Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/18

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
8
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

seat and a pen, a formidable rival. The baboo is cheaper, his attainments are quite as good, and it is to be feared that the sahib prefers his services also because he can be "jumped upon" with a better conscience. In small shopkeeping the native undersells the Eurasians because he can underlive them, and has almost the whole of the trade of Calcutta which is not controlled by larger European firms, in his hands. A few of the women are employed as nurses in European families, but a Eurasian nurse is an expensive luxury, as she must be fed as well as paid at a higher rate than an ayah, while she often demands a native servant to assist her. Here, however, she offers a quid pro quo—her services are more valuable than an ayah's. The Eurasian has no chance against the native, however, in any other department of domestic service. The native is fitted by nature and education to serve the sahib; the position is one of dignity, and rather enhances the respect he receives from his fellow, however high his caste. He does, as a rule, only one thing, whether it is the work of a bearer or a kit-mutgar, or a mussalchi, or a syce, and, as its performance leaves him ample leisure to attend to his private comfort, he does it well. His whole habit of mind, moreover, is one of deference to his superiors; his own self-respect is bound up with it; "Tum bai-adab hai!" is a keen reproach. No European would dream of employing a Eurasian servant in preference for reasons of pure comfort. But, curious as it may seem, Eurasia scorns household service, and declines to compete with the native on what is so obviously his own ground. In fact, however poor, the Eurasian reckons one or two servants among the necessities of his own existence. The beggar of this race will approach your gates in a palki borne by four of his muscular Bengali cousins. The Eurasian "lady" who implores a little pecuniary assistance often sends her appeal by a peon—and on scented paper. Poor Eurasian lady! she is denied even the resource of her sex the world over—her needle—for the durzie sews better and cheaper than she.

It goes without saying that the East Indian is unable to work all day in the sun with the scantily clad coolies at the roadside or the docks, even if a man with any strain of European blood in him would consent to give the strength of his arm under such conditions for fourpence a day. Behind "belati" counters he holds his own, and so does she, by reason of their superior knowledge of the wants and tastes of the sahib and the memsahib. The railways are an invaluable source of employment for them, and they are found more useful than the natives in positions of minor responsibility—in warehouses, docks, and the customs. A small and very respectable proportion of them also find employment as teachers; and some make their way to the upcountry tea and indigo plantations, where a certain number suc-