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March 18th, 2012

Sorry, no Indian mobile = no Indian rail ticket

I am privileged to have many clever and funny friends who all have their own, very special take on India, so it seems appropriate to ask them to share their thoughts in what I hope will become a regular feature of my “Delhi Diary” – guest posts.

My inaugural guest writer is Annemarie Barnes, a Dutch-Canadian-Swiss whom I met, of all things, on the internet.  When I was trying to pluck up the courage to climb Kilimanjaro back in 2003, I found Annemarie’s fabulously well-written Kili diary online.  We started emailing each other, and her encouragement certainly went a long way to calming my fears of not making it to the Roof of Africa.

We have met over the years, in Joburg, in Switzerland, and – inshallah –  we will meet again next month in Delhi.

If they ever get their rail tickets, that is.

Read on.

Annemarie now takes over the story :

“Back in January I managed to book the Mumbai – Falna overnight with Cleartrip. No problem. But then a few weeks ago I thought I’d also book the Taj Express from Agra that arrives in Delhi at 22.00. It seems their process has changed completely, supposedly to prevent fraudulent bookings. All very complicated, and the crux is that you need an Indian cell phone number to complete the process so that they can text you a code that has to be put in your booking transaction. It has now become virtually impossible for anyone to book Indian trains from outside the country. After numerous emails from me to very polite but totally useless people at both Indian Railways and Cleartrip, Larry decided to call yesterday. Let me entertain you with the gist of the conversation:

LARRY: Hello, I’m calling from Switzerland. I would like to book 4 train tickets from Agra to Delhi. Can I do that?
PRADESH: Of course Sir.
LARRY: But the booking process requires I have an Indian cell phone so I can be sent a code.
PRADESH: Yes Sir. Please give your Indian cell phone number.
LARRY: I don’t have an Indian cell phone. I live in Switzerland. I have a Swiss cell phone.
PRADESH: Please Sir, use your Indian one, not your Swiss one.
PRADESH: Please Sir, ask your Indian friend.
LARRY: I don’t have an Indian friend (he was not about to admit to you two, as he wanted to see what would happen otherwise). I know there are 1.2 billion of you, but I don’t know ANY of you!!!
PRADESH: Oh Sir! I am very sorry about that. I’m sure you have an Indian friend. Think, Sir!
LARRY: No, Pradesh, I do NOT. But will you be my friend? Then you can give me your cell phone number!
PRADESH: No Sir, I don’t know you Sir!
LARRY: I’m a very nice Canadian man living in Switzerland. Please be my friend.
PRADESH: Oh no Sir, I’m sorry.
LARRY: Well, Pradesh, will you please step out in the hall, which I’m sure is teeming with people, and ask who wants to be my friend?
PRADESH: Oh no Sir, I can’t leave my office. I work here Sir. I’m very sorry Sir.
LARRY: So what do you advise me to do, Pradesh?
PRADESH: Use your Indian cell phone, Sir!
PRADESH: Well Sir, if you want to get four tickets from Agra to Delhi, why don’t you go to Delhi and book them there at our central station?
LARRY: But Pradesh, does it make a lot of sense to you to go to Delhi, book tickets for Agra, then go back to Agra so I can go to Delhi by train! I’d be going twice!
PRADESH: Oh but Sir, Delhi is a very very nice city. Many people visit it more than just once. You will see Sir. Go to Delhi, Sir! Or use your Indian cell phone, Sir.”

Annemarie now has our Indian mobiles in order to get her booking reference, but I did wonder for a moment whether I should be churlish and withhold them, so I could perhaps be treated to more such lunatic conversations.

Annemarie, thanks for sharing that utter gem of a conversation, and I look forward to more guest posts from you.

6 comments to Sorry, no Indian mobile = no Indian rail ticket

  • Annemarie Barnes

    Well, Christine, our tale of woe continues…… We’ve still had no satisfaction, even with the two Indian cell phone numbers we now have! Spent another few hours online yesterday with the aforementioned numbers but IT DIDN’T WORK!!! Tried registering again on Cleartrip, filled in the required fields and then added the cell number. But then up pops a message saying this email address has already been used, or your username has already been used. Tried with a number of different private and professional email addresses Larry and I have between us. We also made up a variety of quirky new passwords but it was no use.

    Then Eureka! We thought we’d hit the jackpot! This time the message said they were pleased to let us know we were registered and that 2 OTPs (One Time Passwords required to book on the IRCTC Railways site) had been emailed to us and sent to the cell number. Imagine our excitement!! We were ready to pop a bottle of bubbly and celebrate!…….. Alas, we are still awaiting the promised email codes and apparently neither you not Himmat has received the cell OTP either! We give up! Or should we try and get Pradesh on the line again?

  • Valerie

    Ha ha good one! Just wondering if you have tried booking on makemytrip.com, I don’t know if they require more than an email address… but then again, one never knows! Good luck, traveling in India is never dull.

  • christine

    Good idea, Val – thanks !

  • Carine Barbe

    I love the story !!! Good luck with the booking !

  • christine

    Isn’t it a classic ?

  • Rajani

    And you were planning to have a vacation? I think you just used up your vacation time going to Delhi to book tickets to travel from Agra to Delhi! LOL!
    here is my gem.

    PAN Card Application: for foreign nationals, please provide your passport with proof of address
    (excellent! Mailed, demand draft sent etc etc, Acknowledgement received. Was so impressed)
    PAN Status: Your name on form and name on passport do not match (How come? OMG, passport spells out my middle name and form has middle initial).
    ME: what may I do to rectify this?
    PC: Please make name on form match name on passport
    ME: But HOW? SHould I send you proof of my middle name?
    PC: Name on passport does not match name on form
    (Frustrated, I call the PAN office…yawn, my night hours).
    PC SUPERVISOR: MA’AM, just call me by my first name only Ma’am, Rakesh. Just send me proof of residence like your utility or bank statement)
    ME: Are you sure? I thought your website said that was only for local folks
    PC Supervisor: Please send to my attention
    (ME: DONE! wonderful, what a nice man!! 4 weeks lapse)
    PAN STATUS: your name on form does not match name on passport)
    BUT NO that is not allowed
    NO MA’AM that is not allowed as you are foreign national
    MA’AM name on passport must match name on form
    ME: I give up!!

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