Complaining letter that got toilets installed on India's trains

This 1909 letter from Okhil Chandra Sen to the Sahibganj divisional railway office in West Bengal is credited with instigating the practice of installing toilets on India's trains. The image presented here is the version displayed at India's Railway Museum.

(via Neatorama)


  1. I’m hoping Next Media Animation will do a CGI re-enactment in sepia tones, with a bit of steampunk and Bollywood flair.

    1. How was that letter produced? That font can’t possibly be someone’s actual handwriting…

      It says that the original is in the archive, so that’s probably a hand-lettered poster for display.  Painstakingly hand-lettering a complaint to a civil servant, however, would not seem out of place in India, particularly in 1909.

  2. This is all kinds historical wonderful: for myself, when running with Lotah and occasional Dhoti I am always endeavor to not be exposing all my shocking…

    It is my sincere hoping that these are the persons to get the proper filicetious recommendations in future livings…

    Edit: never run with a lotah. Period.

    ‘occasional’ dhoti wearing could get one arrested however; but perhaps not in SF…

  3. And that is how you get shit done in India.

    But wait a second, so a guy has to go to the toilet, and since he didn’t factor that into his departure calculations, the conductor whistles the train to go without him.

    Then he threatens to make it public (that the conductor made the train leave on time) and hopes the conductor will get a big fine…

    Makes perfect sense to install toilets after that. The solution to trains leaving on time is to install a toilet. Ever since trains in India are late because they have a toilet.

  4. By the context, I read “Lotah in one hand and Dhoti in the next” as something quite shocking indeed.
    However, the dictionary says Lotah is a “globular water container” and Dhoti is “A loincloth worn by Hindu men in India”. Given the seriousness of the letter, it certainly makes more sense, although I personally prefer my initial reading for the comedy value. I was just waiting for spaghetti to fall out of his pocket too.

  5. female women? So I guess they had male women, too?

    No, seriously, why “female women”? Is there a grammatical construct in any of the languages the gentlemen grew up with that would lead to such a translation?

  6. Pretty amazing that India’s rail service sparked so many people into action. Gandhi, this guy, and I wonder how many more.

  7. I don’t know any  Indian languages, but I can imagine a language where the word for “person” generally means “man”, and to say “woman” you would say “female person”.

  8. And by toilet, you mean a hole cut in the floor. A very “refreshing” but slightly disconcerting experience, relieving one’s self with the tracks rushing underneath.

  9. is a hole on the floor of a moving train more disconcerting than a hole in the floor where the pigs come looking up at you in anticipation?

  10. Cant stop laughing for a moment :)) damn there were his guts displayed in the letter, dont know what he dispayed in the station :))

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