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  • Category: Miscellaneous

    How, when and why the toilets were attached in Indian railway trains. A story to tell.

    How Toilets were introduced in trains. A story to tell.

    Firstly, I should thank my good old friend from Bengal who shared this story with me.
    Secondly, I should thank him for according permission to share it with my fellow ISCians.

    The story is this.

    It was 1909. A dhoti-kurta clad typical Bengali gentleman reached Ahmadpur station (a few minutes before the departure of his train. Before the journey, this gentleman, like any other foodie Bengali, had consumed a considerable amount of ripe jackfruit.

    The jackfruits started working. He was forced to visit the station lavatory. While the gentleman was in the lavatory, he heard the warning whistle of the train. He understood that the train was leaving the station.

    The gentleman hurriedly came out of the station lavatory. The train started moving. The man started running. He was carrying the lota (used for the lavatory in olden days) and hurriedly adjusting his dhoti while running.

    But the Bengali gentleman failed to catch the train. He tried to run as fast as he could with his lota and unadjusted dhoti, but he fell down on the platform. He missed the train. Other passengers waiting in the station and the railway staff ridiculed him.

    The tired, embarrassed, ridiculed gentleman left the station in a hurry. The gentleman left the station in a hurry but did not leave the embarrassing incident there. He felt terribly insulted and according to him, the railway guard was responsible behind his humiliation.

    After some days, on 2nd July 1909, the gentleman wrote a letter to the Sahibganj Divisional Office of the Railway. It is relevant to remember that the incident took place at Ahmedpur Railway station which was under Sahibganj Railway Division at that time.
    The letter stated:
    Dear Sir,
    I am arrive by passenger train at Ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I am therefore went to privy. Just I doing the nuisance the guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with lota (water pot) in one hand and dhoti (clothes) in the next. When I am fall over and expose all my shockings to man and woman on platform. I am got leaved at Ahmedpur station. This too much bad, if passengers go to make dung, the damn guard not wait train five minutes for him? I am therefore pray your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake otherwise I am making big report to papers.

    Yours faithfull servant
    Okhil Chandra Sen

    The now-famous letter in terrible English forced the Railway authorities to think. Although the Guard of the particular train was not punished, a revolutionary change was introduced in long-distance trains of India.

    Dear Readers,
    Whenever you are forced to relieve yourself during a long-distance journey by a train run by the Indian Railway, you should thank that Bengali gentleman, Okhil Chandra Sen, whose letter forced the Railway authorities in India to introduce lavatories in the long distance trains initially.

    The letter has been preserved at the Railway Museum, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. You may see the image of this famous letter below. The same letter is attached herewith.
  • #730136
    Nice narration from the author. The same story has been told to me also by one of my friends who works on the railway. department. We were both travelling on a train to Nagpur. One of the co-passenger told us that no water is available in the lavatory. Then my friend told me that in the next coming station water will be filled in all the tanks. In that connection he was telling about this story and how these lavatories were introduced. Many people prefer travelling by train for long-distance journeys. As mentioned by the author some small incidents will brought in radical changes.
    always confident

  • #730138
    The story as narrated by the author is very interesting reflecting the hardships faced by the passengers while undertaking a train journey. The explanation made by the Bengali Gentleman should be an eye opener for all of us. Though the guard was not awarded punishment but the authorities were compelled to take up decisions relating to introduction of lavatories in the bogies for their smooth journeys and any nature's call if required could be attended to. This reflects how the transformation has taken place from the earlier days to the present one in the Railways.

  • #730139
    Oh my God I never heard or thought a very big amusing story behind the toilets that are being provided in the trains . Thanks to the Bengali person who was instrumental to indulge thoughts by the railways and thus toilets were become the attached two on each side of the compartments. But I blame the railways for not considering the toilet facilities in local trains. For example the EMU trains in Mumbai and Chennai carry huge number of passengers and some times they need to stand long distance and even standing, in that case the need for toilet is must. At least by seeing this post the railways would also introduce the toilets in local trains. And why the toilets are not opened on the stations, and if at all available they are always kept closed. That is the reason being so passengers are forced to use toilets on trains that is standing on the platforms.
    K Mohan @ Moga
    'Idhuvum Kadandhu Pogum "
    Even this challenging situation would ease

  • #730141
    It is an interesting story related to the toilet in railway compartments. Thanks for sharing it. I was not aware of this story.
    A simple incident of a Bengali babu introduced toilet in railways.

  • #730142
    The letter is still preserved, which shows how even a common man can change society. This incident also shows how important public feedback is, which can bring about a new change later.

  • #730143
    This is a very interesting narration and is also very informative one to have a peep into the history of lavatory in Indian Railways. When a person travels in a long distance train it is imperative that he will have to relieve himself a few times and the lavatory is an essential place for that. It is really difficult to think as how the people managed during those times when there was no lavatory in the trains. The initiative of a person to make a complaint started the process for thinking for a lavatory in the train. It is imperative that we as public of this country should ask and insist for facilities in public places and public utilities. If all the people are aware of what we expect from Govt as well as what we have to do as a responsible citizen then only the situation would improve further facilitating everyone a good quality life.
    Knowledge is power.

  • #730162
    The name of the gentleman is Akhil Chandra Sen though Bengalis generally pronounce Akhil as Okhil due to the influence of their regional language.
    'Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power'. -Lao Tzu

  • #730163
    Nice to know about this historical fact that was not known by all. I have never think about it before, thanks to the author for sharing this precious information and most valuable letter.

  • #730165
    Thanks for sharing such an interesting story and information. Many of us might not be aware of this incident. As the letter is written around 1909, so at that time Britishers might be controlling Indian Railways and taking decisions. At least they understood the plight of this Bengali man and brought a revolutionary change in Indian Railways.
    With regards,
    "Time & Tides waits for none"

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