He wisely opted to avoid the existential hell of unreserved second class and went for reserved second. In the major cities, now mostly computerised, this is a reasonably painless operation. But, as any seasoned India traveller knows, the process of booking train tickets outside the country's touristy parts can be a Herculean task. On his travels, he found himself in Guwahati in the section of the country sandwiched between Burma, Bhutan and China. It is less well travelled and the booking systems are more primitive. After standing for hours in queues which turned out to be reserved exclusively for "freedom fighters" and filling in the required forms in triplicate he eventually managed to obtain a reservation on the next day's train to Delhi.
He arrived at the platform and to his surprise the train pulled out ahead of time. He made his way to his compartment as the train juddered out of the station with some difficulty because it was heavily overcrowded. He discovered that his seat was already occupied by a pregnant woman. Deciding that a seat was far more important than the life of an unborn child, he waved his stub aggressively in the woman's face.
To his horror, the passenger also produced a reservation stub for that seat. He found the conductor and showed him his reservation. The conductor looked puzzled for a few minutes, then a smile of understanding spread across his face. "Ah," he said gesturing at the carriage. "This is yesterday's train. Today's will come tomorrow."
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