Okhil Chandra Sen wrote this letter to the Sahibganj divisional railway office in 1909. It is on display at the Railway Museum in New Delhi. It was also reproduced under the caption “Travellers’ Tales” in the Far Eastern Economic Review.
“I arrive by passenger train in Ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I therefore went to a toilet. Just I was doing that nuisance that guard makes a whistle blow for the train to go off and I am running with ‘lotah’ in one hand and ‘dhoti’ in the next when I fall over and expose all my shocking to men and women on plateform. I am leaved by the train at Ahmedpur station.
This is too much bad, if passenger go to make dung that dam guard cannot wait train for five minutes for him. I therefore pray your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake. Otherwise I am making big reports in the papers.
Yours faithful servant,
OKHIL CH. SEN”
Any guesses why this letter was of historic value?
It apparently led to the introduction of toilets on trains.
In the first 55 years of operation of the Indian Railways, there were no toilets in trains. On July 2, 1909, an aggrieved Babu Okhil Chandra Sen lodged a complaint to the then Transportation Superintendent, Sahibganj. After this, the railway authorities had no other option but to introduce toilets in all lower class carriages in trains running more than 50 miles at that time. Okhil wrote this letter in his anguish. Though the letter certainly lacked the basic English grammar but it really became an important document in the history of Indian railway.
I am writing this post, because although many of us are disgusted from the service provided by government (and also private sector companies), very few of us have the courage to do anything about it. A simple letter of complaint goes a long way in improving the systems.