Lodbo, morbo, kintu kothai korbo?
I travelled by train last week. Long journey. No way one could avoid the stinking loo. Every time I went in, I remembered the letter written by one Okhil Chandra Sen in early 1900. Sen’s letter, written in broken English, had compelled the British government to introduce toilets in the Indian Railways.
So read, laugh, while I recover from the harrowing experience.
Okhil Chandra Sen wrote, “ Dear Sir,
I am arrive by passenger train at Ahmedpore station and my belly is too much swelling with jack fruit. I am therefore went to privy. Just I doing the nuisance, that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with lotah in one hand and Dhotie in the next when I am fall over and expose all my shookings to man, female, women on platform. I am get leaved at Ahmedpore station.
This too much bad, if passenger go to make dung, that dam guard no wait 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 faithful servant, Okhil Chandra Sen
The British government promptly introduced toilets.The hilarious letter today holds a place of pride in the archives of the Indian Railways while toilets a place of shame. Commuters continue to suffer the writer’s ordeal over a century later in Independent India, looking for places to just do it. The toilets are there but are simply unusable.
In a nutshell, the Indian railways ran without toilets for five decades till Sen shared his plight with the Railway officials, even threatened them with ‘making big report to the papers.’
What can we do? Write yet another letter? Or tell the Indian Railways to revert to the good old days when the trains ran without toilets and people suffered like Sen.
As such they are hardly worth going to, may it be the First AC or Second AC coach in majority of the trains. Like Doon, Janata and Pushpak Express that runs between Lucknow-Dehradun and Lucknow-Mumbai respectively, the toilets are but a puddle of ‘dirty’ water- so you hop, you jump to reach your destination. No doubt some mothers were carrying portable potties for their children, elders waited for a station to arrive. They ran to the waiting room to be back in time or else – that’s what Sen complaint about.
The train attendant was least bothered. People went to him; he even got an announcement made for a sweeper. But the train left before the sweeper could be traced. What followed were heated exchanges with many cursing Lalu. On wonders what Lalu has to do with loos. There are heard hundreds of tales about people missing their trains only because they preferred the platform to the stinking toilet to answer nature’s call?
Here’s some advice. Please check the websites that offer dos and don’ts for long train journeys- including carrying your own toilet paper. Or send a letter to Mamata Bannerjee in broken Bengali-‘ lodbo, morbo, kintu kothai korbo. She may have the answer.