Meet the ‘lady superstars’ of Kerala’s Vande Bharat Express

Meet Dayana Clinton (right) and Shijina Rajan(left), the stars in the video, who might probably be the ones who have travelled the most in the semi-high-speed trains in the state. Photo: Special Arrangement

A video of two gorgeous-looking, energetic women in their executive attires showing up for duty in the newly launched Vande Bharat Express has gone viral on the internet recently. The duo, donning spotless and ironed uniforms, with shirts tucked in and a tie draped around their necks, could be easily mistaken for air hostesses. Meet Dayana Clinton and Shijina Rajan, the stars in the video, who might probably be the ones who have travelled the most in the semi-high-speed trains in the state.

Both, natives of Thiruvananthapuram are Deputy TTEs (Travelling Ticket Examiners) of the Vande Bharat Express. And, as reflected in the comments below the viral reel, they are the brand ambassadors of the changing rail infrastructure and facilities in the state. Dayana and Shijina are both sportswomen and have been serving the railways for the past 15 years. And they joined hands on April 20 during the travel with Kerala’s first Vande Bharat Express. Four officials are deployed at a time in the 16-car, fully air-conditioned train that boasts world-class passenger amenities, with each of them entrusted with four coaches.

How it feels while travelling in Vande Bharat trains, how they handle ticketless travellers, and their unforgettable experiences while in the line of duty -- the duo shares all these and more in an exclusive chat with Manorama Online.

Vande Bharat is just amazing
Dayana is an Asian Games medal winner and the daughter of former Kerala Sports Council president Padmini Thomas. She only has nice words to say about her job with the railways, especially that of working in Vande Bharat trains. “This is a wonderful experience. Vande Bharat offers an enhanced, safe, and seamless travel experience. Beyond our official capacity as the TTE, here it’s like a family. When there is a heavy rush for booking tickets, often the members of a family, like father, mother, and child, will be seated separately. In such situations, we take care to make sure they sit next to each other by reseating passengers. Another delightful sight was some people travelling with their aged parents all the way from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod and back. The journeys are done by children for the happiness of their elderly parents. The travellers in Vande Bharat often feel the TTE not as a ticket examiner but as one who takes care of their family. Some who witness the care feeling used to ask us whether we are the staff of the railways itself. Certain others compliment us, saying that we resemble the air hostesses on flights, going by our uniforms,” Dayana says with a gleam.

Dayana and Shijina with actors Asif Ali, Suraj Venjaramoodu and director Lal Jose. Photo: Special Arrangement

“Each day, it’s a new travel experience. The ministers, including the chief minister, travel in Vande Bharat. Most of them opt for Vande Bharat to avoid travelling by road, which takes up to seven hours due to ongoing NH widening works. They can cover the same distance in Vande Bharat in just 3-3.5 hours. A lot many cine stars, including Asif Ali, Kunchacko Boban, Shweta Menon, Major Ravi, and Suresh Gopi, also travelled in Vande Bharat. VIP passengers often have travelled to many places outside the country. We feel much happy when they reflect that our land too now offers comfortable travel facilities that are on par with those in certain foreign countries,” Shijina said.

Shijina’s journey destinations figure Mt Everest too
Shijina Rajan, a volleyball player, holds the distinction of being the first female railway employee to reach Everest Base Camp, which is situated at an altitude of 5,364 meters. In fact, she was trekking to the Everest Base camp, this time last year, via Kathmandu in Nepal. “Words can’t express the joy of a person who loves to travel when he/she gets a job that basically involves travelling. Another thing that delights me about my job is that I can meet new people every day,” Shijina reflects.

What are the challenges of working on Vande Bharat?
One day, Vande Bharat Express got stuck at Kannur for nearly two-and-a-half hours due to power failure. None of the electrical systems in the train, including the AC and the lights, functioned. However, we just about managed the situation by opening the doors, since the train was near the platform, and exiting passengers for some time to help them get a whiff of fresh air. Among the commuters were those proceeding to Kozhikode and Nedumbassery airports. A special message was sent to the railway office and the Vande Bharat was allocated special halts at Ferok and Angamaly stations. This was to facilitate their reaching the airport as quickly as possible so that they wouldn’t miss the flights. We even collected their phone numbers and later called them to ensure that they had reached the airport without much difficulty. The railways on that day even made special arrangements to enable the passengers who arrived by train to skip long queues at the airport. Such commuters opt to travel by Vande Bharat, leaving out other trains, in the hope that the semi-high-speed train would stick to its schedule and reach the destination quickly, and that they need to leave home at least three hours later than the usual time. It was to keep that faith intact that the railways went the extra mile and allotted stops at Ferok and Angamaly. The same facilitated the passengers in reaching the airports quickly by avoiding traffic blocks. Earlier, they were given a clear idea about the problem at hand and this saved the situation from getting worse. In the end, we succeeded in enabling all to reach their destinations at the right time.

An episode that saddened us during travel in Vande Bharat was the stone pelting at the train. We were on duty that day. Though cracks were formed, the high-quality glasses didn’t get smashed and fall inside. Even the commuter who sat by the window side where the stone hit didn’t know about it till he was alerted by co-passengers. He had worn a headset and was listening to music.

TTEs of Vande Bharat Express. Photo: Manorama

Do people board Vande Bharat without tickets?
A video circulated on social media recently with false information about boarding Vande Bharat Express without tickets. The video claimed that the train has many empty seats and passengers can simply pay the fare to the TTE and travel. However, as per the railway rules, if a ticketless passenger boards the train from Thiruvananthapuram, he should be fined and deboarded at the next stop, Kollam. Even if such commuters are forcibly exited at the next station, they have to remit a hefty fine, the full ticket fare from the originating station to the terminating point of the train.

However, the current reservation facility is available for travel on Vande Bharat trains. Passengers can buy tickets under this scheme from the four stations – Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Shoranur, and Kozhikode, just five minutes before the arrival of the train. If someone attempts to travel ticketless after seeing the video, which doesn’t detail the current reservation facility, then they will be fined for sure. The video goes on to claim that an entire coach was vacant during a trip and all that. This, again, is misleading.

Fine in premium trains is levied on a point-to-point basis. Even if the commuter travelling without a ticket deboards at the next station, he/she will have to pay a fine of Rs 2340. Often, we allocate TTE seats to those boarding the train with waiting list tickets. On most occasions, there is a heavy rush. In long-distance trains passing through the state, like Netravati Express, the coaches remain jam-packed as people board them even if they didn’t get any reservations. We can’t allow such a thing to happen in the Vande Bharat Express. We can’t allow people to crowd near those passengers who travel in Vande Bharat by purchasing higher-fare tickets.

Only during the recent outbreak of Nippah in Kozhikode, did a few of the seats in Vande Bharat remain vacant. Some boarded the train after seeing the video that stated that they could travel by remitting a fine. It was a heavy rush then. We showed the rule to them and forced them to cough up the fine and asked them to deboard at the next station. We were left with no other option. So everyone should keep in mind that they can’t travel in Vande Bharat without a ticket.

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