Indians are naturally sensitive to cold. In Western India the thermometer rarely falls very low. Nevertheless the difference between the day and night temperature is so great in some parts, and the fall in temperature in the small hours of the morning is so rapid, that it gives the impression of a sharp frost, even although the thermometer may have scarcely fallen below 50 deg.. But in the middle of the afternoon of the previous day it may have registered 90 deg. in the shade, and a drop of 40 deg. is keenly felt. In January 1911, without any warning, the temperature one night actually dropped to below freezing, and a film of ice was found in a plate which had been left out all night, to the great astonishment of the boys, and much damage was done to fruit blossom and crops.
The Indian deals with cold in quite a different way to those who have been brought up in northern countries. If you give him a comforter, very little of it goes round his neck, but he wraps his head up in it so that only his eyes and nose are visible, and if his head is warm he does not seem to mind much about the rest of his frame, especially his legs, which are generally bare. But instead of trying to counteract cold by exertion, he delivers himself up to the miseries of the situation. Clad in his scanty linen garments he crouches, and mopes, and shivers, and waits for the sun to rise and warm him. Masons and carpenters and labourers may be seen sitting round about the house which they are building, waiting to get warm, and until that process has been satisfactorily completed they will not touch a tool, however late it may be.
You ask Felix, the boy who sweeps the bungalow, why he has not done it, and he replies, "I was cold." You say, "You will sweep it as soon as you are warm?" He says, "Of course." And there is nothing more to be said, because it is an understood thing that a cold Indian cannot work. His delight in a fire is intense. People collect leaves and rubbish and make fires by the roadside, or even in the streets, and crowds gather round and sit almost into the blaze, so that it is a wonder that they are not scorched. Their only regret is that the materials for the bonfire are generally so insufficient.
The joy of sitting in the sun to get warm, which the Indian can do with impunity, is denied to the Englishman. He must treat the sun with respect from the time it rises till the time it sets, and even on a cloudy day the same caution is necessary. This does not mean that it is unsafe to go out in the sun. It only means that no one should step out, even for a few moments, without first putting on his sun-hat. This is a complete safeguard if it is made of real pith of sufficient thickness, and with a brim wide enough to protect the forehead and the back of the head and neck. This kind of sun-tope is very light, but in other respects it is a cumbersome and inconvenient sort of headgear, and people, especially ladies, are tempted rashly to discard it. Many ailments, and sometimes serious illnesses, quite apart from actual sunstroke, may be traced to careless exposure to the sun's rays.
The umbrella in India; now universal; carried by the police. The boycott of foreign goods. Political excitement. Resentment in the Plague Refuge Camp; how it was overcome. The agency of the Church. An improved type of Hindu schoolboy; how they dress; their manners; their interest in religion. Moral teaching in schools. Conceit of some young students.
The umbrella always has been, and is still to some extent, an important feature of life in the East. Its importance is derived more from its recognition as an emblem of dignity than from its practical utility. It was one of the prerogatives of kings and nobles to have a gorgeous umbrella borne over their head by one of their retainers. It is only the gradual levelling up of classes that has made umbrellas almost universal. Even up to quite modern times there were certain parts of Poona City where Brahmins live, in which a low-caste man would not have dared to walk with an umbrella. To do so would have been regarded as an act of insolent presumption.
But when the barrier of prohibitive custom had once been levelled, umbrellas came in with a rush, and they are now used to an almost ludicrous extent. A mason may be seen sitting at work on a wall with his umbrella in one hand and his trowel in the other. Farm labourers out in the country, seated on the pole of their bullock-cart, or men perched on the top of loads of wood in great cities, will enjoy both the dignity and the shade of their outspread umbrella in the hot season. That it is assumed in some cases more for dignity than for actual need, is shown by the readiness with which it is discarded when convenient, and its bearer sits cheerfully bareheaded in the blazing sun.
The Bombay police are given umbrellas during the rainy season, and as the rainfall in that city is very heavy, they are a necessary though not a convenient burden for a policeman to bear. In Calcutta they go a step farther, and the umbrellas are served out during the hot season also, and the police are provided with an arrangement which looks something like braces worn outside, on to which they hang the umbrella when they find that it interferes with the discharge of their duties. Whether the Calcutta policeman really needs this protection from the sun may be doubted, when the majority of the people in the Calcutta streets are, by their own choice, entirely bareheaded. But the appearance of dignity which the umbrella conveys is no doubt an advantage to the policeman, even if he does not actually need it as a protection.
A few years back umbrellas of every imaginable size and shape and colour and degree of disreputability were in evidence in the streets of Poona City. There was a favourite umbrella with wooden ribs, covered with a kind of oilcloth, red or yellow in colour, which was a cheap and useful article. But in these modern days of growing luxury such umbrellas are despised. "Why do you carry this kind of umbrella?" said an elegantly dressed young Hindu student to me. "I do so because it is cheap, and I am poor," was my reply. "You are not poor; you are rich," was his answer.
Umbrellas from Europe are brought into India in shoals. When an agitation arose in Bengal to boycott foreign goods the umbrella question became a complex one, because their manufacture is practically unknown in the country. The difficulty was solved by importing the component parts to be put together in India, and then they could be labelled "country-made."
Although now anybody who can afford it may carry an umbrella whenever and wherever he pleases, a certain idea of dignity still lingers in connection with it, and the bearer of this ancient symbol of importance often does so with a slight swagger, and all the more so if he is dressed in rags, or scarcely dressed at all.
The agitation in Bengal referred to above was an epidemic of political excitement amongst educated classes, and more particularly young students, which spread wider than usual, and threatened to become serious. It had therefore to be dealt with firmly. The epidemic spread to Poona City (and indeed it was freely said that the chief wire-pullers in the movement lived there). As a result of this unrest there was a marked cooling-off in cordiality amongst the visitors to Yerandawana when plague broke out again in the city, and the annual exodus took place. The deportation to a distance of one of the leaders on the side of discontent in the city, for a period of some years, was the chief ground of local resentment. Boy friends of previous years held aloof; elder brothers, of the student class, were inclined to be cheeky; and their parents, as far as they could, kept out of the way.
In former years crowds of lads came from the Plague Refuge Camp to ask for old Christmas cards. Many of them were boys from schools of good standing where drawing is carefully taught. In order to choke off the mere idlers, we told a boy when we gave him a picture that if he wanted another one he must make a copy of the picture given, and bring back both the original and the copy the next day. The plan answers admirably, and it has become our regular custom. It gets rid of the loafers who do not want the trouble of drawing pictures, it gives the boys an occupation in their long idle days, it quickens their interest in drawing, and in a few instances has brought to light some genuine talent. Boys grow ambitious, and get chalks and colours, and produce results of artistic promise. It also brings the best type of lad almost daily to the Mission bungalow for a definite object, and affords many opportunities for useful talks on subjects religious and secular.
But when the season recommenced after that period of political unrest, there were few applicants for pictorial cards. A sprinkling of old friends of previous years began to bring their drawings, but they did this in the face of a sarcastic opposition which few had sufficient backbone to withstand for long. But fortunately we had at that time many exceptionally attractive pictures, which people had sent us from England. The few gallant boys who braved the opposition got rewards which soon awakened longings throughout the camp to be possessors of the like. One by one, at first shyly, and then with growing confidence as deserters from the opposition grew more numerous, the old friends returned, to be followed by many new ones. The younger generation being won over, their elders began to thaw and to exchange kindly greetings, and now and then we were invited to see their hut or tent, or to sit down outside for a few minutes' talk.
It is something to be grateful for when an attitude of distrust has changed into one of friendliness. But from a religious point of view this might not have been of much use, if it had not been for the new agent which had come into the life of the village—and that agent was the village church. The effect of the building upon the Hindu mind has been already told. But in addition, many Hindus got some idea of the nature of Christian worship by a spasmodic attendance at Evensong, especially on week-days. The nineteen double doors, most of them standing open in the hot weather when wind and dust are not too aggressive, give an opportunity for taking stock of the situation before coming inside. They are also available as roads of retreat, supposing circumstances are suggestive of danger.
When, after a rather prolonged season on account of the plague lingering longer than usual in the city, our visitors went back to their homes and we were left in comparative peace, we felt that, besides the dying down of the spirit of opposition, it had also been a useful time of education concerning Christian manners and customs, if nothing more. But without the two agencies of the pictures and the church, I do not see that we could have attained either of these results.
There are some indications that the efforts which are now being made to introduce more rational methods of teaching are beginning to influence favourably the young Indian mind. That a large number of students under the old regime have been lamentable failures nobody denies, and much of the discontent of recent years, leading in some instances to serious political crime, has been the inevitable fruit of the foreign secular education which we have brought. But there is a distinctly new type of Indian schoolboy appearing, amongst the thousands of lads who are getting their education in Poona City. Some of them not unfrequently find their way to the village Mission-house on half-holiday afternoons, and ask to see the church, or beg for a picture post-card. They talk a little English, dropping back into the vernacular with some relief when unable to say exactly what they want in the foreign tongue. They rather incline to English dress; in some cases even substituting knickerbockers, or trousers, for the Hindu dhota. The picturesque and useful turban they unfortunately give up altogether, and wear instead a small round cap. Many of them have ceased to shave their head, and are rather proud of their hair, which they wear foppishly long in front. They only nominally retain the Hindu shinde, or little pigtail. That is to say, the hair at the crown of the head is left slightly longer than the rest, but it is hardly noticeable. Some of them have a watch chain, but there is not always a watch at the end of it.
Their manners are generally polite and courteous, except that some of them, while retaining their caps, have begun to look upon it as a mark of servility to slip off their shoes on entering a church or house. We explain that whereas it has always been the Eastern custom to bare the feet as a courteous recognition of place or persons, the Western custom, on account of the cold climate, has been to bare the head. Hence in India, where East and West meet, it is optional to follow whichever use the individual prefers; but to enter a church or house without baring head or feet is not polite. The lads quickly respond to the kindly explanation. Some slip off their shoes; one or two take off their caps instead, especially when they go into the church.
This they do rather shyly for the first time, and they are obviously nervous as to what going into a Christian church may involve. But confidence is established after two or three visits. Some are quite ignorant of Christ. Others just know Him by name, and that is all. More than once I have been asked for a photograph of Christ, thinking that He was somewhere accessible, or that He had lived on earth in modern times. Now and then a few lads who have heard scraps of Christianity ask questions eagerly, and are delighted to see pictures concerning Our Lord's life. Three new-comers asked me to give them some of these pictures. I said that if I did so they would perhaps turn them into ridicule. "We would never do such a thing as that," was their eager and earnest reply. And though we rarely venture to give religious pictures to Hindus, this appeared to be one of those occasions when it might be good to do so.
This type of boy goes in a good deal for cricket and football, and when playing a match knows, for the most part, how to keep his temper and to play in a sportsmanlike manner. One of their clubs they call "The New English Club." Some attempt is made to give what is called "moral instruction" in the Hindu schools that this hopeful type of boy attends. The instruction is, of necessity, of the "honesty is the best policy" kind. That is to say, if you cultivate politeness and truthfulness, it will enable you to be a better citizen. Or, if you try to do what is right, you will be respected in the world. These are not the loftiest ideals, but anything that tends to strengthen the character and purify the life is to be welcomed. Nevertheless, the attempt to build up a scheme of morals, without Christian grace to give the spiritual power to resist the evil forces which will try to frustrate the effort, can at best only bring about a superficial improvement, liable at any time to collapse. However, these indications of an improved type of schoolboy give hope for an improved type of man, which may mean much for the future of India.
Some of the young Hindus of the city, who speak English rather fluently, become amusingly conceited in consequence. One of these lads visiting the Mission-house said to me, "Your English pronunciation is not good." I sometimes purposely reply to these English-speaking youths in Marathi, because they rather affect not to know it. This same lad said that it was no good my talking to them in that language, because that no one could understand my Marathi. When I suggested that even his English was capable of improvement, he replied that that was impossible, because his English was "perfect." When I was showing him the church, he asked if he might go into the sanctuary, and when I said that that was reserved for the ministers, he replied that that was "superstition." Seeing some of the Mission boys, who are simply but nicely dressed, he exclaimed, "Why do you clothe your boys in this miserable way? you should give them fine and beautiful clothing." Ascertaining that I was pledged not to marry, he asked, "Why do you lead this miserable existence? There is no pleasure in life without marriage." But when the Brahmin wife of the schoolmaster happened to pass by, he was immensely astonished to hear that she was a Christian. After one or two visits young men of this sort often drop most of their conceit, and talk naturally and pleasantly.
THE ENGLISH IN INDIA
Bishop Heber's sentiments still apply. Misunderstandings about India. Hindu character. Action of dissenters. Rashness of the early settlers. Early rising. Cold baths. The Bishop's dress. River excursions. Conservatism in India. The Englishman's bungalow. Arrangements for bathing; their primitive nature.
It is curious to note, in letters written nearly a hundred years ago, that many of the things now said about India were said then, and hopes and fears and perplexities concerning the progress of Christianity were couched in much the same terms as at the present day.
Bishop Heber writes: "I have seen enough to find that the customs, the habits, and prejudices of the people of this country are much misunderstood in England." These words of the Bishop are still true, in spite of the multitude of books which have been written about India since his day, and the increasing number of people who visit the country.
Even the same misunderstandings linger. "We have all heard," writes the Bishop, "of the humanity of the Hindus towards brute creatures, their horror of animal food, etc.; and you may be, perhaps, as much surprised as I was, to find that those who can afford it are hardly less carnivorous than ourselves. And though they consider it a grievous crime to kill a cow or bullock for the purpose of eating, yet they treat their draft oxen, no less than their horses, with a degree of barbarous severity which would turn an English hackney-coachman sick. Nor have their religious prejudices and the unchangeableness of their habits been less exaggerated. At present there is an obvious and increasing disposition to imitate the English in everything, which has already led to very remarkable changes, and will, probably, to still more important." The same sentiments might be written with equal truth to-day, and would be news to many.
The Bishop also describes the Hindu character with a good deal of accuracy, but he adds truly: "I do not by any means assent to the pictures of depravity and general worthlessness which some have drawn of the Hindus." But when speaking of their religion as a "demoralising and absurd religion," he is much nearer the truth than those modern writers who try to idealise it.
Speaking of dissenters, Bishop Heber writes that they are "very civil, and affect to rejoice at our success; but they, somehow or other, cannot help interfering and setting up rival schools close to ours; and they apparently find it easier to draw off our pupils, than to look out for fresh and more distant fields of enterprise." This description would apply to the mission field in many places now, especially to the action of Roman Catholics and the Salvation Army.
The amazing rashness of the earlier settlers and missionaries comes out in some of their books and journals, and it is no wonder that the mortality amongst them was great, so that going to India was regarded as an heroic act, and the chances of return dubious. The chief precaution against the sun that they indulged in was to get up extraordinarily early, so as to get their exercise while it was still cool, and they took a long sleep in the middle of the day. Bishop Heber in one of his letters from Calcutta says: "I held my first visitation this morning at 6 o'clock (!), to avoid the heat of the day." In another letter, when on tour, he writes: "I rise by three in the morning and am on horseback by four." Again, speaking of his life in Calcutta, he says: "Our way of life is simple, and suited to the climate. The general custom is to rise at six in the cool season, and at half-past four in the morning during the hot weather, and to take exercise on horseback till the sun is hot; then follow a cold bath, prayers, and breakfast." The plunge into the "cold bath" should be noted, as being the ultimate cause of the Bishop's sudden death. Few people take a cold bath in India now, and certainly not in the early morning. Nor is the chill air in the early hours of the Indian day in the cold weather a particularly healthy time, and nowadays the few people who come to India with the intention of conforming to the ancient custom of early morning exercise soon drop it. It is to be regretted that the tendency now is to go to the opposite extreme, and late hours at night, and comparatively late getting up, grows increasingly common. Few people, however, now look upon the midday siesta as a necessity.
There are authentic sketches of Bishop Heber and others out for a ride, dressed in frock coat and tall hat, as if they were in Rotten Row. The Bishop, nevertheless, seems to have accommodated his dress to the necessities of the climate more than most of the clergy, at any rate when on tour. There is an amusing paragraph, bearing on this point, in the journal of the Archdeacon of Bombay in 1825. When Bishop Heber was drawing near to Bombay, after a long and arduous tour, he was joined by the Archdeacon, who says in the course of his notes that "there are some points, such as his wearing white trousers and a white hat, which I could wish were altered with more regard to his station, and which, perhaps strike me the more after being accustomed to the particular attention of Bishop Middleton in such points." But he goes on to say that he felt compelled to forgive him, on the score of all his other excellent qualities. In a note the editor explains that "on his journeys the Bishop wore a white solar hat, with a very broad brim (lined with green silk), made from the pith of the bamboo. As it afforded more protection from glare and heat he preferred it to the episcopal hat, his usual dress when residing at any of the presidencies. The white trousers he adopted soon after his arrival in India, from their greater coolness; and he recommended them to his clergy on all ordinary occasions." It might be added that coolness is not the only thing to be considered for residents in India. A chill of some sort is the cause of many Indian ailments, and shirt and trousers of flannel, however thin, should be the invariable dress, by day and by night.
One of the ways of trying to regain health amongst those early workers in the East, was to go for an excursion of some weeks' duration on a river. Possibly they had in mind the beneficial results of a boat excursion on the Thames. But slow progress in a native boat, alongside the mud-banks and reedy swamps of many Indian rivers, was about as sure a way of getting, or increasing, malaria as they could have devised.
There is a strong spirit of conservatism amongst most Englishmen when they live in India. They appear to catch the traditional spirit of the country, and "what has been must always be." Hence arrangements adopted by the earlier settlers are continued to the present day, even though in some respects they are particularly inconvenient. The old-fashioned bungalow, which is always a one-storied building nearly all roof, is simplicity itself as regards plan. But it is certainly not beautiful to look at, and has nothing specially to commend itself from a practical point of view. Yet it is only very gradually that houses more attractive in appearance, and more adapted to the ways of civilisation, are taking its place. Even in modern bungalows, the extremely primitive arrangements for bathing, which formerly had to suffice because there was nothing better, are still perpetuated. The bathroom is often a dingy, lean-to shed, opening out of your sleeping room. It has another door leading to the outer world for the use of the water-carrier, as well as for the mysterious being who glides in and out as he attends to the sanitary needs of the bathroom in a country where there is no drainage.
The actual area for bathing is something like the sink in an English scullery, but level with the floor and on an enlarged scale. The hole in the wall, as an exit for the water, is unpleasantly suggestive of a possible inlet for snakes. Nor is this fear without foundation. The hole in the wall leading into the cool, damp, dark bathroom is a distinct invitation to snakes to enter in, which they sometimes accept. The wire guard is often absent, or broken. The water for bathing is stored in utensils, varying in type according to the part of India in which you may happen to be. Sometimes it is kept in tall black earthenware pots, suggestive of those in which the Forty Thieves of the Arabian Nights concealed themselves. Sometimes it is found in a gigantic sort of round pie-dish, such as a giant might use for his supper. Sometimes a modern galvanised iron tub indicates the fusion of Eastern and Western habits.
A servant-boy will bring you a pailful of hot water from the kitchen—that remote apartment, in some far-away corner of the compound, to which no one ventures to penetrate, unless he is prepared to eat his dinner ever afterwards with misgivings. A certain suspicion of greasiness on the surface of the water is suggestive of cooking and of vessels imperfectly cleansed. It is always rather a problem to know how one is meant to use the water in the pail, which is usually scalding hot. A visitor emptying it into the big tub of cold water, and having a luxurious tepid bath, found that in so doing he had unwittingly used up a store of cold water which was meant to last for several days. There are many parts of India where clean fresh water is scarce, and has to be fetched from a distance and used with economy.
The remaining apparatus provided for your comfort in the bathroom is a wooden board, or rack, on which you squat, while you pour water over yourself with a tin pint-pot. It is well to see that no scorpion, or other stinging insect, has hid up in any of the crevices of the board. A very refreshing bath can be secured in this primitive way, and suggestions for improved methods are scarcely welcomed by those who have got accustomed to, and now prefer, the old-fashioned plan.
DISHONESTY IN INDIA
Ideal low concerning work. Bribery. On the railway. Dishonest ticket clerks. Servants' commission. Door-attendant's tip. Gifts from native merchants. Changes in modern India. The Indian "growler" disappearing. Wearing shoes. Cloth coats of English cut. The daily paper. The villagers' clothing.
Most Indians have a low ideal concerning work. If six or seven are working together they take turns, and it is rare to see more than the minority in active employment at any given time. Even those who are set over them do not expect a fuller response. It is also rare to find anyone (except a few first-class artizans) who takes pride in his work, or who can be trusted to do it well except under supervision. Even in a household it is rare to find a servant (except a few very capable head-servants) who can be depended on to maintain a satisfactory standard of work, unless he is frequently reminded whenever he slackens off. In teaching lads a trade, the majority of them need to be shown over and over again how to do a thing before they grasp it. And even after skill has been acquired, it is not until they have felt the inconvenience of being called upon to re-do what has been done badly, that they realise that it is best to do it well at first.
Hardly any transaction, great or small, is completed in heathen India without something of the nature of a bribe taking place, and the system is so almost universal that it seems as if it is likely to be a long time before it is eradicated. Hardly anyone will do anything for anybody without the stimulus of a reward of some sort. Many Indian officials will not discharge even the ordinary duties of their office without frequent "refreshers" from the people amongst whom they work. It is naturally the poorest and weakest who suffer most from this form of oppression.
On the railway there is almost unlimited scope for this. The doors on to the platform of the waiting-rooms, or rather sheds, which are provided for native passengers are generally only opened just as the train comes in. The rush is often great, and the number of passengers is constantly in excess of the vacant places in the train. The official who unlocks the door leading on to the platform can easily favour certain persons, and keep back others, with very little risk of detection, and it is the traveller who has been most ready with his "palm oil" who gets through the gate promptly, and so stands a good chance of getting a seat in the train.
In selling tickets to third-class passengers there is vast scope for cheating. They are mostly illiterate, and many of them inexperienced in the ways of travel. A dishonest clerk can easily discriminate the kind of passenger he is dealing with, and when he thinks it safe to do so, can quote the price of the ticket as being something over and above its real value, and then pocket the balance. The price printed on the tickets is no guide to the majority of third-class Indian travellers. In the course of a long day a dishonest ticket clerk, by means of small irregularities, can add substantially to his income. Detectives, disguised as poor passengers, are sometimes successful in bringing a clerk of this character to book. The goods and parcels traffic also furnishes a wide field for overcharge, and also of vexatious delay when the stimulus of a commission on the transaction is lacking.
If a servant is sent to fetch a tonga from the bazaar, more often than not he will make the driver give him a pice or two, under the threat of otherwise not giving him any more of his master's custom. One of the many servants of the average Indian bungalow sits at the entrance of the front verandah, and he is the channel of communication between the outside world and the powers within. Door-bells, for some inscrutable reason, are practically unknown in the Englishman's bungalow. If the door-attendant happens to be absent, the visitor shouts "Boy," a word which in Western India is applied, not very happily, to any household servant of whatever age.
If the caller is a sahib, the door-attendant will quickly attend to his wants and will bring him into rapid communication with his master. But supposing you are a poor native, wanting to see the sahib on some matter of business, unless you are lucky enough to waylay him as he drives in or out, which he may possibly resent, you stand a poor chance of getting near him unless you are prepared to tip the door-keeper. It is to be feared that even Hindus, coming in an honest spirit of inquiry to a missionary's house, have been choked off by an official of this nature. It is of the utmost importance that the front verandah of a mission-house should be freely accessible to whoever likes to step into it.
District officers when they are on tour and living in camp, and who are honestly anxious to be within reach of everybody who has a real grievance, have sometimes great difficulty in preventing their good intentions being frustrated by some of the subordinate officials who form an inevitable part of their retinue.
Native merchants who deal with Englishmen have the idea so ingrained that bribes are a necessary part of business, that they imagine that the way to secure custom, or at any rate more favourable terms, is to make large offerings of fruit and sweetmeats at Christmas, and such-like auspicious times. One of the results of this is that most things in the Indian markets, and even in some of the shops, grow rather dearer just before Christmas, and the notion is spreading amongst Hindus and others that it is a season for presents and feasting. Some of these traders may even proceed to hint vaguely about financial percentages, if they think that acceptance is at all likely. It is to be hoped that the tradition that Englishmen in positions of trust are proof against such suggestions, is one that may always be maintained.
Amongst the signs which indicate that India, for better or worse, is beginning to move with the times, may be noted an increase in refinement, a greater regard for outward appearance, and the gradual introduction of things which conduce to greater comfort. The two-horse conveyance, called a shiggram, which used to represent the "growler" of Poona City, has almost disappeared. It was certainly a most comfortless kind of carriage, something like what a growler would be if you removed all its lining and padding, and with very narrow seats. In its place victorias and landaus have become almost universal, and those belonging to private owners are often well built and nicely kept. The number of people wearing shoes of English pattern rapidly increases, together with the use of socks. The Hindu Widows' Home has established quite a thriving business in the manufacture of socks and stockings for men. Indians have been accustomed to go barefoot, not because they prefer it, but partly because to wear shoes was, like the umbrella, a mark of distinction not to be assumed by everybody, and partly because poverty forbade it. But there are times in the year when an Indian suffers a good deal through going barefoot. In the middle of the day in the hot weather the surface of a high-road is so heated that an Englishman could not tread upon it at all with bare feet, and even the hardened sole of the Indian is put to serious inconvenience. Indians say that in the wet weather, when the roads are often deep in soft mud, this mud gets in between the toes and is extremely uncomfortable. And in the cold weather, the boys' bare feet get deeply cut by the chill air of the early mornings which has descended from frosty regions.
Masters in the better-class schools and the majority of students, the numerous lawyers, and some shopkeepers, have taken to wearing cloth coats, which are now almost universally of English cut, although the native coat was very effective and convenient. Shops are arranged with some regard to artistic effect, and many of the shops in Poona City are now bright and attractive in appearance and contain a varied stock. Formerly the shop was little more than the place where the goods were stored, and there was little attempt to attract the passer-by, and only a languid effort to attend to his wants if he stopped to express them.
The daily paper has become a regular part of the day's routine of the much-leisured Hindu, and the demand has greatly improved the character of the supply, and some of the vernacular papers furnish up-to-date news, and the leaders are written with ability. The more stringent measures which it became necessary to put in force because of the seditious character of many of the vernacular papers has done much to purify the Indian press, so that while many of the papers retain an independent line, their criticisms are couched in sufficiently decorous language.
Even amongst the working classes there is a great advance in comfort, especially as regards clothing. The scanty dress of the Indian arose, not so much because of the hot climate, but because he could only afford a few yards of calico. Now he is not only much less unclothed than he used to be, but his garments are of better material and more skilfully made. The Indian villager also often wears cloth coats of English shape, but he has not made much advance as regards cleanliness. He does not wash all over much oftener than his English rural brother, except in the hot weather if there is a river within reach. He rarely washes his clothes, but wears them till they are so dirty that he can wear them no longer, and then buys new ones; and he appears to think that this is the best arrangement.
Mohammedans and marriage. Their conception of heaven. Their trading on board ships. The smell of India. The Indian "send-off." Use of the plural. Mistakes concerning it. Unappreciated English jocosity. Indian free-and-easiness.
A Mohammedan asked me whether if he became a Christian we would provide him with a wife, and he appeared surprised to learn that as a Christian he could only have one wife. "Our religion allows four," he said. When I urged that more than one wife destroyed the idea of the unity of husband and wife, he replied, "We consider one of our wives as being our real wife, and the others are like servants." I said that the additional marriages, under such conditions, could only be contracted for the gratification of fleshly desires. His answer was, "If a man can afford it, why should he not give himself pleasure?" After this there was nothing more to be said.
Mohammedans succeed better than Hindus as men of business, and there are many Mohammedan firms who do a large trade. In the harbour at Colombo and at other ports, Mohammedan jewel-merchants come on board the steamers in order to try and sell their wares to the passengers. In the interval between the departure of one batch of passengers and the arrival of another, some of these merchants, having nothing to do, came over to where I was standing on the deck of a steamer, to talk about religion. They all spoke English in that pleasant way in which many Easterns speak it—rather hazy about the verbs, but clear in their pronunciation, so that it is easy to understand them. An Indian who knows perhaps only a few English words, generally pronounces them correctly.
"Good morning, father, I am very glad to see you," is how the conversation began.
"Are you a Catholic?" I asked.
"I know all about the Catholic," was the reply, "I was taught in Catholic school; I know all Catholic teaching."
"But you are not a Catholic yourself."
"No, I am a Mohammedan; but I like Catholic."
Some of the others then chimed in and began to urge their usual objections concerning the Virgin birth, and the Holy Trinity. I was interested in hearing what they had to say, because we do not often meet Mohammedans in the Poona district. I thought that possibly the assertion that their conception of heaven is so degraded might have been exaggerated, so that I was glad of an opportunity to learn from the lips of intelligent representatives of their religion what their views really are. They affirmed that everything that there is on earth will be in heaven, including all that concerns marriage. In order to get at the bottom of the matter, I asked whether, as the result of this, children would be born in heaven. They replied that nothing had been revealed concerning that, but that probably children would not be born. They were, therefore, only anticipating sensual gratification.
I told them the story of the seven brethren with the one wife, and that Christ, whom they accepted as a true Prophet, said that they neither marry nor are given in marriage in heaven. They answered that, in spite of that, it was quite certain that there would be marriage in heaven. It is hardly to be wondered at if, amongst nations specially prone to sensuality, a religion spreads which allows four wives in the present, and holds out such prospects for the future.
Yet there is something winning and attractive about many of these men with their gentle courteous manners. Passengers coming on board, there was prospect of business, so saying that they hoped that nothing that they had said would have caused me any offence, they shook hands and hurried off, and were soon deeply absorbed in the industry of trying to see how much they could persuade the globe-trotter to give for their wares. But their trade is not so good as it was some years back. The traveller is more wide-awake, and his inclination now is to err on the side of paying too little. Some shipping lines have also forbidden traders to board the ships, because it gave an opportunity for thieves to get on board under the guise of traders, and a good many things had been stolen from passengers in this way.
Landing in Bombay from the same ship, an Australian lady said to me, as the passengers were waiting on the Bunder while the luggage was passing through the Customs, "What is this strange smell?" "It is only the smell of India," I replied. "Then I don't like it," she said very decidedly. There is in India a peculiar stale smell which you seldom get entirely away from, unless on some lofty hills far removed from the haunts of men. It is the smell of an undrained country, where the habits of the people transgress the most elementary sanitary rules, so that even out in country districts, if there are human habitations in the neighbourhood, the air is tainted.
Whereas it is the English custom to receive a new-comer into office with great ceremony, the Indian reserves his enthusiasm for the time of departure. The new viceroy is welcomed with much state ceremonial, but he departs in comparatively homely fashion. If the arrangements were in the hands of Indians, it is the outgoing viceroy who would receive the chief honours. After all, this may be the right way. The new-comer has not yet been tried, whereas if he has done his duty during his time of office, it is at the point of his departure that display of gratitude is becoming. If the head of a mission has to go to England on furlough, the residents at the mission-station will probably give him a tremendous send-off, even if he is not particularly popular. But when he returns, the Indians who saw him off so enthusiastically will receive him back with gracious smiles and kindly greeting, and half a dozen special friends may call and garland him, but there will be no general demonstration, unless there are some English people on the spot to suggest it as being the proper thing to do.
Mistakes made in the effort to speak a difficult Eastern language are inevitable. But the new-comer is not aware of certain subtle dangers which exist, quite apart from mispronunciation, or wrong tenses and genders, or words misapplied. To use the singular number instead of the plural in speaking to an Indian, except of the lowest rank, is considered by him as an act of great rudeness. In speaking to children the singular number is always used, and very intimate friends use it in speaking to each other. High-caste Hindus use it in speaking to low-caste people, in order to emphasise their own superior position. Missionaries generally begin to exercise their conversational powers in the vernacular by trying to say a few words to the boys of the mission. And as their efforts are generally welcomed by the boys in a kindly and encouraging spirit, the missionary waxes bold and begins to converse with the elder members of his flock, or even with dignified outsiders, with sometimes unfortunate results, because he uses unblushingly, but unknowingly, the singular number which he grew familiar with in his conversations with the boys.
"Where art thou going?" I said to one of the senior members of the congregation—proud to be able to address him in Marathi. "You speak like a Brahmin," was his reply. At the time I took this to be fulsome praise of my pronunciation, and it was not till long afterwards, as I recalled his words, that I understood that he meant that I was addressing him in the contemptuous way in which Brahmins speak to their inferiors. A lady worker, after struggling bravely with the intricacies of Marathi, said that at last she felt encouraged when, after conversing with some Indian women, she heard one of them say, "She speaks like a Hindu." Fortunately, or unfortunately, she did not understand the real meaning of the remark.
Indians do not readily understand or appreciate the half-jocose way in which Englishmen are wont to show friendliness to others. I saw at a railway station some rather venerable Christians from a village mission seeing off a young missionary. The new-comer was trying to be "hail-fellow-well-met" with these members of his congregation, smacking them on the back and laughing a good deal, and calling them "old chaps." The latter expression they did not understand, but they looked grave and puzzled; and probably the newly arrived missionary learnt, after a little longer experience, that all English manners and customs are not applicable to India.
The reverse is also true. There is an Indian kind of free-and-easy manner which is meant to indicate a spirit of friendliness, which is just as little understood by the Englishman, and which he not unfrequently imagines to be intentional rudeness, and resents accordingly.
NIGHT ALARMS IN INDIA
Mortality caused by snake-bite. Snakes in the bungalow. The cobra; how it shows fight. An exciting contest. The night-watchman; his jingling-stick; his slumber. Village night-scare. Supposed dacoits. The village chowdi: lads sleeping in it.
It must be confessed that snakes are one of the drawbacks of country life in India, especially after dark. That they are not an imaginary source of danger is shown by the tremendous total in the annual returns of those killed by snakes in British India. Every year this amounts to about 20,000 people. The returns for the last ten years show that, in spite of the attempt to wage war against snakes, the toll of casualties does not diminish. The number of snakes killed in a recent year, for which Government gave rewards, amounted to 63,719. But in so vast a country the destruction even of so many would make little appreciable difference.
Although the cobra is an object of worship, Indians do not become reconciled to snakes. The cry of sarp—"snake"—makes almost as great excitement as the cry of "fire." You never can be sure where you may not find a snake. Once when I was coming home in the dark, there was just light enough to enable me to see a snake travelling up the steps of the verandah into the bungalow, and I was in time to kill it before it hid up. The most uncomfortable situation is when you see a snake go into the house and you cannot find out where he has located himself. A krait, the most deadly snake in India, in the middle of the day came in at the door of the room in which I was sitting reading. It seemed surprised to see me, and retired behind the door, where I quickly slew him. It was remarkable to see the horror of a cat, who came in just afterwards and saw the dead body of the snake, and for a week or two afterwards she would not pass through that room. As we entered the refectory one evening for dinner we saw a large snake vanish out of the back door, and we found it curled up behind the water-butt.
It is impossible to get reliable local information as to which of the snakes are poisonous or not. If you ask an Indian about the character of any snake he always answers, "Very bad." But it is the cobra which is really an unpleasant creature to have any dealings with. Most other snakes will try and slink into a corner, or hide up. But the cobra, if cornered, shows fight and becomes formidable. He raises himself up a foot or two, puffs out his mantle, sways his head about as if he was taking aim, and strikes with great force to some distance, according to his size. I do not know if there are any instances recorded of recovery from the bite of a cobra, but if so, they are exceedingly rare.
Early one morning we found a cobra in a sleepy state, just outside one of the church doors. By his swollen condition it was evident that he was digesting his last meal. It was easy to despatch him with a long bamboo, which we keep for cobras. But at the first blow he had still energy just to raise his head into the fighting attitude, when he looks most forbidding. We found inside him a frog, dead but otherwise in good preservation, which accounted for his distended and sleepy state. One day, just after Evensong, when the people were coming out of church, one of the boys heard a hiss, and saw a cobra in the angle of a buttress. The long bamboo was again equal to the occasion.
The village schoolmaster, returning in the dark with his family after a day's holiday, heard a hiss as he opened his house door, and he saw a snake glide down the verandah. But it was too dark to see whether it went away, or whether it went into one of the other rooms. The process of investigation was rather an embarrassing one. The door of the next room was so situated that a view of the interior could not be got without going inside, and the snake might have hidden behind the door. After making loud demonstrations in the doorway with the bamboo, I ventured in cautiously, and by the light of a lantern which the master held, we saw at the further end of the room under a cot a large cobra, with its head raised and slowly waving about, according to its uncanny custom. As it was probable that it would make for the door if attacked, because there was no other exit, I at once pinned it against the wall with the long bamboo. A fierce contest raged for a few moments. The cobra flung itself hither and thither, and getting free, endeavoured to come down the room towards the door. Some sage advisers say, "Hit a snake on the tail and he will die." But when it is twisting about with marvellous rapidity and tying itself into fantastic knots, there is no time to consider where to hit it. No time is to be lost, and you must hit it wherever you can. I did so with the cobra, who presently began to show signs of collapse, and I was able to batter its head and the danger was over. We were grateful that the adventure ended so favourably. We hung up the corpse on a thorn hedge near by, as a warning to his tribe. But a snake is a dainty morsel to many creatures, and by the morning it was gone.
Indians walking noiselessly with bare feet run a special risk, especially at night when snakes are on the move. But in spite of the number in the Yerandawana neighbourhood, I have never known a case of snake-bite. They invariably try to get out of the way when they hear anybody coming. The night-watchmen, who form part of the complicated establishment of most bungalows in India as a supposed safeguard against thieves, often have bits of jingling iron fastened on to the end of the stick which they always carry. The typical night-watchman at any rate once in the course of the night makes his noisy round of the compound, striking his stick on the ground, partly in order to frighten away snakes by the rattling of the iron, and partly to assure his employer of his alertness. It takes a little time before you learn to accept this as only one amongst the many other noises of the Indian night, and not to be taken any notice of. If you feel any compunction at resting comfortably in bed while the watchman is abroad, you will be relieved if you chance to come out at any other hour except that at which he is accustomed to take his little round. You are almost sure to find him sleeping peacefully and soundly in the verandah. Possibly in former days, when night alarms were more frequent and thieves more aggressive than they are now, the watchman was more on the alert.
One night some of the villagers came to ask me to come down into the village and help them in a difficulty. It appeared that for the last three or four nights they had been alarmed by stones being slung into the place from a distance. They fell with considerable force, and if they had struck anyone he would have been seriously injured. As I drew near one or two stones fell on the roofs of some of the houses, making a great clatter. Some people said that four men had been seen hanging about, wearing trousers and boots and big turbans; but many tales were afloat, and none of them very authentic. The theory was that these men were dacoits attempting to terrorise the place, preparatory to attack and plunder. Though this kind of brigandage still survives, it is no longer common, especially in the neighbourhood of Poona, with its large police force. My own impression was that some larky young fellows from the next village, which was noted for its rowdiness, were trying to create a scare for the sake of a joke.
We paraded the outskirts of the place, accompanied by some of the more valiant spirits, who were armed with long bamboos. They loudly challenged everybody that they met, and were relieved when the answer was equivalent to "a friend." Finally we all assembled in the centre of the village in what, in an English town, would have been the market-place, opposite to the town-hall. In our case the square was very small, hemmed in by houses, according to the crowded arrangement peculiar to most Indian villages. The town-hall was a low shed, in which, in spite of its homely appearance, all the public ceremonies, great or small, take place. It is also the custom in villages, amongst the Hindu population, for the young unmarried men and boys to sleep in this central chowdi, as it is called, which is often fairly spacious. The dwelling-houses are thus left free for their parents and sisters. General morality is enforced by the village elders, except as regards conversation, and concerning that there is unbridled license. The little market-place was crowded with those brave ones who had perambulated with us, and the timid ones who had remained inside. In fact, all the men and big boys of the village were there. Everyone had a weapon of some sort. A council of war was held. I suggested that such an assembly of stalwart fellows was a match for any number of thieves. But they said that men of the dacoit class were armed with long knives, with which they would slash your legs as soon as look at you. I replied that with their long bamboos, rightly used, they need not fear knives. Someone said that a gun was what was wanted, and asked if I had not got one. I answered that a priest was a man of peace, and had no need of guns. Another said, would I write and ask for police protection? I reminded them of the resentment they had shown on a previous occasion when they thought I had been responsible for bringing police into the place.
At this juncture the clattering of more stones upon some of the adjoining roofs sent the few women, who had crept out to listen to our talk, shrieking into their houses, while I and a rather increased band of braves again explored in the direction from which the stones had come. We met two or three young fellows belonging to the large colony of medicine-men who live in Yerandawana, but who do not mix much with the other villagers. They are a roving, easygoing race, fond of hunting and drinking, and with a largely developed element of mischief and fun. I felt a strong suspicion that these young men, who I thought seemed a little embarrassed at meeting me, could throw light on the mystery. Anyhow the stir of that night had the effect of frightening whoever were the authors of the scare, and there was no repetition of the annoyance.
The Patel, who as head man of the village ought to have been to the front in a time of difficulty, was so alarmed at the situation that he made tracks for Poona, and did not return until he was assured that peace had been restored.
THE INDIAN WASHERMAN
The dhobi, or washerman. The Christian dhobi. Laundry-work for mission boys; failure of the enterprise. How the dhobi does his work; beating the clothes on a stone. Relaxations of the dhobi; his difficulties in the rains; his standard of honesty; he learns his trade in childhood; his bullock. Bells on cattle, useful at night; melody of the bells. An obstinate bullock a perplexity. Motor-cars and bullocks.
India is a country in which the washing of clothes is carried out to perfection, so far as the cleansing and bleaching of the garments is concerned. But it must be confessed that this desirable result is attained at much cost to the garments themselves. The profession of washerman, or dhobi as he is called, like most other occupations in India, is chiefly an hereditary one. It is very difficult for anyone outside the dhobi caste to get a footing in the profession. Washing is done in the open air in a stream or river, or on the edge of a tank, or howd. These washing-places are so jealously guarded by the dhobis that an intruder on their sacred preserves has no chance. At one time it was hoped that dhobi work might prove a useful occupation for those boys of the Mission who do not shape into carpenters. All the Mission washing would provide a good means of livelihood for several lads. And in India it is men who run the laundry. Their womenkind help, but in almost every case it is the man who is the responsible person.
There was at one time a Christian dhobi in the Mission. He was a convert from Hinduism, and some people were uncharitable enough to suggest that the secret of his conversion was to be found in his hope that it would secure to him the Mission washing in perpetuity. But, however this may have been, he managed to retain his rights as a dhobi after his baptism, and took his station at the usual washing-place without difficulty. Increasing age and his need of assistance first suggested the idea that he might teach his craft to some of the Mission boys. The attempt was beset with many difficulties. The members of the dhobi caste had tolerated the old convert, but when they found that he was taking Christian boys as his pupils they were up in arms, and put every possible difficulty in their way. A Hindu dhobi, who was already doing some of the Mission washing, professed to be independent of the prejudices of his fellows, and volunteered to protect the boys, and to instruct them in the mysteries of his trade. He persevered gallantly for a while, but the resentment of his fellows was eventually too much for him. They even put him out of caste, and that is a punishment which no Hindu can endure.
So, rather apologetically, because he had been bold in his protestations of his disregard of public opinion, he told us that he would not be able to continue to instruct our boys. They tried to carry on the work on their own account, and though exposed to a good deal of petty persecution from the Hindu dhobis, they managed to assert their right to wash clothes in the stream. But they had not been under instruction long enough to really learn the art, and without any competent person to take the lead, their efforts soon became so unsatisfactory that the industry had to be unwillingly abandoned.
The Indian dhobi always, by preference, washes clothes in a stream of running water where such is to be had. Some municipalities, where there is an adequate water-supply at their disposal, have made artificial arrangements of this nature, with water running from taps into small tanks where the dhobis stand and wash. But they much prefer the river. Many of the Indian rivers for a large part of the year provide just the conditions which the dhobi loves. The water is generally reduced to a modest stream, running amongst rocks and stones, with deep pools here and there, and long stretches of dry sand or gravel, or even green grass, on which the clothes can be spread to bleach. The dhobi stands in the stream and rinses the linen in the running water, sometimes using a little soap. But his real agent for cleansing consists of large smooth stones belonging to the river-bed, which lie handy or which he has fished out, and on these he dashes the wet garments.
As I write [at Khandala] I hear the dhobi in the stream just below, busy with repeated flagellations which resound loudly. As I saw him take up a pair of pyjamas I watched the whole process carefully. He rinsed them for a short time in the stream. He then kneaded them slightly on the stone and rinsed them again. Then doubling the garments into a long roll which he held by one end, he raised it high above his head and dashed it with all his strength on the stone about eighteen times. When the water had been beaten out he again dipped the roll into the stream and resumed his flagellations. He repeated this process six times, so that by the time he had finished and the pyjamas were added to the pile of washed clothes, they had been beaten on the stone more than a hundred times. The process effectually expels all the dirt, but the amount of literal wear and tear to which the garment is exposed can easily be imagined. Mother-of-pearl shirt-buttons fare badly under this treatment, and for this reason are not much used in India.
The scorching sun is another purifying element. Under its bleaching influence the well-washed garments become white as snow, and have that refreshing fragrance of complete cleanliness which an Indian resident misses when at home and he has to receive his washing from an English laundry.
The ordinary Indian dhobis only iron the clothes by smoothing them over with their hands, but the more accomplished artists use large and heavy box-irons, which are heated by filling the box with hot ashes. The dhobis who are experienced in getting up linen for English residents do so with great skill, and accomplish successfully the most elaborate tasks. Washing is very cheap, like most things in India which depend on labour. The usual custom is to pay so much a month, for which sum you may send to the wash as many articles as you like. In Poona City Rs. 2 is the usual monthly payment—that is to say, 2s. 8d. in English money,—but Indians who employ a dhobi pay much less.
It will be seen that laundry work done in Indian fashion is very laborious; but the dhobis are a cheerful race, and many of them make a good deal of money. Their chief relaxation seems to be an occasional social evening, which extends till the next morning. Liquor flows freely on these occasions, and as the evening progresses the uproar increases, and before the party finally breaks up a war of many words generally ends in some, or all of the guests, having a free fight, which, however, is generally without bloodshed and does not apparently hinder the resumption of friendly relationships the next day.
The dhobi's time of trial is the rainy season, when he pursues his trade under great difficulties. The modest stream of clear water, so well suited to his purpose, has developed into a rolling river of muddy water. His smooth stones, his gravelly shoals, the banks of green grass, are now buried deep in a foaming torrent. The air is laden with moisture, and violent rain falls repeatedly. He lives in a miserable hut, with none of the appliances which we are accustomed to see in laundries. His artificial means for drying clothes are of the most primitive character, and his customers are clamouring for their garments, and abusing him because he is behindhand.
In a country where integrity in matters of trade is rare, it is not to be expected that the dhobi's standard of honesty will be higher than that of other people, and the nature of his employment gives facilities for petty dishonesty: such as exchanging old handkerchiefs for new, or not bringing back the same number of garments as he took away. But even when his intentions are good, it makes it the more difficult to return the washing correctly that the English markings on the clothes are to him only so many cabalistic signs, merely to be recognised by their general appearance. And as the dhobi often finds himself misled in his attempt to follow this uncertain guide, he adopts signs of his own for his regular customers, and with coloured thread, or even ink, makes marks on the clothes intelligible to himself, and not always conducive to the appearance of the garment.
From a merely utilitarian point of view there are some advantages in the fact that certain trades are practically confined to the members of certain castes. A dhobi, for instance, does not expect or aspire to be anything different. Hence he begins to learn his craft almost from infancy. Again, as I write, I can see in the stream below a busy family of three generations of dhobis. The grandfather is grey-haired, and though taking a good share of the work is obviously getting into old age, although probably not much over fifty. But for most Indians that means old age. His son is a hale man in the prime of life. Two or three women, the wives of one or other, or of each, are assisting. But there is a little grandson about three or four years old. He still walks rather unsteadily on bowed legs. He is already absorbed in learning the mysteries of his ancestral trade. He is given a pair of stockings to wash, and, small as he is, he copies exactly the actions of his parents. He rinses the stocking in the water, beats it on the stone so far as his limited supply of strength will allow, rinses it again, beats it again, and finally casts it on one side when the process is complete, as he sees his father do. He is almost a full-fledged dhobi as soon as he has learned to talk and walk. Not being very great at the latter accomplishment, he rides home on the bullock, which is a necessary part of the stock and trade of every prosperous dhobi. The bullock carries the clothes, which are formed into a sort of huge bolster, which, when put on the back of the bullock, nearly touches the ground on either side.
Bullocks almost invariably have a bell hung round their necks. When cattle are out grazing the bell is useful, because it serves to indicate their whereabouts when they have strayed. They also follow more or less the sound of one anothers' bells, so that they tend to keep a flock or herd together. The bells on the bullocks which are employed in road traffic have a practical use, because, when travelling by night, the proximity of a bullock-cart is often first indicated in the dark by the tinkling of the bells. These are often two or three inches in diameter, and in the comparative stillness of night can be heard at some distance. When a string of a dozen or more bullock-carts follow each other in close succession the jingling of the bells rings out cheerfully. In fact, an additional reason why people like to have bells on their bullocks is that the Hindu is mostly timid at night, and the sound of the bells is a kind of companionship, and may do something towards warning off evil spirits.
When a number of bells are tinkling at the same time they are naturally not always in tune with one another, and discordant combinations may result, especially when the bells of two bullocks yoked together are much out of tune. But if you listen critically to each bell, when a row of carts is passing, you will every now and then hear one of a peculiarly rich and mellow sound. I once tried to persuade a man to sell a melodious bell which I heard by chance as he drove by, but he would not entertain the idea for a moment. Perhaps he thought that it would be unlucky to part with it.
That the bullocks themselves get to look upon the bell as a necessary accompaniment to work, has been often noticed. An Englishman travelling by night in a bullock-cart found that the ceaseless jingling of the bells kept him awake, and he ordered them to be removed. But when the sound ceased the beasts took it as an indication that work was over, and promptly lay down, and no further progress was made till the bells had been restored. An Indian bullock is for the most part a docile and long-suffering creature. But he makes up for his usual good behaviour when he happens to get annoyed. He is not unlike his Indian master in this respect. If a bullock lies down and refuses to do his work, no amount of persuasion will induce him to change his mind. Natives even go so far as to light straw under him when all other efforts to make him budge fail. More often, when blows and energetic tail-twistings have no effect on him, the beast has to be humoured in some way. His mind is often restored to its normal equilibrium by inducing him to change places with his yoke-fellow, or with a bullock in another cart.
The eventualities of road traffic do not usually disturb the placidity of the bullock, but if he once gets frightened and loses his head, he gives way to unmitigated panic. The first appearance of the motor-car, which is now almost as common in parts of India as it is in England, reduced many bullocks to a state of abject terror. Fortunately most mishaps with bullock-carts are not very serious in their results. The cart is not easily broken, and is quickly righted. But having occasion to travel in a public motor-car through a country district where the car was then a novelty, it was alarming to see the state of chaos which we were constantly leaving in our rear. The theory of the driver of the car was that, if bullocks are frightened, the best course is to dash past quickly and get it over. The result was not altogether a success. The fact that a horrible monster had sped by was sufficient to produce panic, and the first impulse of the bullock was to rush off the road to some place of safety. In India it is easy to go off the track at any point, because there is often neither wall nor hedge, and the surrounding country may be uneven and intersected with beds of streams and deep hollows.
In the course of our journey I saw a bullock-cart swerve off the road and fall bottom upwards into a field on a much lower level. Anyone unfamiliar with bullock-cart accidents would expect much more disastrous results from such a mishap than was probably actually the case; but I saw the tragedy when we were already far ahead, and our driver of course never saw it at all. Consternation was excited in the traffic ahead of us by the hoot of the car. Drivers, who had already experienced the effect of a motor-car on their beasts, leapt from their cart, and hastily urging the bullocks to the side of the road, stood in front of them and blind-folded their eyes with their garments so that they might not see the apparition tearing by. After a little familiarity with motors, the philosophic Indian bullock soon gets to regard them with supreme indifference.
AGRICULTURE IN INDIA
Agricultural colleges. Indian soil exhausted; need of chemical manures. Signs of progress among farmers. The city sweepings. Sugar cane; hospitalities connected with it; we are invited; our reception; the juice from the cane; its produce in other forms. Potatoes. The Indian evening; its rapid approach. Return of the cattle.
The Government of India are spending large sums on agricultural research. They have a College of Agriculture on an extensive scale at Pusa, in Bengal, and another big college near Poona has just been completed. These handsome buildings, with their chemical laboratories, lecture rooms, and English professors, seem at the first glance strangely remote from the homely farmer in his native village, and the first inclination is to suggest that these colleges will only produce a crop of ornamental figure-heads, who will graduate in agriculture, but who will make no practical use of the knowledge which they have acquired.
But the aim of these colleges is not quite so visionary as one might think. The Government realises that it will be long before the influence of the college reaches the small farmer in his village. The real point is that the soil of India is worn out through continued cropping without manuring, and it now only yields a small percentage of what it might produce, if properly treated. Farmyard manure, such as the English farmer so largely depends upon for the enrichment of his land, does not exist in India. This is partly because the cattle are roaming about all day, and as a rule are only gathered into sheds at night; partly because the coarse stalks of the native kinds of grain are not suitable for stable litter like English straw; but chiefly because the droppings from the cattle are made up into flat cakes and dried in the sun, which are then used as fuel in conjunction with a certain amount of wood. This custom is so rooted that it would be hopeless to try and modify it. Nor indeed is there any other fuel available. It is long before coal will find its way into common use for cooking purposes.
The moral of this is, that the only solution of the problem is to be found in the introduction of chemical manure. But this can only be done effectually after prolonged experiments. In a country so vast and so varied as India the varieties of soil are great, and the climatic conditions manifold. All sorts of different crops are grown. Hence the experiments necessary to find out how this variety is to be successfully treated must be spread over a long period of time, and results can only be arrived at gradually. Even in the process of irrigation, which at one time appeared to be such a simple matter, because where an ample supply of water could be secured the genial sun seemed to do all the rest, the lapse of years is revealing the fact that repeated irrigation produces certain deleterious chemical changes in the soil, which might ultimately become disastrous to the production of the crop. Hence experiments have to be made to determine to what extent irrigation must be restricted, and how the adverse chemical conditions can be counteracted.
When facts have been ascertained, their dissemination and acceptance is another problem. To accomplish this a good deal of the pioneer work, as with most progressive steps in India, must be done by Englishmen. Indians, however well instructed, would not be listened to in the first instance with confidence by their fellow-countrymen. They would suspect that self-interest was at the back of their advice, and the chemical manure which they recommended would, on that account, be distrusted. Hence, at present, a good many of the lecturers, and even some of the inspectors who are to travel in the districts to advise and assist the farmers in agricultural matters, have to be Englishmen. But it is hoped that their places will gradually be taken by those Indians whom they are now instructing.
Although farmers all the world over are conservative and opposed to novelties, they generally end by adopting improvements when they have realised that they are remunerative. Yerandawana village being close to Poona City, the farmers can procure for their land the street sweepings, which are sold by the municipality at so much a load. The farmers see the difference between land which has been manured and that which has not. They spend, what is to them, large sums of money on this litter, and they do so readily because they find that they are abundantly repaid by the increase in their crops. Street sweepings and city litter can, of course, only be procured in the immediate vicinity of large towns, and it is limited in quantity, so that this kind of manure does not go far in enriching the impoverished Indian soil. If farmers are able to see that chemical manure produces the same result as the litter, it is reasonable to suppose that in process of time they would be equally ready to buy the new agent.
Sugar cane is undoubtedly the most beautiful in appearance of all Indian crops; and when the cane is being converted into raw sugar, this is one of the most animated rural sights. The process takes place in the open air in a corner of the field itself, or else close by. Although it involves plenty of work and all is stir and bustle, it is a time which the workers enjoy. They encamp on the spot, and it is a sort of prolonged picnic.
[Footnote 3: The process has been fully described in Indian Jottings, p. 253.]
It is a pleasant custom amongst the sugar-cane growers to invite little parties of friends to come to the plantation to drink the fresh juice, and other uninvited guests are apt to stroll round in the hope of getting something. The code of hospitality amongst Indians being such a liberal one, even the palpable cadgers are not sent away empty. Apparently every visitor to any garden must be made to take away some tangible memento of his visit, if it be only a single flower.
One of the leading farmers in Yerandawana was, from the first, very adverse to the intrusion of the Mission into the village. He did not openly oppose, but when at intervals the villagers got suspicious and cooled off in their friendly advances, it was known that it was largely due to the influence of this Hindu. But time gradually does its beneficent work of pacification, and there came indications of friendly advances on the part of Bulwantrao himself. Finally his eldest son called one afternoon and asked two of us to go that evening to his sugar-cane plantation, so that he might entertain us, and he said that eight of the Mission boys might come with us.
We gladly accepted the invitation, and went to the appointed place at sunset. The pleasant scent as we drew near was reminiscent of jam-making in old days at home, and the process was somewhat similar. Bulwantrao's son, Rama, a coarse-featured lad with a raucous voice, welcomed us heartily. The Indian father usually drops into the background if his all-important eldest son is present, and lets him do the honours even when he is quite a boy. This is a pleasing feature of Indian family life, and the father evidently feels great pleasure in seeing his son and heir exercising the privileges of his position.
A brown country blanket was spread for us to sit upon, and Rama gave orders concerning us. One of his men brought some of the raw sugar in a brass bowl, just after it had cooled and consolidated. Presumably this bowl was dedicated to the use of unclean persons like ourselves, otherwise our touching it would have made it useless for their own purposes; except that there are now so many exceptions to the old rules of greater strictness, that perhaps the usual polish with earth might be considered a sufficient purification. It was a pleasure to eat sugar which one knew for certain was free from all taint of adulteration. Meanwhile several lads and boys had harnessed themselves to the mill which presses out the juice of the sugar cane, in place of the bullocks who had gone off duty, and with great energy and much fun and laughter, made it revolve until enough juice had been pressed out for our refreshment. The sugar cane, looking and feeling like a thick bamboo walking-stick, does not suggest itself as an object from which juice could be extracted, but it pours out in streams as soon as the stalk comes between the rollers of the mill.
A lemon was squeezed into the bowl of juice, which we were told greatly improves its flavour, and then we had a most refreshing drink. It was sweet and cool, but not sickly. There are places in Poona City where this drink can be obtained in its season for a farthing a glass, special crushing-mills being erected for the purpose. It is essential that the juice should be freshly procured, because if left to stand it quickly ferments, and it is then very intoxicating. We were next given some of the syrup out of the big pan which had just been taken off the fire. When poured into the moulds prepared for the purpose it consolidates as it cools. But it was rather like toffee at the stage when they put a lump of it into the palms of our hands, and as it was extremely sticky, it was a difficult matter getting rid of the after-effects; those who habitually use their fingers for all purposes appear to acquire the knack of doing so without getting their fingers into a mess.
Finally we were all provided with long sticks of the cane to take home with us, and this was the part of the entertainment which the boys valued most. But as teeth have to do the work of the crushing-mill, it was only the younger members of the party who were able to make personal use of the parting gift. We were also invited to look at Bulwantrao's gardens, and though the tidiness which distinguishes a cared-for English garden was missing, they were highly cultivated and contained a varied assortment. People of one country do not take readily to the natural productions of another country, especially their vegetables, but potatoes have become popular in India, in spite of their being small and tasteless. They are sold in all the native bazaars, and the poorer people buy them largely. Bulwantrao's garden was an illustration of what may be accomplished by intelligent cultivation under the influence of the heat of the tropics, combined with irrigation and manure. We were of course given specimens of such fruit and vegetables as were in season.
Darkness was rapidly taking the place of sunshine as we returned from this pleasant visit. There is a special charm about evening-tide in all parts of the world, and India is no exception; although evening in that country is peculiar and distinctive, and has the drawback that the twilight of the tropics is so brief. You are reading a book with ease, and ten minutes afterwards you can scarcely distinguish a letter. The sudden fall of night resembles the gloom produced by the rapid gathering of clouds before a thunderstorm in England, and gives for the moment a certain sense of sadness. In the last half-hour before sunset you see people hurrying along the roads and the many footpaths which intersect each other all over India, in order to get home before dark. The cattle which have been feeding all day on the hills and jungle lands come straggling home, and they respond slowly to the call for hurry, urged upon them forcibly by their young attendants. If you happen to be in one of the narrow gullies of a village just at the time when the cattle are coming home, the position is an embarrassing one. There is scarcely room for them to pass, and they eye a stranger with suspicion. They turn in at their respective doorways as if they were the owners, and there is not much distinction between the quarters allotted to them and the dwelling-place of the family.
EAST AND WEST ON BOARD SHIP
Christians and Hindu customs. The carpentry instructor; A taint of Hinduism; he retains his pigtail. Indians on their way to Europe; perplexities about bath and food. The Jain sect; their views. The Sikhs. Going to Germany for Sanskrit. Conversation of English-speaking Hindus. Indians on deck. East and West pull together. No room for the theosophist.
Some missionaries advocate the retention by Christian converts of such Hindu customs as are not directly connected with idolatry, especially in connection with marriage ceremonies. Others maintain that it is impossible really to distinguish between what is innocent and what is not, and that the only safe course is to come out altogether and be separate. The elaborate restrictions concerning food, given to the children of Israel, were apparently chiefly designed to prevent them from mixing socially with the idolatrous people with whom they were surrounded, lest they should drop back into any of the old evil ways. For the same reason it would seem necessary in India for the Christian convert to separate himself from everything which is in any way distinctive of Hinduism, quite apart from whether the thing itself is harmful or not. It is certain that lapses back to Hinduism have been most frequent amongst Christians of those Missions where the laxer view has prevailed.
An illustration somewhat to the point may be found in the case of the carpentry instructor in the Poona City Mission, who was a convert from Hinduism. He received the name of Bhumya at his baptism—his full name being Bhumya Virappa Chondikar. The second name was that of his father, which, according to Hindu custom, is always borne by the son, and the last was his family or surname. He did not improve his financial status by becoming a Christian. He was carpenter-master before, and continued to be so for many years afterwards. But his change of religion cut him off from any possibility of inheritance from Hindu relations, of whom he had several in rather prosperous circumstances. It also made such a ferment in his own household, where he had a wife and mother-in-law and little son, that he had to leave his home and lodge elsewhere so that he might not "pollute" them, as they would express it, by eating with them. Two years after his own baptism, however, he had the joy of seeing his wife and now two little children, baptized, and the home life was happily resumed. Eventually even his mother-in-law became a Christian.
But in spite of his own undoubted earnestness, his devout use of the sacraments, his constant attendance at all the services of the church, a sort of taint of Hinduism clung to him all through life and to some extent dimmed his Christian joy, and prevented his example, in many ways so edifying, from bearing the fruit that might otherwise have been the case. None of his numerous Hindu friends were led to Christianity through his influence, and none of his own relations followed his example, nor was it possible to use him much in evangelistic work, in spite of his readiness to help. He had a theory that Christianity had somehow been evolved out of Hinduism, and though even his intimate friends could never get to the bottom of his strange ideas, his preaching was sufficiently unorthodox to make it necessary that he should be a silent member of the preaching party in the streets of the city.
The retention of Hindu ideas which thus warped his Christian life, and prevented it from influencing his fellow-countrymen as it otherwise might have done, may partly be accounted for by the fact that he not only retained in every particular after his baptism the outward garb of a Hindu and wore no Christian symbol, but his partially shaved head, and rather long pigtail which he continued to wear, were so definitely the outward tokens of Hinduism that he was often taken for a Hindu, and several people at various times were startled to see a heathen man, as they thought, collecting the alms in church.
The chief moral value of Bhumya's life is to be found in the fact that, in spite of Hindu memories continuing to have some mysterious attraction for him, he was both in life and death unswerving and unshaken in his allegiance to Christianity.
Certainly a P. & O. steamer can no longer be described as a "white man's ship," as the young officer expressed it when he complained of the presence of Indians on board. The number of Easterns who go to Europe for educational and other purposes increases so rapidly that they now form a distinct element on many steamers. One autumn when coming to England, half the passengers in the second saloon were Easterns on their way westwards, chiefly for educational purposes, and travelling at that season in order to be in time for the classes and colleges, which begin their new course or term in October. We calculated that there were nearly twenty different languages being talked amongst us, and there were few phases of religion unrepresented.
In the first saloon were a few wealthy Indian lads on their way to English public schools, clad in the most approved English boys' dress, and nearly all these travellers were in full European costume, though a few retained the turban. Some of the combinations of colour in the shape of socks and ties were rather startling. But Indians quickly correct any mistakes of this kind after they have reached England, and have had time to observe what well-dressed people usually wear. Many of them were at first in great perplexity how to perform their ablutions in English baths, and the first morning or two they might be seen wandering about in the region of the baths with anxious faces. But they somehow found some solution to their difficulties, and ultimately distracted the man in charge of the baths by staying in long beyond the regulation ten minutes. "Too long," I heard the bathman say to one of these Indian gentlemen, who had been taking his bath in the leisurely fashion to which he had been accustomed in his own home. "Not too long," was the laconic reply.
The question of food is also a cause of great anxiety to some. "We are vegetarians," I heard one of them say to a ship's steward as he entered the saloon for his first meal, and the puzzled steward went off to consult his superiors as to what was to be done. But as the mere fact of crossing the seas to a foreign country constitutes a breach of caste, according to strict Hindu law, which will have to be atoned for on return, further breaches do not make much difference, and many of these travellers appear to enjoy their newly found liberty and eat freely all that is set before them, except that beef and pork are respectively avoided by Hindus and Mohammedans. Modern-minded Hindus even contend that to cross the seas does not break caste, and that their sacred writings support this view, and the matter has become the subject of long-drawn-out litigation by aggrieved Hindus who have been out-casted on their return from foreign travel.
One of the voyagers belonged to the Jain sect amongst the Hindus, who take the most elaborate precautions to avoid even the accidental destruction of the smallest animal life. He had been prudent enough to bring a Jain with him to act as his cook; but this man becoming completely incapacitated by sea-sickness, his employer had to fall back upon such stores of dry food as he had with him, until the cook recovered. Indians are not good sailors, and a very moderate sea sent most of them to the seclusion of their cabins.
This Jain was going to London to become a barrister. He told me that his sect believes in the immortality of God, the soul, and matter. Hence the two last are as indestructible as the first. The world, therefore, will always exist, and each soul will continue to be transmigrated for any number of ages until it gets absorbed into God. Not to lead an exemplary life involves the unpleasant risk of reappearing in some debased form, and also delays the realisation of the final absorption. Their particularity about the taking of life presumably arises from the possibility that if you destroy even the humblest insect it may be a relation who has unfortunately had to assume this form, and causes even eggs to be classed amongst forbidden articles, because they contain the germ of life.
Three brothers, Sikhs, kept in their little inside cabin almost all the voyage, with the door and ventilators generally closed, and seemed perfectly content, except when prostrated by sea-sickness. They took all their meals there, and they were heard imploring their steward to be careful not to bring them any "beef." The smallness and stuffiness of their cabin perhaps recalled pleasantly their Indian home. They talked and laughed the whole day, and would have certainly done so half the night, except that the English occupant of the next cabin called upon them at bedtime and suggested that having talked all day it might be well for the sake of others to devote the night to sleep, and they cheerfully and courteously accepted the hint. Now and then, if it was very fine and smooth, they came on deck, but held no intercourse with the other Indian passengers, and played cards most of the time. They wore European coats and shirts, the tails of the latter being worn outside according to Indian custom. Their legs were cased in the white breeches peculiar to their race, very baggy in the upper part, but fitting so close below that the problem of how they get into them remains a mystery. On their heads were immense and picturesque white turbans. It was touching to see the extent to which the elder brother was looked up to, with that delightful combination of affection and respect characteristic of this particular relationship in India. They were gentle, courteous people, and everybody liked them.
An Indian, who called himself a Parsee, but there was reason to think that he was really a Bengali Hindu, was on his way to Germany to learn Sanskrit. As India is its home, although it is no longer a spoken language, except that Sanskrit words are found in many vernaculars, it appeared strange that an Indian should be travelling westwards in order to learn an Eastern language. But he explained that the Indian Pundits, or teachers, though they know Sanskrit, have no knowledge of how to teach it, and with characteristic disregard for the value of time, spend at least six years in teaching what, with more rational methods, might be learnt in two. In Germany this Indian hoped to see the most up-to-date way of teaching languages, and then he proposed to return to India and introduce the modern system in the college of which he said he was professor of Sanskrit.
Passing alongside the Italian coast, he said to me: "I hope very much to see Italy before I return to my own country. I understand that the Italian cathedrals are very beautiful, and a cathedral always appeals to me very strongly. I should also like to see Assisi. The character of S. Francis has great charms for me." I said that, with ideas such as these, he ought to be a Christian. "Possibly," he replied; "I have the greatest veneration for Christ as the greatest among prophets." English-speaking Hindus, however, have a remarkable power of adapting their sentiments to their society. I overheard the same man contrasting, for the benefit of a young Egyptian, the way in which famine is dealt with in a native state and by the Government of India, by which it would appear that whereas the former did everything, the latter did nothing.
In the saloon the Indians naturally gathered to their own tables, but in fine weather they entered into the usual deck life of a liner, sat about in deck-chairs, made some show of reading, chiefly English light literature, made an attempt at the stereotyped deck games, played cards largely, and discovered that lemon-squash was a cooling drink, and those who could afford it went in for it often. They nearly all of them knew exactly where they were going to in London, and expected to be met by friends or relations already there. There are also many agencies and individuals who are ready to interest themselves in these young students, and to help them with advice and sympathy when they are willing to accept it. There are now quite a number of Indian houses in London where students lodge, and where they can arrange to have their food served in orthodox fashion. A few of these houses have at times become centres of mischief, and have had to be kept under observation.