Monday, March 26, 2012

Indian Railways and Toilet Discharges

My resident guest blogger, Cacofonix prefers erupting once every few months, to remind the blogging world of his existence. While he was busy shivering in sunny California, he finally sat down to write this hilarious post ( made me wait two months for it!) By the time I finished reading it, I had tears in my eyes. Tears of laughter. Before you proceed to read, I must warn you that this write-up is not meant for the faint-hearted. You are advised to keep your smelling salts handy.



An expert committee on railway safety, headed by Dr Anil Kakodkar of the Atomic Energy Commission, has observed that pH content of toilet discharges is causing widespread corrosion of rail tracks, compromising the safety of train travellers. This has got the government and the railway minister very worried (whoever maybe the Mamata Di-appointed minister on a given day, which in itself is another chapter of worry), and I, as a responsible citizen must rise to help our harried policy makers.

First things first. What we must acknowledge is the seriousness our authorities have attached to the topic of safety and their collective official anguish at the utter lack of responsibility displayed by billions of Indians who merrily use train amenities to relieve themselves with impunity. That the government has called up nuclear scientists to investigate is proof that they wanted to engage the best of India’s technical talent in getting to the “bottom” of things. And that cerebral principles of nuclear fission and fusion would be appropriate in working out a solution to the vexing problem of human excrement. I have also learnt that the Centre is about to seek help of an American institute on use of String Theory and Quantum Gravity to understand why Rahul Gandhi could not string up 288 seats at the UP elections, with people gravitating instead towards Akhilesh. In fact, the Centre is puzzled at Akhilesh’s aquiline profile which is much more Italian than Rahul’s. More than Paulo Rossi’s. More than even Al Pacino’s. Reconstructive rhinoplasty could come to the rescue.

It is inescapable that science will rescue us. The government has said so.

Courtesy - bestpict.blogspot.com




We are generally aware that there is something that goes by the name ‘pH’. L’Oreal, Garnier and Sunsilk claim that their shampoos and hair colours are pH-balanced. This is a clever way of confessing that they put a lot of water, which is pH-neutral, in their products. But the average science-challenged user will think it a measure of product superiority that their pretty heads are paying up for. To understand better the impact of pH on rail tracks, let me make it simple. Lemons are low pH (acidic). Bitter gourd or karela is high pH (alkaline).

Therein lies the answer. We all know acid is corrosive. So, when Dr Kakodkar is expressing disgust at our bodily discharge, he is actually only talking of the contents that are low pH. He is not bothered about appearance, consistency or colour. He is not riling about non-Newtonian fluid characteristics. He is not carping about hydrogen sulphide emissions and odour (“the answer my friend is blowing in the wind” – a scientist’s lyrical response to the question whether his dinner included generous servings of rajma-broccoli). What Dr Kakodkar is telling us is to raise our pH a notch. Instead of more lemon and chat masala and mirchi, he is imploring that we eat more karela. This is something that Lays and Uncle Chipps and Pringles can help encourage. No more potato chips. Instead, it will be party-sized packs of beer-dipped crispy karela thins. Or personal packs in Angostura flavour. I hope they are listening.

The other way all right-thinking citizens can help is by not using train toilets at all. In any case they are mostly in a state that are an assault on our sensory sensibilities. You first wait outside. Gentleman with noticeable middle takes 15 minutes to emerge before you can get in. The first question you have in your head is “why didn’t I hear the flush?” You know when you get in. You then look for a hook to hang your jeans from. The hook has a spider. You have carried an empty Bisleri bottle to fill up the required water. You push the spring-stiffened tap and the water comes out in a giant spray, drenching your shirt and jeans, but not a drop gets inside the bottle. After a few manoeuvres, you manage it. You have to then position your pudendum gingerly above this gaping hole through which you can see the rail track zipping by, while the coach lurches wildly from side to side. It requires particular dexterity during winters when you do not want the cold wind gushing up and lapping your hind quarters. Yet, you want your deposits to preferably make it right through instead of seeing them rest on the sloped aluminium surface inside.
 
All this pain and anguish will be no more if all of us are given railway diapers. Huggies can have a new niche market other than puerile babies and senile seniors. The government will subsidise manufacture and sale after a three day debate in Parliament.

The other option is to direct toilet discharges away from the rail tracks. While babies can be hung outside windows to make this happen, the logistics of adult bottoms having to be positioned likewise poses several challenges. Bungee-jumping ropes could reliably be used, but the work process will involve extensive training on gathering up and releasing pressure. Things can go quite in a different direction otherwise, leading to other safety problems.

This is an open letter to the authorities offering my help, as a fellow member of the technical fraternity, in solving a matter of national importance. I will also solicit additional sociological insight from PJ O’Rourke who, on arriving at an under-developed location, said something to the effect that “for a country with so much famine and hunger, you see an awful lot of shit on the roads”.
Reference:

“Because of pH content of the toilet discharge, there is widespread corrosion of the rails” – Anil Kakodkar, Chief, Railway safety review expert committee. Indian Express, New Delhi, February 20

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64 comments:

  1. I almost covered my nose with my dupatta and held my breath while reading this: P
    This is as witty as it gets! loved the tongue in cheek humour!
    Cacofonix is getting a standing ovation from me !

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    1. I bow in all humility, Ruchira. Please be seated now, else you will not only be breathless, but would also have lost a limb to gangrene.

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  2. HOLY SHIT!! The post merits to be mailed to Dr Kakodkar. Physics will take second place when the topic of shit hits the walls (not the aluminium walls of the jerking commode) and corrodes rail tracks.

    @Cacofonix This was unbelievably mad and hilarious!

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    Replies
    1. @Cacofonix But why were you thinking about Indian shit on Indian rails when in sunny California?

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    2. D2, it was far from the postcard picture of warmth on the West Coast last week. Staying indoors made me yearn for things back home :)

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  3. Out of the (toilet) box ideas, hahaa :D The railway diapers being my fave. Hilarious read!

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    1. Ambika, I take it you will put in some venture capital when I float my Railfree brand of nappies.

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  4. Epic, Mr. Bard, epic. It is one of the most hilarious post on toilet (railways toilet to be precise) humour that I have read.
    Coming to the point regarding faecal matters, I am sure there will be a special session of Parliament to discuss and debate on the acerbic nature of Indians.
    But look at the bright side, we are a nation that believes in science and dig deep to search for answers.

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    1. Also the last line proves that we are the most efficient race in the world.

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    2. Ah, my honourable Sir of the cat family, true to your skin geometry, you have 'spotted' it!

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  5. Railways should seriously co opt Cacofonix on its management panel of advisers, and Purba the Chairperson of the committee to examine best implementation :)

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    1. Thanks Rahul. I intend to patent a non-stick variety of diapers with a honeycomb finish. Hope you will be game.

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  6. Purba ji, I have to admit, if it wasn't on your blog, I would have never dared to read this "toilet" humor! And oh boy! I would have missed something ridiculously hilarious!
    This is satire at its best...
    Hats off Mr. Cacofonix!

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    Replies
    1. Prateek ji, I graciously acknowledge the trajectory of your hat which you must promptly place back on your crown.

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  7. hehehhe...:):)
    Totally hilariousss.:):)
    thanx for sharing it purba..:)

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  8. I was eating. I stopped.
    I'd rather go hungry than imagine the rails lathered with.....and their pH content.
    I have the same question as D2... why were you thinking of all this while in California?
    Did you have some sort of a dream or epiphany?
    According to superstitions, dreaming of shit is "shubho" btw. :P

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    Replies
    1. Enchanta, cacophony works better for me than epiphany. I must have been homesick.

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  9. You're taking 'resident guest blogger' a bit too literally, don't you think? Hehe!

    Awesome post, love the vivid detail!

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  10. loved the Rourke comment at the end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. always begin with the end in mind, as the sage told me

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  11. We can only laugh at the sad state of affairs....I was at a railway platform only yesterday night....had gone to see off my mum. And the vacant rail tracks reeked of putrid pee and poo...


    Brilliant piece. Sadly Mamata is not reading.

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    1. Alka, I will have a translation to Benglish delivered to didi by registered post. It weel be phull oph pikchaars oph masses in motion.

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  12. I think you should mail this post to the Railways..seriously. Do it.

    Superbly written. Eye-opener, this...

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  13. funny!!!

    As a frequent traveler in railways.....I know the mechanics of getting to do the'activities' in the toilets..its hell of a job to do!!!

    http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.in/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Such pursuits of the human mind set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom

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  14. Cacofonix : Your description of experience inside the toilet is mind vomitingly amazing.. Disposable diapers and bungee rope tricks to avoid tracks is a mindturbating thought.. Use of Gelucil tablet dispencers outside Bharatiya rail toilets can be another Newton's 4th law for controlling ph of excretions..

    The whole article alongwith seriousness of Mr. kakodkar behind the real issue makes me ponder that where are we actually stuck.. Just a fact : In 1930, Deccan Queen became the fastest train in Asia, covering Mumbai-Pune in 2hr 45 min. Today in 2012, it takes 3hr 25 min.. After another decade.. it might take an hour more.. coz we are stuck finding solution for ph of excreta .. rather then improving transport facilities !!

    A thought provoking blog indeed and most humorously written..
    Applause
    MV
    addy.matzu@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At this rate, MaddyV, we might soon be faster taking a horse carriage. Vijay Mallya can make some money there by renting out his stable. He needs the cash.

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  15. I laughed so loud that my son playing closeby thought that I had lost it :). It is by far one of the most hilarious posts I've ever read. The dilemma of defecating in the train toilet was beautifully and hilariously written. Hanging babies outside train and having train diapers are brilliant gems. Really, my digestive system just shuts down when I travel in the train. The thought of defecating is just so frightening. And, one really needs air fresheners too for those pot-bellied men and women who have released the acidic contents of their two-day old eating orgies, thereby, rendering the toilet useless for others.

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    Replies
    1. I see in you, Rachna, a kindred soul! You must be carrying plastic mugs in your rail travel kit? And some folded tissue paper? And strips of paper soap? And your husband's unused bottle of Old Spice?

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  16. Who else can identify the "greeko-roman" looks of Akhilesh better than the Gaul called cocofonix?
    Even I had identified this strange resemblance when she proudly showed it. :-)
    Amazing writing.. uff... what a morning for me...

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    Replies
    1. A new chapter will be written on cross-border migration of genes...

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  17. Still laughing like mad!!! LOL! Whadda post;) Thanks for introducing guest posts that bite, Purba!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Will think of some other part of the food chain for my next post...thanks!

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  18. LOL....The fifth para is awesome!

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  19. The only other time I came across the usage of the word pudendum was either in Joyce or in some Victorian Literotica magazine. Cacofonix has turned out to be quite the a-musing scatman! And it looks like it was a good one, after all, wasn't it? I trust everyone is relieved. I also trust all patriotic train travelers are revising their weekly grocery shopping list.

    I do not know what Richard Castle might have said, but Adrian Monk would surely have not known what the hell was being spoken about. The answer does not need to blow in the wind. What a terribly offensive, er, post. Please be more withholding in future.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Subhorup, Bertie Wooster may be compelled to refer the matter to his man Friday for an interpretation of this Oriental malady. Sir Winston could also have taken less than an insular view of such Eastern greatness.

      Delete
  20. ROFL! Thanks for sharing this smelly hilarious post! 5th para awesomest! Also I could imagine how would beer-dipped karela chips taste! Huhuhu :D....lovely post!

    Do visit my new blog: http://manjuzkitchen.blogspot.in/

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    1. Will check out your kitchen for some other bitter options...

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  21. ROFL and I seriously think some top guy from Railways should definitely read this ! (If he knows English that is )

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    1. It eez the pribhilege oph all bengalee ministars and megastars to consort in the language oph nirad chaudhuri

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  22. hmmm brought some memories of the train travles .. thankfully or unthankfully havenot travelled in a train now for almost 10 years :)

    Bikram's

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    1. take the train to jaisalmer the next time. clean. the water stays on the train floor all through the trip, slushing gently from the front to the back and to the front again.

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    2. Naiceeeeeeeeeeee... what fun :)

      Bikram's

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  23. Purba / Cacofonix,

    So now there is another reason to blame for accidents, corroded rail tracks due to low pH level deposits from rail toilets. I think we now need an expert committee comprising of all sections of politicians to go into this aspect. Aren't they experts at ****slinging?

    Take care

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    1. In fact, Jack, the expert committee also observed that low pH deposits pose difficulties for the cleaning staff in their attempts at maintaining the 'under' carriage. So, there certainly is a labour issue that merits undivided political attention.

      Delete
  24. That was really hilarious. Those were some innovative solutions for the Mamata-struck Railway authorities. And I really loved your attention to detail and mechanics on several ideas. :)

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  25. Cacofonix: Unbelievably humorous! I know of someone in the Atomic Energy and I just cannot stop myself from sending them this post to read. Too hilarious!!!!

    I go with the bungee jumpers!!! We would even have that promote Indian tourism!

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  26. The thing is I am enjoying reading your response to the comments as much as I enjoyed reading your post Cacofonix :P

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  27. Amazing one, hope for some change :)

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  28. ROFL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    That last line by the way, takes a lot of credit for the ROFL. And whole thing written so . . . . I can't stop laughing . . .
    .
    .
    .
    still laughing :D

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  29. What perfect description of the 'dynamics of motion!' the tap, the wind freezing our behinds, the Bisleri bottle -- all so well chronicled that I was nodding even as I was chortling. In smaller stations especially at nights and the wee hours, sometimes the train stops longer than it should so that the villagers can use the toilets,since they have no toilets in their homes. Please add this in the letter you are planning to write to Didi so that she may take suitable action.

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  30. this is absolutely hilarious.
    Perfect descriptions. XD

    Can u please read & promote my post here? :)

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  31. awesome!!!

    but hey, ooops i read it at the wrong hour, i am dead meat more farting than laughing!

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  32. I hereby claim my prize for serendipity.
    Accidentally discovering a piece of hilarious writing like this is no mean acievement.

    Seriously,

    I will forward this to two very senior Railway officials who are prolific bloggers themselves.
    They ( Gyandutt Pandey, and Praveen Pandey) are old friends of mine.
    They blog in Hindi but are both very proficient in English too.
    Gyandutt had written (some months ago) on this very problem and was informing us about a solution that was under active consideration
    If I am able to get the link I will send it to you.
    I trust you can read Hindi, if not, I would be glad to to take the trouble to translate it into English for you.

    Please accept my compliments.
    This was a sample of a brilliant piece of humorous writing on a most unpleasant subject.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this.

    Regards
    GV

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  33. Great to hear about the measurements taken by railways that helps to ecosystem as well.Thanks.

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  34. Hilarious piece. While the issue is serious and care should be taken, this is quite a different take on Indian railways. Yeah, Indian railways do make up for a comic book satire and no wonder you have done a great job pulling off such a satire like this. The situation is pathetic. The experience worse. The Indian railway is not the only place that suffers from ‘toilet disorders’. It is with every public toilet out there in the country. And somehow people always thing ‘others should take care while discharging themselves’ forgetting for others they are the ‘others’.

    Divya Bhaskar
    MyGrahak.com

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  35. Good sense of humour. Keep up the good work. I will be sharing the illustration,.I loved it.

    ReplyDelete

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