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:
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.
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.