Copyright
Price Collier.

The West in the East from an American point of view online

. (page 14 of 29)
Online LibraryPrice CollierThe West in the East from an American point of view → online text (page 14 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ize, as do all men who do the hard work of the
world, that the ladder on which the angels de-
scend is usually set up in a stony place, as it was
in the time of Jacob. I have no brief for this
civil service of the British in India, and my praise
will probably never reach their ears, but I cannot
forbear the expression of my admiration for
some of the residents, political agents, judges,
commissioners, and deputy commissioners I met
and saw at work there. They are doing delicate,
difficult, and dangerous work, with a coolness,
devotion, and uprightness unequalled and unap-
proached by anything I have ever seen else-
where in the world, and withal without the
slightest attempt to advertise themselves. If I
were in such a position, I should be made c}Tii-
cal, indeed, by some of the snap criticism from
travellers and politicians, and from the Oxford
and Cambridge Babus from England and else-
where.



HIS HIGHNESS THE INIAHARAJA i24.5

We Westerners are not the sole progeny of
light. Our civilization is only dawning, and big
with possible disasters ; but some critics from the
East assume that our social, political, and ethi-
cal weights and measures have been tested and
stamped with approval in heaven; and the more
crude and unkempt the civilization they repre-
sent, the more categorical are the prophets
thereof.

I was honored by invitations from about a
dozen of the native princes, and the story of
some of these visits it will be a pleasure to tell,
and I regret that I have not space for all.

The journey from Bombay to the native state
of Baroda was our first experience of railway
travel in India. The train was to leave a little
before eight o'clock in the morning, and the rail-
way station was at some distance away. The
bearer with bullock-carts piled high with lug-
gage got off before dawn. We had ordered cabs
for the early start to the station, but when we
appeared there were no conveyances of any kind,
no knowledge on the part of any one at the hotel
that we were to leave, or that cabs were wanted,
and no inclination to solve the problem. It
seemed to strike the hotel servants as prepos-
terous that we should be excited, and determined
to catch the train we had planned to go by.



246 THE WEST IN THE EAST

We discovered after some months in India,
that the Oriental way is to make a pilgrimage
to the railway station, settle down quietly on the
platform, or at some convenient place near by,
cook, eat, bathe, enjoy the excitement of incom-
ing and outgoing trains, not infrequently to try
to bargain with the ticket-seller as to the price
of tickets, on the assumption that by holding
off for some hours they may be had cheaper,
and thus to get away gradually somewhere
within twenty-four hours of the time one ar-
rives at the station. To pull out your watch,
call a cab, and get to the train you intend to
go by, and all within an hour, seems to them
like rushing to the theatre to see the curtain go
up, and then leaving.

It may be impossible to hurry the East along
large administrative lines, but it is a mistake to
suppose that at a pinch the determined traveller
with some power of imperative gesture, and a
comprehensive vocabulary of the monosyllabic
expletives which England has taught the mean-
ing of to all the tribes of earth, cannot prick this
inertia into obedient and rapid motion. At any
rate I claim to have done so, not once but many
times. The climate is ill adapted to sudden vio-
lent expenditures of heat, whether in the form of
rhetoric or gesticulation, and the consequent open-



HIS HIGHNESS THE MAHAKAJA 247

ing of the pores may lead to catching cold, but
with a cholera-belt, without which no one should
travel in these climates, this danger is largely
minimized, and one may undertake to hurry the
East, on a small scale, without undue risk.

The cars, or carriages, in the Indian trains
are divided into compartments for four persons
with the seats facing the sides, and not the end
of the train. We usually had one of these to
ourselves, and with your folding-table and chair,
spirit-lamp, supply of mineral water, and some
food, I found the travelling very comfortable.
At night these long seats are widened by draw-
ing them out slightly, your bedding is put on
them, and I have travelled many nights in this
way, and in spite of stifling heat sometimes, and
bitter cold sometimes, and the most amazingly
penetrating powdery dust, our alkali plains, or
Mexican dust are nothing in comparison, I must
admit that there was little to grumble at. This
is not the verdict of many travellers, I know,
and though I believe a man ought to claim com-
fort when it is his right, I may be, these days,
rather an easy-going traveller whose experiences
ought not to tempt the finical and the fussy to
repeat them.

When your belongings are all in the carriage,
hat-boxes, helmet-cases, medicine-cases, gun-



248 THE WEST IN THE EAST

cases, bedding, table, chair, bags of all sorts and
sizes, food and water, spirit-lamp and night-
lantern, cameras, sticks and umbrellas, hold-alls,
pillows, etc., etc., you feel prepared to go on, or
stop, or to cope with any emergency. These
various impedimenta accumulate gradually. If
you deviate at all from the main lines of travel
you discover that there is no sending out to buy
a pen, or ink, or a chair, or a hot-water bottle,
or medicine, or a white tie, or what not that you
have forgotten; and not infrequently medicine,
or hot-water, or a lantern, or towels makes the
difference between discomfort, and even illness,
and comfort. iVnd moreover the man or woman
who takes any risk of being ill in India, and it is
a trying place, will be fully recompensed and
severely punished. It is expected that you will
travel in this caravan fashion. There are coo-
lies innumerable everywhere, and the more you
have the more autocratic and authoritative is
your bearer, and the more consideration he re-
ceives.

^Vhen we were later the guests of His Highness
the Maharana of Udaipur, I saw a number of
tents pitched near the palace, and asked what
they were. I was told that the daughter of the
prince w^as visiting him, she being the wife of
the Maharaja of Jodhpur whose capital was not



HIS HIGHNESS THE MAHARAJA 249

very far away. For her ten days' visit to her
father she was accompanied by a retinue of
five hundred people! So ahhough our carriage
looked rather full when we entered it to start for
Baroda, it was really a trifling supply of neces-
sities compared with the usages of polite society
in this land. In most of the carriages is a small
compartment for native servants next to the first-
class compartment and opening into it. As your
bearer is not only servant but interpreter, who
must be ever at hand to act as go-between when
you want fruit or tea or water, and to ask ques-
tions for you in regard to time-tables, tickets,
eating-stations, and other matters incident to
travel, it is recognized by the railway companies,
as by everybody else in India, that he must be
provided with accommodation close at hand.
At the hotels he sleeps outside your door, when
you visit he finds a place within reach of the
noise of clapping hands, and as he has never
known the luxury of chairs, beds, or tables, and
would not know what to do with them if they
were his, his choice of quarters is easy and means
no hardship.

The railway fares both for native servants
and for the natives are cheap, and in this land
of pilgrimages, these cheap train journeys are
very popular. Here at any rate the rigidity of



250 THE WEST IN THE EAST

caste prejudices is softened, and one sees car-
riage after carriage jammed full of men, women,
and children, their bedding, their pots and pans,
and all that is theirs, and the more that can crowd
into one carriage the happier they seem to be.
Many times I have seen carriages only half full
while others were overcrowded, and I have asked
if all the carriages were for the same destination,
merely to satisfy myself that these people were
really crowding themselves voluntarily.

This question of the treatment of the natives
in railway trains is often referred to, and many
are the anecdotes one hears of the bad manners
and roughness both of English travellers and
English railway management. My experience of
travel was comparatively limited, though I cov-
ered between seven and eight thousand miles,
and journeyed from end to end, and twice clean
across India. Once or twice native gentlemen
travelled in the same carriage, when I was alone,
and I never saw any rudeness except on the part
of the minor native railway officials to travellers
of their own race. Once, sometime after mid-
night, I saw an English officer pile out of his
carriage in his pajamas and slippers and soundly
berate a native official who w^as bullying a third-
class native woman passenger.

The manners and habits of even the better



HIS HIGHNESS THE MAHARAJA 251

class Indians are not as ours, and one would
naturally avoid travelling in the same carriage
with them. It is to be remembered in this con-
nection that it is of all tests the severest to travel
together, and that the Englishman is both shy
and selfish. Even in his own country, his recep-
tion of a stranger who enters the railway carriage
in which he has made himself comfortable is of
the most frigid, the most erinaceous. On the
whole I think he behaves better in India than
at home, when he travels. All great travellers
from Gulliver to Cook prefer to travel alone.

We arrived at Baroda in the early evening.
Late in the afternoon as I w^as looking out I saw^
a picture that many times since I have regretted
that I could not imprison with brush or pencil and
keep, as typical of East and West. On the roof
of a lightly built staging in the middle of a dis-
tant field, w^here she was standing no doubt to
keep the birds from the grain, stood a w^oman
draped in her deep red sari, one hand on her
hip, the other shading her eyes as she watched
the passing train. The sun w^as setting, the
glow of the sky behind her made her stand out
like a statue, and I wondered what she thought;
w^hether she liked it, hated it, feared it, de-
spised it, longed to be in it, or wished it away.
When the interpreter comes wdio can make that



252 THE ^^^ST IN THE EAST

statue of India talk, we shall know many things
that no one has told us.

When we left our carriage at the station at
Baroda, we were instantly swallow^ed up in a
pushing, haggling, gesticulating mass of brown
arms and legs, with turbans bouncing about on
top of them, whom our bearer dealt with as
though they were troublesome insects; shortly
there was silence and order, and several emis-
saries from His Highness the Maharaja Gaekwar
of Baroda greeted us on his behalf, showed us to
our carriage, and we were driven away; later a
procession of bullock-carts followed with the
luggage, Heera Tall making himself felt as was
his wont when our importance and our comfort
were to be explained, no doubt with help from
his imagination, to those who were to serve us.

We all have our idiosyncrasies as guests no
doubt. Personally I care very little what kind
of a bed I am given because I can sleep anywhere
and on almost anything; I have more than once
nodded in a dentist's chair and on horseback;
but an open fire in my room delights me, a good
tub and plenty of water and towels, a well-
furnished writing-table, these seem to me indis-
pensable ; and if in addition I find a book or two
worth reading that I have not read, my happiness
is complete and I consider my host an accom-



HIS HIGHNESS THE MAHARAJA 253

plished provider. But these are trifles to your
Oriental host. He takes you from the station in
a carriage with two turbaned servants on the box
and two standing on the foot-board behind; he
puts a whole house at your disposal with a stew-
ard and a staff of servants ; you have but to order
your carriage or a saddle-horse when they are
wanted; and one of your host's own officers or
secretaries is at your beck and call as guide and
interpreter. He does not take you to the play,
but he sends his whole troop of musicians and
singers and dancing-girls to give you an enter-
tainment in your own drawing-room; he orders
his athletes and wrestlers, and there were a score
or more of them, to perform for you alone;
temples, palaces, schools, hospitals, are open
and ready for you to inspect; his army is called
out for you to review; his cheetahs and an army
of beaters are there to give you a day's hunting
of the deer; his elephants, his wonderful white
bullocks, his stable of horses, all these are at
your disposal. If you are interested in any or all
of these things, he is the more delighted to have
you for a guest, and the more willing to show you
everything, and the more eager that you should
prolong your visit. Wiat puzzles him and those
about him is that you should have fixed dates
for other visits, that vou should consider time



^2o\^ THE ^WST IN THE EAST

as a factor, permit time to tyrannize over your
inclinations. \Miy not stay on a month with
him, and let these other matters regulate and
adjust themselves ? This is a much to be de-
sired characteristic in a host to be sure, but one
sometimes wonders if it does not prove an awk-
ward thing when matters of business, of diplo-
macy, of administration are to the fore.

The Maharaja of Baroda, or to give him his
official title. His Highness Maharaja Sir Sayaji
Rao Gaekwar of Baroda, G. C. S. I., governs a
State of some eight thousand five hundred square
miles, an area slightly larger than Massachusetts,
with a population of two millions, and revenues
of something over four million dollars. My first
meeting with him in his summer palace revealed
a man about five feet six in height, heavily built,
but light on his feet and graceful of movement,
and dressed in fine white muslin. He speaks
both English and French, has been twice around
the world, knows Europe and the United States
well, and is educating his sons, one in England,
and one at Harvard University. He is, or as-
sumed that mental attitude for my benefit, a
frank admirer of American institutions and the
American people, and hinted guardedly that if
ever a change came in the government of India
it might be somewhat along American lines, of



HIS HIGHNESS THE MAHARAJA 255

a federation of states under a central govern-
ment.

He is inclined to believe, as do practically all
the educated and intelligent Indians, that the ex-
clusive, aloof, and unsympathetic attitude of the
British is responsible for the strained relations, so
far as they are strained, claiming that distrust
breeds distrust. Of his own reforms, and no
native prince in India has attempted more in-
telligently and persistently to better the condi-
tion of his people, he said that they were dis-
liked by his people largely through ignorance,
and that once they were understood they were
appreciated. He said, and profound and true
it is, that an autocrat was possible and permissi-
ble so long as the people were left largely to them-
selves, and to their own social and political de-
vices; but that once you introduced social re-
forms, interfered in their daily lives, tried to
change their customs, insisted upon attendance
at school, vaccination, hygienic regulations, en-
tered, in short, upon a detailed regulation of their
intercourse with one another and the outside
world, then autocracy was unbearable and im-
possible, and that the people must be given a
voice in their own government, when their imme-
diate and personal concerns were thus investigated
and dealt with.



^25Q THE WEST IN THE EAST

He spoke freely of the Ignorance of the people
he governed, and said that even his own relatives
disapproved of his travelling and of his eating
with strangers. He admitted, owing to religious
views, daily habits of eating, drinking, and bath-
ing, the fine web of custom and tradition which
holds the Hindus in its meshes every hour of
the day, that intercourse and sympathy with
foreigners was not easy. He thought political
autonomy to be a long way off, but again re-
verted to an expression of the feeling, that prog-
ress might be faster if the British were more
sympathetic, more trusting.

That is always the master thought, the irri-
tant factor, the beginning and the end of all the
scores of conversations I have had with the edu-
cated Indians, this criticism of the cold, stolid
self-sufficiency of the British. The Indians do
not realize that they are not alone in this feeling,
that Frenchmen, Germans, Irishmen, Ameri-
cans all say the same, that it is the major defect
of their great qualities. One can hardly expect
the Oriental to hold the balance true in these
matters when so few of the Occidental critics
have been able to do so. Few of us are big
enough to judge others by their superiorities
rather than by their weaknesses and littlenesses.
Poke fun at the weaknesses if you like, that is



HIS HIGHNESS THE MAHARAJA 257

the salt of life, that sense that we are all of us,
even the best of us, slightly ridiculous when
looked at in certain lights, but never forget that
it is the power that drives the engine that counts,
not the smoke from the escape-pipe. ]Most crit-
icism seems to devote itself to the bad smells at
the mouth of the vent-pipe, hence its slight value.
"They but rub the sore, when they should bring
the plaster."

Our days w^ere full at Baroda. The Aide as-
signed to us turned out to be a Brahman gentle-
man recently returned from the United States,
where he had been the companion of the young
prince; and his English speech, and courteous
manners and intelligence, smoothed the way for
my ardent curiosity, which began with a review
of the Baroda army on horseback at half-past
five o'clock in the morning, and continued
through the day with visits to schools, libraries,
hospitals, wrestling-schools, elephant stables,
armories, state jewels, and ended at eleven at
night, with a performance in our drawing-room
by His Highness's musicians and dancing-girls.

In the guide-book under the heading Baroda
it reads: "Good refreshment and waiting-rooms
and sleeping accommodation." These words,
and my experience in Baroda, mark emphati-
cally the difference between seeing India as a
tourist and seeing India as a guest.



258 THE W^ST IN THE EAST

Baroda is policed and lighted, the streets are
watered, there is a good supply of water brought
into this city, which has a population of over
one hundred thousand, from a lake eighteen
miles away, the schools are well attended, the
hospitals clean, and the jail governed in most
humane fashion, the prisoners being all kept at
work at carpet, or rug, or basket, or rope making.
I visited a model farm where experiments are
being made in cotton growing, tobacco grow-
ing, breeding of silk-worms, and where I saw a
guava orchard, and English vegetables, cabbage,
cauliflower, and tomatoes growing.

Next to my gallop with Captain Pathak's cav-
alry, the visit to a native village at some distance
from Baroda gave me as much pleasure as any-
thing. Part of the way we went in a carriage,
and the last part of the way over the rougher
roads, in a bullock-cart drawn by a pair of the
famous white bullocks. We were greeted on
our arrival by the whole village, with the im-
portant men at their head. They conducted
me to a covered-in space with a table and chair,
and the fathers of the village sat cross-legged
on the floor in front of me. The head men of
t'hese villages are often office-holders by heredity;
in this particular case no one could remember
when a representative of this man's family had
not been head man. The village seemed to be



HIS HIGHNESS THE IVIAHARAJA 259

governed by seven, three appointed by the gov-
ernment, three elected, and the head man.
There was a town clerk who explained to me
the method of election, the way the accounts
were kept, and so on.

It should be recalled to the reader in this
connection that in India, with few commercial
towns and a huge agricultural population, self-
government was highly developed in these vil-
lages centuries ago. The kings or emperors had
absolute power in the empire, but they left the
villages with a free hand to govern themselves.
The Indians of those days enjoyed more civic
rights, more control over their village affairs,
than did the villagers of Europe, who in many
places were little better than serfs. When Brit-
ish rule came, with its strong central govern-
ment, village government naturally declined.
The villagers became less interested in the po-
lice, schools, charities, roads, wells, tanks, small
civil and criminal cases, and learned to lean upon
the central government.

In Baroda, the Gaekwar is attempting to make
the villagers more interested in their own affairs,
and is putting more and more the control of
small concerns in their hands. Compulsory
education, among other things, had been intro-
duced, and I asked the assembly in front of me



260 THE WEST IN THE EAST

their opinion about it; with the exception of two
eklers who seemed unenthusiastic, the others
thought it wise. When I arose to go out, to walk
about in the village, wreaths of flowers were
hung about my neck, two bouquets w^ere pre-
sented to me, and I was given betal leaf and
cardamon seed, which are not bad chewing, by
the way.

I visited the boys' school and the girls' school,
and in both places they were drawn up in line
to sing to me. I was allowed to enter two or
three dwellings, rough square mud huts they
were, with cows, chickens, ducks w^alking about
in the compound, and all with cakes of cow-dung
drying on the walls and on the ground, this
being their fuel, and consequently a robbery of
the land of its natural fertilizer; but there seems
to be no remedy for this in a land of no natural
fuel.

At the well, which seems to be a sort of vil-
lage meeting-place, like the railway station at
train-time, or a popular corner grocery in a small
New England town, or the Indian trader's store
on one of our Indian reservations, the w^omen
were coming and going, filling their earthen or
brass or bell-metal jars. Each one lets down the
rope, each one draws it up, fills her receptacle,
and walks away balancing her burden on her



HIS HIGHNESS THE MAHARAJA 261

head. It is a picturesque sight, these scenes at
the wells in India, whether it be these face-con-
cealing women with their statuesque poses, or
the men with a pair of oxen letting down and
drawing up the great leather bag and droning
their song, as the oxen pull the rope up and the
bag is emptied into the narrow channels, which
serve as tiny viaducts through the fields.

I have watched these people at the wells in
India by the hour; these people and the soldiers
are the people you like, feel sorry for perhaps,
until you discover that they do not feel sorry for
themselves ; then you realize that you are pump-
ing up the fantastic sympathies of the West
which are not binding here at all, and all too
often artificial even at home, a way of making
the child cry by so much sympathy over his small
bruise that he begins to think it important him-
self. What a lot of that there is, and how the
demagogues of our Western world are making
the children cry over hurts that they did not
even know w^ere painful, until the political boss
discovered that they have a vote value, and the
advertising philanthropist discovered what good
posters they make!

If appearances count for anything, I have
never seen happier people than some of the
Ghurka and Sikh soldiers, and the people in



262 THE WEST IN THE EAST

many of the villages in India. Life is hard, to
be sure, but life everywhere is hard, if it is not
soft, and as for that, I have never seen people
anywhere so unhappy, so little to be envied, as
those who belong to the soft tribe, whether in
India or in New York. I left this little village
of Gora with garlands of flowers around my
neck, with bouquets in my hands, my mouth
full of seeds, attempting to reply to the many
and profound salaams with the courtesy and
dignity they merited.

Another day we were shown His Highness's
jew^els. One diamond, a pendant to the great
necklace, is the sixth largest in the world, and
at one time belonged to Napoleon III. There
are three pearls said to be valued at one hun-
dred thousand dollars and a pearl necklace well
known all over the world to those interested in
precious stones. These were merely the choicest
things in a collection comprising sapphires, em-



Online LibraryPrice CollierThe West in the East from an American point of view → online text (page 14 of 29)