Sen is still holding on to his ‘dhotie’

As Union Railway minister Pawan Bansal presented the Railway budget, I remembered my battle with cockroaches and rats in a second AC compartment of Doon Express. Cockroaches from every corner kept sprouting while the rat made many of my co-travellers jump from their berths. The night was spent wide awake with no one even daring to blink their eyes once. Using the quilt and the bed sheet was also a challenge with big stains all around.

As for the nature’s call, the choice was limited. Only those used it who were actually not worried about catching infection. Others had no option but to hold on till the next station and used open fields with some even cursing themselves for polluting the environment.

The harrowing experience reminded me of my childhood journeys by train to my grandmother’s place every summer vacation. More than the grandmom’s affection, it was the train journey that we used to look forward to with my mother packing the most favourite dishes, especially aloo-puri and achar for us. Irrespective of the time of the day, we would binge on the goodies finding it near impossible to resist the aroma that filled the air from mom’s basket.

Now it’s filth and the stink that greet you even in the so called AC First, forget the sleeper class (earlier called third class) that in any way hardly allows access to your reserved berth with without-ticket commuters brazenly flouting all norms while the ticket collectors making some quick bucks. How people travel in unreserved classes is beyond our imagination!

Every time I travel by train I am reminded of a letter, written in broken English by one Okhil Chandra Sen in the year 1890, “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.”

The British government introduced toilets while the letter went to the archives of the Indian Railways. The budgets are presented every year with no solution to Sen’s complaint.

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