Advice to Officers in India/Chapter 9
1. ECONOMY OF EUROPEANS.—HOUSES.—Those of Bengal are of the Grecian style of architecture, large, airy, elegant, commodious, and self contained; with numerous office houses detached; the whole inclosed with a mud wall, the area of which is called by the name compound. They are built of burnt brick and mortar, plastered out-side as well as inside; the roofs flat, with a terrace upon the top convenient for walking on; the floors either paved with marble, or made of a composition of lime and pounded brick,hard as stone, called puckah; the floors covered with finely woven grass mats, stretched smoothly; the windows all glazed with an internal shutter of Venetians; the ceiling, with the timbers all exposed, in order to detect the inroads of the white ants, and admit of their being easily replaced when destroyed. It is somewhat unaccountable that the roofs of houses in India, especially of government buildings, are not arched and alcoved, as in the Italian style; the original cost would not be much more,the expense of keeping them in repair would be trifling, their duration would be infinitely greater, and the immense sums spent in the annual renewal of timber would be saved.
In the interior of the country houses are generally budt of sun-burnt bricks cemented, and plastered with mud, and whitewashed, with a ceiling made of a curtain stretched neatly enough overhead, and a roof of thatch. This style is known by the name of Bungalow. In Assam and in Burmah the houses are constructed of large timbers, let into the ground, on which the roof is supported; the walls made of mats tied to the timbers; the floors planked and raised four or six feet above the ground, with a free ventilation underneath. This construction is well adapted to prevent damp, and as earthquakes are prevalent they suffer no damage when more substantial fabrics are injured or thrown down. There are no bells in any houses, but when any thing is wanted, the person cries out, qui hie, and a servant appears Bolts and bars, and door knockers, are also unknown, but a porter sleeps at the door and, when awoke, receives messages.
Houses are generally built with their front to the north and in so far as the sun is concerned, this is, no doubt, the best. In the hot weather, the sun passes from east to west in an arch almost vertical, the northern and southern aspects are sheltered from the direct rays, and the ends only are exposed to the full strength of the morning and evening sun. But no small share of the comfort of a house depends upon its being freely pervaded by the wind, and as the north-east and south-west winds are the prevading ones, I am of opinion that the front should be towards the north-east.
Every one who has lived in the royal barracks of Fort William must be aware of their disadvantages,their northern and southern facades not admitting of a current of air through the quarter.
2. SUBTERRANEAN CHAMBERS. or Tai-khanahs are excavated beneath the ground floor, on the same principle as a cellar, and in hot weather these are occasionally resorted to for relief, more especially by natives. They are, no doubt, considerably cooler than rooms above ground,but they are damp, unpleasant, and unhealthy; no effectual means are taken to ventilate them, the air soon becomes deteriorated by the consumption of its oxygen in respiration, and the accumulation of deleterious carbonic acid gas. I cannot help thinking that much might still be done to improve them, the chief object to be kept in view is to ventilate them. If the principles scientifically practised in ventilating the holds of ships were applied to them, viz., by placing a winnowing machine at the bottom, and blowing the foul air up by a tube, allowing it to be replaced by cool pure air passing through a wet tatty; I believe they might be rendered much less objectionable. The Kyburries supply very good examples in the construction of their houses, which we might imitate, by excavating a chamber in the face of a hill, with only a small opening for ingress, and a hole in the top for light and ventilation.
3. EFFECTS OF CLOSED DOORS.—It is a common custom in the hot weather to shut up every door and window soon after sunrise, and not to open them till an hour or two after sunset; nor is the exclusion of all fresh air thought enough, but every Venetian is also closed, and the darkness is so great, that visitors on first entering a drawing-room cannot see the inmates. In a very large room, where the residents are few, and the consumption of air trifling, this practice may not be very injurious; but where the family is large, the domestics numerous, with, perhaps, two or three dogs requiring their breathing room, the vital air must before night be greatly deteriorated. Inspiration in a hot temparature is more frequent than in a cool one, as are also the,pulsations of the heart:hence more cubic feet of air pass through the lungs in a hot day than in a cold day, and the room is sooner exhausted of its pabulum vitæ. Besides, each inmate may be considered as a living laboratory of heat, and not of heat only, but of carbonic acid gas, which neutralizes all the advantages of four or five degrees of coolness gained by closed windows and Venetians, for the difference is no more. But breathing impure air is not the only inconvenience of closed doors and Venetians; the prevading darkness is equally as prejudicial to health: the parallel between animal and vegetable Use is too generally true not to hold good in the circumstance of light. That darkness is injurious to the healthy growth of vegetables is well ascertained; plants that live in darkness remain pale, flaccid, and feeble, and those accustomed to sunshine, if removed to a dark situation, rapidly lose their health and droop and die. The bills of mortality clearly show that the inhabitants of dark lanes and alleys are more unhealthy than those in well lighted streets, and nice investigations have proved, that the tenants of the shady sides of streets are less healthy than those of the sunny—moreover, practical experiments have demonstrated that tadpoles do not become mature frogs if kept in the dark.
The indigo planters are good examples of the truth of this theory. They are the most healthy looking people in India, though exposed all day, at all seasons, to the sun; the injurious effects of heat being counterbalanced by fresh air, light and exercise. The contrast between such men at the end of a hot season and those shut up in close dark houses is very remarkable.
4. SHRUBBERIES.— Much contrariety of opinion prevails respecting the cultivation of shrubs and trees round houses, some going so far as to shroud the house in foliage, and others condemning every plant to transportation or death. The one cultivates trees for the sake of their beauty and their cooling shade,the other forbids their growth, believing them to generate malaria, and afford shelter for mosquitoes. Much may be said on both sides. On the whole,I should prefer living in a house without trees to one surrounded with many. At the same time, I should like two or three, if judiciously placed. A few shady trees, in front of a house, is a great comfort to the whole establishment, and a favourite place of resort for both master and servant.
Trees exert a much more important part upon climate than is generally believed; the aridity of some countries, and the humidity of others being in a great measure caused by their deficiency or profusion. The scantiness of rain in the Punjaub and Sirhind is, I have no doubt, caused by the scantiness of forest; and, when the country is abundantly planted, as I have no doubt it eventually will be, there is every reason to expect more abundant rains.
5. FURNITURE.— The furniture of houses in Calcutta is of a very superb and even ostentatious description; and the different component parts are constantly circulating through society. Upon any change in the members of the family, or change of appointment, the whole goods and chattels are brought to the hammer; and it is found good economy to have every thing of the best description, thus insuring a ready sale. In the Mofussil the furniture is much more scanty and portable, and in bachelor's quarters, a camp table or two, a bed, a couple of chairs, and a couple of camel trunks form the bulk of the property.
6. PUNKAHS.— No house, or rather no room, is thought furnished without a punkah, viz., a frame of wood about three feet broad and nearly the length of the room,covered with cotton cloth white washed, and suspended edgewise by ropes from the ceiling, just so low as to admit of a tall man's walking under it. To the middle of the punkah a rope is attached, and passed through a hole in the wall, so as to admit of being pulled by a man in the verandah; thus acting as a fan, and producing strong gusts of air.
7. THERMANTIDOTES.—Thermantidotes are frequently used, a machine very similar to the barn fanners of home, with this addition, that the large openings round the axle of the fan are closed with a tatty kept constantly wet. These are most useful in calm weather or at night, when the large tatties in the doorways do not act. Besides these, there are numerous sorts of hand punkahs, all very useful. To live without the punkah in the warm weather would be indeed a severe penance, for it is one of the greatest necessaries in India. It is good economy to have it pulled both day and night, relieving the pullers every two hours like sentries on their post; indeed few people sleep without a punkah.
Punkahs have become universal in all European barracks and hospitals, government defraying most of the expense,though the men contribute a certain proportion.
It must be remembered that the punkah does not lower the temperature of the room; the thermometer, either under it or in a corner of the room indicating the same heat.
Punkahs are had recourse to in the North West about the 15th April, and stopped about the 15th October. In Calcutta they are continued nearly the whole year.
8. TATTIES.— A tattyis a frame work of bamboo open like a riddle, covered thinly with the roots of a sort of grass called kus-kus, the ends of the grass being upwards. It is fitted neatly into a door on the weather side of the house, and kept constantly wet by water thrown upon it from the outside; another door is opened on the lea side, and the tatty being pervious to the slightest breeze, a current of cold air is produced, which, so long as it blows, keeps the house as cool as can be desired. The following experiments will show the value of the tatty in upper India, in the month of May; during the regular north-west wind at noon, the thermometer,placed on the ground in the sun, stood at 120°; in the shade of a verandah, 104° in centre of house, 83°, in an earthen jar of water adjoining tatty, 68°, in a deep well, 78°.
Nothing can exceed the delightful coolness of this most refreshing breeze, and, did the wind continue steady all night, the hot winds would be little complained of; but the wind generally lulls at night, and the tatty does no good, though the thermantidote does. Besides, there are frequent alternations of an easterly wind, which have no cooling effects on the tatty, and only fill the house with steam. The climate of Bengal is too moist to admit of any benefit being got from the tatty; and, even in the Upper provinces, all tatties are discontinued as soon as the rains begin. Some discretion and self-denial are necessary in the use of a tatty. Strangers, tempted by the enjoyment, are apt to sit too near them, and subject themselves to colds, cramps, and rheumatism. The safest plan is to sit in the middle of a room, adjoining that of the tatty.
Tatties are now supplied in all European Hospitals and barracks.
9. FIRE AND LIGHTS.—Wood and charcoal are the principal fuels used in cooking. Coal, of fair quality, is procured in any quantity, not far from Calcutta; but it is not much used. During the cold weather of Upper India, fires are universal in the houses, but in Bengal they are seldom seen. I think this a mistake; a fire now and then in the rainy season would be very beneficial; most articles of furniture and clothing of all kinds are then damp in the extreme, and a good fire is the best thing to dispel it. Smoky chimneys are very common nuisances, and it may be useful to know how to cure them. A general mistake is to apply the remedy at the top instead of the bottom. The following plan I have found most effective in curing the most inveterate smoker. Take a common earthen pot, or naund, such as is used by native washermen, of a hemispherical shape, and about two and a half feet diameter. Punch a hole in the bottom about nine inches diameter and budd it into the chimney, mouth down, about two and half feet above the fire.
In the excessively damp climate of Rangoon a brazier of burning charcoal and a large basket over it is a regular piece of furniture,and clothes, boots, and shoes, and every article perishable in mildew is subjected to frequent airings. Cocoa-nut oil is chiefly used for lights. In the cold weather it is solid and requires to be melted by fire before using it; but, in the hot weather it is liquid and transparent, and gives a very fine light. It is burned either in Argyle lamps or in plain glasses with a wick floating on its surface. The common Argand lamp is extinguished under a punkah. Wax and sperm candles are often used. Gas has, hitherto, not been introduced in India, though preparations are far advanced for lighting up Calcutta by it.
10. CLOTHING.— In the cold weather clothing, warm as in Europe is worn; but in the hot, nothingbut white cotton all over. Calico shirts, jean jackets and vests, drill pantaloons, all white as driven snow. Linen is very seldom worn, it is too easily affected by change of temperature, and after perspiration it becomes cold as lead. Most people wear flannel under their clothes, and a very prudent practice it is, and the best protection against sudden alternations of weather. When flannel irritates the skin, as it does, and is not endurable to some, silk is an excellent substitute. Manufacturers have not supplied the Indian market with under garments of silk as they have of merino, and they have overlooked their own interest by this oversight, for if procurable there would be a very extensive demand for them, and they would be found a great improvement upon those now in use. Since my return to London I have seen and worn the above silk under-garments, and found them very pleasant. They are light and elastic, and a valuable addition to the wardrobe in hot climates. A couple of silk hand-kerchiefs sewed together, leaving intervals for the head and arms to go through, forms a very convenient and most comfortable under dress.
Silk pyjamas, a sort of wide pantaloon, tied round the waist, is a common indoor dress, and is generally worn when in bed, and in the hot weather is the only covering.
In making up clothes for Indian wear,it is of the utmost importance that every raw edge of the cloth be hemmed and secured with extra sewing, for if sewed as if for home wear, the seams will be torn open in one or two washings. In India all washing is done by men, by beating the clothes against a stone or grooved plank, and the destruction caused by the dhoby is much greater than the ordinary tear and wear. So great is this that in families a tailor is constantly entertained to repair his damages, yet we submit to the mischievous practice. I have had the curiosity to weigh a complete suit of clothes worn by me in the hot season, and found that the jacket, vest, and pantaloons weighed only sixteen ounces. This is about the one-sixteenth part of the weight of a winter dress in England.
Cotton quilts, lined with silk, are the usual bed covering. The silk, besides being a pleasant wear, is also a non-conductor of electricity, and I have heard of persons being by its use saved from the shock when all around them was struck by lightning. Mattrasses are rare things in India, and feather beds unknown, the general substitute being a lace-work of stout tape stretched on the bed frame, with a quilt over it. Every bed has its mosquito curtains,composed of thin gauze, which is useful in keeping off insects, in moderating the current of wind when sleeping with open doors, affording protection against damp,and even against miasma, when that exists, and no one should pass through a feverish belt of jungle without being encaged in mosquito gauze.
In violent fevers great relief is got by lying in bed corpore nudo.
At formal parties one is expected to appear in cloth,but that is generally made of so light material as not to be oppressive, unless on very great occasions. Full dress uniform is now rarely worn, indeed, uniform of all sorts is seldom seen off duty, a great improvement upon the old pipeclay and martinet system. Alpacca has been found an admirable article of clothing in the hot weather, and ought to be universal.
On ordinary occasions mufti, in all its varieties, is indulged in, various as the tastes of the owners, and not a bad idea may be formed of the character and disposition of parties by a survey of their morning dishabille; such savage cuts, such exquisite ties, such fantastic hats, such immeasurable continuations, such comprehensive shooting coats, pea coats and cut-aways, all so comfortable and on such easy terms with the wearers that would drive a Buckmaster crazy. Very considerable indulgence has of late been allowed in the article of dress, still there is room for greater improvement, and perhaps the long expected reform may embrace all that is desirable. The most objectionable part of the present uniform is the forage cap and shako; the former has shrunk into the dimensions of a night-cap, the crown and the peak being only nominal, and the latter is so heavy, as to require the left hand to keep it on, and neither of them give any adequate protection against heat and glare. There is no want of excellent models from which to choose a good cap. The Grecian helmet, with a large peak in front and a fantailed peak behind, in general use as a solar topie, appears to me perfection both in comfort and appearance.
11. BATHING.—Next to a glass of cold water a cold bath is the most grateful luxury, and most persons indulge in one after their morning's exercise. Some use the cistern-bath,others the shower-bath, but the most common and the best is to pour five or six jars of water over head while standing in the upright position. If earthern jars, filled with water, be kept out of doors all night, and brought in at daylight, the water will be as cool as can be desired. Not a few use the tepid bath, but I do not recommend it to one in good health,it is too relaxing, and not to be compared with the cold douche. Few bathe oftener than once a day, and most continue bathing during the coldest weather, when they shriek aloud at the shock.
Cold bathing is one of the most healthy pieces of discipline practised in India, and no small part of its advantages is a free use of soap all over, and the brisk friction in drying the skin with a huckaback towel. The cold bath is the best protection against sudden changes of temperature, the tepid against internal chronic affections.
The watercloset should be visited every morning at a fixed hour, as regularly as the bathroom. Such habitual visits are the best preventative against constipation, a very common complaint in India.
12. DIET. As most people get up early, it is customary to take a cup of coffee or newly-drawn milk, a couple of plantains or a wine biscuit before going out. This I believe to be a good system, it has part of the effects of a dram without its bad consequences, and prevents that squeamishness—that sinking of the heart as it is commonly called—which is apt to ensue if nothing be eaten before breakfast. The general hour of breakfast is between nine and ten. Bread and butter and tea or coffee satisfy some; others have rice and fish, with eggs and butter, or cold meat and curries. Tiffin is served about two, and often consists of merely a glass of wine and a biscuit; dinner is served after dark, and consists of nearly the same materials as seen on an English table. Some prefer dining at three p.m.; most married parties do. The milk in use is either cows', goats', or buffaloes. Butter is made every day, the milk being churned as it comes from the cow. In the cold weather it is very good; in the hot white, curdy and insipid, resembling concentrated foam. Bread is in general excellent, and is leavened by being kneaded with the juice of the date palm tree, which ferments immediately after being drawn from the tree. Very good bread is made by flour and water kneaded into a thin cake called a chou-patty; and if an egg and a bit of butter be added, it is still better. Beef, mutton, and pork are very good; all being carefully fed on grain some months before being killed. In the hot weather it is necessary to cook the meat the same day on which it is killed, for it will not keep two days. English preserved provisions are common, and Stilton or Dunlop cheese always has its appropriate corner. Fish is universally to be got of very good quality, and game in great variety—wild hogs and venison,quails, partridges, pheasants and peacocks. Some keep a native game-killer on purpose, and have a plentiful supply at a moderate rate. In fact, there is no lack of good fare, and the stranger must be careful and abstemious till he becomes acclimatised.
As a curry is a standing dish on every table, it may be well to have an idea of its constituents. It is a most heterogeneous compound of ginger, cloves, and cinnamon, cardamums, coriander, and cayennepepper, onions, garlic, turmeric, and even assafœtida, all in quantities consistent with peculiar tastes, ground to a powder by a pestle and mortar, and made into a paste with gee (clarified butter) or mustard oil,and stewed up with apiece of kid or a fowl. It is, therefore, well adapted to stimulate the appetite after a hot day, when most articles of diet are not cared for.
Almost all the cooking utensils are made of copper, tinned on the inside. It is customary to have the tinning renewed once a month, but from the native custom of scouring the vessels with sand in cleansing them, the tin is often worn off before the month is over, and the food cooked is apt to be tainted by copper to a hurtful extent. Acid preparations are not the only things that act rapidly on copper if allowed to remian in them, but oily ones also, and none more so than oleaginous messes. Every pot should be cleaned and dried immediately after being used, and those who consult their health will do wisely in making occasional visits to their cook room. Enammelled iron cooking-pots are admirably adapted for India; but opposition may be expected, as the monthly tinning is a general source of peculation to the Khansaman, and the enamelled vessels are not.
13. FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.—As I have elsewhere mentioned, many people have a strong prejudice against the use of fruit. I would so far coincide in this opinion as to advise every newcomer to be sparing in their use and discriminating in his choice. He will soon find out what agrees or disagrees with him, and will act accordingly. Ripe grapes, peaches, guavas, custard, apples, pine-apples, oranges, pummaloes, pappias, and plantains are all wholesome, and a, green cocoa-nut affords a delicious draught. Mangoes,though the best fruit in India, he must eat with great circumspection, and gourds, water-melons, and cucumbers he will do well not to taste. Most English vegetables grow very well in the cold weather, potatoes, turnips, cauliflower, beans, peas, carrot, and beet-root. The agricultural society has conferred a great boon on the public by their expense and exertions in providing seeds from Europe, and distributing them throughout the country.
Apples from America, grapes from Cashmere, dates from Arabia, and figs from Smyrna, are all in the market, and China ginger, English jams and jellies, Scotch marmalade, and French peaches preserved in brandy are equally procurable.
A few words respecting teeth may not be out of place here. The tooth-powder generally used is made from the charcoal of the betel nut. It is pleasant to use, and effective in keeping the teeth white, and the sirdar-bearer makes it well and saves all trouble, but it is as hard and attritive as pounded emery, and after ten or fifteen years it saws into the necks of the teeth and destroys them. A powder, composed of chalk, camphor, and myrrh is much preferable.
14. DRINKS.— The beverage most in use, is Bass or Allsop's pal,e bitter ale; and,no doubt,it is the best. A bottle at dinner is reckoned a moderate allowance; and,in fact, an essential article of diet.
Much bad wine finds its way to India; and, therefore, most messes get their wine direct from the vineyards of Europe. Though I would recommend as sparing a use of liquors to the stranger as animal food and highly-spiced dishes, yet I am not an advocate for meagre fare and water-drinking. I have seen many a man drowned by pouring cold water into him, and am, therefore, not a hydropathist. I believe much harm has been done by indiscriminate abstinence, and consider the one extreme as hurtful as the other. The water drinker in avoiding the diseases of the intemperate contracts an opposite train; no less intractable and no less fatal the asthenic and chronic instance of the plethoric and acute. Some stimulus is actually necessary in the hot weather when the heart labours and the vital energy is exhausted, and I have recovered patients from the brink of the grave, and was once so recovered myself (thanks to a kind confrere) by judiciously ministered wine glasses of beer repeated every hour.
Fortunately intoxication is now a rare vice in India: the old system of hard living has been exploded, the hard livers have died off or taken themselves off to safer quarters. It is a very rare exception to see an officer the worse of liquor at a mess table, and he is a marked man who is so. Nothing is more injurious to an officer's character than sottishness: nothing more quickly estranges his comrades, and no misdemeanour is more severely punished.
Sodawater is freely used by old residents, and I think is carried to a hurtful extent. It is often taken under the impression that it possesses alkaline properties, as its name indicates, and consequently that it is good for acidity of stomach, whereas it contains no alkali whatever. Its property as a simple diluent is lost by the profuse perspiration that follows the draught; and its advantages counterbalanced by the stomach and bowels being surcharged with flatus.
Liquids of all kinds have a tendency to increase perspiration, the urgent thirst is only temporarily allayed by drinking, for as fast as a liquid is drunk an equal quantity of fluid passes off by the skin. Hence, a reason why a mouthful of cold water now and then will moderate thirst almost as effectually as an equal number of tumblers. Liquors of almost all kinds are imported from Europe. Some attempts on a small scale have been made to brew beer at Missouri, and very good beer it is, for I have drunk it; but the beverage has not been patronised in the plains.
Though the grape grows luxurious in most parts, it has not been made into wine. This may be owing to excess of fertility, and possibly a superior grape might be cultivated on some barren konkar soils so common in Upper India. Arrack, distilled from the juice of certain palm trees, is occasionally served out to Europeans instead of rum.
Potable water is obtained either from rivers, tanks, wells, or from rain. The water of the Ganges is excellent, and although very muddy on first lifting, it soon deposits an abundant sediment and remains pure. It is further rendered more transparent by the addition of a little alum.
The water of most tanks is filled with animalcules, and not fit for use till filtered. A very good filter is easily made bypassing water through three earthem jars,half filled with charcoal and sand, with sponge plugs in the bottom, and fitted on a slight frame, one above the other. Those who are very particular about water collect all that falls from the houses during the rainy season, and store it up in large earthern jars for future use.
15. ICE.— In the hot weather, every dinner is closed with ice, and the greatest luxury in India is a glass of cold water. Every larger station in India has its ice pits for the manufacture of ice, and its ice houses for storing it up for the hot weather. Though the temperature of almost no station in Bengal is so low at any season as to cause water to freeze in the natural way, yet an artificial process is contrived to produce congelation. If a porous earthen vessel be filled with water, and exposed to the atmosphere upon straw during a clear night in the cold season, a pellicle of ice will be formed on it in the morning. On this principle, thousands of earthen plates full of water are so exposed during November, December, January, and February. The ice is collected in baskets, and stored up for use. Most residents have shares of ice; and,by paying forty or sixty rupees during the season, they have as much ice as they require.
American ice is imported in great abundance, and is sometimes as cheap as an anna a pound.
The surgeons of all hospitals are permitted to indent on the commissariat for ice, on its being thought necessary for their patients.
Saltpetre and Glauber salts are extensively used for cooling liquids. These salts are abundantly developed from the soil in Upper India, especially in Oude and Behar, and are consequently obtained at a cheap rate.
When water is once cool, the grand object is to keep it cool, and the best thing is to put it into a bottle, and enclose it in sack of quilted cotton or in a pith case called solar. Many combine their larder and their ice-pad, and thus are able to preserve meat a couple of days.
16. SMOKING.— Tobacco-smoking is a very common habit; so much so that two-thirds of the European population indulge in it; nor is the vice contracted in India only. A large proportion of cadets acquire the habit in England, and are not a little proud of their accomplishment, Young men think it manly to be able to blow as big a cloud as their commanding officer. Their breath not only smells of an old pipe,but everything that comes out of their house—a book, a newspaper, or a letter—does the same; so that the perusal, by any one not seasoned to such fumes, is sickening; and, to ladies, disgusting. The very difficulty of learning to smoke, the headache, and nausea, and vertigo with which that is acquired, are enough to show that the habit is most injurious; only made endurable by long habit, and persevered in from want of some more congenial occupation. Habitual smoking, too, often leads to habitual drinking; the drain upon the system must be replenished,and brandy and water is the succedaneum. Some pretend to gainsay this, and maintain that they do not spit; but this only shows the torpor of the salivary glands; for, if they werein a healthy state,saliva would be as copious as when they were learning the habit.
Some smoke from medicinal motives,and to produce alaxative effect, or from absurd notions that it neutralises malaria; but these same persons would grumble loudly at being obliged to take a pill every evening to produce the same effect. If a general order were issued, rendering smoking compulsory, how the fathers of youthful heroes would protest against so very expensive a habit being imposed upon their sons, what an outcry there would be amongst the married ladies for having such an intolerable nuisance forced upon their domestic economy. How the surgeons would be persecuted with applications for certificates recommending exemption from the rule on the score of their constitutions being too delicate to admit of smoking being practised with impunity. Strange infatuation! Great smokers blow away money enough during their career in India to purchase them a moderate annuity; they waste more good health than their pensions can redeem; and shorten the period of their lives several years by this filthy habit.
Hookah smoking, though to appearance less hurtful than cigar smoking, is in reality more so. By it the smoke of the tobacco is inhaled into the very lungs, and, generally, a large proportion of carbonic acid gas with it. Hookah smoking is now gone out of fashion. One seldom sees more than one or two hookahs in a large party, and these in the hands of regular veterans who have grown old in their devotion.
All praise is due to tobacco as a medicine, and I have derived a soothing, sedative, soporific effect from a temporary use of it when opiates failed.
17. EXERCISE.— If early rising were considered a proof of industry, certainly no people would be thought more industrious than Europeans in India. Few indeed (ladies excepted) are in bed so late as sunrise, and most are upon their legs at gun-fire or break of day, and ready for their walk, their ride, or their drive, or their duty as circumstances admit. The stranger will find few pedestrians to keep him company, but, as it is probable that his pay will not admit of his keeping a horse, let him not give way to the absurd prejudice of thinking walking infra dig, and injure his health by remaining in-doors. Let him, therefore sally out every morning, and take a moderate walk, enough to tire, but not to fatigue. He will see many an individual deeply impressed with the advantages of a morning walk padding along with their horses led behind them, or their buggy at their heels; not that they have any intention of using either, but that they dread being seen by vulgar eyes shorn of their establishment or being taunted with niggardliness for trudging through the dust like a coolie to save their horses shoes or their buggy wheels.
The evening is the grand season of recreation; every one who can set a couple or two of wheels in motion turns out to his constitutional drive; the course is crowded with carriages of every description; nor do they withdraw till the shades of evening close over them, rendering it difficult to recognise the faces of their friends as they pass. It is one of the anomalies of India that Europeans think it infra dig to take exercise on foot; to walk they are ashamed, even to preserve their precious health; yet many of the ills they complain of might be avoided by well regulated pedestrianism. A few sturdy independent characters, men in high office, who can afford to laugh at the fetters that society rivets upon its own ankles, may be seen enjoying their morning and evening walks; and their fine robust figures and healthy countenances give proof of its advantages; but men of moderate status in the service would hardly venture upon an evening walk, and ladies would think it a sin to do so, especially married ladies. Even in the fine cold weather, when active exercise is the greatest enjoyment, they prefer sitting shivering in cloaks and carriages; even in their own houses many of them think it too much trouble to walk up their own stairs, and though not invalids claim the privileges of the invalid, and by this system soon become invalids in real earnest.
Why do not the residents of Calcutta raise a subscription and have a ladies' walk made along the side of the Hoogly from Chandpal Ghaut to Prinsep's Ghaut. If they could prevail upon the partners of their lot to take a turn on such a mall every evening, I feel assured they would be greatly the better for it, and the husbands would save long bills, long voyages, and long absences, caused by sending their wives to England. If the two accomplished ladies, now at the head of Calcutta society, would condescend to set the example and make pedestrianism fashionable, they would effect a reform that would contribute materially to the improvement of the public health in India. Riding is by far the most common mode of exercise,and many take their morning and evening ride as commonly as their meals. Dumbells and other gymnastics, shampooing and friction, with a flesh-brush or rough woollen glove, are very beneficial. Sponging with cold water and soap every morning is a very good practice. Too much attention cannot be paid to the state of the skin, for its functions are no less important than those of the intestines or lungs. Many persons in good health are apt to neglect these apparent trifles, nor do they think of attending to them until their health is broken.
When restlessness occurs during the hot nights it is best to get up and get cool by walking up and down the room, taking a turn out of doors, or by changing one's night clothes, and going to a fresh bed.
18. AMUSEMENTS.— These,of course, vary with the taste of the individual. Shooting engages the leisure hours of many. Of all sorts of this sport, snipe shooting is the most dangerous. These birds are found only in marshy miry bogs, the very hotbeds of fever, and can only be got at by plunging up to the knees in mud, with a burning hot sun overhead. Many sportsmen thus contract fever, and sacrifice their health, or even their lives, in pursuit of this worthless game.
Boating is a good deal practiced, but from want of skill many accidents attend it, and many are drowned in consequence.
Cricket, quoits, rackets, billiards, all have their votaries, while backgammon, cards, and chess attract the more sedentary.
It is much to be regretted that gambling, under many different forms, is too prevalent, and large sums of money are often staked on very trifling matters, e. g. heads or tails, the longest or shortest straw drawn from a thatched house; high points at cards, high stakes on horses to run at the Derby, and betting upon any circumstance that admits of a bet. Some young men render themselves a nuisance at a mess table by their pertinacity in offering bets. I need not say that gambling of all sorts is stringently prohibited by the authorities, and that a fortunate gambler, though a notorious character, is a very unenviable one.
When idleness and inactivity are so common, and apathy and ennui, like the dry rot in a ship of the line pervades the community, and entails disease, both bodily and mental, any rational amusement that would ventilate society, and give a fillip to the languid pulse of passing events, that would break the monotony of time, and set the moral elements into circulation, ought to be hailed as a public good. Of all the recreations of the home country, and more especially in London, none rank higher than those popular schools of art and science, the Polytechnic institutions. It is truly delightful to see how smooth the rugged mountains of science have there been made, how imperceptible the railway gradients that lead to their summits, how easily the canal locks lift the vis inertiæ of mortality to the clouds, how happily amusement is blended with instruction, that people of all ages and all tastes may gratify their predominant passion, while unconsciously learning something useful. If there be a royal road to knowledge it is there; for, by the aid of maps and models,and lectures,as much maybe learned in an hour as in a year elsewhere.
It is much to be regretted that such institutions are not attempted at all large stations in India. There would be found no want of talent amongst officers to officiate in some capacity or another. I remember the time when the scientific soirees given at Government House, by the Earl of Auckland, were anticipated with intense desire.
18. DOMESTIC PLAGUE.— Muchhasbeen written, and a great deal more talked of, respecting the annoyance of insects; and some would have it to be believed that all the plagues of Egypt were let loose upon society, and that their lives was a constant warfare against red ants and white ants, sand flies and mosquitoes, cockroaches and centipedes, scorpions, lizards, and snakes. Their noise during an evening in the rains is certainly tremendous; indeed,quite deafening; but few of these are allowed to intrude upon the interior, being prevented by the chicks, a sort of curtain made of very finely split slips of bamboo, the thickness of a crow-quill, neatly tied together, and suspended in the door-way. If these be tied up after dark, when dinner is on the table, an entomologist might make a magnificent collection without rising from his chair.
The mosquito is the most annoying. In Calcutta they swarm all the year round; but in the upper provinces they disappear during the cold weather. They insinuate their proboscis through one or two folds of cloth, even through a woollen sock; their sting is as pungent as a nettle's, and is immediately followed by a lump as large as a coffee bean,and intolerably itchy. Strangers are liable to scratch this, and often cause very serious sores. Mosquitoes are fond of novelty, and new comers may be recognised by the attentions paid them by the mosquito. The mosquito curtain, or the horse-hair chowrie, are therefore the only alternative. The mosquito is generated in stagnant water; his first appearance is in form of a maggot, zig-zagging about, and when he gets his wings he deserts his native element, and soars aloft. One may watch the transformation in a glass of water.
The red ant abounds in myriads in every house; but he is too honest and independent to draw upon the most tender morsel of humanity. He finds sick flies, and broken legged beetles, and wounded mosquitoes, and invalid spiders, and gouty flies, enough to supply his wants.
Scorpions and centipedes seldom take up their quarters unless in very old and filthy houses. Lizards abound in all houses; but they are encouraged rather than disturbed, and are very active in destroying mosquitoes. In fact, they are all known individually by some particular mark, as they run along the wall in cunning pursuit of their prey, which they seize by suddenly jerking out their long tongue, coated, I was going to say, with bird-lime, but with something quite as sticky.
Even the loathsome spider is allowed to practice his profession undisturbed,provided he does not spread his net within the circuit of the sweeper's broom. Mosquitoes, in full life and vigour, form his staple article of food, and a sagacious spider rids the room of no small head of mosquitoes every day.
Moths are very destructive to woollen clothing, and frequent sunning is necessary to preserve them. Camphor wood trunks are the best places to keep them in.
Sand flies are very common in the Punjaub, and very annoying.
Of all the domestic plagues, the white ant is the most destructive,and as they do all their mischief in the dark or under cover either by mining below ground or by tunnelling their paths with clay when above ground, much watching is necessary to prevent their attacks. The beams of the houses require to be frequently sounded, for they are generally eaten to a shell without any symptom being perceptible outside. I once had an entire trunk eaten up; a deal one; nothing was seen externally; but on opening it I found that the leather alone kept in shape and it broke down in my hands. The very forests are kept in check by this minute insect, and probably every third tree is destroyed and eaten up by them. "When white ants abound, every article should have a plate of metal,—copper is best,—between them and the ground.
Immense flocks of locusts appear at certain times darkening the very sun like a heavy fall of snow in a very wonderful manner. Great consternation is caused among the natives by such a visitation, and with just cause, for if they settle even for a night, every blade of grass, and every leaf is devoured by them. On their appearance,the whole population turns out against them, firing off guns, beating drums, burning fires, shouting and beating to drive them off. Now and then, they become exhausted and can fly no farther and cover the earth to a depth of some inches; the natives gather them up in baskets and live upon them for some days. A large flight of locusts is a wonderful sight and is remembered during a life time. These locusts are like large grasshoppers, about three inches long, of a rusty brown colour.
Much has been said about the danger of snakes, but really it has not been my fortune to see any of it. I have occasionally met a large one face to face,but always found them in as great a hurry to get out of my way, as I was in to get out of theirs. Man is not a subject of prey with them, they have too much sense to become the aggressor, but if trampled on, they will no doubt resent it. I have very seldom seen a living snake in my house. On one occasion I found the skin of a large one in the grate, having availed itself of the bars to strip off the old skin, it walked off.
20. WILD ANIMALS.— These exert a very considerable influence upon human life both European and native,and are worthy of a paragraph here. It is a curious fact that tigers, though so abundant in many parts of India, especially in Bengal and along the foot of the Himalayan are very little heard of and very seldom seen unless by hunters who go into their haunts in search of them. They only frequent heavy jungles abounding in deer, wild hogs, buffaloes, &c., on which they prey. When hard pressed by hunger, they occasionally carry off a cow from a village herd, and when old and unfit to live by hunting, they take to the roads, and now and then carry off a human being. Even when surprised in their own jungles they will sneak off if they can, but when wounded and brought to bay, they fight desperately, and numerous hair breadth escapes and casualties occur. In Bengal, no man is foolish enough to hunt them on foot, though this is done both in Madras and Bombay, but their accidents show the impropriety of the practice.
Elephants are equally shy in coming near civilized society, and unless provoked rarely indeed injure any one.
Leopards are much more daring, and prowl around houses at night, ready to pounce upon any dog or cat, sheep, goat, or calf that they can get within reach of, but I have not known them attack man.
Bears are comparatively harmless, and unless wounded,rarely injure any one; but if they once get a man in their hug his life is not worth much.
Wolves, when they abound, as they do in the Punjaub, are very fierce, and destructive to human life, and some hundreds of children are carried off every year in the Punjaub.
Buffaloes are also very destructive. Where they are wild the tame herds are visited by the wild bulls, and they are always much dreaded.
Jackals, though very numerous, and alarmingly noisy, rarely do harm, and are not apprehended.
Alligators abound in all the great rivers. They are of two distinct kinds, the long-nosed one, called gurrial or gavial, and the short-nosed one called muggur or bocha. The former is believed to be harmless, the latter quite the contrary. On one occasion, while passing down the Ganges, I was called by an indigo planter to see a boy of about twelve years of age, who was seized on the water's edge by a muggur, and though the flesh was stripped from the bone, from the knee downwards, the little fellow got away with his life, by beating the monster over the eyes with a stick.
21. EARTHQUAKES are not common, and are most frequent on the north-east frontier and in Assam. They very rarely do any harm. The houses there are generally built upon trunks of trees, let into the ground; and though the earth heaves and rumbles, and the roof over head may crack, and the crockery rattle on the table, no one thinks of danger. However, serious consequences sometimes ensue. Much damage was recently done to the houses at Almorah and, the church was so much injured as to be pulled down. At the station of Goalpara, in Assam, a tank is still pointed out where a little hill, with its inhabitants, once stood.
22. STORMS AND INUNDATIONS.—Loss of life is of frequent occurrence during severe storms, the houses being blown down and the inhabitants being buried in the ruins. A good many years ago several barracks at Loodiana were overthrown and many soldiers were killed.
I have mentioned elsewhere that periodical inudations do no harm, but now and then unexpected ones occur from the bursting of a bund or an extraordinary spring tide, and cause great devastation. In 1832 the sea at the mouth of the Hoogly burst in upon the low land for many miles, drowning the inhabitants and their cattle by hundreds and thousands.
23. FAMINES.— Owing to unusual drought and want of the periodical rains, the crops of one or even two seasons are sometimes lost, and great famine and mortality occur amongst the native population.
24. ASSASSINATION.— Few years pass over in India without some horid act of assassination, the victims being officers in magisterial or political employment, sacrificed to jealousy, vengeance or fanaticism, in the performance of their duty. The names of Latter, in Burmah; White, in Assam; Richardson, in Calcutta; Alcock, at Agra; Fraser, at Delhi; Mackeson, at Peshawar; Macnaghton, at Cabool; Conolly, at Malabar; are lamentable instances of the danger to which officials of high position are unavoidably exposed in the faithful performance of their duty.
25. ACCIDENTS AND OFFENCES-LIGHTNING.—During the changes of the monsoon, and even during the rains,accidents and loss of Use both of man and animals, is not uncommon, and by it houses are at times set on fire. I have twice been almost in contact with lightning. On my voyage out to India, the main-mast of the ship Farquharson was struck; part of the crew were hauling upon the top-sail chain sheets at the time. Several of them were thrown down, and one man was so severely scorched that they did not recover for many days. His clothes smelled as if he had been thrown upon a fire, and his skin was covered with blisters. No material damage was done to the ship. The top-mast was found slightly splintered; the main-mast was blackened in several places, as if a current of smoke had passed up it, but the top-sail was so damaged that it was necessary to unbend it. The lightning appeared to descend the mast like a ball of fire down the main hatchway, and so convinced were the watch of its substantility, that a careful search was made for the thunderbolt, as they called it,but none could be found.
One afternoon, at Goalparah Assam, while watching the progress of a storm, a tremendous thunderclap occurred as if the electric discharge had taken place at my feet, and I felt as if enveloped with lightning. Immediately after I heard that the house of a native, about 150 yards from where I stood, had been struck. On going thither I found that the lightning had penetrated the thatch, descended along a post in the wall,and on reaching the floor, had separated into two parts, diverging in opposite directions. The mud walls were torn to pieces, every thing in the house was turned upside down,about a dozen yards of earth were ploughed up to a depth of three or four feet, large stones were splintered, and the fragments tossed several yards apart. The hole in the thatch presented the appearance as if an eighteen pound shot had passed through it, but with no trace of combustion. The man was in the house, a mere hut, of one apartment, when it was struck;and further than being bespattered with mud, and pretty well frightened, received no harm whatever.
All houses, to be safe against lightning, should have conductors. These are very general in Clacutta, but in the thatched bungalows in the interior they are, strange to say, not in use. During a thunder-storm, when the thunder is near, the best precaution one can take is to sit upon a well varnished chair, with the feet upon another chair. Thus the sitter may rest in safety, when the carpet underneath is destroyed.