I was on my return train journey from Coimbatore to Tirunelveli. My ticket didn’t get confirmed. So I had to share the side lower berth with my mother in RAC. We took our seats and the cabin adjacent to us was occupied by ladies. One of them said, “Has sister come? Did you check whether Shalini is there? Where is the ticket list? Train is going to start in 5 minutes. Let’s check for one last time”. Apparently, they had booked most of the seats in that compartment for their folks. From what they spoke, I figured out that they were all teachers of a school in Tirunelveli who had gone on a trip to Ooty. Few teachers had also taken their kids along for the trip. A respectful lady of 50 to 60 years of age (Probably, the Headmistress) dressed in a nun’s robes hobbled to the cabin.
There was a teacher among them who seemed to help everyone with anything he could. I’ll refer to him as “Bob” hereinafter. He distributed packed lunch and water bottles to all the teachers. He made sure that all were done with the food.
In sometime, we began to settle down in our berths. While the first lady teacher wearing a saree tried to climb on to the side upper berth, she turned around facing the others, kept her first foot on the lower berth and then directly jumped into the side upper berth. She slipped through clumsily but managed to grab a hold. Good Lord! Lucky that she didn’t hit the ground with a somersault.
Another lady staff was climbing on to upper berth by keeping her foot on the side berth’s seat holder (It’s a kind of iron handle fixed to the train with screws). Within a fraction of second, the handle which had already been loosened, fell off with a thud followed by the lady who landed on the ground with a sprained leg. Bob, who was standing in the next cabin immediately rushed to seize hold of her by her arms. He stressed on the fact that he did warn her not to put a foot on the holder. He gave her water, got moov from someone, applied it on her legs, massaged her leg for atleast 10 minutes, got a crocin tablet for her and helped her to settle down to sleep. He seemed to be a man who wasn’t hesitant to help anyone.
The ticket examiner offered me to shift to a berth which was vacant in the same compartment. Before I could move, Mr.Bob was there to tell the TTE, “Sir, the girl is here with her mother. Two women have come alone. Kindly consider the most comfortable one for them”. This seemed to be a very weird act for me. Who insists a helper who is already doing his job well, to help someone?! It was heights of hypocrisy.
It was 9pm. Still, Bob wouldn’t get to his berth to fall asleep. He was supposedly very concerned to make sure everyone is off to sleep before he dozed off.
I heard two men quarreling after sometime. I heard a man (Let’s call him Alex) asking Bob to turn the music off and sleep. They somehow managed to settle it among themselves and Bob rushed to check if all the ladies have settled down to sleep. He asked two ladies to be careful while climbing onto middle and upper berths. (This phenomenon happens in every train and God knows why this man should give mental support to all his colleagues to just GO TO SLEEP)
Within a minute, again there was a conflict between Alex and Bob. While Alex pointed out that Bob should sleep right now instead of walking down the compartment and talking to people in the guise of ‘being helpful’. The fight grew wilder and ended in violence. One of them was beaten up. Group of teachers gathered to support each of them. Alex said that he would depart at the next station and his son followed him with the luggage. The teachers advised the small boy not to follow his father as it was midnight and that his father would leave him helpless in a station without a means to travel. I rolled on and on to sleep. Trying hard to doze off as the fight went on till 12.30 AM.
I could sense that all the grudge that Alex had on Bob was erupting out. He pointed out that Bob was troublesome to the fellow female teachers everytime at the school. All I could think of was to beg them to let all of us sleep peacefully. There were just-born babies and elderly people in the compartment who couldn’t sleep too. Finally, the headmistress came to restore peace to the situation. Unfortunately, she seemed to be an emotional person who teared up seeing the nasty spat between her colleagues and began begging them to calm down. I could see each and every passenger wide awake and watching all this commotion. Soon, a Policeman was there. They seemed to seek compromise for only until 10 minutes after the police left. Again, there was someone getting slapped. I was so frustrated that I started searching for helpline numbers to contact for a violence eruption at the train or any means that could aid disturbance to passengers! There were 2 to 3 teachers in every cabin gossiping about this series of events. Other teachers remained lied down on their berth with head lifted and all ears towards this juicy fight. (Probably, gathering points for their lunch time laughter tomorrow in the staff room)
It was 1.30 AM when finally Alex got down the train and Bob cried to display his innocence. I craved for some sleep as we were to arrive at our destination at 3.30 AM. I hardly had 2 hours to sleep. I was completely annoyed and can make out the extreme distress that the elderly passengers faced without adequate sleep because of two uncivilised passengers. At 3.30 AM, as we neared our destination, the teacher in the side upper berth (above me) slowly brought her legs down..down and down. I was perplexed as to know what she’s trying to do. I was pretty sure that someone trying to get down would keep a leg on a support in between before they reach the ground. So what exactly was she trying to do? Thud! She kept a foot on my shoulder and said “Sorry, sorry” on safely landing down.
It was irksome and equally disheartening to know that all these barbaric acts were done by TEACHERS, one of the most respected community! What I understood was, education is far beyond what’s taught in schools. Although, we do not live in a world with Gurukuls where Gurus are ultimate abode of knowledge and character, I expected a slight sense of civilised behaviour from the group which is setting an example to tomorrow’s youth. Its clear that a person might have masters in Science and still not know to alight a train berth without stepping foot on a fellow passenger’s shoulders. If there are teachers who exhibit violence in a public transport, causing havoc to public, unmindful of ruining the reputation to their school’s identity, – they truly deserve no respect. Despite being witnessed by their own children and a number of other students of their own school, they didn’t have self control to behave in a better way. I saw no civic sense in any of the teaching staffs there who could have apologised to the fellow passengers or bare minimum, did something that could calm them down rather than agitating the heated argument with their gossips. I pity the plight of upcoming youth and no doubt why 2k kids are creating a whole new revolution of uncivilising the humankind.
PS: I’m a person who loves many of my school teachers for their selfless efforts to shape me and mould me apart from focusing on syllabus. I have met teachers who made me imbibe some of their qualities too. This bunch of people totally shattered the devotion I have for today’s school teachers.