The great Indian Adjustment.

I was traveling by train the other day on the Lalbagh Express (Chennai – Bangalore) . I managed to get a confirmed ticket on Second Sitting, which is the second class sitting compartment – reserved. The train starts at 1530 hrs and it was not crowded at all. But when the clock struck 1525, there was a huge gust of people rushing in and occupying whatever seat they could find. This did not amaze me; well I have been traveling in trains for a long time now. But there is one another thing that is common in all train journeys.


The seat adjustment.


Consider a family of 4 or a large group of 6, since most of the time we book tickets at the last moment the seats would be allotted scattered. The first one hour after boarding the train would be spent by the leader (whom we can assume as the one who has the tickets and keeps on counting the seats and berths, shouting out his seat numbers, indirectly asking the people sitting or leaning on his reserved seat to MOVE) to move people (read other passengers) around the compartment so that he can get his group sit together.


A well dressed man approached me and said


“I am sorry??” I said and removed my ipod headphones.

 “Are you traveling alone?” he asked again. Smiling at the silliness.

“Yes” I said.

“Do you mind moving to another seat.”

“I don’t as long as there is one, Sure ! “ I said and picked my bag.

He directed me to another seat pretty much closer to mine.


He approached the old man sitting (or was sitting) next to me and asked the same question. And in a while the old man was with me in our newly allocated seats.


“Koncham adjust pannunke” (Please adjust a little) he said again and kept few of his luggage under our seats.


The adjustment.


I am a victim of seat adjustment every time I travel alone. They target the single travelers who fall easy prey to their questions. How do they identify that you are traveling alone?

If you are armed with a book and have head phones glued to your ears. You are traveling obviously alone.


I am okay with adjustments. It’s okay to move. It’s okay if the family wants to sit together.

But I get moved every time! Every single time!


  1. don’t complain….or you might have to adjust to the news reporters…

  2. He he I have gone around asking people to shift berths because my mother has arthritis and finds it tough to climb to the top berth. Hope I didn’t ask you to move any of those times =P

  3. Ha! Another thing I always notice while traveling is that people(families in particular) turn up half an hour before the departure time and reserve(read:forcibly occupy) luggage space under their(and your) berths..!!
    The joys of train traveling!

  4. get a travel companion

  5. Whats a train journey without adjustments? I remember being “singled” out long time ago. These days I am the “adjuster”… you too shall get to that stage someday 🙂

  6. hehehee you find it difficult to say ‘NO’? 😉

  7. This is an integral part of Indian travelling….and I have seen quite a many travellers bargaining hard in exchange of xchanging seats. They get all their stuff shifted and arranged as well 😀

    A very relatable post 🙂

  8. I have done this so many times in Indian trains, and more recently, American flights.

    Luckily for me i am not single anymore!

  9. And some people are so adamant that they won’t change their seats even when they are alone. I hope you are not one of them. 😛

  10. I have asked people to adjust too. Just hope I wasnt one of those who ever asked you! 🙂 🙂

  11. It’s nice that you give away you seat so readily. My parents have a different story to tell. My dad has an eye problem because of which he can’t see anymore. So he doesn’t like to climb up and prefers getting one of the lower berths. My mom tried asking some people to move, but no one did. 😦

  12. Vishesh,
    Yes I am all for shifting for the old , women, kids. But I dont really understand the need for sitting together and moving a lot of people for a 3 hour journey. 🙂
    I have done some berth adjustment myself for my wife and kid 🙂

    I remember years back when my mom, brother and myself used to visit chennai where my dad used to work. We used to carry jackfruit (for the neighbours) along with the million pieces of luggage !

    There would be circumstances you have to travel alone 🙂

    True, I am already in that stage mostly for berths.

    No, I dont say no.

    True. The management capabilities of some are extraordinary. I think handling a family of 10-14 in a train is quite remarkable.
    Getting them seats, moving luggage, shifting others, finalizing berths. etc etc.

    I change. always !. I dont mind sitting anywhere as I would always have a book with me.
    Love in the time of cholera helped me this time.

    🙂 lol. I think adjustments are intergral part of the train journey.

    I do shift for the old, women kids. But many times I have seen people raising their voice and fighting over adjustments.
    That day the old man was a little angry on getting shifted around. I wouldn’t blame him, I guess others should have adjusted for him.

  13. Indians seem to be gentically adjusted to being adjusted for the sake of adjustment!!
    🙂 Jokes apart…what you experienced has happened with me (and I believe all others who have travelled alone) too.
    Its like when a guy travels alone in a train, he has 0.1% probability that he is going to be sitting in his own ‘reserved for others 😉 ‘ seat. Someone or the other is come and devour his seat.
    And we thought that it was just the politicians tha are after the seat.
    Hail adjustments!!!

  14. I sooo loved this post. I really loved this post and especially the title ‘The Great Indian Adjustment’. Reminded me subtly also of the chapter from Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City, titled ‘Adjust’.

    I spend atleast 4 hrs travelling in local trains EVERYday and its true, they really are able to spot PLU if they spot headphones or a book in our hands..

  15. Another kind of adjustment is when they squeeze four people on the berth supposed for three.

  16. not much choice, if you do not want to be rude, or get a “bad guy” look …

  17. ah the same experience..this time in the Chennai-Mysore Shatabdi..hmph!

  18. lolz..I guess next time you should travel with family and move someone else travelling alone..tit for tat 😛

  19. everyone who has travelled in Indian Railways has adjusted at least once in life!! 😀

  20. and hostelers more so!

  21. well last time i went from Cbe to Banglore I had to give up half my berth for a lady with a kid who didn’t have a ticket… she just sat near my leg all night long!!! Take upper berths always if you are not going in the sitting thingy!!

  22. I would do exactly what I did. Move as long as there is a seat.

    Though no one asks me to move even if I am alone. I look unapproachable I guess, buried in my books.

    Sometimes adjustments are required, and it is good of you to move. But yes, feel free to say no if you dont want to. There’s nothing wrong about it either.

  23. Typo in first sentence, I meant: I would do eactly what ‘you’ did.

  24. Dev,
    True. We are known for adjustments.
    Women are asked to adjust with their husbands,
    workers are asked to adjust with their managers

    Thanks. 🙂

    That would be ‘Laloo adjust’

    I have a good guy look 😀

    🙂 lol.
    Yes I would love to.
    Yes thats why its called ‘The great Indian…”

    Yea, I choose upper berth everytime I book one.

    I guess its also coz men would be a little reluctant in asking women to move.

  25. @Xylene
    For a 3 hour journey? Well then it’s ridiculous! =/

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