IRCTC goofs up, delivers SRK’s Chennai Express tickets

Plus: Is this a step towards privatization of Rlys, an analysis from Second Host

New Delhi/Mumbai: In a predictable and inevitable goof-up, IRCTC’s (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation’s) online passenger reservation system has been delivering tickets for the Hindi film Chennai Express to those looking for reservations in the Mumbai to Chennai Chennai Express.

The mix up came to light after many people found it suspicious that tatkal tickets, which are generally available only for three-and-a-half seconds after the counters open for the day, were still on offer well after five minutes this morning.

‘When Tatkal tickets are bookable without much hassle on the IRCTC site you can be sure something somewhere has gone wrong,’ said S Raghavan, a retired government employee who was one of those who found himself booked for Chennai Express rather than Chennai Express. ‘But this morning I couldn’t immediately figure out what exactly was the problem. I re-verified the ticket details and found the picture of Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone in the backdrop, which in itself was pretty normal because the duo’s photos have been all over the place, including on incontinence pads, as part of the publicity for the film.’

‘But when I checked for the food options that come with the ticket, I was asked cheese popcorn or masala popcon rather than the usual question of veg or non-veg. It was then I realised that the deal here was about film tickets and not the train’s,’ Raghavan said, even as he was left wondering whether he would be extended the Senior Citizen’s Concession for Chennai Express, which he is automatically eligible for Chennai Express.

IRCTC officials, for their part, expressed complete surprise over the development, especially the part about people actually being able to book something on their web site. ‘We assure that such mistakes would not be repeated in the future,’ the officials asserted.

Even though IRCTC may have downplayed the offering of Chennai Express tickets on its site as one of those routine mistakes that occur in government organisations from time to time, like every two hours, experts, those specializing in alarmist theories, feel that this may be the first step towards the inevitable privatization of Indian railways.

In an impassioned analysis on Second Host, an eponymous name because most of its content are just rehash of news stories first hosted/posted elsewhere, senior editor Vithandavada Vambu said: Chennai Express, on the face of it, may be a straight forward commercial offering from the Hindi film industry. ‘But riding on this gravy train may be the government’s cunning game plan to try and test the pantry of privatization of the biggest public organisation in India. Make no mistake about it, this is a test track’.

‘If today the Indian Railways’ site offers tickets for a private event it is only a matter of time before the return journey happens, which is private hands starting to operate Indian railways’,’ Vithandavada Vambu said and added ‘while we are at it, the Centre government should leverage the opportunity for revenue mobilization and the money that Chennai Express earns should logically be accounted for in next year’s Railway Budget.’

Elsewhere, huge expectations are riding on Chennai Express because it is releasing after a Hindi film, Ship of Theseus, that wasn’t, well, a Hindi film.

As one reviewer wrote, ‘Ship of Theseus, for all practical purposes is an English film removed of all its parts to be a Hindi film. The title of the film is actually a metaphor for itself. Of course, it could also be argued that it is a metaphor that is verily a synecdoche of it’.

It is quite apparent that news publications didn’t realize that Ship of Theseus was a Hindi movie and that is why many of them seem to have sent their English film reviewers for its screening, who, of course, wrote sentences with words that you wouldn’t find in every-day dictionaries. (Exhibit A: Previous paragraph)

But one business publication probably did not think Ship of Theseus to be a movie at all. It took it to be some kind of major initiative from the Indian Port and Harbour authorities, hence had its senior most editor write on it, who, of course, compiled a stinging editorial beginning with the memorable lines: ‘As is widely known but rarely articulated, most Indian ports are terrible. The ones that try to do better frequently wind up being worst of all.’

(Disclaimer: Mihir Sharma is Wikipedia version 4.0: There is nothing he doesn’t know about. Plus, there is nothing he doesn’t have an opinion on)