Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Banking in India

The book ” The rise, progress, and present condition of banking in India” by By Charles Northcote Cooke, published in 1863 was the first to describe the prevailing commercial practices in the country and record the developments in western system of banking.  It notes (page 65-70) that the combination of railway network and availability of capital (through banks that were going to be set up) would unleash the potential of the country. It would release the natives from the tyranny of high interest charged by the traditional lenders of the land. 
"Nowhere is the investment of income more certain of good return, or more likely to be blessed than here. India has boundless resources, which merely require to be developed. If she has been hitherto a smaller producer than she might have been, it is owing to her being destitute of accessible markets for her surplus productions, in consequence of the rudeness of her productions. Every process, both in agriculture and manufactures, has been conducted with immense waste and want of ingenuity. The most simple methods of saving toil have been unknown. Husbandry is in a backward condition, and the implements both rude, primitive, and of the clumsiest construction. In fact, almost everything that is the produce of Indian rural labor is, when compared with that of people in a more civilized and favorable state of society, crude and unmarketable.
 There is, probably, no country in the world that has made such slow progress as India, when her antecedents are considered. Formerly, the natives of the soil, both morally and intellectually, stood higher than they do now, and excelled in all departments of science. But from this they have so completely, and for such a length of time declined, that it is difficult to believe that improvements in agriculture and manufactures were of very great antiquity in the provinces of Bengal. Indeed, were there not evidences of the truth of this statement, it would be scarcely possible to view it in any other light than as a jest, so completely have the implements of husbandry and agriculture, as well as the manufactures of the country, been stationary for centuries.
The state of the useful arts is scarcely more advanced than agriculture—probably little more so than it was a hundred years back:—and it is hopeless to expect much improvement until European skill and science shall be more extensively diffused over the country. There is, however, no absence of natural genius, nor want of conception in the people; and if only they will not allow their caste, (another name for idleness,) and their absurd religious prejudices, to raise difficulties and bar out the instructions of English science, an altered state of things may be anticipated. Until prohibitory rates of duty were placed on Dacca muslins—until Manchester and Paisley fabrics, of the same class, were admitted at lower rates of duty—what could compete with the former manufactures and the shawls of Cashmere, exquisitely delicate, and alike tasteful in fabrication and design? And what ingenuity could surpass the chaste workmanship of Delhi, Benares, Cuttack, and Trichinopoly in the precious metals?
"But for the future welfare of India," says a writer, "there is hope." When the steam engine shall have traversed the country from one end to the other, satisfactory results may be looked for. New wants will be created: her myriads will look to our work-shops and factories for the implements of toil and the adornments of luxury: capital, which is necessary to promote production, will find an outlet: opportunities will be afforded of employing it safely and profitably; and internal trade will consequently be stimulated and enlarged. It is from the absence of capital, properly directed, and from the want of those aids and appliances which are absolutely essential to the success of every country, that the resources of India remain to this day almost unknown. Until the commercial and agricultural interests of the country are properly advanced: until a considerable improvement take place in the products of the soil and in the implements of labor—her manufactures have little chance of being placed on a par with those of Europe.
And, foremost in the rank of those means that require to be used for a thorough development of India's resources, railroads must, as already stated, take a prominent stand. Before this mighty innovator, the oppressive barriers of caste will be thrown down; races, hitherto unknown to each other, will be approximated; and the internal commerce of the country, for many years depressed, will be fully opened out. Under the vivifying influence of British energy and capital, which a wider colonization will introduce; with good roads, good tramways, good feeders, and a sufficiency of steam on the rivers—trade and manufactures must make a step forward. If the waste lands, which Lord Canning's statesmanlike Resolution made attainable on fee simple, be taken up and properly cultivated, the enterprize and skill, which will be brought to bear, will result in improvements such as European capital and energy can alone effect; and conduce to the material and moral advantage of large classes of the people.
India has long suffered from the exclusiveness and monopoly of the East India Company. The senseless restrictions placed by that Corporation upon Europeans holding lands in the Mofussil, is one of the primary causes why the country has been retarded in her agricultural and commercial pursuits. Had there been a less restrictive policy, as well as less jealousy shown by the covenanted servants of the Company towards those whom they term interlopers, India would, at this time, have been in a position to render England independent of the United States' cotton. The fear of being dispossessed, and the dread of a too early enlightening of the natives, by leading the Government to oppose all attempts to improve the country, have obstructed the natural increase of capital, and, so far, tended to diminish the sum total of the revenue.
Colonization and capital then are the great desiderata for India.
By means of the former, the inland trade will be extended; commerce will increase commerce; and, although the area of territory is so vast, the progress of railways will influence both the money market and the development of the resources. By new facilities, new wants and new desires will be created; and neither climate,  religion, nor long-established habits, will refuse the benefits thereof.
By means of the latter—both the cause and result of industry—improvements will be made: better machinery will be introduced, and appliances, which involve considerable outlay, will be brought to bear. Without money, commercial operations must, naturally, be stinted and embarrassed. It is too much, however, to expect that any individual who shall embark his capital, whether it be money, machines, instruments of trade or other materials, can, however extensive his means, carry on his plans, on any large scale, without pecuniary assistance. And here it is that the utility of Banks will be apparent, in rendering active and productive that capital which it is their province to accummulate and distribute. Dr. Smith says, "The judicious operation of Banking enables the dealer to convert his dead stock into active and productive stock; into materials to work upon; into tools to work with, and into provisions and subsistence to work for; into stock which produces something both to himself and to his country."*
By "providing a sort of wagon way through the air, it enables the country to convert, as it were, a great part of its highways into good pastures and corn-fields, and thereby to increase, very considerably ,the annual produce of its land and labor." But it will do even more in this country. Banking will step in and relieve the borrower from the crushing effect of usurious dealings with the native money-lenders—a class of people the most grasping, relentless, and unprincipled to be found in any country. It will counteract the mischievous consequences, and the pernicious habit— so congenial to the natives—of burying money, or convertit into jewels for women and children—the fruitful cause of so many murders: it will bring forth and vivify millions of capital that lie dormant in the earth, or in secret hiding-places, while, by increasing the advantages of accumulation, and making saving available, as well for immediate profit as for a future resource, it will add new strength to the spirit of industry and to the principle of cumulation.

The sink of the precious metals

We know that Indians love hoarding gold. The relentless demand for this metal has meant that huge quantity has had to be continually imported. This year, when a serious current account deficit resulted, he Govt had to bring in restrictions and impose higher import duty to curb the inflow. According to many analysts, this move did not provide desired results as the demand was met through illicit channels and smuggling.
This tendency to hoard metal has been ingrained in the Indian psyche for hundreds of years. The book, “The rise, progress, and present condition of banking in India” by Charles Northcote Cooke, published exactly 150 years back, in 1863, makes the following observation on Page 71 (link)
"The eagerness of the natives for gold and silver ornaments will account, in a great measure, for the great importation of silver, and its disappearance in India, which PLINT aptly terms " the sink of the precious metals." The extent to which hoarding has been,and, in the Upper Provinces, is still practised, is almost incredible. Money-lenders generally keep their whole fortune, in coin, hidden about the house, and merely produce it when needed. Rich natives hoard as well as poor. Some years back, the King of Oude had half a million sterling secreted in coin. At Benares, a Rajah had a quarter of a million. Runjeet Singh, in the Punjab, one million. The late King of Ava a million and a half. When Scindia's fort was taken, there was found at least a quarter of a million. At the siege of Bhurtpore, one million is said to have been found by the British troops. At the taking of Seringapatam one million was found: and, it is positively asserted, that when the Emperor Shah Jehan died, he left no less a sum, in coin, than 24 millions sterling, all wrung from his impoverished subjects.
In the early part of 1856, Colonel Sykes, the Chairman of the East India Company, published an interesting paper on the External Commerce of British India, in which occurs the following passage:—" The excess of exports (from India) over imports is constant, owing to the gradual improvement in the producing powers of the country, and the small wants and hoarding habits of the natives in their present low state of civilization.Within the present century, India has received above 100,000,000 pound Sterling, which has never left the country. The silver received has been chiefly in coin, yet it has not in any appreciable manner affected prices." There is little doubt but that just before the mutiny of 1857-58, the expectation, throughout the country, of some great and terrific event, led to a more than ordinary absorption and secretion of the precious metals, which were converted into bracelets, anklets, earrings, necklaces,and waist-bands, as the safest mode in which treasure could be preserved. At the late sale of Kirwee prize property by Messrs. Hamilton and Co., there were to be found massive silver trappings of an elephant with chains sufficiently thick and large to serve as the ground tackling of a vessel of twenty-five tons."


Saturday, October 12, 2013

The solemn ritual

Delhi airport.  Boarding will be announced,for my flight,  in ten minutes. I am at a showroom, a 10-minute walk away from my boarding gate. I like one of the shirts there but I don’t have time to try it on. “Don’t worry, sir”, says the helpful, smiling  salesman. “Any problem, you can exchange it easily in any of our showrooms in India. No questions asked”. Reassured, I pay for the shirt and rush to the gate.

Delhi airport again after two weeks. Back at the same showroom.   I want to return the shirt and take one of a larger size.  Bespectacled salesman turns stern. “What’s the problem with the shirt?” he asks. “No problem, but I want to return it and take another one”, I reply. “But there must be a reason”, he says.  “There’s no reason. I just feel like exchanging”, I tell him.

Nodding his head disapprovingly, he pulls out a thick book. Turns the pages one by one.  Inserts carbon paper between the pages.  (I can’t recall when I’ve seen carbon paper last).  Places the book in front of me and says, “Please write full name, address, contact number, reason for return of material”.  “And why should I do it?” I ask.  “Because we have to follow this procedure whenever a customer wants to return some material” he explains. “That may be your procedure. Why should I follow it?  I can’t believe that you have such red-tapism?” I tick him off.  “The procedure is same in all our showrooms in the country”, he tells me, adjusting his spectacles to look sterner.

I give up. I fill up the form with imaginary name, address and phone number. Against reason for return I write, “Because I want to”.  Seeing a lot of blue ink on the page, salesman is satisfied.  Grudgingly allows me to pick up another shirt.

As a salesman myself, I can understand the intent behind the whole drama.

When a sale is about to be made,  the indecisive or cat-on-the-wall customer needs assurance that, if he later realises that he’s made a mistake in selection, he will be able to exchange the item for another one, without too much of a hassle.  A good salesman provides him this comfort and closes the deal.

However, when you come back to exchange the item, the shop doesn’t like it at all. But it can’t turn you away.  Nor does it want you to go away with an impression that it’s a simple exercise. Yes, they are doing you a big favour and should collect some brownie points from you. So, they introduce an elaborate procedure. Ask you to fill up forms in triplicate, with carbon paper between the pages. With a stern-looking salesman watching you perform the solemn ritual. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The final solution to the problem of bawling kids on planes

Warning: This post may offend the sensibilities of mothers of children below 10 years of age. So, proceed cautiously.

I am writing this post during a sleepless night on a flight, the cause of said sleeplessness being a couple of bawling and badly-behaved kids.  Wide awake now, I feel that we must put our heads together to  come up with a final solution to deal with the menace.  

Some of the possibilities that run through my mind, especially when one of the kids is kicking the backside of my seat are: 

1) Airlines could run special planes for kids and their mothers and disallow them from travelling on regular flights. In case this is not found economically viable, special sound-proof enclosures may be provided on each flight and kids can be accommodated there along with their parents.

    2) Small sealed packs containing chloroform should be distributed to parents as they board the flight.  When the captain announces,   “All mobile phones must now be switched off as they interfere with functioning of navigation instruments.  All children must now be anesthetised and put to sleep as they interfere with the sleep of other passengers”, the parents must obey unquestioningly. They will cooperate once they realise they’ll also get a good night’s sleep.

   3) Can someone develop acoustic filters which will selectively suppress the noise of kids? They can continue to bawl and scream, but the sound will get muted. Of course, this solution will not be effective on kids who kick the backside of your seat- in which case, we need to fall back on the chloroform method described above. 

4) How about special containers- like they use for pets- to put the kids into and load them into the cargo section?

5) If none of above works, then the child – with or without the parent- must be parachuted out of the plane.  

    Dark thoughts, I agree. But I need my sleep.  
   Update 27/08/13 : Looks like an airline has been reading my blog. (source). Though I don't see why we should be asked to pay more to stay away from wailing babies. Parents of wailing babies must be asked to pay the extra fare. 

 "An airline is offering passengers the option to upgrade to seats in      a quiet zone - where children are banned. Scoot, the budget arm of Singapore Airlines, offers customers the option to fly 'in  peace and quiet', for the cost of £10 (S$18). 
  They promise that if they were to opt in for a ScootinSilence cabin, they would enjoy 'exclusivity and privacy... as under 12s will be someplace else'. 
The low-cost carrier, which flies to Sydney and the Gold Coast rom Singapore, has banned pre-teens from the first seven rows of its economy-class section, allowing passengers can upgrade to the 41-seat ScootinSilence area."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The origin of female education in India

The Calcutta Review, in its edition of July, 1855, has this interesting story on the origin of ‘native female education in India”.  ( source. page 164)

"It was somewhere about 1818 or 1819, that a Society, called, we believe, the Union School Society, was formed in Calcutta, for educational purposes. Shortly after its formation, its members, encouraged by the success that had attended their operations amongst the boys, determined to make an attempt in the direction of female education. 
At the invitation of this Society Miss Cooke came to Calcutta, having been selected for this most difficult service, if we have been rightly informed, and our memory serve us aright, by the celebrated Richard Cecil, whose admirable sagacity was never more distinctly manifested than in this selection. Miss Cooke arrived in Calcutta in May. 1821.. We have stated that she came on the invitation of a certain educational society ; but on her arrival, it appeared that the native members of the Committee of that Society, although they had spoken well -while yet the matter was at a distance and in the region of theory, recoiled from the obloquy of so rude an assault on time-honored custom. 

"The babus had been brought up to the talking-point, but not to the acting-point. An arrangement was however entered into with the Church Mission Society, and Miss Cooke began her operations under their auspices. An account of the commencement of these operations is given by Mrs. Chapman, in her little work on Female Education ; and we are sure that we shall gratify our readers by extracting it at length: 
'Whilst engaged in studying the Bengali language, and scarcely daring to hope that an immediate opening for entering upon the work, to which she had devoted herself, would be found, Miss Cooke paid a visit to one of the native schools for boys, in order to observe their pronunciation ; and this circumstance, trifling as it may appear, led to the opening of her first school in Thunthuniya. 
Unaccustomed to see a European lady in that part of the native town a crowd collected round the door of the school. Amongst them was an interesting looking girl, whom the school pundit drove away. Miss Cooke desired the child to be called, and by an interpreter asked her if she wished to learn to read. She was told in reply, that this child had for three months past been daily begging to learn to read with the boys, and that if Miss Cooke ( who had made known her purpose of devoting herself to the instruction of native girls) would attend next day, twenty girls should be collected. 

Accompanied by a female friend, conversant with the language, she repeated her visit on the morrow and found fifteen girls, several of whom had their mothers with them. Their natural inquisitiveness prompted them to enquire what could be Miss Cooke's motive for coming amongst them. They were told that she had heard in England, that the women of their country were kept in total ignorance, that they were not taught to read or write, that the men only were allowed to attain any degree of knowledge, and it was also generally understood that the chief obstacle to their improvement was that no females would undertake to teach them ; she had therefore felt compassion for them, and had left her country, her parents and friends, to help them. 

The mothers with one voice cried out, smiting themselves with their right hands, "Oh what a pearl of a woman is this!" It was added, she has given up every earthly expectation, to come here, and seeks not the riches of the world, but desires only to promote your best interests.''Our children are yours, we give them to you.' 'What will be the use of learning to our girls, and what good will it do to them?'  She was told 'It will make them more useful in their families, and increase their knowledge, and it was hoped that it would also tend to give them respect, and produce harmony in their families''True (said one of them) our husbands now look upon us as little better than brutes.' Another asked, 'What benefit will you derive from this work !' She was told that the only return wished for, was to promote their best interest and happiness. Then said the woman, 'I suppose this is a holy work, and well-pleasing to God.'
As they were not able to understand much, it was only said in return that God was always well-pleased that his servants should do good to their fellow-creatures. The women then spoke to each other, in terms of the highest approbation, of what had passed." 
"In the course of the first year eight schools were established, attended, more or less regularly, by 214 girls. 
"Two or three years after Miss Cooke's arrival in India, she became the wife of the Rev. Isaac Wilson, a Missionary of the Church Mission Society ; but she did not relax in her afforts in behalf of the good cause . Mrs. Wilson's efforts were, now directed to the obtaining of the means of erecting a suitable building for a Central School. In order to do this, it was found necessary to establish a special Society for Native Female Education.
This Society was established in the beginning of 1824. Funds were raised, and on the 18th of May, 1826, the foundation stone of the Central School, in Cornwallis Square, was laid. 
In connection with this building, we must not omit to notice the extraordinary munificence of a native gentleman, the Rajah Buddinath Roy, who subscribed the very large sum of 20,000 Sicca Rupees, or upwards of £2,000 sterling, towards the erection. We believe this donation for a great patriotic object, is to this day unrivalled in the annals of native liberality ; and it is properly commemorated by the following inscription on a marble tablet, inserted into the wall of the principal hall in the institution: 

“This Central School, Founded by a Society of Ladies, For the Education of Native Female Children,was greatly assisted by A liberal donation of Rs. 20,000, from RAJAH BUDDINATH ROY BAHADUR ;and its objects further promoted and funds saved by Charles Knowles Robinson, Esq.,Who planned and executed this building, 1828.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rediscovering the 19th century

I’ve done more than 90 posts with the tag “BritIndia”, with links to passages from books that were published in the 19th century. The material came from free e-books accessed through Google Books. The books helped me gain a new perspective on British rule in India. I realised that our history books have given us such a one-sided narrative of events that unfolded in that period. It was true that the British ruthlessly crushed any rebellion and did not hesitate to exercise their authority in every manner. But, equally, there were British officers, engineers, generals, administrators who made genuine attempts to improve the quality of life here.

It is often said of the British that they introduced Railways not with the comfort of the natives in mind but to move goods from hinterland to the coast and then on to England by ship. I did not find any evidence of this intention to use Railways to plunder the country. Every piece of communication conveys a desire to build a transportation system that was reliable, safe and profitable.

Similarly, we’ve been told that the British brought in their system of education into the country with the sole purpose of indoctrinating the natives and bringing them in line with their methods. This is an unfair accusation. There’s enough material in Google Books to show that their intentions were honourable and stemmed from a genuine belief that ignorance and superstition had to be stamped out so as to liberate the natives from the poverty and squalor that marked their lives.

Thus, I’ve spent many hours with Google Books and learnt quite a bit in the process. I’ve enjoyed my role as an armchair historian.

A writer, Paula Findlen, seems to have had the same experience. In a recent article, she notes:

Thanks to Google, 21st-century scholars are becoming far more accustomed to reading 19th-century books, simply because, being out of copyright, they are online. The digitization of the long 19th century (materials published between the late 18th and early 20th centuries) has made accessible and searchable scholarly work that has been neglected because it was considered too dated and too unreliable.  It was the last thing many of us looked for in the library.

This rediscovery of the 19th century as an open-source reading experience is accompanied by a subtle appreciation of the era’s intellectual merits. Consider the quantity of material—obscure novels, local histories, antique catalogs, minor journals, a sea of biographies, and those vast and terrifyingly erudite bibliographies that were a specialty of that age of scholarship. Work that fails to enter a canon—literary, historical, or otherwise—tends to languish on the dustier shelves of college libraries. Digitization allows a new generation of scholars to look at them with fresh regard. This represents a significant change in the way we think about scholarship. 

Google Books is a kind of Victorian portal that takes me into a mare magnum of out-of-print authors, many of whom helped launch disciplines. Or who wrote essays, novels, and histories that did not transcend their time. Or who anonymously produced the paperwork of emerging bureaucracies, organizations, and businesses that, because printed, has been scanned and, because scanned, is now available.

I am not a scholar of the 19th century but have found its digitization to be one of the most fascinating new resource for understanding the centuries that precede it.

No wang-wang

While at Manila airport yesterday, I noticed a sign near the Immigration Counter that said, “Airport is a no wang-wang zone. Please fall in line to avoid embarrassment. CCTV-monitored area”.

I wondered what wang-wang meant.  Was it a Filipino slang for littering?  Or smoking? Or a codeword for ‘kissing’?  I was curious enough to check this out on the net later. This is what I found in a newspaper report of July 2012.:
Wang-wang mentality” and “wang-wang culture” were catch phrases often used by President Aquino in his speeches that reaffirm his commitment to root out abuse of power. Initially, he used the term to attack the powerful who made their way through the streets of the metropolis with sirens blaring. In another speech, he deplored the use of the wang-wang as a symbol of a mind-set of privilege. 
“The posters intend to convey a simple message. And that is to fall in line and follow routine and standard security practices at the airport,” MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado said. 
“This should serve as a warning to passengers not to cut [the] lines and follow airport procedures,” he added. 
Honrado said the message capitalized on the popular street lingo for blaring sirens
So, the phrase “fall in line” in the sign is not a metaphor; it is literal. Thanks to these signs and strict monitoring, nobody is exempt from standing in the line –except for five top officials of the Govt and foreign ambassadors.. ‘The stricter airport measures were also meant to get rid of these enterprising airport personnel, including some police officers, security guards and even porters who offer illegal VIP escort services for a fee’.

I don’t know when or if India will have a “no wang-wang policy’ in our airports or elsewhere. Every politician is a VIP and insists on being treated so. In the rare instance of a celebrity choosing to fall in line like a normal citizen, we – the non-VIPs- don’t let him/her forget that he/she is a VIP. We fawn over them and act in an obsequious manner.

So, wang-wang it will continue to be for us. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The noise of the fan

I have a serious issue with table fans. If one of them is switched on within my earshot, I soon fall asleep. Some kind of hypnotic effect it has on me. So, it's best avoided when I need to stay awake and do some work. Of course, when I do need some sleep, it can provide the soporific support.

Many people seem to have the same experience, and this interesting article explains why the fan has such an effect. 
If you think back to elementary-school science classes, you probably learned that white light is a combination of all the other colors of light; using a prism, we can separate it into its component colors. By analogy, "white" noise is composed of sounds of every frequency within the range of human hearing—roughly 20 to 20,000Hz (cycles per second)—with each part of the frequency spectrum equal in amplitude (volume). It's called "noise" instead of "sound" because it is random in nature. Rather than simply generating a fixed tone at 20Hz, 21Hz, 22Hz, and so on all the way up to 20,000Hz, a white noise generator creates a constantly changing mixture of tones such that all frequencies have an equal probability of being audible at any given moment. 
To human ears, white noise sounds like a hiss—sounds such as a waterfall, an aerosol can, and static are all very similar to white noise. Although all frequencies are represented, we perceive white noise as being relatively high-pitched—partly because higher octaves consist of a greater range of frequencies than lower ones (giving the higher-frequency sounds proportionally more energy), and partly because our ears are more sensitive to higher-pitched sounds.  
White noise is good at masking most other kinds of sound because it effectively overloads or "numbs" our auditory systems. Just as it's difficult to hold a conversation at a crowded restaurant, it's difficult for your brain to identify any one sound or voice when you're already hearing sound at every frequency. So it's not the white noise itself that promotes sleep as much as the fact that it reduces audio clutter, drowning out other sounds that may distract you and therefore keep you awake. 
Against this formidable effect produced by Physics and acoustics, I simply don't have a chance. I can't avoid falling asleep when the fan is switched on.

Chinese products

A Chinese museum had to be closed down recently, as many of the 40000 exhibits were found to be fake. (source).

According to the news story:
The museum's public humiliation began earlier this month when Ma Boyong, a Chinese writer, noticed a series of inexplicable discrepancies during a visit and posted his findings online.   
Among the most striking errors were artifacts engraved with writing purportedly showing that they dated back more than 4,000 years to the times of China's Yellow Emperor. However, according to a report in the Shanghai Daily the writing appeared in simplified Chinese characters, which only came into widespread use in the 20th century.

The collection also contained a "Tang Dynasty" five-colour porcelain vase despite the fact that this technique was only invented hundreds of years later, during the Ming Dynasty.

Apparently, China is in the midst of a museum boom and there is a demand for artifacts. This naturally created incentives for fake objects with no or dubious antique value to be brought in for display.

Perhaps the Chinese have been churning out such fake stuff or imitations for centuries. So, if a fake object that was produced in 1200 AD were to be found today, won't it qualify as a genuine fake, with its own antique value?

It’s only bad news.

Why do newspapers and TV channels focus so much on bad news? And why do we put up with it?

Doesn't it get tiring to have to listen to stories of rape, murders, terror, food poisoning, accidents, illnesses, and other bad news all the time? Why don't we resist this relentless bombardment of bad news?

Apparently, we can't. The 'negativity bias' is hardwired in our brain.

As we were evolving as human beings, our sensory systems were tuned to pick up only the 'danger signals' from all the audio-visual data around us and to forward the filtered information to the amyglada in the temporal lobe of our brains. This was a vital part of our survival instinct. As this article explains:
The amygdala is our danger detector.  It's our early warning system.  It literally combs through all of the sensory input looking for any kind of a danger on putting in on high alert and it evolved during an era of human evolution that was of the immediate type, the tiger in the bush.  You would hear a rustle in the leaves and you would think tiger, not wind and the point—one percent of the time that it was a tiger it saved your life, but today the amygdala literally calls our attention to all the negative stories and if you see a thousand stories you're going to focus on the negative ones and the media takes advantage of this and you know the old saw if it bleeds it leads.  
Well that's why 90% of the news in the newspaper and on television is negative because that's what we pay attention to.
So, even if there's some good news, for example, that the country's economy is picking up well this year, there will be a cautionary caveat that will accompany that statement to convey a serious flip side – that this is unlikely to be sustained due to poor rainfall in some parts of the country. Your brain is alert to negative signals and it is the bounden duty of the media to oblige you and, in the process, earn some money for themselves.

It's hopeless. Don't expect any good news. ( There, I've fed something for your amygdala to chew on)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Japan this week.

I came across four different news stories related to Japan.

The first reported that sales of adult diapers in Japan would soon exceed that of baby diapers. The changing demographics and increase in percentage of geriatric citizens ( quite a few of them suffering from incontinence) leads to more business for adult diapers.

The second said that the number of elderly people (over 65 years) arrested for shoplifting in Tokyo exceeds the number of teenaged shoplifters. This could be a reflection again of the changing demographic profile or could be because the moral standards of the younger generation are better than that of the older generation.

The third story is on the increasing popularity of palm surgery, to get palm lines redrawn as prescribed by the ‘science’ of palmistry, and thereby get one’s destiny or fate reshaped the way one wants it. I found this brilliant. Even Indians have not thought of this.

Finally, there’s this article on a unique beauty treatment offered by salons in Japan.  Live snails are made to crawl on one’s face. It is claimed that the slime removes old cells and rejuvenates the skin.

Why did I read all these stories in a span of two days? Is there an overarching theme  that I am missing out? 

Update 17/07/13 : I missed a fifth one. This story is about the craze 
for "eyeball licking" among Japanese schoolchildren that is reportedly causing a surge in eye-related infections

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"How the telegraph system was introduced in India"

The humble telegram will be laid to rest on July 15th this year, ending a saga that began in 1839. 

“The story of the telegraph in India” by Charles C. Adley, published in the year 1866, provides in the first chapter a narration of the sequence of events that led to the commissioning of the telegraph system in India. It highlights the splendid efforts and marshalling of resources by the British officers in India to achieve the planned link-up in very short time. 

The history of the Telegraph in India is briefly recorded.  
In May, 1839, Dr. William Brooke O'Shaughnessy erected an experimental line of wire, twenty-one miles in length, in the vicinity of Calcutta. The wire was suspended upon bamboo poles, and on the completion of the experiments, which were eminently successful, it was taken down and the results published. At the same time, the importance of the introduction of the telegraph into India was strongly urged.  
On the 26th of September, 1849, the Court of Directors of the late Honourable the East India Company referred to the foregoing experiments, and directed the attention of the Government of India to the advisability and importance of establishing a system of telegraphs throughout that empire. 
About the same time, others were occupying their minds with the subject, and, preparatory to propounding a definite scheme, two long pieces of gutta-percha covered copper wire were despatched experimentally to India. One of these was vulcanised, the other not. The object was to ascertain if wire, so protected, would withstand the ravages of the white ants, the great enemies to underground operations in that country, for at that period, the merit of the overground or underground system was a debated and unsettled question in Europe. 
The experiment was perfectly successful, and in September, 1850, an elaborate communication was addressed to the Chairman of the Court of Directors of the late Honourable the East India Company, wherein proposals were submitted for the establishment of a comprehensive system of political and mercantile lines throughout India, and some pains were taken to show the advantages that would accrue to the Government and the public therefrom. The report also comprised the details of a scheme for establishing telegraphic intercourse between England and India vid the Persian Gulf. In reply, it was stated that the subject was then under the consideration of the Government. 
The accompanying map, which is an exact copy of the general plan drawn out more than fifteen years ago, will exhibit a sketch view of these projects, and it is remarkable how closely the plans then devised assimilate with what have been subsequently carried out at the present time. 
Two months later, reports were submitted to the Government in India by the late Colonel Forbes and Dr- O'Shaughnessy upon the subject, and, after some discussion upon the overground and underground systems, it was decided that an experimental line should be constructed of thirty miles in length, partly overground and partly subterranean. 
This line was commenced in October, 1851, and opened in December following. It was then extended underground to Kedjeree eighty-two miles; and in March, 1852, the line from Calcutta to the sea was opened for official and public correspondence. Of this line, sixty-nine miles were overground and eleven subterranean, and the mean average cost was 59l 8s. 1d. per mile. The wire used consisted of pieces of iron rod 3/8 in. diameter, 13 ft. 6 in. long, welded together, and weighing 17-1/2 cwt. to the mile. 
In the overground portion the rod was placed in a notch cut in the top of bamboo poles 15 ft. high, and placed 200 ft. apart, being strengthened at every furlong by stout sal or iron wood posts, to which the rod was clamped. The underground portion was coated with layers of Madras cloth saturated with melted pitch mixed with tar and then placed in a trench 2 ft. deep, "laid in a row of roofing tiles half filled with a melted mixture of three parts dry sand and one part resin by weight, and when laid the whole was then filled up with the same melted mixture." The trench was then filled in and rammed down in the usual way. 
At the river crossings, which were about a mile wide, various plans were tried, viz., 1. A copper wire insulated with wax and tape. 2. An iron wire rope. 3. A gutta-percha covered copper wire undefended. 4. Gutta-percha covered wire similar to that first laid between Dover and Cape Grisnez; and 5. A guttapercha covered copper wire secured in the angles of a chain cable. The first four plans were soon destroyed by the grapnels of native vessels, while the last proved successful. 
The working of this experimental line was highly satisfactory, and the returns during the first three months of opening were equivalent to a dividend of five per cent, on the outlay, after deducting the working expenses.  
These results having been duly reported on the 14th of April, 1852, Lord Dalhousie, then Governor-General of India, adopted measures for constructing an extensive series of lines between Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, and Peshawar, and on the 3rd of May, Dr. O'Shaughnessy was despatched to England on the subject. Before his arrival in London, on the 20th of June, the proposition of the Governor-General had been acceded to by the Court of Directors and Board of Control, and on the 1st of August, the contracts were entered into for the supply of 5600 miles of wire (No. 1, B. W. G.) and other materials in proportion. 
These materials were manufactured and despatched to India with the utmost alacrity, and on the 24th of March, 1854, a temporary flying line of telegraph was opened between Calcutta and Agra, 796 miles, and the connexion between Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay was completed by a similar temporary line by the 1st of January, 1855. On the 1st of February following, or within two years and a half of the commencement of the undertaking, these lines, amounting to 3544 miles, were opened to the public. 
The construction of these lines was effected in two stages. 1. The erection of a temporary flying line. 2. The strengthening and insulating the flying line. The first of these operations was to be carried out with the utmost speed, the second at leisure. There was also a third stage proposed in the manual of instructions, which was to have consisted of a permanent double line, but it was never carried out, owing, it was stated, to "insuperable practical objections." 
The main object to be accomplished in constructing the temporary flying line was to get up a line in any manner whatsoever with the greatest possible rapidity. This was effected by using bamboos, or any form of cheap temporary wooden support available in the district. These poles with a groove cut in the top for the wire to rest in, were erected along the Grand Trunk Road, 50 ft. apart and 3 ft. in the ground. They were put up with remarkable celerity, an order having been previously issued, while the material was being prepared in England, to every magistrate to have the poles set up in the manner described by a fixed date, along such part of the Trunk Road as passed through his jurisdiction. By this means, an enormous existing establishment of Road inspectors, sub-conductors, police, and coolies were brought into immediate action, and on commencing to run out the wire in November, 1853, the poles were erected throughout the country. 
To further expedite matters, all the powerful resources of the Government were brought into play. The bullock train establishments, inland river steamers, commissariat, and public works departments throughout the country, were more or less placed at the disposal of the telegraph, and the result was as already narrated. 
The lines were completed with such wonderful celerity that even Europe re-echoed with astonishment. The most noble the Governor-General of India was elated; ambition was appeased; another of the many brilliant visions of a glorious rule was realised; another achievement was added to the long roll of beneficent conquests which history would twine with lustre round his name; honours and rewards were liberally showered around, and the Telegraph was inaugurated amid the joyous congratulations of rulers and the triumphant paeans of an empire. 

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Rubber chappals

My primary school (yes, the one I went to decades back) required me to wear shoes, but the higher secondary school that I joined later had no such requirement. The school uniform consisted of white pyjamas and kurtha and I could complement these with a pair of rubber chappals.

A pair of these chappals bought at Bata would cost Rs 8 , and if this ate too deep into the family budget, a pair could be bought from a platform vendor for less than Rs 5 a pair. The low price wasn’t the only reason. We simply did not feel the need for any other type of footwear. True, they could be a nuisance in rainy weather and splash muddy water on to one’s own clothes or on those of the person walking behind you, but these were minor inconveniences accepted without too much thought.

Entire batches of students have graduated from such venerable institutions such as IIT with a record of using no other type of footwear. In fact, rubber chappals came to be associated with intellectuals.

While I used to know them only as rubber chappals, it looks like they are referred to as flip flops (probably American).

Recently, I came across this piece in Slate magazine, which criticises the flip-flop and finds several faults with it.

The crux of the flip-flop problem, for me, lies in the decoupling of footwear from foot with each step—and the attendant decoupling of the wearer’s behavior from the social contract. Extended flip-flop use seems to transport people across some sort of etiquette Rubicon where the distinction between public and private, inside and outside, shod and barefoot, breaks down entirely. I’ve witnessed flip-flop wearers on the New York City subway slip their “shoes” off altogether and cross their feet on the train-car floor with a contented sigh, as though they were already home and kicking back in front of a DVR’d Cheers marathon. We would all look askance at a person who removed his socks and sneakers on the train before ostentatiously propping his naked dogs in plain sight. Why do people get a break just because they happen to be wearing footgear that takes them 90 percent of the way there?

My final line of argument against flip-flops is a more nebulous one, having to do with their laziness and lack of character as footwear. Because of the ease with which they’re put on and removed—along, perhaps, with their generic ubiquity—flip-flops connote a sort of half-dressed slatternliness, a sense that the wearer has forgotten to do anything at all with his or her body from the ankles down.

Fellow must be one of those snooty types who needs to make a fashion statement with his footwear. Ignore him.

The Dak journey

How did people travel long distances in India before the advent of the train? Native Indians seldom needed to move beyond the boundaries of their own village or the adjoining ones and would spend their entire lifetime within these confines. We have heard about Indian pilgrims travelling from distant parts of India to holy sites such as Varanasi or Haridwar. Such journeys must have been on foot and must have taken years. It was possible that no one who undertook such a journey every came back.

The British civil and military servants in the 18th and early 19th century needed to move long distances on land as part of the administrative work. How did they travel? They used the dak.

The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China and Australasia, published in 1833 carries, on page 181, this detailed and vivid description of the dak journey.

In a dak journey, the traveller must apply to the postmaster of the place of his residence to furnish him with relays of bearers to a given point, a preliminary which is called "laying the dak" the time of starting is specified, and the different places at which it may be expedient to rest. Three or four days' notice is usually required to enable the dak-master to apprise the public functionaries of the different villages of the demand for bearers: the traveller must be provided with his own palanquin, and his own banghies (boxes), ropes, and bamboos.

Will it be necessary, in these enlightened times, to describe a palanquin? An oblong chest will convey the truest idea which can be given of this conveyance; the walls are of double canvas, painted and varnished on the outside, and lined within with chintz or silk; it is furnished on either side with sliding wooden doors, fitted into grooves, and when unclosed disappearing between the canvas walls; the roof projects about an inch all round, and is sometimes double, to keep off the heat of the sun. In front, there are two small windows furnished with blinds, and beneath them run a shelf and a shallow drawer. The bottom is made of split cane interwoven like that of a chair, and having a mattrass, a bolster, and pillow covered either with leather or phintz: some are also supplied with a moveable support for the back, in case the traveller should prefer sitting upright to reclining at full length. The poles jet out at each end near the top; they are slightly curved, and each is long enough to rest upon the shoulders of two men, who stand one on each side, shifting their shoulders as they run along. Could the palanquin be constructed to swing upon springs, no conveyance would be more easy and agreeable; but mechanical art has made little progress in India; no method has yet been struck out to prevent the vehicle from jolting. It is said that the pendulous motion, which would be the least unpleasant to the traveller, would distress the bearers; but when the makers shall be men of science, this difficulty will vanish.

The preparations for a dak journey are simple. The necessary baggage is packed into banghies, which are sometimes square tin boxes of a particular size, fitted for the mode of conveyance with conical tops; at others, round covered baskets sewed up in painted canvas. These are slung with ropes to each end of a bamboo, which is carried across a man's shoulder, two banghie-bearers being usually attached to the dak. A desk may be placed upon the shelf before-mentioned, and other small packages stowed in the palanquin, which should be supplied with biscuits, a tumbler, a bottle of wine or brandy, and a serai (a long-necked porous jar) of water wrapped in a wet cloth, which may be tied to one of the poles outside. Eight men attend to carry the palanquin, who relieve each other by turns, the four off duty running by the side of the vehicle. At night, two mussaulchees (torch-bearers) are added. These men are all Hindoos, and belong to one of the poorest, though not the lowest castes; they bring with them their cloths, loias (drinking-vessels), and provision for a meal, which they pack upon the top of the palanquin, and retaining a very scanty portion of drapery upon their persons, present an exceedingly grotesque appearance. When all is ready, they take up their burden and setoff at a round pace, going, when the road is good, at the rate of from three miles and a-half to four miles an hour.

The stages vary from ten to fourteen miles, and a change of bearers is often effected in the midst of a wide plain. The relay, which is generally in waiting for some time, kindle a fire, group themselves around it, and beguile the interval with smoking or sleeping. When drawing near to the appointed spot, the traveller is made aware of the circumstance by the shouts of his own people, who exclaim, in loud but musical accents, "dak wallah, dak wallah, tiar hi?" (dak men or fellows, are you ready ?). The welcome response is joyfully received, and in a few minutes more the palanquin is put down amid the cries of "Ram! Ram !"* an expression which, when thus used, conveys both salutation and thankfulness. The tired traveller will often echo the " Ram! Ram!" of his weary bearers, who, if they have received the customary buxies (present) of an eight anna piece, take leave with shouts of "salaam, Saib.

" In preparing for a dak journey, care should be taken to secure a halt of eight or twelve hours, at stated distances, certainly not exceeding a hundred miles, while a lady will find it expedient to rest after she has traversed fifty or sixty. On the great road, from Calcutta to Cawnpore, there are govemment-bungaJows at the end of every stage, built purposely for the accommodation of travellers; but on other routes, they must depend upon the hospitality of individuals. It can always be previously ascertained when and where it may be advisable to rest, and notices to the persons whose houses lie in the road can be conveyed at the time that the bearers are summoned, though in no instance would a dak traveller be refused admittance, and it is only necessary to go up to the gate and ask for shelter.

In the hot season, persons who brave the heat of the day, in a palanquin, venture at the risk of their lives: they should always take care to be housed by twelve o'clock. Not a few, who have unadvisedly set out upon a long journey without the necessary precaution of breaking it by remaining under some friendly roof during the sultry hours, have been found dead in their palanquins, and others have escaped with very severe fevers. In the cold weather, it is more agreeable to travel by day, the nights being very piercing. As the doors can only be partially open until after sunset, very little of the country is to be seen from a palanquin; however, the eye may still find amusement in contemplating the passing objects, and, particularly in Bengal, the gambols of the monkeys crashing amid the boughs of the trees above, and the fire-flies irradiating the leaves of whole groves, shooting in and out in coruscations of emerald light, afford gratification to those who are willing to be amused.

A journey by dak is the only rapid method of travelling which has yet been devised in India, and the rate, compared with that in European countries, is slow indeed. It is also very expensive if the distance be long, the charge made by the postmaster being a shilling per mile. There is also a demand for a deposit, under the name of demurrage, which the traveller forfeits should he detain the bearers in places not specified in the route. The dak traveller experiences considerable inconvenience in being deprived of the attendance of his own servants, who must follow in a much more tedious manner. While actually upon the road, the want of domestics is not felt, the bearers being particularly attentive to the comforts of the traveller: even persons totally unacquainted with Hindoostanee may trust themselves to a long journey, secure that the different sets of natives, who may be employed to carry them, will endeavour, with the most earnest zeal, to comprehend and obey their commands. On one occasion, a lady, who did not know ten words of the language, obtained a very comfortable breakfast by pointing to a bottle of tea which she had with her in the palanquin, and making the bearers understand that she wished to have it heated. They kindled a fire, warmed the tea in an earthen pipkin purchased for the purpose, and catching a goat presented her with a tumbler-full of its milk.

In most cases where complaints are made of the bearers, the fault, upon investigation, will be found to lie with the traveller. Raw young men, and sometimes even those who have not the excuse of youth and inexperience, are but too apt to amuse themselves by playing tricks with, or beating, their luckless bearers, who are not infrequently treated like beasts of burthen. They have it in their power to retaliate, and when provoked to excess, punish the offender, by putting the palanquin down, and making off to the jungles. A three or four hours' detention upon the road, perhaps under a burning sun, is the consequence, and it would require a very vivid imagination to conceive a more disagreeable situation, especially to a person wholly unacquainted with the country, and the means of procuring a new set of bearers to carry him on. The chance of falling in with a European is very small indeed, and few of the passers-by would consider it to be their duty to offer their assistance. Natives do not trouble themselves about the affairs of strangers, and they would consider it to be the will of heaven that a Saib should lie upon the road, and would not think of interfering unless especially called upon to do so. As there is only one particular caste who will carry burthens upon their shoulders, the palanquin would remain in a quiescent state for ever, before men who were not bearers by birth and profession would lift it from the ground: they would ejaculate upon being hailed, and pass on, confining their services to the report of the affair to the cuiwal or jemadar of a neighbouring village, who would send bearers if they could be procured, which is not always the case under several hours' notice.

It happened to the writer that, upon a dak journey, the bhangie ropes broke, and were useless. The bhangie-bearers could not be prevailed upon to carry the boxes on their heads, and at every stage a considerable delay took place in procuring coolies to convey a burthen rejected by persons belonging to a different class. Sirdar-bearers, chuprassies, etc. will carry a guttrie, or bundle, but will upon no account submit to the disgrace of a box. They sometimes insist upon taking out a crape or gauze dress, and wrapping it in a towel, to the utter destruction of its furbelows; and many are the lively discussions which occur between them and the ayah upon these occasions.

But to return to the discomforts of a dak journey. Policy as well as humanity should teach Europeans to treat the natives of India with kindness; they have frequently the power (though, to their credit be it spoken, they rarely avail themselves of it) of avenging their injuries, and the advantages of a good name can in no country be of higher value. The bhote tttcha Saib, or the bhote utcha Bebee, who have procured the commendations of the natives around them, will find their fame very widely extended. They are secure of meeting respect and attention wheresoever they may go, while those of a contrary character are equally certain of being shunned by all who are not actually compelled to render them unwilling service. The repose obtained in a palanquin is liable to many interruptions; at the end of each stage there is the clamour for busies, and when the vehicle gets into the hands of a set of bearers who are either ill-matched in size, or who do not step out well together, the jolting is tremendous.

The country during the rainy season is intersected by nullahs; every channel of the ravines is converted into a rapid river, and the greater number being unfordable, they must be crossed in boats. Ferries are established upon the principal thoroughfares, and there is usually a group of natives assembled on the bank. Time does not appear to be of the slightest value to the people of Hindoostan; they will wait for days together at an unfrequented ghaut for the chance of getting a free passage, in a boat engaged by some more wealthy traveller, rather than pay the few pice demanded for their transport. The instant the palanquin is safely lodged in the boat, the crowd upon the bank embark, and if the owner should be so rash as to ask for his fee, the intruders enquire with great indignation if he be not satisfied with the hurra buxies (great present) he has already received, declaring to a man that, after the Saib's extraordinary liberality, they will give him nothing: the boat belonged to the Saib, to whom their thanks are due. Apparently, this reasoning is conclusive; at least the boatman takes nothing by his motion.

It is only when night spreads its mysterious spell over the scene, that an Indian landscape, during the dry weather, can captivate the eye, however luxuriant the foliage may be, and that never appears to be scorched by the sun. However romantic the temples, when springing from an arid soil, more than half their charm is lost; but starlight or moonlight can invest it with a divine aspect: the barren sands become soft and silvery; and the parched desert, cool and refreshed, cheats the vision with a semblance of verdure. To a dak traveller, the changes produced by the approach of night are particularly striking: his eyes have been wearied for many hours with dust and glare, and he hails the first shadows cast by the setting sun with joy. So extraordinary is the illusion, that it would not be difficult to fancy that he was entering upon some new country; some enchanting paradise hitherto undiscovered, whence all unsightly things have been banished, or where they never found a place.

In some of the jungley districts of India, a dak traveller may be surprized by the unwelcome appearanee of a tiger. In this event, the bearers, justly considering^ self-preservation to be the first law of nature, usually betake themselves to flight; leaving their employer to do battle in the best way he can with the monster of the wild: conduct which excites a higher degree of indignation than it merits, since they are certainly more exposed to a sudden spring than the person inside the palanquin, and are also less able to defend themselves. It is much easier to escape without their burthen, and it does appear rather hard that they should be expected to risk their lives in defence of a stranger, who has merely hired them to carry a palanquin.

A dak journey of any very considerable length is seldom performed without the occurrence of some incident, either agreeable or the reverse; detention upon the road is the most common, the bearers, the traveller being to blame. Upon arriving at the end of a stage, if the relay should not be in readiness, there is no alternative but to await its arrival; the old bearers cannot be induced to proceed a step farther; they are fatigued, and it would take them too long a distance from their homes. While the unfortunate traveller, impatient and out of humour, is lamenting over his ill-luck, the people, who have just been released from their duty, are enjoying themselves with great relish. Excepting in the rains, they do not seek a shelter, a tree affords sufficient shade by day, and at night they require no other canopy than the sky. They kindle a fire upon the ground, and while some are cooking or smoking, the remainder fall asleep. The traveller might sleep also were he not tormented by the fear of losing his banghies, which are given up and placed under his care. As there are numbers of petty thieves upon the watch for any stray article which may come across them, he is compelled to keep a sharp look-out after his property, and if the palanquin should remain for some hours upon the ground, there is the danger of an invasion by a rat or a snake.

When a village is the scene of the delay, some amusement may be obtained, especially at night, by a survey of the interiors of the huts. The window-shutters and doors are well-provided with chinks; both are frequently dispensed with, lattices of bamboo supplying their places, and as there is a lamp always burning in the poorest tenement, the whole economy of the apartments is distinctly visible. They are generally, though merely plastered with mud, extremely clean and neatly kept. The furniture is simple and scanty; a chest standing upon four or six feet and clamped with brass, to contain clothes and articles of any value; a charpoy, a mat, and a few brass vessels, frequently composing the whole. Others are of a superior description and have the walls decorated with small looking-glasses and pictures in gilt frames, either miserable designs, miserably executed, of native subjects, or gaudy scripture-prints, such as are still sometimes to be found iiv the cottages of England, and which have found their way to the most distant parts of Hindoostan. In some of these houses may be seen, at a late hour, a venerable old man, with a beard flowing down to his waist, handsomely attired in white muslin, seated upon the floor, and employed in writing with a reed pen upon vellum, by the light of a small chiraug, a moonshee, calculating, perchance, the expenses of the day, or engaged on some more abstruse subject.

At some periods, when there are several persons proceeding up or down the country, at the same time, by dak, two palanquins meet or pass each other on the road. Upon such occasions, it would be supposed that solitary Europeans, even though previously unacquainted, would exchange some friendly greeting, especially if detained for a few minutes in the same place; but even in the wildest districts, English reserve is strictly maintained. Two palanquins may be put down upon a desolate plain, with only a few yards of sand between them ; yet the inmates will keep themselves closely shut up, never enquiring whether they can render any assistance to each other, or offering to share the refreshments they may have in store. It is rarely that they even ask the name of the person with whom they have been placed in such close contact, and brothers long severed might have the opportunity of an interview of an hour's duration, and lose it from too close an adherence to the unsocial pride which is the characteristic of an Englishman.