I RECENTLY came to realise what utmost humiliation and insult happens to be. For this, unadulterated gratitude goes out to Pakistan Railways.
I recently made a booking on Pak Business Express train from Lahore to Karachi (April 5) in its AC class and was assigned a seat in Coach No 5 for which I received a confirmation (as seen in the accompanying screen-grab below). I arrived at the station and found the train ready to leave. What I could not find was Coach No. 5. It was a bizarre situation as the train was about to leave and I was stranded at the platform.
As it turned out, the authorities had made an announcement on the public address system when the train had arrived at the designated platform that passengers having tickets for Coach No. 5 should wait as the coach for some undisclosed reason had been made part of Karachi Express which was due a couple of hours later. Like many others, I had missed the announcement merely because I was not there at the time.
Ideally, this could have been done in many better ways; primarily, the railways should have informed the customers in advance for such a change in plans, and should have offered to return the amount paid along with a note of apology/regret. But, in Pakistan, expecting such an act of responsibility, care and ownership is nothing but a fool’s dream.
Writing these lines while sitting on a ‘requested’ seat in the Lower AC section of the train is nothing but an attempt at catharsis. Nothing, I insist, nothing is able to describe the insult, the humiliation and the disgrace felt by all the unfortunate people who had booked a seat on that ill-fated Coach No. 5 of Pak Business Express. No one among them, myself included, had any idea where to report this unfair, unjust and unlawful act of Pakistan Railways.
The only silver lining on this rather dark cloud was the presence of a helpless staff member, a respectable and decent man, who was extremely apologetic and embarrassed about the miserable state of affairs prevailing in Pakistan Railways. Only if the department could learn a few things from its staff. But, then again, it is another fool’s dream.
Dr Shah Rukh Hashmi
Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2021