There are roughly 11,000 trains that run on Indian Railways on a daily basis, and the population of India today is a little over 1.3 billion. Even if only 0.1 percent of that number are interested in train travel, you still got 10 lakh people to compete against! Tatkal in 2017? No really, kidding? It’s been six years since I gave up on it.
If you examine the definition of tatkal closely though — a facility to allow last-minute travel — you might realise that we are actually a tatkal generation. Most millennials would agree they’d rather throw plans up in the air, and trust spontaneity and smartphone to make great travel experiences.
All that is fine. A car can trust GPS, a flight can trust fat wads of cash, but we still have the rail travel to deal with, and for that we can only rely on God.
There was a time when everyone was writing about tatkal woes, I think it was 2012. And then people seem to have collectively given up even on cribbing. The new dynamic pricing of tickets hasn’t helped.
“I’d really rather book two flights well in advance and be happy with the little spontaneity to decide last minute where to go, than to sit chain-smoking in front of a desktop to get one overpriced train ticket right. Have you seen the general technological state of government booking websites? IRCTC changes tatkal timings almost every year!” says Karan Sehgal, a 27-year-old entrepreneur from Delhi.
Even IRCTC’s ‘New Generation e-Ticketing System’ seems to have made little difference. Asking around from more backpack-friendly and NGO-friendly friends, I realised people are still sprouting grey hair in the rabbit hole of train reservations.
One such friend, an independent filmmaker, told me of a dilemma-drama so unique that only IRCTC could take credit for it. She was scheduled to go for a shoot from Chennai to Bangalore and had been denied her ticket at Waiting List 1. So she was trying tatkal along with four of her friends doing the same for backup.
“It was 8.03 am and my pressure cooker whistle went off. The maid was up on the roof dusting a carpet and I was waiting for my ticket. There was no way I was leaving the laptop, I let over 14 whistles go by. The aloos had turned to a burnt mashup instead of a curry, but I realised that is the least price I could pay — go hungry for tatkal. At least I got the ticket!” says Anshika Rao, a Chennai-based engineer.
It seems hopeless, but there are ways you can still thrash against it. You could add Tatkal Ticket Now to Chrome and have your details fill in automatically. The only place you need to pay attention, though, is the tricky Captcha (probably conjured by the idlest minds pretending to operate trains in offices with stale air).
Here’s another autofill tool to try your luck with. It’s some help, still.
For the rest, please keep prayer beads handy as beads of perspiration begin to appear.
Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar