Hathras town in Western UP is in news currently for dubious reasons. It is also a town which has 4 railway stations with the word Hathras in it. (City, Jn, Kila, Road)
But Hathras is remembered for another reason. And it is linked to the Railways of which we are still ardent fans. More than 130 years back, a wandering peniless monk was sitting on a bench of Hathras Jn station. He was traveling partly on foot, partly by train, partly by bullock cart, as Providence would provide. Suddenly, the ASM of the station spotted this sanyasi with striking features, a sharp nose and wide eyes sitting on the bench. He went up to him and struck up a conversation. Impressed by his knowledge and disposition, the ASM requested the monk to be his guest that night and took him to his quarters behind the station. After spending a day or two the monk wished to bid goodbye but the ASM told him to wait; he would rush to the station, submit his resignation and leave with the monk as his disciple which he did and became the monk’s first disciple. The monk was none other than Narendranath Dutta who later became Swami Vivekananda. And the ASM of Hathras Jn was Sharat Chandra Gupta, a Bengali gentleman, who, after getting his sanyas vows, was called Swami Sadananda of the Ramakrishna Mission.
Yes, it’s a fascinating story of a monk and his disciple. You can read more about them in the book, “The Life of Swami Vivekananda, by his Eastern and Western Disciples”, Advaita Ashrama (1989 edition), pages 220-224. Before accepting him as his disciple, Vivekananda gave his begging bowl to Sharat and asked him to beg food from the porters and khalasis of the station. This was his way of testing his disciple’s earnestness. Without waiting for a moment, Sharat went to the station and begged for food from those very people who were his subordinates till just the previous day. He came back to Swamiji with the alms collected and partook of them along with his Guru. That proved the culmination of his ego after his renunciation. Incidentally, he was a good friend of Dr. Boshi Sen who later became a world renowned plant/agricultural scientist and lived in Almora. Sharat Chandra Gupta or Swami Sadananda, the erstwhile Asst. Station Master of Hathras Jn., though a Bengali, belonged to Jaunpur. He died in 1911.