When I visited the Shan-e-Bhopal restaurant in Bhopal I found a framed reproduction of the landmark letter written by Okhil Chandra Sen to the Sahibganj Divisional Railway Office in 1909. The contents of the letter were as follows:
“I am arrive by passenger train Ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. 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 ‘dhoti’ in the next when I am fall over and expose all my shocking to man and female women on plateform. I am got leaved at Ahmedpur station.
This too much bad, if passenger go to make dung that dam guard not wait train five minutes for him. I am therefore pray for your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake. Otherwise I am making big report to papers.”
The letter revolutionized on board passenger facilities in that it led to the provision of toilets on trains. During my visit to the SWR HQ a coupkle of days back I came across a letter addressed to the General Manager of SWR by an Officer of the Railway on behalf of the Officers’ Association on 24th March 2008, nearly a hundred years after Okhil Babu’s letter. The impassioned plea which is the content of the letter will, most likely, redesign Officers’ accommodation in the near future. This masterpiece of official appeal will continue to sound bugles of mirth and laughter wherever it is read long after its author retires from active service. Since such pieces are not so common and are extremely difficult to compose I thought it inappropriate for it to be confined to a dusty file in a dark recess of the office, where such magna opera often end up. Hence, reproduced in its entirety, without the permission of either the author or the organization, is the letter printed on the SWROA letterhead and circulated to an impressive array of senior railway officials in March 2008.
Sub: Toilet/Washbasin facilities in SAG Officers Chambers in
New GM Building
SWROA is requesting GM/SWR, PCE and CAO/CN for consideration of Toilet/Washbasin facilities in the SAG officers chambers in new upcoming GM Building, in view of the prevalent health conditions. As the officers are working in a modern atmosphere in tight schedules of working hours which have no specified timings and officers are prone to take their diets at irregular intervals generally thereby officers are facing gastric problems by which they feel like using toilet frequently. Senior officers cannot pay attention to his job, staff and visitors when such inconvenient health conditions are prone to them and the same officer can pay better attention if he can discharges his nature call provided in his chamber itself. The general toilets meant for officers are not practically maintained as per standards and often misused without any control. I need not emphasise the importance of the person who finished his nature call and comfortable himself on the chair or to attend his job, maybe thoughtfully realize and consider the above request for overall improvement.
Since New GM building is under rapid progress of construction and at this juncture the competent authority can review as a special case and advise the concerned construction organisation for the above simple facility which will go a long way for the officers appreciation towards the kind act.
Prayed for GM kind consideration.”
Those unfamiliar with the bureaucracy and/or the Offices from where the Nation’s future is directed will now be able to appreciate better as to what propels a vast sea of humanity to the Government Offices every working day – it is either to find joy from reading such masterpieces in an otherwise dreary world or to use the restrooms of the Offices after interacting with the authors of such gems of Official prose!!