The Man from Madras Musings read the newspaper reports concerning reformation of railways with much interest. It would be no exaggeration to state that the railways are close to MMM’s heart, both his grandfathers having worked for that behemoth. In short, MMM is filled with railway blood.

But having said that, he is quite aware of the fact that there is much scope for improvement in what has put our country on the move. One of the many savings it can achieve though it may not amount to much is its tendency to distribute free travel passes to all and sundry. MMM’s memory goes back a decade or so when he had to travel frequently on a particular route to and from our city. And one of the regular travellers on the same route in the AC two-tier coach was an elderly man of vaguely nationalist aspect. His companion would, however, be a different person on each journey and it was clear that these people were not in any way related to each other.

MMM was naturally curious but refrained from asking until one day the patriotic man struck a conversation with MMM. He had noticed MMM travelling often on the route, he said, and so would like to help MMM. When MMM asked how, he explained his modus operandi, which stunned MMM so much that he has never forgotten it since. The man was a freedom fighter and was entitled to a railway pass under the category. This entitled him to travel a certain number of times each year with a companion, both tickets being free of cost. He therefore sold the free ticket to anyone wanting to travel at short notice, he said, and so if MMM was at any time needing to travel at short notice, all he had to do was to call him up and everything could be arranged before MMM could say Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

This, as MMM said, may not have made much of dent in the railway budget but if every rupee counts, these freebies could be curtailed somewhat.