Recently came to know that the Railway reservation centre at Rajaji Bhavan, Pattom, has been shut down. During my college days, I was a frequent visitor in those premises. In the last seven years or so that I have been in Trivandrum, I have not been there even once. Still, when someone dies, it is customary to remember them fondly and share something good about them. Similarly, I think I should take this opportunity to share a good experience that I have had with the reservation centre at Pattom.
Before online booking was introduced, this centre was an epitome of modernity and convenience. I am witness to that gradual but certain transition of government offices from being places where public “servants” sit to boss over you to where they actually make an effort to help you. Unlike those government offices that made you feel good walking out, this centre made you walk out feeling good!
Once, during a train journey from Thiruvananthapuram to Shoranur, I decided to clean up my wallet by ridding it of unwanted bits of paper. I picked up two train tickets, meticulously tore them into tiny bits, rolled up those bits into a ball and threw it out of the windows, only to realize that they were the ones I had booked for the following month!
I then had to go to the Pattom reservation office in person and meet the reservation supervisor (if I remember right), who was a kind and friendly lady. She verified my ID proof, helped me complete the formalities and issued a duplicate ticket without even slightly making me feel guilty for having lost them!
From that exemplary service that I gratefully remember even now, to IRCTC’s treating you like a criminal who is trying to exploit their system – log you out if you hit back/refresh, force you to enter at least 3 captchas before you can book a ticket, limit to a maximum of 6 tickets a month, enforce timeboxed quotas for IPs and user Ids, suspend your account for reasons known only to them and refuse to even respond to emails seeking information on the same – we are looking at an abysmal fall in the level of customer service.
But, in spite of their flaws in usability and capacity management, and refusal to even give their customers basic dignity, IRCTC ticketing website is still popular and widely used while physical booking counters are on the decline. Clearly, this is not a story of how being good and kind will make you successful. Good or bad, in time everything comes to an end. But those that give people a pleasant experience remain in their heart as fond memories, while the others will exist as nightmares that are hard to forget!