No sooner had the Calcutta bound Madras mail stopped at Vijayawada junction than a group of passengers comprising of a gentleman and a number of small boys and girls jumped into a general coach of the train. They had one thing in common in their looks, they were tonsured. Along with their luggage they were also carrying food offering of Lord Balaji, wrapped in banana leafs. Near the middle of the coach the passengers could find few vacant seats. They were returning home after paying a visit to the holy shrine of Lord Balaji at the temple town of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. Many devotees, men as well as women, shave their heads as a symbol of reverence to Lord Balaji. The foreheads of the passengers were smeared with sandal paste, every single one of them was beaming with joy and talking relentlessly.
As soon as the train had started rolling, a Ticket Collector jumped inside the coach, closed the door and started checking the tickets of the passengers starting from his end. The tonsured gentleman suddenly disappeared with the boys and girls and came back alone after a few minutes. Almost after ten minutes, when the Ticket Collector arrived at the middle of the coach he asked the gentleman to show his ticket. He showed him his ticket along with a big friendly smile. The Ticket Collector looked at the space below the seats, where passengers keep their luggage as well as the overhead luggage rack. He asked the passenger if he was travelling alone at which the passenger answered affirmatively. After examining the tickets of few more passengers the ticket collector suddenly disappeared. In few minutes time he returned with three boys and one girl, all tonsured, and asked the tonsured gentleman if those boys and girls, whom he had discovered hiding in a toilet, were travelling with him. The gentleman answered affirmatively. The ticket collector asked the passenger to pay for their tickets and the passenger paid with a smiling face.
He issued tickets and left again. In another few minutes’ time he returned with two more boys and two more girls, all tonsured, and asked the same passenger if those four whom he had discovered hiding in another toilet were also travelling with him to which the gentleman again answered affirmatively.
He was again asked to pay and he paid.
He was not smiling anymore.
Author: Mintu Ghoshal