Updated: Mar 28, 2020
This incident took place in the second half of 2010. To set the context for the incidence, I joined the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (commonly called IISER Mohali) in Punjab (a state in northern India) for my Bachelors-Masters dual degree in 2010. In my first semester break, I planned to surprise my family with a visit. Since this was the first time I was living away from home I was still getting to know about the novelties of living away and travelling alone in India. So, I booked my train ticket online, packed my bags and left for a 500 kilometers journey to my hometown.
Indian railways had a strange (rather abstruse) rule that if a train ticket purchased online had a status “waiting list” then that ticket was invalid and cannot be traveled upon, but the same rule did not apply if the ticket has the same status but was purchased over the counter. Unfortunately, my online ticket also had a waiting list and I came to know about this rule only after showing my ticket to a railway staff at the station. They explained to me this rule and told me to purchase a fresh ticket over the counter if available. I was shocked to learn this rule but decided not to go back as I was already at the train station, so I purchased a general ticket. ‘General’ is one of the classes of traveling in Indian railways. One can travel first, second, third, sleeper or general class (in the descending order of luxuriousness). While looking at the information board, I saw another guy who was also frantically searching for some information. I felt an urge to talk to him, so, in contrast to my reticent nature, I asked him if he was also traveling on the same train as I planned to. Coincidentally, he also had an online ticket with a waiting list status as mine and planned to travel the same train. He convinced me that we should board the train with our current tickets and request (or bribe, if need be) the authority if there was any controlling during the journey. We sat on an empty seat, both anxious and anticipating the controlling officer.
After about half an hour into the journey, an officer showed up and we explained the situation as planned. Luckily for us he was a nice guy and agreed to our request but asked for 200 INR from my travel companion and 400 INR from me (since, I was traveling to a farther place). One fact of a first-year college student is that they are always short on money (and especially so, when you need it the most). I had spent most of what I had on that useless online ticket of mine and was left only with 200 INR. Without thinking twice, my traveling friend paid for my half as well. I was shocked and moved by this kind gesture. A stranger, without solicitation not only explained my situation to the officer but convinced him on my behalf and then even paid my share of the money. I requested and pressed him to give me his details, so I could pay him back later. After this, we chatted the entire journey and tried to know each other better by swinging a flurry of questions at each other. When it was time for him to get off, he inquired if I had any money left in case I need it during the remaining part of my journey. I told him I do not have any more money but not to worry as I will manage by asking a family member to pick me up from the station. He was not convinced but I was adamant on not taking any more money from a stranger. After he got off the train, he came to my window, said his goodbye, told me to take care and slipped some money through the window. In an impulse, I wanted to slip that money back to him but something inside stopped me as it would not have been a reply for someone’s kindness, so I kept the money, said my thanks and watched him leave.
Only a few minutes after he left, I realized I don’t even remember his name. We chatted during this entire journey and suddenly his name mysteriously got erased from my memory. I checked my purse and his phone number that was the only way to track him down and payback for his kindness, which I remember, I meticulously kept in my purse was also not there. I searched frantically for that small but invaluable piece of paper but to no avail. The only detail I remember about him was that he lived in Punjab and was visiting his sister or friend in Delhi.
With so many coincidences during the journey, I was left to believe that It was godliness personified that met me at the Chandigarh railway station and accompanied me till New Delhi railway station, helping me throughout the journey in my need. Till today, I am indebted to him and remember him in my prayers. I believe such incidences are god’s way of reassuring our faith in him. So, if someone asks me about god, I tell them-
YES, GOD EXISTS!