Welcome aboard, Mr Garg
The train from Kota, Rajasthan, didn’t steam out of the railway station until all the JK group managers were on board. I had gone there to negotiate orders for textile machinery upgrade. At below 30, it was a challenge to interact with the senior management for making a presentation. The day was spent visiting the shop floor, trying to know the factory’s requirements from the operations manager.chandigarh Updated: Apr 27, 2015 13:10 IST
The train from Kota, Rajasthan, didn’t steam out of the railway station until all the JK group managers were on board. I had gone there to negotiate orders for textile machinery upgrade. At below 30, it was a challenge to interact with the senior management for making a presentation. The day was spent visiting the shop floor, trying to know the factory’s requirements from the operations manager.
It was a last-minute decision to visit Kota and I did not have a train reservation for the return journey. However, JK’s vicepresident asked me not to worry about it and come over nevertheless. On the evening I was to come back, their travel manager handed me a ticket from Kota to Delhi in a company-logo envelope with a word of caution: “Do not open it, just give it to the ticket checker as such.” I never opened it indeed. As the train arrived, a company manager assigned to me took me to the coach and settled me in the lower berth.
The group’s top brass was travelling to Delhi with me, and had booked the entire bogey. When the last of the senior managers had boarded, the ticket collector signalled the guard and we were on our way. As the train pulled out of Kota, the on-board catering service began. Waiters in smart red tunics and white gloves brought a service trolley stocked with choicest imported whiskies and wines served in the best crystal into the AC first class compartment. This was followed by tandoori chicken, fish, paneer tikka, and other delicious snacks. Dinner was also elaborate, served in the finest china and silverware, starting with a variety of soups, followed by a seven-course meal.
I had never seen hospitality of this kind on board a train, and was wondering if it was courtesy the Railways. On checking with one of the managers, I found that it was courtesy the JK group, as the company managing director was also on the train that night.
There were three company managers in my compartment. From their discussions, I could make out that one of their colleagues, Mr Garg, had failed to join them on account of being caught up in a meeting at the factory; and that he’d be coming to New Delhi the next day.
When the ticket checker came into our compartment, everyone handed him the ticket envelopes carrying the company’s logo. He marked the managers present on a chart. Then he opened my envelope and checked my ticket. Marking my seat number on the chart, he returned the envelope with a smile. “Zindagi mai pehli baar koyi Sikh Garg dekha hai (first time in life I have seen a Sikh with the surname Garg),” he said, “Kuchh bhi to nahi milta ticket se; na sahi umar na dharm (the ticket tells you neither the right age nor religion).” It was then that I checked the ticket; it read: “Mr RK Garg, age 58.”
After dinner and drinks, I dozed off as Mr Garg on the upper berth. It was at Delhi the next morning that I got off and regained my identity.
The writer is a Chandigarh-based freelance contributor