Concerning Animals and Other Matters
E.H. Aitken, (AKA Edward Hamilton)

Part 3 out of 3

to the Scottish coast, where it first took root and, quickly adapting
itself to a strange environment, developed into a new and vigorous
species, spread like the thistle and became a national institution. At
first it was only the Briton's way of mouthing a common native word,
"tadi" (pronounced ta-dee), which meant palm juice; but it became
current in its present shape as early as 1673, when the traveller Fryer
wrote of "the natives singing and roaring all night long, being drunk
with toddy, the wine of the cocoe." About a century later Burns sang,

The lads and lasses, blythely bent,
To mind baith saul and body,
Sit round the table, weel content,
And steer about the toddy.

Between these I can find no vestigia, but imagination easily fills the
gap. I see a company of jovial Scots, met in Calcutta, or Surat, on St.
Andrew's Day. European wines and beer are expensive, whisky not
obtainable at all; but the skilful khansamah makes up a punch with toddy
spirit, hot water, sugar and limes, and they are "well content." After
many years I see the few of them who still survive foregathered again in
the old country, and one proposes to have a good brew of toddy for auld
lang syne. If real toddy spirit cannot be had, what of that? Whisky is
found to take very kindly to hot water and sugar and limes, and the old
folks at home and the neighbours and the minister himself pronounce a
most favourable verdict on "toddy." In short, it has come to stay. But
we must return to the liquor in the Bhundaree's gourd. It is the rich
sap which should have gone to the forming of coconuts, which is
intercepted by cutting off the point of the fruit stalk and tying on an
earthen pot. If the pot is clean, the juice, when it is taken down in
the morning, not fermented yet but just beginning to sparkle with minute
bubbles, not too sweet and not so oily as the milk of the coconut, is
nectar to a hot and thirsty soul. No summer drink have I drunk so
innocently restorative after a hot and toilsome march on a broiling May
morning. But the Bhundaree will not squander it so: he takes care not to
clean his pots, and when he takes them down in the morning the liquor is
already foaming like London stout. Not that he means to drink it
himself, for you must know that, by the rules of his caste, he is a
total abstainer, being a Bhundaree, whose function is to draw toddy, not
to drink it. This is one of those profound institutes by which the
wisdom of the ancients fenced the whole social system of this strange

But, while the Bhundaree must refuse all intoxicating drinks himself, it
is his duty to exercise a large tolerance towards those who are not so
hindered. He is, in fact, a partner in the business of Babajee, Licensed
Vendor of Fresh Toddy, towards whose spacious, open-fronted shop,
thatched with "jaolees," he now carries his gourds. There the contents
will stand, in dirty vessels and a warm place, maturing their
exhilarating qualities until the evening, when the Tam o' Shanters and
Souter Johnnies of the village begin to assemble and squat in a ring in
the open space in front. They may be Kolees, or fishermen, and Agrees,
who make salt, and aboriginal Katkurrees from the jungle, with their
bows and arrows, most bibulous of all, but among them all there will be
no Bhundaree. Babajee sits apart, presiding and serving, beside a dirty
table, on which are many bottles and dirty tumblers of patterns which
were on our tables thirty years ago. The assembly begins solemnly,
discussing social problems and bartering village gossip, for the Hindu
is by nature staid. After a while, at the second bottle perhaps,
cheerfulness will supervene, then mirth and garrulity, ending, as the
night closes round, with wordy contention and a general brawl. But
nothing serious will happen, for toddy, though decidedly heady, is at
the worst a thin potation. A strong and very pure spirit is distilled
from it, which has its devotees, but the rustic, as a rule, prefers
quantity to quality. We are often told that the British Government
taught the people of India to drink, but the scene that I have tried to
describe is indigenous conviviality, much older than any European
connection with the country.

Is it any wonder that the coconut has become an emblem of fertility and
prosperity and all good luck? When a new house is building you will see
a high pole over the doorway, bearing coconuts at the top, with an
umbrella spread over them. Do not ask the owner the meaning of the sign,
for he does not know. He does not think about such matters, but he feels
about them and he knows that that is the right thing to do. Besides, he
might ask you why you nail a horseshoe over your door. The difference
between us and him is that we do such things in jest, no longer
believing in them. They are the husks of a dead faith with us. But the
Hindu's faith is very living still. So, when he breaks a coconut at the
launching of a pattimar, he is a gainer in hope, if nothing else; while
we squander our champagne and gain nothing. That nut follows him even to
the grave, or burning ground, with mystic significances which I cannot
explain. I have been told that, when a very holy man dies, who always
clothed himself in ashes and never profaned his hands with work, his
disciples sometimes break a coconut over his head. If the spirit can
escape from the body through the sutures of the skull instead of by any
of the other orifices, it is believed to find a more direct route to
heaven, so the purpose of this ceremony may be to facilitate its exit
that way. In that case the breaking of the nut is perhaps only an
accident, due to its not being so hard as the holy man's skull.



One half the world does not know how the other half lives. Noticing a
pot of areca nut toothpaste on a chemist's counter, I asked him what the
peculiar properties of the areca nut were--in short, what was it good
for. He replied that it was an astringent and acted beneficially on the
gums, but he had never heard that it was used for any other purpose than
the manufacture of an elegant dentifrice. I felt inclined to question
him about the camel in order to see whether he would tell me that it was
a tropical animal, chiefly noted for the fine quality of its hair, from
which artist's brushes were made. Here was a man whose special business
it is to know the properties and uses of all drugs and their action on
the human system, and he had not the faintest notion that there are
nearly 300 millions of His Majesty's subjects, and many millions more
beyond his empire, who could scarcely think of life as a thing to be
desired if they were obliged to go through it without the areca nut. For
the areca nut is the betel nut.

In the Canarese language and the kindred dialects of Malabar it is
called by a name which is rendered as _adike_, or _adika_, in scientific
books, but would stand more chance of being correctly pronounced by the
average Englishman if it were spelled _uddiky_. The coast districts of
Canara and Malabar being famed for their betel nuts, the trade name of
the article was taken from the languages current there, and was tortured
by the Portuguese into _areca_. Over the greater part of India the
natives use the Hindustanee name _supari_, but by Englishmen it is best
known as the betel nut, because it is always found in company with the
betel leaf, with which, however, it has no more connection than
strawberries have with cream. The one is the leaf of a kind of pepper
vine, and the other is the seed, or nut, of a palm. But nature and man
have combined to marry them to one another, and it is difficult to think
of them separately.

In life the betel vine climbs up the stem of the areca palm, and in
death the areca nut is rolled in a shroud of the betel leaf and the two
are munched together. Other things are often added to the morsel, such
as a clove, a cardamom, or a pinch of tobacco, and a small quantity of
fresh lime is indispensable.

What is the precise nature of the consolation derived from the chewing
of this mixture it is not easy to say. Outwardly it produces effects
which are visible enough, to wit, a most copious flow of saliva, which
is dyed deep red by the juice of the nut, so that a betel nut chewer
seems to go about spitting blood all the day. As every Hindu is a betel
nut chewer, those 943,903 superficial miles of country which make up our
Indian Empire must be bespattered to a degree which it dizzies the mind
to contemplate. This is one of the difficulties of Indian
administration. In large towns and centres of business it is found
necessary to fortify the public buildings in various ways. The Custom
House in Bombay has the wall painted with dark red ochre to a height of
three or four feet from the ground.

But these are the outward results. What is the inwardness of the thing?
In a word, why do the people chew betel nut? Surely not that they may
spit on our public buildings. That is a chance result, not sought for
and not shunned. There is, of course, some deeper reason. Early
travellers in India were much exercised about this and used to question
the people, from whom they got some curious explanations. One reports,
"They say they do it to comfort the heart, nor could live without it."
Another says, "It bites in the mouth, accords rheume, cooles the head,
strengthens the teeth and is all their phisicke." A Latin writer gets
quite eloquent. "_Ex ea mansione_"--by that chewing--he says, "mire
recreantur, et ad labores tolerandos et ad languores discutiendos."

But the remarkable thing is that the betel nut has these effects only on
the Hindu constitution. To a European the strong, astringent taste and
penetrating odour of the betel nut are alike insufferable, and there is
no instance on record, as far as I know, of an Englishman becoming a
betel nut chewer. But wherever Hindu blood circulates, not in India
only, but all through the islands of the Malay Archipelago, as far as
the Philippines, the betel nut is an indispensable ingredient of any
life that is worth living. Mohammedanism forbids spirits and Brahminism
condemns all things that intoxicate or stupefy, but the betel nut is
like the cup that cheers yet not inebriates. No religion speaks
disrespectfully of it. It flourishes, blessed by all, and takes its
place among the institutions of civilisation. Indeed it is the chief
cement of social intercourse in a country where all ordinary
conviviality between man and man is almost strangled by the quarantine
enforced against ceremonial defilement. Friend offers friend the betel
nut box just as Scotsmen offered the snuff-box in the hearty old days
that are passing away. And all visits of ceremony, durbars, receptions,
leave-takings, and public functions of the like kind are brought to an
august close by the distribution of _pan supari_. To go through this
rite without visible repugnance is part of the training of our young
Civil Servants. When the interview or ceremony has lasted as long as it
was intended to last, there enter, with due pomp, bearers of
heavy-scented garlands, woven of jasmine and marigold, and in form like
the muffs and boas that ladies wear in winter. These are put upon the
necks and wrists of the guests in order of rank. Silver vases and
sprinklers follow, containing rose-water and attar of roses. You may
ward off the former from your person by offering your handkerchief for
it, and you may present the back of your hand for the latter, of which
one drop will be applied to your skin with a tiny silver or golden

Finally, when everybody is reeking with incongruous odours and trying
not to be sick, a silver tray appears with the daintiest little packets
of _pan supari_, each pinned with a clove, and every guest is expected
to transfer one to his mouth, for they have been prepared by a Brahmin
and cannot hurt the most delicate caste. To an Englishman, however, it
is now generally conceded to compromise by keeping the morsel in his
hand, as if waiting an opportunity to enjoy it more at his leisure. When
you get home your servant craves it of you and contrasts real rajah's
_pan supari_ with the stuff which the poor man gets in the bazaar.

The chewing of betel nut requires more apparatus and makes greater
demands on a man's time and personal care than the smoking of tobacco or
any of the allied vices. To cut the nut neatly an instrument is used
like an enormous pair of nutcrackers with a sharp cutting edge. The lime
should be made from oyster shells and it must be freshly burned and
slaked. Exposure to the air soon spoils it, so a small, air-tight tin
box is required to keep it in. Lastly, the betel leaf must be fresh,
and in a hot climate green leaves do not keep their freshness without
special care.

But the necessity for attending to all these matters no doubt adds
greatly to the interest which a chewer of _pan supari_ is able to find
in life. Moreover, his taste and wealth have scope for expression in the
elegance of his appointments, and by these you may generally judge of a
man's rank and means. A well-to-do Mahratta cartman will carry in his
waistband a sort of bijou hold-all of coloured cloth, which, when
unrolled, displays neat pockets of different forms for the leaves,
broken nuts, lime box, spices, etc.; but a native magistrate, who goes
about attended by a peon and need not carry his own things, will have a
box of polished brass, or even silver, divided into compartments.

One may easily infer that to meet such a universal want there must be a
correspondingly great industry, and the cultivation of the betel nut is
indeed a great industry, and a most beautiful one. Surely since Adam
first began to till the ground in the sweat of his face, his children
have found no tillage so Eden-like as this. India has produced no Virgil
to take the common charms of a farmer's life and put them into immortal
song, so we search her literature in vain to learn how her simple,
rustic people feel about these things, and in what we see of their life
there is little sign that they feel about them at all; but when the
Englishman, wandering, gun in hand, up a steaming valley among
forest-clad hills, suddenly finds the path lead him into a betel nut
garden, with no wire fence, or locked gate, or inhospitable notice
threatening prosecution to trespassers, he feels as if he had entered
some region of bliss where the earthly senses are too narrow for the
delights that press for entrance to the soul.

In the first place, the areca nut palm is almost, if not altogether, the
most graceful of all its graceful tribe. Unlike the coconut, it grows as
erect as a flagstaff, and the effect of this is increased by its extreme
slenderness, for though it may attain a height of fifty feet, its
diameter scarcely exceeds six inches. At the top of the stem there is a
sheath of polished green, from the top of which again there issues a
tuft of the most ethereal, feathery fronds, diverging and drooping with
matchless grace. Under these hang the clusters of reddish-brown nuts.

As the areca nut will not grow except in places that are at once moist
and warm, the gardens are generally situated in narrow valleys and dells
among hills, with little streams of limpid water rippling past them or
through them. The steaming heat of such situations can only be realised
by one who has traversed them at noon in the month of May in pursuit of
sport or natural history. But the palms grow so close together that
their fronds mingle into an almost unbroken roof, through which the sun
can scarcely peep, and every air that enters there has the heat charmed
out of it, and as it wanders among the broad, aromatic leaves of the
betel vines which wreathe the pillars of that fairy hall, it is
softened with balmy moisture, and laden with fragrance and scent to woo
your senses in perfect tune with the tinkling music of the water and the
enchanting beauty of the whole scene.

In a large hut among these shades, with bananas waving their banner
leaves over the smooth and well-swept yard in front, where the children
play, lives the family that cultivates the garden. They are a sect of
Brahmins, but very unbrahminical, unsophisticated, industrious,
temperate, kind and hospitable. Other Brahmins despise them and wish to
deny them the name, because they have soiled their priestly hands with
agriculture. But they return the contempt, and walk in the way of their
fathers, a way which leads them among the purest pleasures that this
life affords and keeps them from many of its more sordid temptations.
Perhaps the picture has its darker shades too. I have not seen them, and
why should I look for them?

The betel nut harvest is something of the nature of an acrobatic
performance, for the crop is not on the ground, but on poles forty or
fifty feet high. This is the manner in which it is gathered. The farmer,
attended by his wife, goes out, and slipping a loose loop of rope over
his feet to keep them together, so that when he gets the trunk of a tree
between them it may fit like a wedge, he clasps one of the trees with
his hands and goes up at a surprising rate. He carries with him a long
rope, and when he reaches the top, he fastens one end of it to the
tree, and throws the other to his wife, who goes to a distance and draws
it tight. Then the man breaks off a heavy bunch of ripe nuts, and
hitching it on the rope lets it go. It shoots down with such velocity
that it would knock his wife down did she not know how to dodge it
skilfully and break its force in a bend of the rope.

When all the bunches are on the ground, the man begins to sway his body
violently till the tender and supple palm is swinging like a pendulum
and almost striking the trees on either side. Watching his opportunity,
the man grasps one of these and transfers himself to it with the
nimbleness of a monkey. In this way he makes an aerial journey round the
garden and avoids the fatigue of climbing up and down every separate

The gathered betel nuts soon find their way to the warehouses of fat
Bunias at the coast ports, where they are peeled and prepared and sorted
and piled in great heaps according to quality, and finally shipped in
_pattimars_ and _cotias_ and coasting steamers, and so disseminated over
the length and breadth of the land to be the comforters of poor and

It only remains to say that the betel nut is not used in the East for
tooth-powder, though the natives believe that the practice of chewing it
saves them from toothache. When they use any dentifrice it is generally
charcoal, and their toothbrush is either the forefinger or a fibrous
stick chewed at the end till it becomes like a stiff paintbrush. But
whatever he may use for the purpose, the Hindu cleans his teeth every
morning, and that most thoroughly, before he will allow food to pass his
lips, and the whiteness and soundness of his teeth are an object of envy
to Englishmen.



Poets may sing,

"Let the ape and tiger die,"

but they are not quite dead yet, only caged, and where is the man in
whose bosom there lurks no wish that he could open the door just once in
a way and let them have a frisk? In the East there is no hypocrisy about
the matter. The tiger's den is barred and locked, and the British
Government keeps the key, but the ape has an appointed day in the year
on which he shall have his outing. They call it the _Holi_, which is a
misnomer, for of all Hindu festivals this is the most unholy; but of
that anon.

I asked a Brahmin what this festival commemorated, and he said he did
not know. He knew how to observe it, which was the main thing. Of
course, there is an explanation of it in Hindu mythology, which the
Brahmin ought to have known, and very probably did know, but was ashamed
to tell. But it matters little, for we may be well assured that the
explanation was invented to sanctify the festival long after the
festival itself came into vogue, as has been the case with some of our
most Christian holidays.

The Holi comes round about the time of the vernal equinox, when victory
declares for day and warmth in its long struggle with night and cold.
Then Nature rises and shakes herself as Samson rose and shook himself
and snapped the seven new cords that bound him, as tow is snapped when
it smells the fire. Then "the wanton lapwing gets himself another
crest," and then also the young Hindu's fancy lightly turns to thoughts
of love; and so it came about quite naturally that, looking around,
among his plentiful gods, for a deity who might fitly be invited to
preside over his lusty rejoicings at this season, he pitched upon

For Krishna, when he was upon this earth, was an amorous youth, and his
goings on with certain milkmaids were such as would shock Mrs. Grundy at
the present day even in India, supposing he had been only a man. But he
was a god, therefore his doing a thing made it right, and, where he
presides, his worshippers may do as he did. Consequently, man, woman and
child of every caste and grade give themselves licence, during these
days of the Holi, to act and speak in a manner that would be scandalous
at any other time of the year.

Hindus of the better sort are beginning to be outwardly, and some of
them, I hope, inwardly, rather ashamed of this festival, and it is time
they were. Yet there is always something cheering in the sight of
untutored mirth and exuberant animal joy breaking out and triumphing
over the sadness of life and the monotony of lowly toil; and I confess
that I find a pleasing side to this festival of the Holi. I like it best
as I have seen it in a fishing village on the west coast of India.

At first sight you would not suspect the black and brawny Koli of much
gaiety, but there is deep down in him a spring of mirth and humour
which, "when wine and free companions kindle him," can break out into
the most boisterous hilarity and jocundity and even buffoonery, throwing
aside all trammels of convention and decorum. His women folk, too,
though they do not go out of their proper place in the social system,
assert themselves vigorously within it, and are gay and vivacious and
well aware of their personal attractions. So the Koli village looks
forward to the Holi and makes timely preparation for it.

The night before the _poornima_, or full moon, of the month Phalgoon
arrives, each trim fishing boat is stored with flowers and leafy
branches, all the flags that can be mustered and a drum; then the whole
village goes a-fishing. Next morning each housewife gets up early to
decorate her house and trick out herself and her children. For though
the Koli is the most naked of men, his whole workaday costume consisting
of one rag about equal in amplitude to half a good pocket-handkerchief,
his wife is the most dressy of women. She is always well-dressed even
on common days. The bareness of her limbs may perhaps shock our notions
of propriety at first, for, being a mud-wader of necessity, like the
stork and the heron, she girds her garments about her very tightly
indeed; but this only sets off her wonderfully erect and athletic
figure, while her well-set head looks all the nicer that it has no
covering except her own neatly-bound hair. She never draws her _saree_
coyly over her head, like other native women, when she meets a man. On
this day there is no change in the fashion of her costume (that never
changes), but she puts on her brightest dress, blue, or red, or lemon
yellow, with all her private jewellery, and decks her hair with a small
chaplet of bright flowers.

Her children are tricked out with more fancy. The little brown girl, who
yesterday had not one square inch of cloth on the whole of her tiny
person, comes out a _petite_ miss in a crimson bodice and a white skirt,
with her shining black hair oiled and combed and plaited and decked with
flowers, and her neck and arms and feet twinkling with ornaments. Her
brother of six or seven looks as if he were going to a fancy-dress ball
in the character of His Highness the Holkar. His small head is set in a
great three-cornered Maratha turban, and his body, a stranger to the
feel of clothes, is masked in a resplendent purple jacket. The young men
of the village, such of them as are not gone a-fishing, have donned
clean white jackets. Beyond that they will not go, contemning

About nine o'clock, when the sun is now well up, the distant sound of a
tom-tom is heard, and the first of the returning fleet of _muchwas_
appears at the mouth of the creek. A long line of red and white flags
extends from the top of the mainyard to the helm and streamers flutter
from the mastheads. A monster bouquet of marigolds is mounted on the
bowsprit, branches of trees are stuck about in all possible situations,
and three or four large fishes hang from the bow, trailing their tails
in the water. With the exception of the man at the helm, who sits
stolid, minding his business, and one youth who plays the tom-tom, the
crew are standing in a ring, gesticulating with their arms and legs, or
waving wands and branches of trees. Some have half of their faces
smeared with red paint. If a boat passes they greet it with a shout and
a sally of wit or ribaldry. The other _muchwas_ follow close behind,
with every inch of white sail spread and all a-flutter with flags and
streamers: it would be difficult to imagine a prettier spectacle, and
the tom-toming and the happiness beaming on the faces of the crews are
almost infectious. One feels almost compelled to wave one's hat and cry,
"Hip, hip, hooray!"

The boats come to shore, and then there ought to be a tumbling out of
the silvery harvest and a gathering of women and a strife indescribable
of shrill tongues, and then a long procession of wives and daughters
trotting to market, each balancing a great, dripping basket on her
comely head, while the husbands and fathers go home to eat and sleep.
But there is none of that to-day. The silvery harvest may go to
destruction and the husbands and fathers can do without sleep for once.
The children are taken on board in all their finery, and friends join
and musicians with their instruments. Then all sails are spread again
and the boats start for a circuit round the harbour. The wind blows
fiercely from the north, and each buoyant _muchwa_ scuds along at a
fearful pace, heeling over until the rippling water fingers the edge of
the gunwale as if it were just getting ready to leap over and take
possession. But the hilarious Koli balances himself on the sloping
thwarts and jumps and sings and claps his hands, while the pipes screech
and the drums rattle. Twice, or three times, does the whole fleet go out
over the bar and wheel and return, each boat racing to be first, with no
more sense of danger than a porpoise at play.

At last they have had enough. The sails are furled and the boats
beached, the big fishes are taken down from the bows, and the whole
crowd, with their trophies and garlands, dance their way to the village.
There it is better that we leave them. To-night great fires will be
lighted in the middle of the main road and capacious pots of toddy will
be at hand, and every merry Koli will get hilariously drunk and do and
say things which we had better not see and hear. And the children will
look on and try to imitate their elders. And women will find it best to
keep out of the way for the sake of their pretty dresses, if there were
no better reason. For pots of water dyed crimson with _goolal_ powder
are ready, and everybody has licence to splash everybody when he gets a
chance. Any time during the next two or three days you may find your own
servants coming home dappled with red.

So the ape has his fling. And the tiger is lurking not far behind. In
each of those fires it is the proper thing to roast a cock, throwing him
in alive. If the fire is a great one, a general village fire, then it is
still greater fun to throw in a live goat. But the worst of these
ceremonies are happily going out of fashion. For the English law is
stern, and the _sahibs_ have strange and quixotic notions about cruelty
to animals, and although they are far away on tour at this season and no
native officer would voluntarily interfere with an immemorial custom,
still the tiger walks in fear in these days and the Koli is often
content to roast a coconut as proxy for a cock or a goat.




When Mr. Keir Hardie was in India he satisfied himself that the standard
of living among the working classes in India has been deteriorating.
This is interesting psychologically, and one would like to know by what
means Mr. Keir Hardie attained to satisfaction on such a great and
important question. Doubtless he had the ungrudging assistance of Mr.

The poverty of India has for a good many years been a handy weapon, like
the sailor's belaying pin, for everyone who wanted to "have at" our
administration of that country; and if "a lie which is half a truth is
ever the blackest of lies," then this one must be as black as Tartarus,
for it is indubitably more than half a truth. The common field-labourer
in India is about as poor as man can be. He is very nearly as poor as a
sparrow. His hut, built by himself, is scarcely more substantial or
permanent than the sparrow's nest, and his clothing compares very
unfavourably with the sparrow's feathers. The residue of his worldly
goods consists of a few cooking pots and, it must be admitted, a few
ornaments on his wife.

But a sparrow is usually well fed and quite happy. It has no property
simply because it wants none. If it stored honey like the busy bee, or
nuts like the thrifty squirrel, it would be a prey to constant anxiety
and stand in hourly danger of being plundered of its possessions, and
perhaps killed for the sake of them. Therefore to speak of a Hindu's
poverty as if it certainly implied want and unhappiness is mere
misrepresentation born of ignorance. In all ages there have been men so
enamoured of the possessionless life that they have abandoned their
worldly goods and formed brotherhoods pledged to lifelong poverty. The
majority of religious beggars in India belong to brotherhoods of this
kind, and are the sturdiest and best-fed men to be seen in the country,
especially in time of famine.

But the Hindu peasant is not a begging friar, and may be supposed to
have some share of the love of money which is common to humanity; so it
is worth while to inquire why he is normally so very poor. There are two
reasons, both of which are so obvious and have so often been pointed out
by those who have known him best, that there is little excuse for
overlooking them. The first of them is thus stated in Tennant's _Indian
Recreations_, written in 1797, before British rule had affected the
people of India much in one direction or another. "Industry can hardly
be ranked among their virtues. Among all classes it is necessity of
subsistence and not choice that urges to labour; a native will not earn
six rupees a month by working a few hours more, if he can live upon
three; and if he has three he will not work at all," Such was the Hindu
a century ago in the eyes of an observant and judicious man, studying
him with all the sympathetic interest of novelty, and such he is now.

The other reason for the chronic poverty of the Indian peasant is that,
if he had money beyond his immediate necessity, he could not keep it. It
is the despair of the Government of India and of every English official
who endeavours to improve his condition that he cannot keep his land, or
his cattle, or anything else on which his permanent welfare depends. The
following extract from _The Reminiscences of an Indian Police Official_
gives a lively picture of the effect of unaccustomed wealth, not on
peasants, but on farmers owning land and cattle and used to something
like comfort.

"Yellapa, like all cotton growers in that part of the Western
Presidency, profited enormously by the high price of the staple during
the American war. Silver was poured into the country (literally) in
_crores_ (millions sterling), and cultivators who previously had as much
as they could do to live, suddenly found themselves possessed of sums
their imagination had never dreamt of. What to do with their wealth, how
to spend their cash was their problem. Having laden their women and
children with ornaments, and decked them out in expensive _sarees_, they
launched into the wildest extravagance in the matter of carts and
trotting bullocks, going even as far as silver-plated yokes and harness
studded with silver mountings. Even silver tyres to the wheels became
the fashion. Twelve and fifteen rupees were eagerly paid for a pair of
trotting bullocks. Trotting matches for large stakes were common; and
the whole rural population appeared with expensive red silk umbrellas,
which an enterprising English firm imported as likely to gratify the
general taste for display. Many took to drink, not country liquors such
as had satisfied them previously, but British brandy, rum, gin, and even

A few pages further on the author tells us of the ruin by debt and
drunkenness of the families which had indulged in these extravagances.
The fact is that to keep for to-morrow what is in the hand to-day
demands imagination, purpose and self-discipline, which the Hindu
working man has not. He is the product of centuries, during which his
rulers made the life of to-morrow too uncertain, while his climate made
the life of to-day too easy. No outward applications will alone cure his
poverty, because it is a symptom of an inward disease.

When a healthier state of mind shall awaken an appetite for comforts and
conveniences, and create necessities unknown to his fathers, then
degrading poverty will no longer be possible as the common lot. And it
was to be hoped that the British rule would in time have this happy
effect. Tennant evidently thought that it had begun to do so even in his
day. "The existence," he says, "of a regular British Government is but a
recent circumstance; yet in the course of a few years complete security
has been afforded to all of its dependants; many new manufactures have
been established, many more have been extended to answer the demands of
a larger exportation. We have therefore conferred upon our Asiatic
subjects an increase of security, of industry and of produce, and of
consequent greater means of enjoyment."

It is therefore a very grave charge that Mr. Keir Hardie brings against
the British Administration when he says, a century after these words
were written, that the standard of living among the Hindu peasantry has
deteriorated. Happily there does not appear to have been a close
relation between facts and Mr. Keir Hardie's conclusions during his
Indian tour, so we may continue to put our confidence in the many
hopeful indications that exist of a distinct improvement in the ideal of
life which has so long prevailed among our poor Indian fellow-subjects.
The rise in the wages of both skilled and unskilled labour during even
the last thirty years, especially in and near important towns, has been
most remarkable.

It is more to the point to know what the labourer is able to do and
actually does with his wages, and here the returns of trade and the
reports of the railway companies, post office and savings bank have
striking evidence to offer. They are published annually, and anyone,
even Mr. Keir Hardie, may consult them who likes his facts in
statistical form. For those who live in India there are abundant
evidences with more colour in them. Some thirty years ago, or more,
there was a steamship company in Bombay owning two small steamers which
carried passengers across the harbour. By degrees it extended its
operations and increased its fleet until it had a daily service of fast
steamers, with accommodation for nearly a thousand third-class
passengers, which went down the coast as far as Goa, calling at every
petty port on the way. The head of the firm retired some years ago,
having made his pile. Seldom has a more profitable enterprise been
started in Bombay. And whence did the profits come? From the pockets of
Hindu peasants. The Mahrattas of the Ratnagiri District supply most of
the "labour" required in Bombay, and for these the company spread its
nets. And by their incessant coming and going it amassed its wealth.

Heads of mercantile firms and Government offices, and all who have to
deal with the Mahratta "puttiwala," viewed its success without surprise.
Though always grumbling at his wages, he never appears to be without the
means and the will to travel. A marriage, a religious ceremony in his
family, or the death of some relative, requires his immediate presence
in his village, and he asks for leave. If he cannot get it otherwise, he
offers to forfeit his pay for the period. If it is still refused, he
resigns his situation and goes. This does not indicate pinching poverty;
there must be some margin between such men and starvation. And a saunter
through their villages will amply confirm such a surmise.

It is no uncommon thing in these coast villages to see that foreign
luxury, a chair, perhaps even an easy-chair, in the verandah of a common
Bhundaree (toddy-drawer). The rapidly growing use of chairs, glass
tumblers, enamelled ironware, soda-water and lemonade, patent medicines,
and even cheap watches, declares plainly that the young Hindu of the
present day does not live as his fathers did. Men go better dressed, and
their children are clothed at an earlier age. The advertisements in
vernacular languages that one meets with, circulated and posted up in
all sorts of places, tell the same tale convincingly; for the advertiser
knows his business, and will not angle where no fish rise.

Nor are large towns like Bombay the only places where the Hindu peasant
widens his horizon and acquires new tastes. In the Fiji Islands there
are about 22,000 natives of India who went out as indentured coolies
with the option of returning at the end of five years at their own
expense, or after ten years at that of Government. When these men come
home, they bring with them new tastes and new ideas, as well as the
habit of saving money and thousands of rupees saved during their short
exile. In Mauritius and South Africa the Hindu working man is learning
the same lessons. When he gets back to the sleepy life of his native
village, he is not likely to settle down contentedly at the level from
which he started.

On every hand, in short, forces are at work stirring discontent in the
breasts of the younger generation with the existence which was the
heritage of their fathers. These forces operate from the outside, and
the mass is large and very inert: it would be rash to say that in the
heart of it there are not still millions who regard a monotonous
struggle for a bare existence as their portion from Providence. But when
a man who has travelled in India for half a cold season tells us that
the standard of living in India has deteriorated, we are tempted to
quote from Sir Ali Baba: "What is it that these travelling people put on
paper? Let me put it in the form of a conundrum. Q. What is it that the
travelling M.P. treasures up and the Anglo-Indian hastens to throw away?
A. Erroneous hazy, distorted impressions." "One of the most serious
duties attending a residence in India is the correcting of those
misapprehensions which your travelling M.P. sacrifices his bath to
hustle upon paper."



Of the results of the Roman supremacy in Britain none have been so
permanent as their influence on our language. No doubt this was less due
to any direct effect that their residence among the Britons had at the
time on vernacular speech than to the fact that, for many centuries
after their departure, Latin was the language, throughout Europe, of
literature and scholarship. Our supremacy in India is acting on the
languages of that country in both ways, and though it has scarcely
lasted half as long yet as the Roman rule in Britain, English already
bids fair to become one day the common tongue of the Hindus. But there
is also a current flowing the other way, comparatively insignificant,
but curious and interesting.

Few persons in England are aware how often they use words of Indian
origin in common speech. In attempting to give a list of these I will
exclude the trade names of articles of Indian produce or manufacture,
which have no literary interest, and also words which indicate objects,
ideas or customs that are not English, and therefore have no English
equivalents, such as "tom-tom," "sepoy" and "suttee," I will also omit
Indian words, such as "bundobust," and "griffin," which are used by
writers like Thackeray in the same way in which French terms are
commonly introduced into English composition.

Of course, it is not always possible to draw a hard and fast line. There
are words which first came into England as the trade names of Indian
products, but have extended their significance, or entirely changed it,
and taken a permanent place in the English language. Pepper still means
what it originally meant, but it has also become a verb. Another example
is Shawl, a word which has lost all trace of its Oriental origin. It is
a pure Hindustani word, pronounced "Shal," and indicating an article
thus described in the seventeenth century by Thevenot, as quoted in
Hobson-Jobson:--"Une Chal, qui est une maniere de toilette d'une laine
tres fine qui se fait a Cachmir." With the article to England came the
name, but soon spread itself over all fabrics worn in the same fashion,
except the Scotch plaid, which held its own.

Somewhat similar is Calico, originally a fine cotton cloth imported from
Calicut. This place is called Calicot by the natives, and may have
dropped the final T through the influence of French dressmakers. Chintz
is another example, being the Hindustani word "cheent," which means a
spotted cotton cloth. In trade fabrics are always described in the
plural, and the Z in Chintz is no doubt a perversion, through
misunderstanding, of the terminal S. Lac is another Indian word which
has retained its own meaning, but it has gone beyond it and given rise
to a verb "to lacquer."

With these perhaps should be mentioned Pyjamas and Shampoo, both of
which have undergone strange perversions. Pyjama is an Indian name for
loose drawers or trousers tied with a cord round the waist, such as
Mussulmans of both sexes wear. In India the Pyjama was long ago adopted,
with a loose coat to match, as a more decent and comfortable costume
than the British nightshirt, and when Anglo-Indians retired they brought
the fashion home with them, English tailors called the whole costume a
"Pyjama suit," but the second word was soon dropped and the first
improved into the plural number.

"Shampoo" comes from a verb "champna," to press or squeeze, and the
imperative, "champo," as often happens, was the form in which it became
English. Forbes, in his _Oriental Memoirs_, writes of "the effects of
opium, champoing and other luxuries indulged in by Oriental
sensualists." When the medical profession in England began to patronise
the practice, it assumed a more dignified name, "massage," and the old
word was relegated to the hairdressers, who appropriated it to the
washing of the head, an operation with which the word has no proper
relation at all.

There are two words of doubtful derivation, which may be mentioned in
this connection. Cot, in the sense of a light bed, or cradle, is not
much used in England, but is given in Webster's and other dictionaries,
with the same Saxon derivation, as the "cot beside the hill" which the
poet Rogers sighed for. If this is correct, then it is at least curious
that the word should have almost gone out of use in England and revived
in India from a distinct root. There it is the term in every-day use for
any rough bedstead, such as the natives sleep on and call a khat. The
average Englishman cannot aspirate a K, and never pronounces the Indian
A aright unless it is followed by an R, so khat becomes "cot" by a
process of which there are many illustrations.

The other doubtful word mentioned above is Teapoy. It is defined in the
dictionaries as an ornamental table, with a folding top, containing
caddies for holding tea, but in India, where it is in much more general
use than it is in England, it signifies simply a light tripod table and
almost certainly comes from "teenpai" (three-foot), corresponding to
another common word, "charpai" (four-foot), which means a native
bedstead. The fact that it is sometimes spelled Tepoy confirms this, but
the other spelling is commoner, and appears to have led to its getting a
special meaning connected with tea among furniture sellers.

Cheroot, Bangle, Curry and Kidgeree are examples of words which have
come to us with the things which they signify, and retain their meaning
though the thing itself may have undergone some change. Curry as made in
England is sometimes not recognisable by a new arrival from India, and
Kidgeree is applied to a preparation of rice and fish, whereas it means
properly a dish of rice, split peas and butter, or "ghee." Fish may be
eaten with it, but is not an ingredient of it. Bazaar may be classed
with these words, and also Polo, which is merely the name for a polo
ball in the language of one of the Himalayan tribes from whom we learned
the game. It is said to have been played in England for the first time
at Aldershot in 1871.

More interest attaches to Gymkhana, for neither the word nor the thing
which it signifies is Indian, though both originated in India, and the
derivation of the word is unknown, though it is scarcely fifty years
old. Several hybrid derivations have been suggested, none of them
probable, and I lean to the suggestion that the starting-point of the
word may have been "jumkhana", a term which, though it is not in
Forbes's _Hindustani Dictionary,_ I have heard a native apply to a large
cotton carpet, such as native acrobats, or wrestlers, might spread when
about to give a performance. Our use of the words Arena, Stage, Boards,
Footlights, etc., shows how easily a carpet might give name to a place
of meeting for athletic exercises.

There is another class of words which have come into England through
returned Anglo-Indians and spread by their own merit. One of these is
Loot. The dictionary says that it means "to plunder," but it holds more
than that or any equivalent English word. Perhaps it has scarcely risen
above the level of slang yet, but the phrase "to run amuck" is
classical, having been used by both Pope and Dryden. The pedantic
attempt made by some writers to change the common way of writing it
because the original Malay term is a single word, "amok," comes too late
in view of Dryden's line,

"And runs an Indian muck at all he meets."

Cheese, in the sense of a thing, or rather of "the very thing," must be
ranked as slang too, though very common. The slang dictionaries give
fanciful derivations from Anglo-Saxon roots, or suggest that it is a
perversion of "chose"; but it is a common Hindustani word for a thing,
and when an Englishman in India finds some article which exactly suits
his purpose and exclaims, "Ah! that's the cheese," no one needs to ask
the derivation. If it did not come to us directly from India, then it
came through the gipsies, for it is one of the many Hindustani words
which occur in their language. Another word that came from India
indirectly is Caste, but it is of Portuguese origin. The early
Portuguese writers applied it ("casta") to the hereditary division of
Hindu society, and the English adopted it. It has now become
indispensable. We have no other word that could take its place in the

Her manners had not that repose
Which stamps the caste of Vere de Vere.

I must close with two familiar words which have been so long with us
that few who use them ever suspect that they came from the East--namely,
Punch and Toddy. The Rev. J. Ovington, who sailed to Bombay in 1689, in
the ship that carried the glad news of the coronation of William and
Mary, tells us that, in the East India Company's chief factory at Surat,
the common table was supplied with "plenty of generous Sherash (Shiraz)
wine and arak Punch," Arrack (properly "Urk"), sometimes abbreviated to
Rack, means any distilled spirit, or essence, but is commonly used to
distinguish country liquor from imported spirits. The Company's factors
drank it because European wines and beer were at that time very
expensive in India, and to reconcile it to their palates they made it
into a brew called Punch, from the Indian word "panch," meaning five,
because it contained five ingredients--viz. arrack, hot water, limes,
sugar and spice. This was the ordinary drink of poor Englishmen in India
for a longtime, and public "Punch-houses" existed in every settlement of
the East India Company.

Now, one of the principal substances from which country liquor is
distilled is palm juice, the native name for which, "tadee," has been
perverted into "toddy" (as in the case of "cot" above-mentioned), and
"toddy punch" meant the same thing as "arrack punch," Returning
Anglo-Indians brought the receipt for making this brew to England, and
lovers of Vanity Fair will remember how the whole course of that story
was changed by the bowl of "rack punch" which Joseph Sedley ordered at
Vauxhall, where "everybody had rack punch." How soon both the brew and
its Indian name took firm root and spread among us appears from the fact
that, at the Holy Fair described by Burns in the century before last,
the lads and lasses sit round a table and "steer about the toddy."


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