A discount ticket to ride
FOLLOW THE READER
AVOCA, VICTORIA WHILE travelling across the southwest Indian state of Kerala, my wife and I hired a small boat at Alleppey and chugged placidly across Vembanad Lake and then went on to the hill town of Kottayam. After a few very pleasant days, we decided to take a train to the picturesque coastal city of Kochi.
So off to the local station we went after checking at our hotel on departure times and distances. The first thing that caught our eye in the booking office was a huge board labelled ‘‘Rail concessions available to different category of persons’’. Keen to save a few rupees, we decided to check it out.
The categories included: TB patient alone or with escort; noninfectious leprosy patient; and blind alone or with escort. Neither of us quite met the stated criteria, although the 75 per cent ticket concession was undoubtedly attractive.
I joked to my wife, Judith, that ‘‘mentally retarded, with an escort’’ would be ideal, with her playing the leading role, as this category also qualified for 75 per cent off. We considered Shram awardees, Arjuna awardees and Chakra award winners, but worried about being asked what we had done to win such honours.
Then we thought we might possibly make a case for international sports (75 per cent) or St John Ambulance and Service Civil International (25 per cent), but the queue of travellers behind us had started to shuffle and grumble. Orthopedically handicapped persons with escort at 75 per cent?
Suddenly, there it was: senior citizen, 30 per cent concession for 60 years and above, gents and ladies. As the line started to surge, we pulled out our Australian Seniors Cards, passed them to the bespectacled booking clerk and confidently asked for two senior concession tickets to Kochi.
The clerk slowly and sadly shook her head and replied: ‘‘Sorry, the train down to Kochi is a stopping-all-stations local and not an express. Full fare, thank you.’’
Despite all that, the trip was delightful, with a continual procession of vendors moving up and down the carriages selling snacks, lollies and toys. One chap was hawking a bundle of underpants. Australian railway journeys are so colourless in comparison. Send your 400-word contribution to our Follow the Reader column. Published columnists will receive a Lemnis Pharox Solar Kit. Ideal for outdoor adventures, this nifty device is both an energy-efficient portable light and a charger for devices such as phones and iPods. Charge via electricity before you leave or on the road with the included mini solar panel. $49.95. More: 1300 LEMNIS; lemnislighting.com.au.