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.