As we were nearly approaching Amritsar, I heard a female ticket conductor saying "Show your tickets." I heard her speak only a few times from a distance and the next thing I know the lady was standing in front of me. To be honest from her appearance she didn't look like a typical ticket conductor because she was wearing a dark brown suit and chunni and her hair looked uncombed. She said, "Please show your tickets." I happily got out my ticket and showed the lady.
Waheguru. As soon as the lady looked at our two tickets she stared at me and said, "Why are you sitting here?" I said, "I have the ticket." She replied, "You don't have a ticket to sit in this compartment." I was really confused. The Sardaar next to us (who looked like an off-duty policeman) said "Bhai Sahib jee, this is the sleeping compartment. You must have the tickets for the wooden plank seats compartment." I said, "We are from abroad and haven't been to Amritsar on the train before and so we bought the ticket as we normally buy to go anywhere. No one at the station or here told us."
The lady didn't want to hear any excuses and was adamant that we deserved the maximum fine. I looked towards the Sardaar to perhaps show some words of support (as looked authoritative) but instead he goes to me, "Giani Jee, its your fault. You must now pay. This lady needs to make a days living as well. It is painful but pay up." Rab Raakhaa. The Sardaar could have kept quiet but instead he goes to support the conductor in fining me and my mum. It was so embarrassing with others looking at us.
One college student who looked like a Hindu seemed concerned and didn't look happy that we were being fined but kept quiet. The lady said that we owned 600 rupees. Keeping in mind that original ticket was total of 60 rupees that is a huge fine (especially according to Indian standards!). I was shocked and politely said, "Can you please understand that we were unaware and give us a chance." She could have easily said, "Walk over to the other compartment" but she looked like she found a jack-pot!
Thankfully the Sardaar showed some sympathy and told the lady "Don't charge both of them. Just fine one of them." The lady without question did what the Sardaar said (perhaps because he looked like an off-duty policeman?). So we ended up paying a fine of 300 rupees which accordance to UK standards is like paying a £50 fine (in terms of significance). Once she got the money the lady sat down next to mum and starts to chat about her day and how some passengers didn't pay their fines and gave her verbal abuse. I was bit shocked that she didn't bother to check anybody else's ticket considering there were 10 minutes left to the journey.
Once the train got to Amritsar, the lady got up and the Sardaar said to me, "Giani Jee, you shouldn't have paid 300 rupees. Why did you give her the money? It wasn't your fault and for someone like you she should have some sympathy." I didn't know what to say considering he didn't say that when the lady was there! Then the Hindu student (who seemed a really nice guy) says to me in front of everyone, "You are a man of God (Rab de Bande). She should not fine and make money out of religious people. She should have been understanding as she didn't check anyone else's ticket." I thought "Hai Rabba" when people should have spoke no one did but afterwards everyone was telling me why did I pay!
Chalo. Lesson learnt - be careful of the train ticket you buy in India and be sure to know whether its the comfortable seat carriage of the wooden plank seat carriage!