Observations on the Mussulmauns of India
By Meer Hassan Ali

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Public Domain Books

Letter XVI

Remarks on the trades and professions of Hindoostaun.–The Bazaars.–Naunbye (Bazaar cook).–The Butcher, and other trades.–Shroffs (Money-changers).–Popular cries in Native cities.–The articles enumerated and the venders of them described.–The Cuppers.–Leechwomen.–Ear-cleaners.–Old silver.–Pickles.–Confectionery.–Toys.–Fans.–Vegetables and fruit.–Mangoes.–Melons.–Melon-cyder.–Fish.–Bird-catcher.–The Butcher-bird, the Coel, and Lollah.–Fireworks.–Parched corn.–Wonder-workers.–Snakes.–Anecdote of the Moonshie and the Snake-catcher.–The Cutler.–Sour curds.–Clotted cream.–Butter.–Singular process of the Natives in making butter.–Ice.–How procured in India.–Ink.–All writing dedicated to God by the Mussulmauns.–The reverence for the name of God.–The Mayndhie and Sulmah.

The various trades of a Native city in Hindoostaun are almost generally carried on in the open air. The streets are narrow, and usually unpaved; the dukhauns[1] (shops) small, with the whole front open towards the street; a tattie[2] of coarse grass forming an awning to shelter the shopkeeper and his goods from the weather. In the long lines of dukhauns the open fronts exhibit to the view the manufacturer, the artisan, the vender, in every variety of useful and ornamental articles for general use and consumption. In one may be seen the naunbye[3] (bazaar cook) basting keebaubs[3] over a charcoal fire on the ground with one hand, and beating off the flies with a bunch of date-leaves in the other; beside him may be seen assistant cooks kneading dough for sheermaul[3] or other bread, or superintending sundry kettles and cauldrons of currie, pillau, matunjun,[3] &c., whilst others are equally active in preparing platters and trays, in order to forward the delicacies at the appointed hour to some great assembly.

The shop adjoining may probably be occupied by a butcher, his meat exposed for sale in little lean morsels carefully separated from every vestige of fat[4] or skin; the butcher’s assistant is occupied in chopping up the coarser pieces of lean meat into mince meat.[5] Such shops as these are actually in a state of siege by the flies; there is, however, no remedy for the butcher but patience; his customers always wash their meat before it is cooked, so he never fails to sell even with all these disadvantages. But it is well for the venders of more delicate articles when neither of these fly-attracting emporiums are next door neighbours, or immediately opposite; yet if it even should be so, the merchant will bear with equanimity an evil he cannot control, and persuade his customers for silver shoes or other ornamental articles, that if they are not tarnished a fly spit or two cannot lessen their value.

The very next door to a working goldsmith may be occupied by a weaver of muslin; the first with his furnace and crucible, the latter with his loom, in constant employ. Then the snake-hookha manufacturer,[6] opposed to a mixer of tobacco, aiding each other’s trade in their separate articles. The makers and venders of punkahs of all sorts and sizes, children’s toys, of earth, wood, or lakh; milk and cream shops; jewellers, mercers, druggists selling tea, with other medicinal herbs. The bunyah[7] (corn-dealer) with large open baskets of sugar and flour, whose whiteness resembles each other so narrowly, that he is sometimes suspected of mixing the two articles by mistake, when certain sediments in sherbet indicate adulterated sugar.

It would take me too long were I to attempt enumerating all the varieties exposed in a Native street of shops. It may be presumed these people make no mystery of their several arts in manufacturing, by their choice of situation for carrying on their trades. The confectioner, for instance, prepares his dainties in despite of dust and flies, and pass by at what hour of the day you please, his stoves are hot, and the sugar simmering with ghee sends forth a savour to the air, inviting only to those who delight in the delicacies he prepares in countless varieties.

The most singular exhibitions in these cities are the several shroffs[8] (money-changers, or bankers), dispersed in every public bazaar, or line of shops. These men, who are chiefly Hindoos, and whose credit may perhaps extend throughout the continent of Asia for any reasonable amount, take their station in this humble line of buildings, having on their right and left, piles of copper coins and cowries.[9] These shroffs are occupied the whole day in exchanging pice for rupees or rupees for pice, selling or buying gold mohurs, and examining rupees; and to all such demands upon him he is entitled to exact a regulated per centage, about half a pice in a rupee. Small as this sum may seem yet the profits produce a handsome remuneration for his day’s attention, as many thousands of rupees may have passed under his critical eye for examination, it being a common practice, both with shopkeepers and individuals, to send their rupees to the shroff for his inspection, always fearing imposition from the passers of base coin. These shroffs transact remittances to any part of India by hoondies,[10] which are equivalent to our bills of exchange, and on which the usual demand is two and a half per cent at ninety days, if required for any distant station.

The European order is here completely reversed, for the shopkeeper sits whilst the purchasers are compelled to stand. The bazaar merchant is seated on the floor of his dukhaun, near enough to the open front to enable him to transact business with his customers, who, one and all, stand in the street to examine the goods and to be served; let the weather be bad or good, none are admitted within the threshold of the dukhaun. In most places the shops are small, and look crowded with the articles for sale, and those where manufactories are carried on have not space to spare to their customers.

Very few gentlemen condescend to make their own purchases; they generally employ their confidential domestic to go to market for them; and with the ladies their women servants are deputed. In rich families it is an office of great trust, as they expend large sums and might be much imposed upon were their servants faithless. The servants always claim dustoor[11] (custom) from the shopkeepers, of one pice for every rupee they lay out; and when the merchants are sent for to the houses with their goods, the principal servant in the family is sure to exact his dustoor from the merchant; and this is often produced only after a war of words between the crafty and the thrifty.

The diversity of cries from those who hawk about their goods and wares in streets and roadways, is a feature in the general economy of the Natives not to be overlooked in my brief description of their habits. The following list of daily announcements by the several sonorous claimants on the public attention, may not be unacceptable with their translated accompaniments.

’Seepie wallah deelie sukha’[12] (Moist or dry cuppers).–Moist and dry cupping is performed both by men and women; the latter are most in request. They carry their instruments about with them, and traverse all parts of the city. The dry cupping is effected by a buffalo’s horn and resorted to by patients suffering under rheumatic pains, and often in cases of fever, when to lose blood is either inconvenient on account of the moon’s age, or not desirable by reason of the complaint or constitution of the patient.

’Jonk, or keerah luggarny wallie’[13] (The woman with leeches).–Women with leeches attend to apply the required remedy, and are allowed to take away the leeches after they have done their office. These women by a particular pressure on the leech oblige it to disgorge the blood, when they immediately place it in fresh water; by this practice the leeches continue healthy, and may be brought to use again the following day if required.

’Kaan sarf kerna wallah’[14] (Ear-cleaner).–The cleansing of ears is chiefly performed by men, who collecting this article make great profits from the sale of it, independent of the sums obtained from their employers. It is the chief ingredient in use for intoxicating elephants previous to the furious contests so often described as the amusement of Native Courts.

’Goatah chandnie bickhow’[15] (Sell your old silver trimmings).–The several articles of silver trimmings are invariably manufactured of the purest metal without any alloy, and when they have served their first purposes the old silver procures its weight in current rupees.

’Tale kee archah wallah’[16] (Oil pickles).–The method of pickling in oil is of all others in most request with the common people, who eat the greasy substance as a relish to their bread and dhall. The mustard-oil used in the preparation of this dainty is often preferred to ghee in curries.

The better sort of people prefer water pickle, which is made in most families during the hot and dry weather by a simple method; exposure to the sun being the chemical process to the parboiled carrots, turnips, radishes, &c., immersed in boiling water, with red pepper, green ginger, mustard-seed, and garlic. The flavour of this water pickle is superior to any other acid, and possesses the property of purifying the blood.

’Mittie wallah’[17] (Man with sweetmeats).–The many varieties of sweetmeats, or rather confectionery, in general estimation with the natives, are chiefly composed of sugar and ghee, prepared in countless ways, with occasional additions of cocoa-nut, pistachias, cardimuns, rose-water, &c., and constantly hawked about the streets on trays by men.

’Kallonie wallah’[18] (Man with toys).–Toys of every kind, of which no country in the world I suppose exhibits greater variety, in wood, lakh, uberuck[19] (tulk), paper, bamboo, clay, &c., are constantly cried in the streets and roadways of a Native city.

’Punkah wallah’[20] (Vender of fans).–The punkahs are of all descriptions in general use, their shape and material varying with taste and circumstances, the general form resembling hand-screens: they are made for common use of date-leaf, platted as the common mats are; some are formed of a single leaf from the tor[21]-tree, large or small, the largest would cover a tolerable sized round table; many have painted figures and devices, and from their lightness may be waved by children without much labour. I have seen very pretty punkahs made of sweet-scented flowers over a frame of bamboo. This, however, is a temporary indulgence, as the flowers soon lose their fragrance.

’Turkaaree’, ’Mayvour’[22] (The first is vegetables; the last, fruit).–Vegetables of every kind and many sorts of fruits are carried about by men and women, who describe the name and quality of the articles they have to sell. It would occupy too large a space to enumerate here the several productions, indigenous and foreign, of the vegetable world in India. The Natives in their cookery, use every kind of vegetable and fruit in its unripe state. Two pounds of meat is in general all that is required to form a meal for twenty people, and with this they will cook several dishes by addition of as many different sorts of vegetables.

Herbs, or green leaves, are always denominated saag,[23] these are produced at all seasons of the year, in many varieties; the more substantial vegetables, as potatoes, turnips, carrots, &c., are called turkaaree.

The red and green spinach is brought to the market throughout the year, and a rich-flavoured sorrel, so delicious in curries, is cultivated in most months. Green peas, or, indeed, vegetables in general, are never served in the plain way in which we see them at our tables, but always in stews or curries. The green mango is used invariably to flavour their several dishes, and, at the proper season, they are peeled, cut, and dried for the year’s consumption. They dislike the acid of the lemon in their stews, which is never resorted to when the green mango or tamarind can be procured.

The fruits of India in general estimation with the Natives are the mango and the melon. Mangoes are luscious and enticing fruit; the Natives eat them to an excess when they have been some hours soaked in water, which, they say, takes away from the fruit its detrimental quality; without this preparatory precaution those who indulge in a feast of mango are subject to fevers, and an increase of prickly heat, (a fiery irritable rash, which few persons are exempt from, more or less, in the hot weather); even biles, which equally prevail, are less troublesome to those persons who are careful only to eat mangoes that have been well soaked in water. The Natives have a practice, which is common among all classes, and therefore worthy the notice of foreigners, of drinking milk immediately after eating mangoes. It should be remembered that they never eat their fruit after dinner, nor do they at any time indulge in wine, spirits, or beer.

The mango in appearance and flavour has no resemblance to any of the fruits of England; they vary in weight from half an ounce to half a seer, nearly a pound; the skin is smooth, tough, and of the thickness of leather, strongly impregnated with a flavour of turpentine; the colour, when ripe, is grass green, or yellow in many shades, with occasional tinges and streaks of bright red; the pulp is as juicy as our wall-fruit, and the kernel protected by a hard shell, to which fine strong silky fibres are firmly attached. The kernel of the mango is of a hot and rather offensive flavour; the poor people, however, collect it, and when dried grind it into flour for bread, which is more wholesome than agreeable; in seasons of scarcity, however, it is a useful addition to the then scanty means of the lower orders of the people. The flavour of the fruit itself differs so much, that no description can be given of the taste of a mango–even the fruit of one tree vary in their flavour. A tope (orchard) of mango-trees is a little fortune to the possessor, and when in bloom a luxurious resort to the lovers of Nature.

The melon is cultivated in fields with great ease and little labour, due care always being taken to water the plants in their early growth. The varieties are countless, but the kind most esteemed, and known only in the Upper Provinces, are called chitlahs,[24] from their being spotted green on a surface of bright yellow; the skin is smooth and of the thickness of that of an apple; the fruit weighing from half-a-pound to three pounds. The flavour may be compared to our finest peaches, partaking of the same moist quality, and literally melting in the mouth.

The juice of the melon makes a delicious cider; I once tried the experiment with success. The Natives being prohibited from the use of all fermented liquors, I was induced by that consideration to be satisfied with the one experiment; but with persons who are differently situated the practice might be pursued with very little trouble, and a rich beverage produced, much more healthy than the usual arrack that is now distilled, to the deterioration of the health and morals of the several classes under the British rule, who are prone to indulge in the exhilarating draughts of fermented liquors.

At present my list of the indigenous vegetables of India must be short; so great, however, is the variety in Hindoostaun, both in their quality and properties, and so many are the benefits derived from their several uses in this wonderful country, that at some future time I may be induced to follow, with humility, in the path trodden by the more scientific naturalists who have laboured to enrich the minds of mankind by their researches.

The natives are herbalists in their medical practice. The properties of minerals are chiefly studied with the view to become the lucky discoverer of the means of transmuting metals; seldom with reference to their medicinal qualities. Quicksilver, however, in its unchanged state, is sometimes taken to renew the constitution.[25] One gentleman, whom I well knew, commenced with a single grain, increasing the number progressively, until his daily close was the contents of a large table-spoon; he certainly appeared to have benefited by the practice, for his appetite and spirits were those of a man at thirty, when he had counted eighty years.

’Muchullee’[26] (Fish).–Fish of several kinds are caught in the rivers and tanks; the flavour I can hardly describe, for, since I knew the practice of the Hindoos of throwing their dead bodies into the rivers the idea of fish as an article of food was too revolting to my taste. The Natives, however, have none of these qualms; even the Hindoos enjoy a currie of fish as a real delicacy, although it may be presumed some of their friends or neighbours have aided that identical fish in becoming a delicacy for the table.

There are some kinds of fish forbidden by the Mussulmaun law, which are, of course, never brought to their kitchens, as the eel, or any other fish having a smooth skin;[27] all sorts of shell-fish are likewise prohibited by their code. Those fish which have scales are the only sort allowable to them for food.

The rooey[28] is a large fish, and in Native families is much admired for its rich flavour; the size is about that of a salmon, the shape that of a carp; the flesh is white, and not unlike the silver mullet. The scales of this fish are extremely useful; which, on a tolerable sized fish, are in many parts as large as a crown-piece, and of a substance firmer than horn. It is not uncommon to see a suit of armour formed of these scales, which, they affirm, will turn the edge of the best metal, and from its lightness, compared with the chain armour, more advantageous to the wearer, though the appearance is not so agreeable to the eye.

’Chirryah wallah’[29] (Bird-man).–The bird-catcher cries his live birds fresh caught from the jungles: they seldom remain long on hand. I have before described the practice of letting off the birds, in cases of illness, as propitiatory sacrifices. The Natives take delight in petting talking-birds, minas and parrots particularly; and the bull-bull,[30] the subzah,[31] and many others for their sweet songs.

The numberless varieties of birds I have seen in India, together with their qualities, plumage, and habits, would occupy too much of my time at present to describe. I will here only remark a few of the most singular as they appeared to me. The butcher-bird,[32] so called from its habit, is known to live on seeds; yet it caters for the mina and others of the carnivorous feathered family, by collecting grasshoppers, which they convey in the beak to the thorny bushes, and there fix them on sharp thorns, (some of which are nearly two inches in length), and would almost seem to have been formed by Nature for this use only. The mina[33] follows his little friend’s flight as if in the full assurance of the feast prepared for him.

The coel[34] is a small black bird, of extreme beauty in make and plumage; this bird’s note is the harbinger of rain, and although one of the smallest of the feathered race, it is heard at a considerable distance.[35] The coel’s food is simply the suction from the petals of sweet-scented flowers.

The lollah,[36] known to many by the name of haverdewatt, is a beautiful little creature, about one-third the size of a hedge sparrow. The great novelty in this pretty bird is, that the spots of white on its brown plumage change to a deep red at the approach of the rainy season; the Natives keep them by dozens in cages with a religious veneration, as their single note describes one of the terms in use to express an attribute of the Almighty.

But enough–I must hasten to finish my list of popular cries by the Indian pedlars, who roar out their merchandize and their calling to the inmates of dwellings bounded by high walls, whose principal views of the works of Nature and art are thus aided by those casual criers of the day.

’Artush-baajie’[37] (Fireworks).–Fireworks are considered here to be very well made, and the Native style much extolled by foreigners; every year they add some fresh novelty to their amusing pastime. They are hawked about at certain seasons, particularly at the Holie[38] (a festival of the Hindoos,) and the Shubh-burraat[39] of the Mussulmauns. Saltpetre being very reasonable, fireworks are sold for a small price. Most of the ingenious young men exercise their inventive powers to produce novelties in fireworks for any great season of rejoicing in their families.

’Chubbaynee’[40] (Parched corn).–The corn of which we have occasionally specimens in English gardens, known by the name of Indian corn, is here used as a sort of intermediate meal, particularly amongst the labouring classes, who cook but once a day, and that when the day’s toil is over. This corn is placed in a sort of furnace with sand, and kept constantly moved about. By this process it is rendered as white as magnesia, crisp, and of a sweet flavour; a hungry man could not eat more than half-a-pound of this corn at once, yet it is not as nutritious as barley or wheat. I have never heard that the Natives use this corn for making bread.

’Tumaushbeen’[41] (Wonder-workers).–This call announces the rope-dancers and sleight-of-hand company; eating fire, swallowing pen-knives, spinning coloured yarn through the nose, tricks with cups and balls, and all the arts of the well-known jugglers. I have seen both men and women attached to these travelling companies perform extraordinary feats of agility and skill, also most surprising vaultings, by the aid of bamboos, and a frightful method of whirling round on the top of a pole or mast. This pole is from twenty to thirty feet high; on the top is a swivel hook, which fastens to a loop in a small piece of wood tied fast to the middle of the performer, who climbs the pole without any assistance, and catches the hook to the loop; at first he swings himself round very gently, but increasing gradually in swiftness, until the velocity is equal to that of a wheel set in motion by steam. This feat is sometimes continued for ten or fifteen minutes together, when his strength does not fail him; but it is too frightful a performance to give pleasure to a feeling audience.

’Samp-wallah’[42] (Snake-catchers).–These men blow a shrill pipe in addition to calling out the honourable profession of snake-catcher. I fancy it is all pretence with these fellows; if they catch a snake on the premises, it is probably one they have let loose secretly, and which they have tutored to come and go at the signal given: they profess to draw snakes from their hiding-place, and make a good living by duping the credulous.

The best proof I can offer of the impositions practised by these men on the weakness and credulity of their neighbours, may be conveyed in the following anecdote, with which I have been favoured by a very intelligent Mussulmaun gentleman, on whom the cheat was attempted during my residence in his neighbourhood at Lucknow.

’Moonshie Sahib,[43] as he is familiarly called by his friends, was absent from home on a certain day, during which period his wife and family fancied they heard the frightful sound of a snake, apparently as if it was very near to them in the compound (court-yard) of the zeenahnah. They were too much alarmed to venture from the hall to the compound to satisfy themselves or take steps to destroy the intruder if actually there. Whilst in this state of mental torture it happened (as they thought very fortunately) that a snake-catcher’s shrill pipe was heard at no great distance, to whom a servant was sent; and when the ladies had shut themselves up securely in their purdahed apartment, the men servants were desired to introduce the samp-wallahs into the compound, to search for and secure this enemy to their repose.

’The snake-catcher made, to all appearance, a very minute scrutiny into every corner or aperture of the compound, as if in search of the reptile’s retreat; and at last a moderate sized snake was seen moving across the open space in an opposite direction to the spot they were intent on examining. The greatest possible satisfaction was of course expressed by the whole of the servants and slaves assembled; the lady of the house was more than gratified at the reported success of “the charmers” and sent proofs of her gratitude to the men in a sum of money, proportioned to her sense of the service rendered on the occasion; the head samp-wallah placed the snake in his basket, (they always carry a covered basket about with them) and they departed well satisfied with the profits of this day’s employment.

’The Moonshie says, he returned home soon after, and listened to his wife’s account of the event of the morning, and her warm commendation of the skilful samp-wallahs; but although the servants confirmed all the lady had told her husband of the snake-charmers’ diligence, still he could not but believe that these idle fellows had practised an imposition on his unwary lady by their pretended powers in charming the snake. But here it rested for the time; he could not decide without an opportunity of witnessing the samp-wallahs at their employment, which he resolved to do the next convenient opportunity.

’As might have been anticipated, the very same snake-catcher and his attendant returned to the Moonshie’s gateway a very few days after their former success; Moonshie Sahib was at home, and, concealing his real intentions, he gave orders that the two men should be admitted; on their entrance, he said to them, “You say you can catch snakes; now, friends, if any of the same family remain of which you caught one the other day in this compound, I beg you will have the civility to draw them out from their hiding-places."[44]

’The Moonshie watched the fellows narrowly, that they might not have a chance of escaping detection, if it was, as he had always suspected, that the snakes are first let loose by the men, who pretend to attract them from their hiding-places. The two men being bare-headed, and in a state of almost perfect nudity (the common usage of the very lowest class of Hindoo labourers), wearing only a small wrapper which could not contain, he thought, the least of this class of reptiles, he felt certain there could not now be any deception.

’The samp-wallah and his assistant, pretending to search every hole and crevice of the compound, seemed busy and anxious in their employment, which occupied them for a long time without success. Tired at last with the labour, the men sat down on the ground to rest; the pipe was resorted to, with which they pretend to attract the snake; this was, however, sounded again and again, without the desired effect.

’From the apparent impossibility of any cheat being practised on him, the Moonshie rather relaxed in his strict observance of the men: he had turned his back but for an instant only, when the two fellows burst out in an ecstasy of delight, exclaiming, “They are come! they are come!"–and on the Moonshie turning quickly round, he was not a little staggered to find three small snakes on the ground, at no great distance from the men, who, he was convinced, had not moved from the place. They seemed to have no dread of the reptiles, and accounted for it by saying they were invulnerable to the snakes’ venom; the creatures were then fearlessly seized one by one by the men, and finally deposited in their basket.

’"They appear very tame,” thought the Moonshie, as he observed the men’s actions: “I am outwitted at last, I believe, with all my boasted vigilance; but I will yet endeavour to find them out.–Friend,” said he aloud, “here is your reward,” holding the promised money towards the principal; “take it, and away with you both; the snakes are mine, and I shall not allow you to remove them hence.”

’"Why, Sahib,” replied the man, “what will you do with the creatures? they cannot be worth your keeping; besides, it is the dustoor[45] (custom); we always have the snakes we catch for our perquisite."–"It is of no consequence to you, friend, how I may dispose of the snakes,” said the Moonshie; “I am to suppose they have been bred in my house, and having done no injury to my people, I may be allowed to have respect for their forbearance; at any rate, I am not disposed to part with these guests, who could have injured me if they would.”

’The principal samp-wallah, perceiving it was the Moonshie’s intention to detain the snakes, in a perfect agony of distress for the loss he was likely to sustain, then commenced by expostulation, ending with threats and abuse, to induce the Moonshie to give them up; who, for his part, kept his temper within bounds, having resolved in his own mind not to be outwitted a second time; the fellow’s insolence and impertinent speeches were, therefore, neither chastised nor resented. The samp-wallah strove to wrest the basket from the Moonshie’s strong grasp, without succeeding; and when he found his duplicity was so completely exposed, he altered his course, and commenced by entreaties and supplications, confessing at last, with all humility, that the reptiles were his own well-instructed snakes that he had let loose to catch again at pleasure. Then appealing to the Moonshie’s well-known charitable temper, besought him that the snakes might be restored, as by their aid he earned his precarious livelihood.

’"That they are yours, I cannot doubt,” replied the Moonshie, “and, therefore, my conscience will not allow me to detain them from you; but the promised reward I of course keep back. Your insolence and duplicity deserve chastisement, nevertheless I promise to forgive you, if you will explain to me how you managed to introduce these snakes.”

’The man, thankful that he should escape without further loss or punishment, showed the harmless snakes, which, it appears, had been deprived of their fangs and poison, and were so well instructed and docile, that they obeyed their keeper as readily as the best-tutored domestic animal. They coiled up their supple bodies into the smallest compass possible, and allowed their keeper to deposit them each in a separate bag of calico, which was fastened under his wrapper, where it would have been impossible, the Moonshie declares, for the quickest eye to discover that anything was secreted.’

’Sickley ghur’[46] (Cutler and knife-grinder).–These most useful artisans are in great request, polishing articles of rusty steel, giving a new edge to the knives, scissors, razors, or swords of their employer, in a masterly manner, for a very small price.

’Dhie cuttie’[47] (Sour curds).–This article is in great request by scientific cooks, who use it in many of their dainty dishes. The method of making sour curd is peculiarly Indian: it is made of good sweet milk, by some secret process which I could never acquire, and in a few hours the whole is coagulated to a curd of a sharp acidity, that renders it equally useful with other acids in flavouring their curries. The Natives use it with pepper, pounded green ginger, and the shreds of pumpkins or radishes, as a relish to their savoury dishes, in lieu of chatnee; it is considered cooling in its quality, and delicious as an accompaniment to their favourite viands.

’Mullie’[48] (Clotted cream).–-This article is much esteemed by the Natives. I was anxious to know how clotted cream could be procured at seasons when milk from the cow would be sour in a few hours, and am told that the milk when brought in fresh from the dairy is placed over the fire in large iron skillets; the skin (as we call it on boiled milk) is taken off with a skimmer, and placed in a basket, which allows all the milk to be drained from it; the skin again engendered on the surface is taken off in the same way, and so they continue, watching and skimming until the milk has nearly boiled away. This collection of skin is the clotted cream of Hindoostaun.

’Mukhun’[49] (Butter).–Butter is very partially used by the Natives; they use ghee, which is a sort of clarified butter, chiefly produced from the buffalo’s milk. The method of obtaining butter in India is singular to a European. The milk is made warm over the fire, then poured into a large earthen jar, and allowed to stand for a few hours. A piece of bamboo is split at the bottom, and four small pieces of wood inserted as stretchers to these splits. A leather strap is twisted over the middle of the bamboo, and the butter-maker with this keeps the bamboo in constant motion; the particles of butter swimming at the top are taken off and thrown into water, and the process of churning is resumed; this method continues until by the quantity collected, these nice judges have ascertained there is no more butter remaining in the milk. When the butter is to be sold, it is beaten up into round balls out of the water. When ghee is intended to be made, the butter is simmered over a slow fire for a given time, and poured into the ghee pot, which perhaps may contain the produce of the week before they convey it to the market for sale; in this state the greasy substance will keep good for months, but in its natural state, as butter, the second day it is offensive to have it in the room, much less to be used as an article of food.

’Burruff wallah’[50] (The man with ice).–The ice is usually carried about in the evening, and considered a great indulgence by the Natives. The ice-men bring round both iced creams, and sherbet ices, in many varieties; some flavoured with oranges, pomegranates, pine-apple, rose-water, &c.

They can produce ices at any season, by saltpetre, which is here abundant and procured at a small price; but strange as it may appear, considering the climate, we have regular collections of ice made in January, in most of the stations in the Upper Provinces, generally under the superintendence of an English gentleman, who condescends to be the comptroller. The expenses are paid by subscribers, who, according to the value of their subscription, are entitled to a given quantity of ice, to be conveyed by each person’s servant from the deposit an hour before day-break, in baskets made for the purpose well wadded with cotton and woollen blankets; conveyed home, the basket is placed where neither air nor light can intrude. Zinc bottles, filled with pure water, are placed round the ice in the basket, and the water is thus cooled for the day’s supply, an indulgence of great value to the sojourners in the East.

The method of collecting ice is tedious and laborious, but where labour is cheap and the hands plenty the attempt has always been repaid by the advantages. As the sun declines, the labourers commence their work; flat earthen platters are laid out, in exposed situations, in square departments, upon dried sugar-cane leaves very lightly spread, that the frosty air may pass inside the platters. A small quantity of water is poured into the platter; as fast as they freeze their contents are collected and conveyed, during the night, to the pit prepared for the reception of ice. The rising sun disperses the labourers with the ice, and they seek their rest by day, and return again to their employ; as the lion, when the sun disappears, prowls out to seek his food from the bounty of his Creator. The hoar frost seldom commences until the first of January, and lasts throughout that month.

’Roshunie’[51] (Ink).–-Ink, that most useful auxiliary in rendering the thoughts of one mortal serviceable to his fellow-creatures through many ages, is here an article of very simple manufacture. The composition is prepared from lampblack and gum-arabic; how it is made, I have yet to learn.

The ink of the Natives is not durable; with a wet sponge may be erased the labour of a man’s life. They have not yet acquired the art of printing,[52] and as they still write with reeds instead of feathers, an ink, permanent as our own, is neither agreeable nor desirable.

There is one beautiful trait in the habits of the Mussulmauns: when about to write they not only make the prayer which precedes every important action of their lives, but they dedicate the writing to God, by a character on the first page, which, as in short-hand writing, implies the whole sentence.[53] A man would be deemed heathenish amongst Mussulmauns, who by neglect or accident omitted this mark on whatever subject he is about to write.

Another of their habits is equally praiseworthy:–out of reverence for God’s holy name (always expressed in their letters) written paper to be destroyed is first torn and then washed in water before the whole is scattered abroad; they would think it a sinful act to burn a piece of paper on which that Holy name has been inscribed. How often have I reflected whilst observing this praiseworthy feature in the character of a comparatively unenlightened people, on the little respect paid to the sacred writings amongst a population who have had greater opportunities of acquiring wisdom and knowledge.[54]

The culpable habit of chandlers in England is fresh in my memory, who without a scruple tear up Bibles and religious works to parcel out their pounds of butter and bacon, without a feeling of remorse on the sacrilege they have committed.

How careless are children in their school-days of the sacred volume which contains the word of God to His creatures. Such improper uses, I might say abuses, of that Holy Book, would draw upon them the censure of a people who have not benefited by the contents, but who nevertheless respect the volume purely because it speaks the word ’of that God whom they worship’.

’Mayndhie’ (A shrub).–The mayndhie and its uses have been so fully explained in the letters on Mahurrum, that I shall here merely remark, that the shrub is of quick growth, nearly resembling the small-leafed myrtle; the Natives make hedge-rows of it in their grounds, the blossom is very simple, and the shrub itself hardy: the dye is permanent.

’Sulmah.’[55]–A prepared permanent black dye, from antimony. This is used with hair-pencils to the circle of the eye at the root of the eye-lashes by the Native ladies and often by gentlemen, and is deemed both of service to the sight and an ornament to the person. It certainly gives the appearance of large eyes, if there can be any beauty in altering the natural countenance, which is an absurd idea, in my opinion. Nature is perfect in all her works; and whatever best accords with each feature of a countenance I think she best determines; I am sure that no attempt to disguise or alter Nature in the human face ever yet succeeded, independent of the presumption in venturing to improve that which in His wisdom, the Creator has deemed sufficient.

It would occupy my pages beyond the limits I can conveniently spare to the subject, were I to pursue remarks on the popular cries of a Native city to their fullest extent; scarcely any article that is vended at the bazaars, but is also hawked about the streets. This is a measure of necessity growing out of the state of Mussulmaun society, by which the females are enabled to purchase at their own doors all that can be absolutely requisite for domestic purposes, without the obligation of sending to the markets or the shops, when either not convenient, or not agreeable. And the better to aid both purchasers and venders, these hawkers pronounce their several articles for sale, with voices that cannot fail to impress the inhabitants enclosed within high walls, with a full knowledge of the articles proclaimed without need of interpreters.

[1] Dukan.

[2] Tatti.

[3] See pp. 57, 173, 174.

[4] The fat of meat is never eaten by the Natives, who view our joints of meat with astonishment, bordering on disgust. [Author.]

[5] Many Hindoostaunie dishes require the meat to be finely minced. [Author.]

[6] Known as gargarasaz.

[7] Baniya.

[8] Sarraf.

[9]: Cowries are small shells imported from the Eastern isles, which pass
    in India as current coin, their value fluctuating with the price of
    corn, from, sixty to ninety for one pice. [Author.]

[10] Hundi.

[11] Dasturi.

[12] Sipiwala gila sukha.

[13] Jonk, a leech; kira, a worm, laganewali.

[14] Kan saf karnewala: more usually Kanmailiya, kan, the ear; maila, dirt.

[15] Gota, chandni bikau, silver lace to sell! The dealer is Gota, kinari farosh.

[16] Tel ka acharwala.

[17] Mithaiwala.

[18] Khilaunewala.

[19] Abrak, talc.

[20] Pankahwala.

[21] Tar, the palmyra palm.

[22] Tarkari, mewa.

[23] Sag.

[24] Chitra, spotted, speckled.

[25] Quicksilver is used by Native physicians as the first of alternative tonics.

[26] Machhli.

[27] Being considered to be like snakes.

[28] Rohu, a kind of carp, Labeo rohita.

[29] Chiryawala.

[30] Bulbul, Daulias hafizi, the true Persian nightingale.

[31] Sabza, sabzak, green bird, usually a jay, coracias.

[32] A shrike, one of the laniadae.

[33] Maina, a starling, Aeridotheres tristis.

[34] The black cuckoo, Eudynamys orientalis.

[35] The note of the bird at night, detested by Anglo-Indians, gives it the name of the brain-fever bird.

[36] Lal, Estrelda amandava, the avadavat, is so called because it was brought to Europe from Ahmadabad.

[37] Atishbazi, fire-play.

[38] Holi, the spring festival of the Hindus, at which bonfires are lighted, coloured water thrown about, and much obscenity is practiced.

[39] See p. 161.

[40] Chabena, chabeni, what is munched or chewed (chabna).

[41] Tamashawala: tamashabin, a spectator of wonders.

[42] Sampwala.

[43] ’Mr. Secretary.’

[44] It is generally believed snakes do not live apart from their species;
    if one is destroyed in a house, a second is anticipated and generally
    discovered. [Author.]

[45] Dastur, dasturi, the percentage appropriated on purchase by servants.

[46] Saiqalgar, corrupted into sikligar, a polisher.

[47] Dahi khatai. There is no mystery about the preparation.
    Milk is boiled and soured by being poured into an earthen vessel in
    which curds have previously been kept. Sometimes, but less frequently,
    an acid or rennet is added to precipitate the solid ingredients of the

[48] Malai.

[49] Makkhan.

[50] Burfwala.

[51] Roshanai, ’brightness’, made of lampblack, gum-arabic, and
    aloe juice. Elaborate prescriptions are given by Jaffur Shurreef
    (Qanoon-e-Islam 150 f.).

[52] Lithography and printing are now commonly done by natives.

[53] Letters usually begin with, the invocation,
    Bi’-smi’illahi’r-rahmani’r-rahim, ’In the name of Allah,
    the Compassionate, the Merciful.’ The monogram ’I’ is often
    substituted, as being the initial of Allah, and the first letter of
    the alphabet.

[54] If the Koran were wrapped in a skin and thrown into fire, it would
    not burn, say the Traditions (Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, 521).
    Compare the care taken by the Chinese to save paper on which writing
    appears (J.H. Gray, China, i. 178).

[55] Surma, a black ore of antimony, a tersulphide found in the
    Panjab, often confused by natives with galena, and most of that
    sold in bazars is really galena. It is used as a tonic to the nerves
    of the eye, and to strengthen the sight.


Introductory Notes  •  Preface to the Second Edition  •  Introduction  •  Introductory Letter  •  Letter I  •  Letter II  •  Letter III  •  Letter IV  •  Letter V  •  Letter VI  •  Letter VII  •  Letter VIII  •  Letter IX  •  Letter X  •  Letter XI  •  Letter XII  •  Letter XIII  •  Letter XIV  •  Letter XV  •  Letter XVI  •  Letter XVII  •  Letter XVIII  •  Letter XIX  •  Letter XX  •  Letter XXI  •  Letter XXII  •  Letter XXIII  •  Letter XXIV  •  Letter XXV  •  Letter XXVI  •  Letter XXVII  •  Bibliography of Works

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