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cal mushrooms in a grove of palms and cedars.

At Port Said we are in the anteroom of the
East. I do not intend to write a guide-book.
Messrs. Murray and Baedeker have too many
literary parasites already, but I must let the ink
bubble occasionally with my personal delight,
and perhaps to old travellers my naif enjoyment
of every day of those many months spent in the
East. I gazed at those Arabs at Port Said, I
studied their sensual, and in many cases dia-
bolical, faces with awe and interest. In Europe
other white men are different, to be sure, but it
is possible to account for the differences, to ana-
lyze the differences in a superficially satisfactory
way. But these human beings are not merely
different, they are something else.

That tall, naked, black man, with his head
shaven, sitting in this broiling sun, which would
knock me over in half an hour were my head not
covered with cork and linen, and protected be-
sides by a white umbrella; this man, with his
prognathic jaw, his shining teeth, his legs and
shoulders looking as though they had been re-
cently polished, his eyes with that clearness and
sheen in them, as though they were swimming in
some liquid, like a compass, he may be common-



ON THE WAY TO THE EAST 37

place to these other travellers, but I lean over the
side and gloat over him.

This is the blood that slashed through Europe
and the East, crying that theirs was the one true
God, and that Muhammad was his one true
prophet; this is the fellow I looked at in my
illustrated geography many, many years ago in-
stead of committing the text that framed him to
memory. I can see those vignettes now. I can
see the Malay with his pagoda hat, the Indian
prince with his bejewelled turban, the Japanese
with his straw coat, the Burmese lady with her
huge cigar, the Chinese with his shaven forehead,
and his pigtail. Those baby lessons in eth-
nology, how I should have devoured the text had
I dreamed that one day I was actually to eat,
and talk, and shoot, and ride, and visit with these
people, and even take photographs of them with a
machine that was not even invented in those days.

I make no apology for gazing at that boat-load
of Arabs, huddled together waiting to coal, or
floating away having done their day's work. It
is my first real sip of the East, and I am far more
excited even than when I played my first game of
base-ball in a real uniform, made in the sewing-
room ; or when I marched up to take a painfully
attenuated degree at Harvard; or when I made
my first speech in public. These are all exciting



38 THE WEST IN THE EAST

episodes, but now I am voyaging into the world
from w^hence we all came. I am actually getting
near the country where they invented Adam, and
Eve, and Noah. In a few hours I shall see the
place where Moses made a reputation as an am-
phibious commissariat which in my boyhood im-
pressed me far more than his unequalled ability
as a law-giver. Moses, and Jesus, and Muham-
mad were all born in this region, in this climate,
in this atmosphere, yes, I am bound to confess
that it was exciting.

The best books on the East, as every one
knows, are the Bible and the Arabian Nights,
and yet I found most travellers w^ere saturating
themselves with snippity descriptions of monu-
ments and places, with tabloids of history, with
technical paragraphs on architecture and the
ethnic religions, with figures about the height of
this and the length of that, or condensed statis-
tics of exports and imports, and the tonnage
through the Suez Canal, and dates about the
Pharaohs, and the Mughals. No wonder they
see nothing, know nothing, enjoy nothing, and
come home bringing a few expletives, adjectives,
and photographs, w hich can be had for a small
price either in New York or in London.

The first thing to do in going to the East is
to turn your education out on your desk so that



ON THE WAY TO THE EAST 39

you can get at the bottom of it, and there you
will find the Bible, and the Arabian Nights, and
the Odyssey, and the Iliad, and Virgil, and Herod-
otus, and Xenophon, and you will realize what
a fool you were not to have devoted more time to
them when you were asked to do so. Guide-
books can get you to the East, but they do not
get you inside. It is temperament, that counts,
not trains.

It must be about as amusing to visit the East
with a dimly informed courier, as to be taken
through the Louvre by a page-boy from the hotel ;
or to visit the British Museum, with the driver of
the cab whom you happen to hail to take you
there. Having been in the East, I can only say
to other travellers that I would not waste even
a week's time in all the East, with only the re-
sources of the average tourist at my command.
It was the unstinted, and instructed, and expe-
rienced hospitality of the English in India and
China, and of the Japanese in Japan, Korea, and
Manchuria, that made my visit profitable and
immensely enjoyable. Through them, and the
native princes of India, I was given a universal
passport, and welcomed as a chartered and priv-
ileged guest, and the burden of my debt to them
for that glorious year is beyond lightening by
any poor words of mine.



40 THE WEST IN THE EAST

Even these first Orientals out here on the
fringe seem to say to me: Beware of the men
who are ever itching to be doing something, who
cannot w^ait. They must be cowards at bottom,
afraid of themselves or of the world! And after
these many months I realize that this is, to the
Westerner, the disturbing message of the whole
East, and I wonder if they are right. Perhaps
there are two forms of fatalism, the fatalism of
despair, and the fatalism of confidence, and there
vou have the East and the W^est, never to be rec-
onciled.

The first thing one notices on going ashore for
a few hours at Port Said, is an illustration of the
methods of that British race, whose most notable
and admirable characteristic is their ability in
the governing of alien peoples. An English po-
liceman, in the uniform of the Khedive, protects
me from the yelping boatmen, with the same im-
perturbable good humor with which I am so
familiar in Piccadilly or the Strand. His coun-
tenance changes slightly under different circum-
stances. Wlien he marches alongside the ten
thousand suffragettes on their way to the x\lbert
Hall he wears the amused expression, as of
one who feels that he impersonates there and
then an unanswerable reply to all their shrillness,
both physical and vocal. When he convoys



ON THE WAY TO THE EAST 41

thousands from the East End to Hyde Park he
is more serious, but there again he looks, in his
steady, patient manhood, an answer, even to
them. On the boat-landing at Port Said he
seems more bored, as of a man tired of brushing
aside flies, but his behavior is ever the same.

The journey through the Suez Canal, a dis-
tance of about one hundred miles, is a slow
one, as we may not wash away these banks,
which cost eighty million dollars to build, with
the swash of a too-rapid progress. Watchmen,
crouching about their small fires at night, dot
the shores on both sides. For the first time I see
camels actually at work, own brothers to those
Barnum & Bailey loafers of my boyhood. In
the glare of the searchlight, the sandy desert on
both sides of the canal is so bright that every
now and again one catches a glimpse of a fox,
jackal, or hyena, and all through the night one
hears their cries. The sunsets, the light, and
the stillness are all different, all new to me.
The sunsets are sunsets of shade, rather than
colors, and De Tocqueville is right when he says :
*'Ce sont les nuances qui se querellent, non les
couleurs." There is a kaleidoscope brilliancy
about these cloudless sunsets, a stabbing at your
eyes with vivid shafts and shades, with plenty
of orange and purple and brown in them, that



42 THE WE^T IN THE EAST

make me wish I were an artist, and which con-
vert me at once to the truthfulness which I had
disbeheved of many Eastern sketches. The
Hght seems to be something you are looking
through ; and the stillness makes you lonely even
with some one sitting beside you. The darkness
comes down all through the East with incredi-
ble quickness. You can read your book, and
then of a sudden you need a lantern to see your
way. The sun does not come up, or go down,
it shoots up and down. These people live
mentally in a perpetual twilight, but physically
they are always in a blaze of light or in pitch-
darkness. Perhaps they enjoy keeping their
minds in a state of dawn, or twilight, as a
protest.

After the Suez Canal comes the Red Sea,
and on the Arabian coast, about eight hundred
miles south, is Jiddah. I have no interest in
Jiddah, but Jiddah is the seaport of Mecca, and
somehow the word Mecca reverberates in my
brain. I have been wont to mention Seringa-
patam, Kamchatka, Timbuctoo, and Mecca and
Seoul, as far-away, fairy sort of places, that I
was no more likely to be near, much less to visit,
than, say, Mars. That comes of living in the
West. But here I am, and I cannot get quite
awake to the fact.



ON THE WAY TO THE EAST 43

Jiddah, too, actually has the tomb of Eve.
That impresses my imagination very much. Not
that this first languor of the East devitalizes my
rather unorthodox upbringing, tempting me to
the historical acceptance of Eve. My theology
is unshattered, but I am bound to say I have a
friendly feeling for the imaginative proficiency of
the man who, perhaps, left his money to build
a tomb for Eve! It is at least a good schooling
in cosmopolitan charity, to be near people who
repair to the tomb of Eve as to a sanctuary;
people so calm and so unflurried by the welter of
the world, that they ignore the inextricable moral
confusion into which that lady is accused, by
many, of having plunged us.

Later on I am to be the guest of a charming
Eastern lady, Her Highness the Begum of Bho-
pal, and she is to present me with a volume of
her travels. She is a Muhammadan, and has
made the pilgrimage to Mecca. In this volume
she writes of Jiddah, and mentions the tomb of
Eve and writes: "Eve was the wife of Adam."
It is paralyzing to Western orthodoxy and to
Western conceit to realize that this lady feels
called upon to tell her readers, that Eve was the
wife of Adam. It clears the mind of a lot of
underbrush when one realizes that in the East,
among; the eight or nine hundred millions of



44 THE WEST IN THE EAST

people we are to visit, one must introduce Eve
as the wife of Adam, and even then be asked, in
all probability, Who was Adam ? How differ-
ent must the standards be in a country, and
among peoples, where Eve is distant, dim, un-
known! It is true that even among ourselves
Eve wears but a scanty garment even of tradi-
tion, but now I am to travel in lands where she
has not even a figment of the imagination to
clothe her.

I begin to understand that all of us Occidentals
are provincial, that we have overestimated our
importance, our influence, and the effect of our
impact upon the Orientals. I shall try to re-
member, as I study these people, that Eve is
introduced, in this other world as the w^ife of
Adam. It is already becoming evident that
many things that I have considered as of funda-
mental importance have no significance here at
all. All the clocks, and yardsticks, and weights
and measures are different, or do not exist at all.
We are going into a world where the best of us,
no matter what our education and experience,
can only grope about. We may have conquered
the Eastern w'orld, but, apparently, we have
changed it very little. Our much-vaunted civ-
ilization does not impress them, as we think it
should. They look upon our civilization, ap-



ON THE WAY TO THE EAST 45

parently, as aii attempt to make men comfort-
able, in a life which men ought not to love.

"The brooding East with awe beheld
Her impious younger world.
The Roman tempest sweir*^' and swell'd
And on her head was hurl'd.

"The East bow'd low before the blast
In patient, deep disdain;
She let the legions thunder past,
And plunged in thought again."



II

THE GATEWAY TO INDIA

IT is because they are very sophisticated, or
because they know the wonders beyond,
that certain travellers tell you that Bombay
is only the entrance to India, and not interesting.
One can make some very accurate guesses about
the people inside the house from the condition
of the front steps, the cleanliness of the bell-
handle or knocker, and the manners and appear-
ance of the servant who opens the door. At
least I am almost unconsciously in the habit of
doing so, and one is apt to be more cheerful at
the drawing-room entrance if the guardian of
the outer door gives you a pleasant greeting.
The British front door to India, or Govern-
ment House Bombay, gave us such a pleasant
greeting that we were cheerful throughout the
rest of our stay, despite hardships and illness
here and there.

First we went to the new hotel, considered the
best in India, but we were there for a very short
time, for after delivering various letters of intro-

46



THE GATEWAY TO INDIA 47

duction we were promptly invited to become the
guests of His Excellency the Governor of Bom-
bay. But already at the hotel I saw many things.
Along the halls outside the guest-rooms I saw
little knots of native servants, in groups of from
two to half a dozen, according to the size of the
master's family. How little an Indian needs,
even with the good pay of a servant, was plainly
evident. They had their beds and cooking uten-
sils with them, and at certain hours one saw
them eating, or sleeping, huddled together out-
side their master's door.

Our rooms were large and airy. There was
only the necessary furniture, no hangings, and
our own bedding was used on the beds. Every-
body carries his own bedding in India, and out-
side the large establishments of the government
officials, everywhere it is needed. You are sup-
posed to carry your own bedding with you just as
you carry your own tooth-brush. In the trains,
and there are very long train journeys, by slow
trains, in India, in the guest-houses of the native
princes, in camp of course always, and in the
hotels and inns, your own bedding is a neces-
sity. Indeed you can scarcely carry too much in
India if you wish to be comfortable. All sorts
of clothing, from fur coats to the thinnest linen,
all sorts of hats from a cap to a pith-helmet, a



48 THE WEST IN THE EAST

spirit-lamp, a folding table and chair, a small
amount of tinned or bottled food and a supply of
mineral water for the train, a large supply of
linen and underclothing, for one changes often,
and the laundry work is done by beating on flat
stones. The changes of temperature from noon
till midnight are startling. One must give up
cold baths and take to tepid or hot water, and be
careful, indeed, what, and how much, one eats and
drinks. No alcohol before sunset, and very little
then, and the plainest and most nourishing food.

In this land, as large almost as the whole of
Europe, there are only a few large cities where
one can buy any of the luxuries or comforts of
life outside the obvious, and what you need you
must carry with you. On a large scale you do
what the native does, you carry your household
gods and goods about with you.

How differently "pick up your bed and walk"
sounds in your ears when you see a whole popu-
lation of hundreds of millions actually carrying
their beds with them whenever they move. Why
should one take heed as to what one shall eat, or
drink, or wear, when a handful of rice, a thimble-
ful of water, and a loin-cloth suffice. The group
of servants in front of their master's door at the
hotel, or the hundreds of families I have seen
travelling by train, by bullock-cart, or even on



THE GATEWAY TO INDIA 49

foot, have squeezed and sifted life's necessities
down to the vanishing-point.

I can see why the gentle Prince of Peace ap-
pealed to the Roman, the German, the Scandi-
navian, the Briton. Those heavy-eating, hard-
drinking, hard-fighting peoples, who must have
skins, and furs, and huts, and fires, or die, saw
in Him and His teachings the very antipodes of
all they were, or strove to be. Not so the gentle
Hindu. These are not miracles to him; indeed
along material lines, he and his ancestors, so
far as any man can recall history, have lived
in that way.

India has sixty-two million Muhammadans
to-day, and but very few Christians, and most of
these Muhammadans are converts. The ]\Iu-
hammadan conquerors brought few women with
them, and their direct descendants are few in
number to-day compared with their converts.
To slay the idolater and the heretic, and to be
recompensed in another world of fascinating
material, not to say sensual gratifications, for
so doing, and in this world to be received at
once on conversion into the great INIuhammadan
brotherhood, where there is no caste and no irre-
movable inequalities, this has appealed to the
Indian far more than the doctrines or promises
of Christianity.



50 THE WEST IN THE EAST

Muhammadanism is purely democratic. There
is no caste even of priests. He who mounts the
pulpit and prays, preaches, or reads from the
Koran is only an equal among equals, and not set
apart or considered above others. It is much like
the democratic ways of early Puritan Congre-
gationalism, when the sages would have snorted
indeed at the thought that their religious leader,
was in the least tainted with any such doctrine
as the indelibility of the priesthood, or powers
of confession or absolution, other than those of
any father at his own fireside. Congregational
ministers of the old type were leaders in politics,
were sent to Congress, and abroad as ambassa-
dors, and took a conspicuous part in town meet-
ings, and would have scoffed at any insinuation
that they were priests, or not as other men, in the
homely duties and responsibilities of daily life.
Alas, as society becomes more complicated, it
demands easy and simple classifications and no-
menclature, and thus a priest is a priest, a
banker a banker, a professor a professor, with-
out much time or thought given to shades and
differences.

This feature of the Muhammadan creed
appeals strongly to the caste-bound and neg-
lected Hindu, who must be born again, and
born again in no metaphorical sense, to move



THE GATEWAY TO INDIA 51

an inch above the social status allotted to him
by his own religion. Besides this, the Christian
brotherliness and love in India are names, not
facts. The low-caste Hindu may become what
his abilities lead to amongst the Muhammadans,
he may become a great man among them, and
marry into the proudest family. Their wel-
come is a real one. But what Christian mission-
ary even, let alone the layman, offers his daugh-
ters or sisters to the Hindu convert.'^ There is
not even a Christian club in India of which he
can become a member. The proudest native
prince in India is not allowed inside the doors
of the Bombay Yacht Club, even as a guest.

One often hears Protestantism and Catholi-
cism compared, to the disadvantage of the latter,
because the Protestant countries are more pros-
perous, wealthier, more powerful. This same
reasoning is used when comparing Christianity
with Brahmanism, Confucianism, Buddhism,
but the argument does not lie, as the lawyers say.
To the Hindu mind it is no argument at all.
His ideal is to get out of the world, not to get
what he can out of it, and stay in it. That one's
beliefs should be scientifically true, or that they
should produce in an individual or in a nation
powers of wealth-getting or comfort-making, is
not only not required of his faith by the Orien-



52 THE ^\^ST IN THE EAST

tal, but he looks upon such tests as preposterous.
If plague or famine come to a whole province,
or loss or illness come to him individually, or the
will of a ruler, whom he believes to be divinely
guided, brings disgrace upon him, all these are
accepted as inevitable. It is part of the mys-
terious and incomprehensible divine plan, and
leads to no questioning, criticism, or even com-
plaint of the ways of God with man. We recog-
nize self-sacrifice and unselfishness as spiritual
graces to be cultivated, but the great majority
of Christians look upon an unsuccessful Chris-
tian as lacking in some essential manner the full
dower of his faith. If the Hindu believed that
his faith forbade working on Sunday, or forbade
divorce for example, he would sacrifice himself
rather than disobey. We on the contrary have
allowed laws of economics, and laws of health
and freedom to over-ride the dicta of the priest.

I am not deciding between the two, though I
believe we are right; I am merely noting differ-
ences, wdiich must be kept in mind by the stu-
dent of the East, if he w ishes to gain something
more of an understanding of the situation, than
the mere superficial contempt, and cobwebby ex-
periences, of a self-satisfied traveller.

The conversion of the thousand million brow^n
and vellow men of Asia, by the five hundred mill-



THE GATEWAY TO INDIA 5S

ion Christians, is so far away in the distance that
no eye, even of the imagination, can see so far
down the aisles of time.

Far be it from me, a Christian, to discourage
the attempt. On the contrary, Christianity has
become so clogged with materialistic misinter-
pretations of its messages; the tent-making and
fishing apostles have been so lost in cardinals
and bishops living in palaces with the revenues
of princes, that the Christian missionary seems
almost the one fine and genuine thing left. Just
because there is no hope of visible success for
him, he is the more admirable and the more
Christian.

It is true that the East moves slowly, but even
if we count by centuries, the Muhammadan has
much the best of it. One Oriental race, the
Jews, who live among us, who have been perse-
cuted in every country of the world save America,
have not been converted to Christianity. The
Parsis in Bombay, there are some fifty thousand
of them out of a total population of some eight
hundred thousand, are the most prominent and
the most pow'Crful people, financially and polit-
ically there, and come most in contact with the
British politically and commercially; but they
are as much Zoroastrians to-day as when they
fled to India from Persia. The Pai'sis all over



54 THE WEST IN THE EAST

India still retain the head-gear which was forced
upon them as a humiHation in the early days
of their coming to India, just as the Chinese
retain the pig-tail, which was forced upon them
as a mark of bondage, by their conquerors the
Tartars, two hundred and fifty years ago. The
Parsis, rich and poor alike, though like the Jews
there are few poor amongst them, maintain their
religious tenets amongst this mass of Hindus
and Muhammadans, and despite the influence
of their friends the Christian British.

The towers of silence are one of the sights of
Bombay. The Parsis will not defile the three
elements, water, fire, and earth, with the re-
mains of their dead. They refuse to dispose of
bodies after death in the water, in the ground,
or by burning.

It happened that we arrived at the towers of
silence on Malabar Hill just as a funeral pro-
cession was marching in. Shortly after we were
escorted to the top by a courteous attendant,
whose brother was the chief official. Once there
he explained in detail the procedure. In the
midst of our talk another procession wended its
way up the hill, and we saw at close quarters
what was at the moment being described.

The corpse is borne up the hill, followed by
relatives and friends in white, walking two by



THE GATEWAY TO INDIA 55

two, and hand in hand, the joining of hands sym-
boHzing the perpetual prayer between the two
thus Hnked together. The procession halts, and
the body is then carried to a raised platform
where the covering is taken off. A swarm of
vultures from the surrounding trees flop heavily
down, and soon nothing is left but the bones.
The bones of all alike are then thrown into a
common pit, where they are converted to ashes
by chemicals.

The mourners sit about in the quiet grove pro-
vided with seats and flowers and fountains, say-
ing their prayers, while the filthy birds have their
orgies. Tales are told of a finger, or some other
portion of a body, being dropped upon the pas-
sers-by in the street below by the gorged and
greedy birds. It is a grewsome spectacle to
those unaccustomed to it, but the Parsis I saw
there seemed serene and peaceful mourners, quite



Online LibraryPrice CollierThe West in the East from an American point of view → online text (page 3 of 29)