The fact that you’re reading this post means that you’re one of those who can never ever seem to get a train ticket in Tatkal when you need one.
But don’t worry, there are about 120 crore more suckers like you, who are armed with broadband and leased lines, the bleeding edge in phones, tablets and computers, and the will to get up at 8 in the morning.
The problem is certainly difficult to solve. And the one thing that difficult problem reminds me of is all those engineering books which always left the difficult problems for the readers to solve as an exercise. Dude, if you don’t know the answer, just tell me, I’ve no bloody clue either.
Anyways, so the major issue is that finding tickets in tatkal is impossible is because the site is as fast as Inzamam ‘ul Haq between the wickets. I can think of at least three ways in which the problem can be solved. One is to solve it from the service provider’s side (or site), the second is by using a killer third party solutions (which sucks less), the third is do some technical trickery or wizardly from your side, and finally the fourth and the easiest solution (which will come at the end of the post).
The Service Provider
Believe it or not, the “slowness” of your website is directly proportional to the incompetency of the people running it. This is not to say that the developers at IRCTC suck, it’s just to say that the overall competency of the company lacks a respectable threshold.
With this in mind, I started venturing on the internets to find quotes by people who have a say in how the website runs and I happened to come across this fantastic article.
Subir Agarwal starts off as a smart guy
One need not put a separate request for the train, seats, availability and fare. The intelligent enquiry software would help getting the required information from a single request to central server and that in return bring down the load on the servers
but soon comes out with quotes which kind of make me quiver
the number of bookings on an average had been increasing multifold compared to the servers/infrastructure. These bookings and enquiry request are 6-7 times higher during the peak hours than the rest of the day. So while the existing infrastructure is well equipped to handle the daylong traffic, it is the peak hour traffic that clogs servers.
If I met Subir, I would love to tell him, “Boss, every website faces the same issue. This is why when you design a system (especially one as huge as this), you design for the peak load.” But well, he doesn’t really listen, anyways, he goes on further
new-age technologies like virtualization are already being tested, but even they have their limitation
Now again, virtualization is not really new, so kindly hold your horses on that.
“The best suit would be if we could get more 40-50 servers just for the peak hours to share the load, but none of the systems integrators today provide such facility on rent or any other ways.”
I don’t mind hearing startups bitch about something like this, but for a company which did a crore successful transactions last month, it’s a lame excuse.
I’m sure Subin had his reasons, any maybe he knows how to fix the mess and doesn’t have the authority, so let’s just give him the benefit of the doubt.
Third Party Solutions
There are a number of super popular companies who are in this field, and they have made things easier when it come to flight bookings. Things still suck (and especially now) when it comes to train bookings. I quite loved the Cleartrip interface and I believe apps for mobile devices are soon coming out from the other players too. (No, don’t mock me, I’m not taking about WAP sites, I’m talking about real iPhone and Android apps).
IRCTC kind of killed these people by asking users to login with the IRCTC login when you use one of these sites. The number of problems with that are tremendous, however, the biggest is that when you try to use say Cleartrip and enter your IRCTC username, these buggers CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD! (It must be some ridiculous piece of code sitting there, which nobody at IRCTC know about. I just hope to God, it’s not by design)
A few months back, yours truly decided to solve the problem by caching a lot of things on your device and our servers, with our lovely app Interminus. We wrote crawlers to make sure that we could build the application before getting an API, but after everything, we really couldn’t convince any of the big shots in the travel industry to give us the API. I swear to god, I would have made life fantastic if they had just given us the access. Sadly, our app is still not online because unlike other apps in the AppStore which are stealing content, I just couldn’t convince myself that no matter how good your intentions, you can’t create a killer product by stealing things.
Moving on to another sphere of the issue, if the service provider (which is our beloved IRCTC) would not budge about making their site super fast, the only other option is to game the system and start setting up automated systems similar to what people build for Arbitrage. I was seriously considering that till I found that you can get yourself arrested for that. These guys were certainly scumbags, but it just means that the company doesn’t really appreciate technology like this.
The Zen Solution
All in all, here is the solution that you have been waiting for:
The only way is not to want a ticket in Tatkal. Plan months in advance, get a ticket three months before you have to travel, and one day before your day of journey, get up at 8 in the morning, open the IRCTC website and laugh to your heart’s content.