats
c. 2 AC: 16 seats

A total of 230 seats are available on both days. 

I was able to login at 9.57AM on both days and was able to see these seats available for booking. At 10.00 AM and a few seconds, I was dropped off the site when I tried to book [service unavailable]. So, logged in at 10.03 AM [10.02 35 to be precise] and I see REGRET/WL001 as the status! WHAT? Now if we think about it, what this would mean is that 230 tickets got booked in about 150 seconds... that too using a terribly slow to respond irctc site at 10.00 AM. Sounds weird? But its true.

Not withstanding all this [I realised that there is no way in green hell that I can get tatkal tickets if this is the way the ticket booking works], I promptly went to the reputed travel agents there to see if I can get a ticket... but I was refused in most places. I kept trying and went to one more reputed [IRCTC authorised agent apparently] who said all tickets for December is booked. So, I asked him if he can book a tatkal ticket for me... [Authors note - mark my words here] Says the old man in the shop "I am only talking about tatkal tickets - all tickets till December is booked". Me: "Are you really sure? Tatkal gets opened one day before the travel date. How can they get booked in advance. Are you talking about tatkal or normal tickets". Old fat shop keeper: "Yes. Tatkal only. All tickets are booked till December.Now, you go away". I didnt budge. Asked him: "So, what do I do now? I need a ticket." Old rude son-of-a-bitch shopkeeper: "Buy a general class ticket and go in the train if you are in a hurry". I gave him a withering glance and legged it to the next shop. He said he will try his best to buy tickets using his high speed internet for the next day [legal way] but he couldnt succeed and gave my advance back.

Lessons learnt:
a. There is a massive black market for tatkal tickets from NJP. I hope some authority is aware of it and atleast attempts to sort it out. Take it from me - a person who travels in train often. It is statistically, humanly and IRCTC-ly impossible [knowing how the site works] to book 230 tickets in 120-150 seconds. I can agree that outliers exist and it can happen on some rare day [even that is possible only if we want to be very very generous and think that laws of physics didnt function too well on that particular day]. BUT, I saw it happen for 2 days running. I am sure if you check it tomorrow at 10.00AM, the same shit scenario will happen. 
b. Tickets are surely being blocked or stored for usage later [sold at a higher cost? I wouldnt know the way it works. They probably stuff it in the backend at 10.00 and take it back by 10.02 or something? Only god knows.]
c. If a foreigner asks for tickets, the answers are different. I saw it before my own eyes as a friend of mine [non-Indian] asked for a tkt to HWH from the same reputed IRCTC agent and he happily says that he can arrange tickets. He sees me in a while and he says no tickets. Sadly, he didnt realise that we [friend and I] came together and we just wanted to poke around.

Sad state of affairs. Truly shocking and very shameful.