SPORT AND WORK
TWELVE YEARS SPORTING REMINISCENCES
OF AN INDIGO PLANTER
[Note: Some words in this book have a macron over a vowel. A macron is a punctuation mark ( - ) and is represented herein as ā, ē or ō.]
I went home in 1875 for a few months, after some twelve years' residence in India. What first suggested the writing of such a book as this, was the amazing ignorance of ordinary Indian life betrayed by people at home. The questions asked me about India, and our daily life there, showed in many cases such an utter want of knowledge, that I thought, surely there is room here for a chatty, familiar, unpretentious book for friends at home, giving an account of our every-day life in India, our labours and amusements, our toils and relaxations, and a few pictures of our ordinary daily surroundings in the far, far East.
Such then is the design of my book. I want to picture to my readers Planter Life in the Mofussil, or country districts of India; to tell them of our hunting, shooting, fishing, and other amusements; to describe our work, our play, and matter-of-fact incidents in our daily life; to describe the natives as they appear to us in our intimate every-day dealings with them; to illustrate their manners, customs, dispositions, observances and sayings, so far as these bear on our own social life.
I am no politician, no learned ethnologist, no sage theorist. I simply try to describe what I have seen, and hope to enlist the attention and interest of my readers, in my reminiscences of sport and labour, in the villages and jungles on the far off frontier of Nepaul.
I have tried to express my meaning as far as possible without Anglo-Indian and Hindustani words; where these have been used, as at times they could not but be, I have given a synonymous word or phrase in English, so that all my friends at home may know my meaning.
I know that my friends will be lenient to my faults, and even the sternest critic, if he look for it, may find some pleasure and profit in my pages.
Province of Behar.—Boundaries.—General description.—District of Chumparun.—Mooteeharree.—The town and lake.—Native houses.—The Planters' Club.—Legoulie.
My first charge.—How we get our lands.—Our home farm.—System of farming.—Collection of rents.—The planter's duties.
How to get our crop.—The 'Dangurs.'—Farm servants and their duties. —Kassee Rai.—Hoeing.—Ploughing.—'Oustennie.'—Coolies at Work. —Sowing.—Difficulties the plant has to contend with.—Weeding.
Manufacture of Indigo.—Loading the vats.—Beating.—Boiling, straining, and pressing.—Scene in the Factory.—Fluctuation of produce.—Chemistry of Indigo.
Parewah factory.—A 'Bobbery Pack.'—Hunt through a village after a cat.—The pariah dog of India.—Fate of 'Pincher.'—Rampore hound.—Persian greyhound.—Caboolee dogs.—A jackal hunt.—Incidents of the chase.
Fishing in India.—Hereditary trades.—The boatmen and fishermen of India.—Their villages.—Nets.—Modes of fishing.—Curiosities relating thereto.—Catching an alligator with a hook.—Exciting capture. —Crocodiles.—Shooting an alligator.—Death of the man-eater.
Native superstitions.—Charming a bewitched woman.—Exorcising ghosts from a field.—Witchcraft.—The witchfinder or 'Ojah,'—Influence of fear.—Snake bites.—How to cure them.—How to discover a thief.—Ghosts and their habits.—The 'Haddick' or native bone-setter.—Cruelty to animals by natives.
Our annual race meet.—The arrivals.—The camps.—The 'ordinary,'—The course.—'They're off.'—The race.—The steeple-chase.—Incidents of the meet.—The ball.
Pig-sticking in India.—Varieties of boar.—Their size and height. —Ingenious mode of capture by the natives.—The 'Batan' or buffalo herd.—Pigs charging.—Their courage and ferocity.—Destruction of game.—A close season for game.
Kuderent jungle.—Charged by a pig.—The biter bit.—'Mac' after the big boar.—The horse for pig-sticking.—The line of beaters.—The boar breaks.—'Away! Away!'—First spear.—Pig-sticking at Peeprah.—The old 'lungra' or cripple.—A boar at bay.—Hurrah for pig-sticking!
The sal forests.—The jungle goddess.—The trees in the jungle. —Appearance of the forests.—Birds.—Varieties of parrots.—A 'beat' in the forest.—The 'shekarry.'—Mehrman Singh and his gun.—The Banturs, a jungle tribe of wood-cutters.—Their habits.—A village feast.—We beat for deer.—Habits of the spotted deer.—Waiting for the game. —Mehrman Singh gets drunk.—Our bag.—Pea-fowl and their habits.—How to shoot them.—Curious custom of the Nepaulese.—How Juggroo was tricked, and his revenge.
The leopard.—How to shoot him.—Gallant encounter with a wounded one.—Encounter with a leopard in a Dak bungalow.—Pat shoots two leopards.—Effects of the Express bullet.—The 'Sirwah Purrul,' or annual festival of huntsmen.—The Hindoo ryot.—Rice-planting and harvest.—Poverty of the ryot.—His apathy.—Village fires.—Want of sanitation.
Description of a native village.—Village functionaries.—The barber. —Bathing habits.—The village well.—The school.—The children.—The village bazaar.—The landowner and his dwelling.—The 'Putwarrie' or village accountant.—The blacksmith.—The 'Punchayiet' or village jury system.—Our legal system in India.—Remarks on the administration of justice.
A native village continued.—The watchman or 'chowkeydar.'—The temple. —Brahmins.—Idols.—Religion.—Humility of the poorer classes.—Their low condition.—Their apathy.—The police.—Their extortions and knavery. —An instance of police rascality.—Corruption of native officials.—The Hindoo unfit for self-government.
Jungle wild fruits.—Curious method of catching quail.—Quail nets. —Quail caught in a blacksmith's shop.—Native wrestling.—The trainer. —How they train for a match.—Rules of wrestling.—Grips.—A wrestling match.—Incidents of the struggle.—Description of a match between a Brahmin and a blacksmith.—Sparring for the grip.—The blacksmith has it.—The struggle.—The Brahmin getting the worst of it.—Two to one on the little 'un!—The Brahmin plays the waiting game, turns the tables and the blacksmith.—Remarks on wrestling.
Indigo seed growing.—Seed buying and buyers.—Tricks of sellers.—Tests for good seed.—The threshing-floor.—Seed cleaning and packing.—Staff of servants.—Despatching the bags by boat.—The 'Pooneah' or rent day. —Purneah planters—their hospitality.—The rent day a great festival. —Preparation.—Collection of rents.—Feast to retainers.—The reception in the evening.—Tribute.—Old customs.—Improvisatores and bards. —Nautches.—Dancing and music.—The dance of the Dangurs.—Jugglers and itinerary showmen.—'Bara Roopes,' or actors and mimics.—Their different styles of acting.
The Koosee jungles.—Ferries.—Jungle roads.—The rhinoceros.—We go to visit a neighbour.—We lose our way and get belated.—We fall into a quicksand.—No ferry boat.—Camping out on the sand.—Two tigers close by.—We light a fire.—The boat at last arrives.—Crossing the stream. —Set fire to the boatman's hut.—Swim the horses.—They are nearly drowned.—We again lose our way in the jungle.—The towing path, and how boats are towed up the river.—We at last reach the factory.—News of rhinoceros in the morning.—Off we start, but arrive too late.—Death of the rhinoceros.—His dimensions.—Description.—Habits.—Rhinoceros in Nepaul.—The old 'Major Captān.'—Description of Nepaulese scenery. —Immigration of Nepaulese.—Their fondness for fish.—They eat it putrid.—Exclusion of Europeans from Nepaul.—Resources of the country. —Must sooner or later be opened up.—Influences at work to elevate the people.—Planters and factories chief of these.—Character of the planter.—Has claims to consideration from government.
The tiger.—His habitat.—Shooting on foot.—Modes of shooting.—A tiger hunt on foot.—The scene of the hunt.—The beat.—Incidents of the hunt.—Fireworks.—The tiger charges.—The elephant bolts.—The tigress will not break.—We kill a half-grown cub.—Try again for the tigress.—Unsuccessful.—Exaggerations in tiger stories.—My authorities.—The brothers S.—Ferocity and structure of the tiger.—His devastations.—His frame-work, teeth, &c.—A tiger at bay.—His unsociable habits.—Fight between tiger and tigress.—Young tigers.—Power and strength of the tiger.—Examples.—His cowardice. —Charge of a wounded tiger.—Incidents connected with wounded tigers. —A spined tiger.—Boldness of young tigers.—Cruelty.—Cunning.—Night scenes in the jungle.—Tiger killed by a wild boar.—His cautious habits.—General remarks.
The tiger's mode of attack.—The food he prefers.—Varieties of prey. —Examples.—What he eats first.—How to tell the kill of a tiger. —Appetite fierce.—Tiger choked by a bone.—Two varieties of tiger. —The royal Bengal.—Description.—The hill tiger.—His description. —The two compared.—Length of the tiger.—How to measure tigers. —Measurements.—Comparison between male and female.—Number of young at a birth.—The young cubs.—Mother teaching cubs to kill. —Education and progress of the young tiger.—Wariness and cunning of the tiger.—Hunting incidents shewing their powers of concealment. —Tigers taking to water.—Examples.—Swimming powers.—Caught by floods.—Story of the Soonderbund tigers.
No regular breeding season.—Beliefs and prejudices of the natives about tigers.—Bravery of the 'gwalla,' or cowherd caste.—Claw-marks on trees.—Fondness for particular localities.—Tiger in Mr. F.'s howdah.—Springing powers of tigers.—Lying close in cover.—Incident. —Tiger shot with No. 4 shot.—Man clawed by a tiger.—Knocked its eye out with a sickle.—Same tiger subsequently shot in same place.—Tigers easily killed.—Instances.—Effect of shells on tiger and buffalo.—Best weapon and bullets for tiger.—Poisoning tigers denounced.—Natives prone to exaggerate in giving news of tiger.—Anecdote.—Beating for tiger.—Line of elephants.—Padding dead game.—Line of seventy-six elephants.—Captain of the hunt.—Flags for signals in the line. —'Naka,' or scout ahead.—Usual time for tiger shooting on the Koosee. —Firing the jungle.—The line of fire at night.—Foolish to shoot at moving jungle.—Never shoot down the line.—Motions of different animals in the grass.
Howdahs and howdah-ropes.—Mussulman custom.—Killing animals for food. —Mysterious appearance of natives when an animal is killed.—Fastening dead tigers to the pad.—Present mode wants improving.—Incident illustrative of this.—Dangerous to go close to wounded tigers. —Examples.—Footprints of tigers.—Call of the tiger.—Natives and their powers of description.—How to beat successfully for tiger. —Description of a beat.—Disputes among the shooters.—Awarding tigers.—Cutting open the tiger.—Native idea about the liver of the tiger.—Signs of a tiger's presence in the jungle.—Vultures.—Do they scent their quarry or view it?—A vulture carrion feast.
We start for a tiger hunt on the Nepaul frontier.—Indian scenery near the border.—Lose our way.—Cold night.—The river by night.—Our boat and boatmen.—Tigers calling on the bank.—An anxious moment.—Fire at and wound the tigress.—Reach camp.—The Nepaulee's adventure with a tiger.—The old Major.—His appearance and manners.—The pompous Jemadar.—Nepaulese proverb.—Firing the jungle.—Start a tiger and shoot him.—Another in front.—Appearance of the fires by night.—The tiger escapes.—Too dark to follow up.—Coolie shot by mistake during a former hunt.
We resume the beat.—The hog-deer.—Nepaulese villages.—Village granaries.—Tiger in front.—A hit! a hit!—Following up the wounded tiger.—Find him dead.—Tiffin in the village.—The Patair jungle. —Search for tiger.—Gone away!—An elephant steeplechase in pursuit. —Exciting chase.—The Morung jungle.—Magnificent scenery.—Skinning the tiger.—Incidents of tiger hunting.
Camp of the Nepaulee chief.—Quicksands.—Elephants crossing rivers. —Tiffin at the Nepaulee camp.—We beat the forest for tiger.—Shoot a young tiger.—Red ants in the forest.—Bhowras or ground bees.—The ursus labialis or long-lipped bear.—Recross the stream.—Florican. —Stag running the gauntlet of flame.—Our bag.—Start for factory. —Remarks on elephants.—Precautions useful for protection from the sun in tiger shooting.—The puggree.—Cattle breeding in India, and wholesale deaths of cattle from disease.—Nathpore.—Ravages of the river.—Mrs. Gray, an old resident in the jungles.—Description of her surroundings.
Exciting jungle scene.—The camp.—All quiet.—Advent of the cow-herds. —A tiger close by.—Proceed to the spot.—Encounter between tigress and buffaloes.—Strange behaviour of the elephant.—Discovery and capture of four cubs.—Joyful return to camp.—Death of the tigress. —Night encounter with a leopard.—The haunts of the tiger and our shooting grounds.
Remarks on guns.—How to cure skins.—Different Recipes.—Conclusion.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Tiger Hunting—Return to the Camp Coolie's Hut Indigo Beating Vats Indigo Beaters at work in the Vat Indian Factory Peon Indigo Planter's House Pig Stickers Carpenters and Blacksmiths at work Hindoo Village Temples
Province of Behar.—Boundaries.—General description.—District of Chumparun.—Mooteeharree.—The town and lake.—Native houses.—The Planters' Club.—Legoulie.
Among the many beautiful and fertile provinces of India, none can, I think, much excel that of Behar for richness of soil, diversity of race, beauty of scenery, and the energy and intelligence of its inhabitants. Stretching from the Nepaul hills to the far distant plains of Gya, with the Gunduch, Bogmuttee and other noble streams watering its rich bosom, and swelling with their tribute the stately Ganges, it includes every variety of soil and climate; and its various races, with their strange costumes, creeds, and customs, might afford material to fill volumes.
The northern part of this splendid province follows the Nepaulese boundary from the district of Goruchpore on the north, to that of Purneah on the south. In the forests and jungles along this boundary line live many strange tribes, whose customs, and even their names and language, are all but unknown to the English public. Strange wild animals dispute with these aborigines the possession of the gloomy jungle solitudes. Great trees of wondrous dimensions and strange foliage rear their stately heads to heaven, and are matted and entwined together by creepers of huge size and tenacious hold.
To the south and east vast billows of golden grain roll in successive undulations to the mighty Ganges, the sacred stream of the Hindoos. Innumerable villages, nestling amid groves of plantains and feathery rustling bamboos, send up their wreaths of pale grey smoke into the still warm air. At frequent intervals the steely blue of some lovely lake, where thousands of water-fowl disport themselves, reflects from its polished surface the sheen of the noonday sun. Great masses of mango wood shew a sombre outline at intervals, and here and there the towering chimney of an indigo factory pierces the sky. Government roads and embankments intersect the face of the country in all directions, and vast sheets of the indigo plant refresh the eye with their plains of living green, forming a grateful contrast to the hard, dried, sun-baked surface of the stubble fields, where the rice crop has rustled in the breezes of the past season. In one of the loveliest and most fertile districts of this vast province, namely, Chumparun, I began my experiences as an indigo planter.
Chumparun with its subdistrict of Bettiah, lies to the north of Tirhoot, and is bounded all along its northern extent by the Nepaul hills and forests. When I joined my appointment as assistant on one of the large indigo concerns there, there were not more than about thirty European residents altogether in the district. The chief town, Mooteeharree, consisted of a long bazaar, or market street, beautifully situated on the bank of a lovely lake, some two miles in length. From the main street, with its quaint little shops sheltered from the sun by makeshift verandahs of tattered sacking, weather-stained shingles, or rotting bamboo mats, various little lanes and alleys diverged, leading one into a collection of tumble-down and ruinous huts, set up apparently by chance, and presenting the most incongruous appearance that could possibly be conceived. One or two pucca houses, that is, houses of brick and masonry, shewed where some wealthy Bunneah (trader) or usurious banker lived, but the majority of the houses were of the usual mud and bamboo order. There is a small thatched hut where the meals were cooked, and where the owner and his family could sleep during the rains. Another smaller hut at right angles to this, gives shelter to the family goat, or, if they are rich enough to keep one, the cow. All round the villages in India there are generally large patches of common, where the village cows have free rights of pasture; and all who can, keep either a cow or a couple of goats, the milk from which forms a welcome addition to their usual scanty fare. In this second hut also is stored as much fuel, consisting of dried cow-dung, straw, maize-stalks, leaves, etc., as can be collected; and a ragged fence of bamboo or rahur stalks encloses the two unprotected sides, thus forming inside a small court, quadrangle, or square. This court is the native's sanctum sanctorum. It is kept scrupulously clean, being swept and garnished religiously every day. In this the women prepare the rice for the day's consumption; here they cut up and clean their vegetables, or their fish, when the adjacent lake has been dragged by the village fishermen. Here the produce of their little garden, capsicums, Indian corn, onions or potatoes—perchance turmeric, ginger, or other roots or spices—are dried and made ready for storing in the earthen sun-baked repository for the reception of such produce appertaining to each household. Here the children play, and are washed and tended. Here the maiden combs out her long black hair, or decorates her bronzed visage with streaks of red paint down the nose, and a little antimony on the eyelids, or myrtle juice on the finger and toe nails. Here, too, the matron, or the withered old crone of a grandmother, spins her cotton thread; or, in the old scriptural hand-mill, grinds the corn for the family flour and meal; and the father and the young men (when the sun is high and hot in the heavens) take their noonday siesta, or, the day's labours over, cower round the smoking dung fire of a cold winter night, and discuss the prices ruling in the bazaar, the rise of rents, or the last village scandal.
In the middle of the town, and surrounded by a spacious fenced-in compound, which sloped gently to the lake, stood the Planters' Club, a large low roofed bungalow, with a roomy wide verandah in front. Here we met, when business or pleasure brought us to 'the Station.' Here were held our annual balls, or an occasional public dinner party. To the north of the Club stood a long range of barrack-looking buildings, which were the opium godowns, where the opium was collected and stored during the season. Facing this again, and at the extremity of the lake, was the district jail, where all the rascals of the surrounding country were confined; its high walls tipped at intervals by a red puggree and flashing bayonet wherever a jail sepoy kept his 'lonely watch.' Near it, sheltered in a grove of shady trees, were the court houses, where the collector and magistrate daily dispensed justice, or where the native moonsiff disentangled knotty points of law. Here, too, came the sessions judge once a month or so, to try criminal cases and mete out justice to the law-breakers.
We had thus a small European element in our 'Station,' consisting of our magistrate and collector, whose large and handsome house was built on the banks of another and yet lovelier lake, which joined the town lake by a narrow stream or strait at its southern end, an opium agent, a district superintendent of police, and last but not least, a doctor. These formed the official population of our little 'Station.' There was also a nice little church, but no resident pastor, and behind the town lay a quiet churchyard, rich in the dust of many a pioneer, who, far from home and friends, had here been gathered to his silent rest.
About twelve miles to the north, and near the Nepaul boundary, was the small military station of Legoulie. Here there was always a native cavalry regiment, the officers of which were frequent and welcome guests at the factories in the district, and were always glad to see their indigo friends at their mess in cantonments. At Rettiah, still further to the north, was a rich rajah's palace, where a resident European manager dwelt, and had for his sole society an assistant magistrate who transacted the executive and judicial work of the subdistrict. These, with some twenty-five or thirty indigo managers and assistants, composed the whole European population of Chumparun.
Never was there a more united community. We were all like brothers. Each knew all the rest. The assistants frequently visited each other, and the managers were kind and considerate to their subordinates. Hunting parties were common, cricket and hockey matches were frequent, and in the cold weather, which is our slackest season, fun, frolic, and sport was the order of the day. We had an annual race meet, when all the crack horses of the district met in keen rivalry to test their pace and endurance. During this high carnival, we lived for the most part under canvass, and had friends from far and near to share our hospitality. In a future chapter I must describe our racing meet.
 The rahur is a kind of pea, growing not unlike our English broom in appearance; it is sown with the maize crop during the rains, and garnered in the cold weather. It produces a small pea, which is largely used by the natives, and forms the nutritive article of diet known as dhall.
My first charge.—How we get our lands.—Our home farm.—System of farming.—Collection of rents.—The planter's duties.
My first charge was a small outwork of the large factory Seeraha. It was called Puttihee. There was no bungalow; that is, there was no regular house for the assistant, but a little one-roomed hut, built on the top of the indigo vats, served me for a residence. It had neither doors nor windows, and the rain used to beat through the room, while the eaves were inhabited by countless swarms of bats, who, in the evening flashed backwards and forwards in ghostly rapid flight, and were a most intolerable nuisance. To give some idea of the duties of an indigo assistant, I must explain the system on which we get our lands, and how we grow our crop.
Water of course being a sine qua non, the first object in selecting a site for a factory is, to have water in plenty contiguous to the proposed buildings. Consequently Puttihee was built on the banks of a very pretty lake, shaped like a horseshoe, and covered with water lilies and broad-leaved green aquatic plants. The lake was kept by the native proprietor as a fish preserve, and literally teemed with fish of all sorts, shapes, and sizes. I had not been long at Puttihee before I had erected a staging, leading out into deep water, and many a happy hour I have spent there with my three or four rods out, pulling in the finny inhabitants.
Having got water and a site, the next thing is to get land on which to grow your crop. By purchase, by getting a long lease, or otherwise, you become possessed of several hundred acres of the land immediately surrounding the factory. Of course some factories will have more and some less as circumstances happen. This land, however, is peculiarly factory property. It is in fact a sort of home farm, and goes by the name of Zeraat. It is ploughed by factory bullocks, worked by factory coolies, and is altogether apart and separate from the ordinary lands held by the ryots and worked by them. (A ryot means a cultivator.) In most factories the Zeraats are farmed in the most thorough manner. Many now use the light Howard's plough, and apply quantities of manure.
The fields extend in vast unbroken plains all round the factory. The land is worked and pulverised, and reploughed, and harrowed, and cleaned, till not a lump the size of a pigeon's egg is to be seen. If necessary, it is carefully weeded several times before the crop is sown, and in fact, a fine clean stretch of Zeraat in Tirhoot or Chumparun, will compare most favourably with any field in the highest farming districts of England or Scotland. The ploughing and other farm labour is done by bullocks. A staff of these, varying of course with the amount of land under cultivation, is kept at each factory. For their support a certain amount of sugar-cane is planted, and in the cold weather carrots are sown, and gennara, a kind of millet, and maize.
Both maize and gennara have broad green leaves, and long juicy succulent stalks. They grow to a good height, and when cut up and mixed with chopped straw and carrots, form a most excellent feed for cattle. Besides the bullocks, each factory keeps up a staff of generally excellent horses, for the use of the assistant or manager, on which he rides over his cultivation, and looks generally after the farm. Some of the native subordinates also have ponies, or Cabool horses, or country-breds; and for the feed of these animals some few acres of oats are sown every cold season. In most factories too, when any particular bit of the Zeraats gets exhausted by the constant repetition of indigo cropping, a rest is given it, by taking a crop of oil seeds or oats off the land. The oil seeds usually sown are mustard or rape. The oil is useful in the factory for oiling the screws or the machinery, and for other purposes.
The factory roads through the Zeraats are kept in most perfect order; many of them are metalled. The ditches are cleaned once a year. All thistles and weeds by the sides of the roads and ditches, are ruthlessly cut down. The edges of all the fields are neatly trimmed and cut. Useless trees and clumps of jungle are cut down; and in fact the Zeraats round a factory shew a perfect picture of orderly thrift, careful management, and neat, scientific, and elaborate farming.
Having got the Zeraats, the next thing is to extend the cultivation outside.
The land in India is not, as with us at home, parcelled out into large farms. There are wealthy proprietors, rajahs, baboos, and so on, who hold vast tracts of land, either by grant, or purchase, or hereditary succession; but the tenants are literally the children of the soil. Wherever a village nestles among its plantain or mango groves, the land is parcelled out among the villagers. A large proprietor does not reckon up his farms as a landlord at home would do, but he counts his villages. In a village with a thousand acres belonging to it, there might be 100 or even 200 tenants farming the land. Each petty villager would have his acre or half acre, or four, or five, or ten, or twenty acres, as the case might be. He holds this by a 'tenant right,' and cannot be dispossessed as long as he pays his rent regularly. He can sell his tenant right, and the purchaser on paying the rent, becomes the bona fide possessor of the land to all intents and purposes.
If the average rent of the village lands was, let me say, one rupee eight annas an acre, the rent roll of the 1000 acres would be 1500 rupees. Out of this the government land revenue comes. Certain deductions have to be made—some ryots may be defaulters. The village temple, or the village Brahmin, may have to get something, the road-cess has to be paid, and so on. Taking everything into account, you arrive at a pretty fair view of what the rental is. If the proprietor of the village wants a loan of money, or if you offer to pay him the rent by half-yearly or quarterly instalments, you taking all the risk of collecting in turn from each ryot individually, he is often only too glad to accept your offer, and giving you a lease of the village for whatever term may be agreed on, you step in as virtually the landlord, and the ryots have to pay their rents to you.
In many cases by careful management, by remeasuring lands, settling doubtful boundaries, and generally working up the estate, you can much increase the rental, and actually make a profit on your bargain with the landlord. This department of indigo work is called Zemindaree. Having, then, got the village in lease, you summon in all your tenants; shew them their rent accounts, arrange with them for the punctual payment of them, and get them to agree to cultivate a certain percentage of their land in indigo for you.
This percentage varies very considerably. In some places it is one acre in five, in some one in twenty. It all depends on local circumstances. You select the land, you give the seed, but the ryot has to prepare the field for sowing, he has to plough, weed, and reap the crop, and deliver it at the factory. For the indigo he gets so much per acre, the price being as near as possible the average price of an acre of ordinary produce: taking the average out-turn and prices of, say, ten years. It used formerly to be much less, but the ryot nowadays gets nearly double for his indigo what he got some ten or fifteen years ago, and this, although prices have not risen for the manufactured article, and the prices of labour, stores, machinery, live stock, etc., have more than doubled. In some parts the ryot gets paid so much per bundle of plants delivered at the vats, but generally in Behar, at least in north Behar, he is paid so much per acre or Beegah. I use the word acre as being more easily understood by people at home than Beegah. The Beegah varies in different districts, but is generally about two-thirds of an acre.
When his rent account, then, comes to be made out, the ryot gets credit for the price of his indigo grown and delivered; and this very often suffices, not only to clear his entire rent, but to leave a margin in hard cash for him to take home. Before the beginning of the indigo season, however, he comes into the factory and takes a cash advance on account of the indigo to be grown. This is often a great help to him, enabling him to get his seeds for his other lands, perhaps ploughs, or to buy a cart, or clothes for the family, or to replace a bullock that may have died; or to help to give a marriage portion to a son or daughter that he wants to get married.
You will thus see that we have cultivation to look after in all the villages round about the factory which we can get in lease. The ryot, in return for his cash advance, agrees to cultivate so much indigo at a certain price, for which he gets credit in his rent. Such, shortly, is our indigo system. In some villages the ryot will estimate for us without our having the lease at all, and without taking advances. He grows the indigo as he would grow any other crop, as a pure speculation. If he has a good crop, he can get the price in hard cash from the factory, and a great deal is grown in this way in both Purneah and Bhaugulpore. This is called Kooskee, as against the system of advances, which is called Tuccaree.
The planter, then, has to be constantly over his villages, looking out for good lands, giving up bad fields, and taking in new ones. He must watch what crops grow best in certain places. He must see that he does not take lands where water may lodge, and, on the other hand, avoid those that do not retain their moisture. He must attend also to the state of the other crops generally all over his cultivation, as the punctual payment of rents depends largely on the state of the crops. He must have his eyes open to everything going on, be able to tell the probable rent-roll of every village for miles around, know whether the ryots are lazy and discontented, or are industrious and hard-working. Up in the early morning, before the hot blazing sun has climbed on high, he is off on his trusty nag, through his Zeraats, with his greyhounds and terriers panting behind him. As he nears a village, the farm-servant in charge of that particular bit of cultivation, comes out with a low salaam, to report progress, or complain that so-and-so is not working up his field as he ought to do.
Over all the lands he goes, seeing where re-ploughing is necessary, ordering harrowing here, weeding there, or rolling somewhere else. He sees where the ditches need deepening, where the roads want levelling or widening, where a new bridge will be necessary, where lands must be thrown up and new ones taken in. He knows nearly all his ryots, and has a kind word for every one he passes; asks after their crops, their bullocks, or their land; rouses up the indolent; gives a cheerful nod to the industrious; orders this one to be brought in to settle his account, or that one to make greater haste with the preparation of his land, that he may not lose his moisture. In fact, he has his hands full till the mounting sun warns him to go back to breakfast. And so, with a rattling burst after a jackal or fox, he gets back to his bungalow to bathe, dress, and break his fast with fowl cutlets, and curry and rice, washed down with a wholesome tumbler of Bass.
How to get our crop.—The 'Dangurs.'—Farm servants and their duties. —Kassee Rai.—Hoeing.—Ploughing.—'Oustennie.'—Coolies at work. —Sowing.—Difficulties the plant has to contend with.—Weeding.
Having now got our land, water, and buildings—which latter I will describe further on—the next thing is to set to work to get our crop. Manufacture being finished, and the crop all cut by the beginning or middle of October, when the annual rains are over, it is of importance to have the lands dug up as early as possible, that the rich moisture, on which the successful cultivation of the crop mainly depends, may be secured before the hot west winds and strong sun of early spring lick it up.
Attached to every factory is a small settlement of labourers, belonging to a tribe of aborigines called Dangurs. These originally, I believe, came from Chota Nagpoor, which seems to have been their primal home. They are a cheerful industrious race, have a distinct language of their own, and only intermarry with each other. Long ago, when there were no post carriages to the hills, and but few roads, the Dangurs were largely employed as dale runners, or postmen. Some few of them settled with their families on lands near the foot of the hills in Purneah, and gradually others made their way northwards, until now there is scarcely a factory in Behar that has not its Dangur tola, or village.
The men are tractable, merry-hearted, and faithful. The women betray none of the exaggerated modesty which is characteristic of Hindoo women generally. They never turn aside and hide their faces as you pass, but look up to you with a merry smile on their countenances, and exchange greetings with the utmost frankness. In a future chapter I may speak at greater length of the Dangurs; at present it suffices to say, that they form a sort of appanage to the factory, and are in fact treated as part of the permanent staff.
Each Dangur when he marries, gets some grass and bamboos from the factory to build a house, and a small plot of ground to serve as a garden, for which he pays a very small rent, or in many instances nothing at all. In return, he is always on the spot ready for any factory work that may be going on, for which he has his daily wage. Some factories pay by the month, but the general custom is to charge for hoeing by piece-work, and during manufacture, when the work is constant, there is paid a monthly wage.
In the close foggy mornings of October and November, long before the sun is up, the Dangurs are hard at work in the Zeraats, turning up the soil with their kodalies, (a kind of cutting hoe,) and you can often hear their merry voices rising through the mist, as they crack jokes with each other to enliven their work, or troll one of their quaint native ditties.
They are presided over by a 'mate,' generally one of the oldest men and first settlers in the village. If he has had a large family, his sons look up to him, and his sons-in-law obey his orders with the utmost fealty. The 'mate' settles all disputes, presents all grievances to the sahib, and all orders are given through him.
The indigo stubble which has been left in the ground is perhaps about a foot high, and as they cut it out, their wives and children come to gather up the sticks for fuel, and this of course also helps to clean the land. By eleven o'clock, when the sluggish mist has been dissipated by the rays of the scorching sun, the day's labour is nearly concluded. You will then see the swarthy Dangur, with his favourite child on his shoulder, wending his way back to his hut, followed by his comely wife carrying his hoe, and a tribe of little ones bringing up the rear, each carrying bundles of the indigo stubble which the industrious father has dug up during the early hours of morning.
In the afternoon out comes the hengha, which is simply a heavy flat log of wood, with a V shaped cut or groove all along under its flat surface. To each end of the hengha a pair of bullocks are yoked, and two men standing on the log, and holding on by the bullocks' tails, it is slowly dragged over the field wherever the hoeing has been going on. The lumps and clods are caught in the groove on the under surface, and dragged along and broken up and pulverized, and the whole surface of the field thus gets harrowed down, and forms a homogeneous mass of light friable soil, covering the weeds and dirt to let them rot, exposing the least surface for the wind and heat to act on, and thus keeping the moisture in the soil.
Now is a busy time for the planter. Up early in the cold raw fog, he is over his Zeraats long before dawn, and round by his outlying villages to see the ryots at work in their fields. To each eighty or a hundred acres a man is attached called a Tokedar. His duty is to rouse out the ryots, see the hoes and ploughs at work, get the weeding done, and be responsible for the state of the cultivation generally. He will probably have two villages under him. If the village with its lands be very extensive, of course there will be a Tokedar for it alone, but frequently a Tokedar may have two or more villages under his charge. In the village, the head man—generally the most influential man in the community—also acts with the Tokedar, helping him to get ploughs, bullocks, and coolies when these are wanted; and under him, the village chowkeydar, or watchman, sees that stray cattle do not get into the fields, that the roads, bridges and fences are not damaged, and so on. Over the Tokedars, again, are Zillahdars. A 'zillah' is a small district. There may be eight or ten villages and three or four Tokedars under a Zillahdar. The Zillahdar looks out for good lands to change for bad ones, where this is necessary, and where no objection is made by the farmer; sees that the Tokedars do their work properly; reports rain, blight, locusts, and other visitations that might injure the crop; watches all that goes on in his zillah, and makes his report to the planter whenever anything of importance happens in his particular part of the cultivation. Over all again comes the JEMADAR—the head man over the whole cultivation—the planter's right-hand man.
He is generally an old, experienced, and trusted servant. He knows all the lands for miles round, and the peculiar soils and products of all the villages far and near. He can tell what lands grow the best tobacco, what lands are free from inundation, what free from drought; the temper of the inhabitants of each village, and the history of each farm; where are the best ploughs, the best bullocks, and the best farming; in what villages you get most coolies for weeding; where you can get the best carts, the best straw, and the best of everything at the most favourable rates. He comes up each night when the day's work is done, and gets his orders for the morrow. You are often glad to take his advice on sowing, reaping, and other operations of the farm. He knows where the plant will ripen earliest, and where the leaf will be thickest, and to him you look for satisfaction if any screw gets loose in the outside farm-work.
He generally accompanies you in your morning ride, shows you your new lands, consults with you about throwing up exhausted fields, and is generally a sort of farm-bailiff or confidential land-steward. Where he is an honest, intelligent, and loyal man, he takes half the care and work off your shoulders. Such men are however rare, and if not very closely looked after, they are apt to abuse their position, and often harass the ryots needlessly, looking more to the feathering of their own nests than the advancement of your interests.
The only Jemadar I felt I could thoroughly trust, was my first one at Parewah, an old Rajpoot, called Kassee Rai. He was a fine, ruddy-faced, white-haired old man, as independent and straightforward an old farmer as you could meet anywhere, and I never had reason to regret taking his advice on any matter. I never found him out in a lie, or in a dishonest or underhand action. Though over seventy years of age he was upright as a dart. He could not keep up with me when we went out riding over the fields, but he would be out the whole day over the lands, and was always the first at his work in the morning and the last to leave off at night. The ryots all loved him, and would do anything for him; and when poor old Kassee died, the third year he had been under me, I felt as if an old friend had gone. I never spoke an angry word to him, and I never had a fault to find with him.
When the hoeing has been finished in zeraat and zillah, and all the upturned soil battened down by the hengha, the next thing is to commence the ploughing. Your ploughmen are mostly low caste men—Doosadhs, Churnars, Moosahurs, Gwallahs, et hoc genus omne. The Indian plough, so like a big misshapen wooden pickaxe, has often been described. It however turns up the light soft soil very well considering its pretensions, and those made in the factory workshops are generally heavier and sharper than the ordinary village plough. Our bullocks too, being strong and well fed, the ploughing in the zeraats is generally good.
The ploughing is immediately followed up by the hengha, which again triturates and breaks up the clods, rolls the sticks, leaves, and grass roots together, brings the refuse and dirt to the surface, and again levels the soil, and prevents the wind from taking away the moisture. The land now looks fine and fresh and level, but very dirty. A host of coolies are put on the fields with small sticks in their hands. All the Dangur women and children are there, with men, women, and children of all the poorest classes from the villages round, whom the attractions of wages or the exertions of headmen Tokedars and Zillahdars have brought together to earn their daily bread. With the sticks they beat and break up every clod, leaving not one behind the size of a walnut. They collect all the refuse, weeds, and dirt, which are heaped up and burnt on the field, and so they go on till the zeraats look as clean as a nobleman's garden, and you would think that surely this must satisfy the fastidious eye of the planter. But no, our work is not half begun yet.
It is rather a strange sight to see some four or five hundred coolies squatted in a long irregular line, chattering, laughing, shouting, or squabbling. A dense cloud of dust rises over them, and through the dim obscurity one hears the ceaseless sound of the thwack! thwack! as their sticks rattle on the ground. White dust lies thick on each swarthy skin; their faces are like faces in a pantomime. There are the flashing eyes and the grinning rows of white teeth; all else is clouded in thick layers of dust, with black spots and stencillings showing here and there like a picture in sepia and chalk. As they near the end of the field they redouble their thwacking, shuffle along like land-crabs, and while the Mates, Peons, and Tokedars shout at them to encourage them, they raise a roar loud enough to wake the dead. The dust rises in denser clouds, the noise is deafening, a regular mad hurry-scurry, a wild boisterous scramble ensues, and amid much chaffing, noise, and laughter, they scramble off again to begin another length of land; and so the day's work goes on.
The planter has to count his coolies several times a-day, or they would cheat him. Some come in the morning, get counted, and their names put on the roll, and then go off till paytime comes round. Some come for an hour or two, and send a relative in the evening when the pice are being paid out, to get the wage of work they have not done. All are paid in pice—little copper bits of coin, averaging about sixty-four to the rupee. However, you soon come to know the coolies by sight, and after some experience are rarely 'taken in,' but many young beginners get 'done' most thoroughly till they become accustomed to the tricks of the artless and unsophisticated coolie.
The type of feature along a line of coolies is as a rule a very forbidding and degraded one. They are mostly of the very poorest class. Many of them are plainly half silly, or wholly idiotic; not a few are deaf and dumb; others are crippled or deformed, and numbers are leprous and scrofulous. Numbers of them are afflicted in some districts with goitre, caused probably by bad drinking water; all have a pinched, withered, wan look, that tells of hard work and insufficient fare. It is a pleasure to turn to the end of the line, where the Dangur women and boys and girls generally take their place. Here are the loudest laughter, and the sauciest faces. The children are merry, chubby, fat things, with well-distended stomachs and pleasant looks; a merry smile rippling over their broad fat cheeks as they slyly glance up at you. The women—with huge earrings in their ears, and a perfect load of heavy brass rings on their arms—chatter away, make believe to be shy, and show off a thousand coquettish airs. Their very toes are bedizened with brass rings; and long festoons of red, white, and blue beads hang pendent round their necks.
In the evening the line is re-formed before the bungalow. A huge bag of copper coin is produced. The old Lallah, or writer, with spectacles on nose, squats down in the middle of the assembled coolies, and as each name is called, the mates count out the pice, and make it over to the coolie, who forthwith hurries off to get his little purchases made at the village Bunneah's shop; and so, on a poor supper of parched peas, or boiled rice, with no other relish but a pinch of salt, the poor coolie crawls to bed, only to dream of more hard work and scanty fare on the morrow. Poor thing! a village coolie has a hard time of it! During the hot months, if rice be cheap and plentiful, he can jog along pretty comfortably, but when the cold nights come on, and he cowers in his wretched hut, hungry, half naked, cold, and wearied, he is of all objects most pitiable. It is, however, a fact little creditable to his more prosperous fellow-countrymen, that he gets better paid for his labour in connection with factory work, than he does in many cases for tasks forced on him by the leading ryots of the village in connection with their own fields.
This first cleaning of the fields—or, as it is called, Oustennie—being finished, the lands are all again re-ploughed, re-harrowed, and then once more re-cleaned by the coolies, till not a weed or spot of dirt remains; and till the whole surface is uniformly soft, friable, moist, and clean. We have now some breathing time; and as this is the most enjoyable season of the year, when the days are cool, and roaring wood fires at night remind us of home, we hunt, visit, race, dance, and generally enjoy ourselves. Should heavy rain fall, as it sometimes does about Christmas and early in February, the whole cultivation gets beaten down and caked over. In such a case amusements must for a time be thrown aside, till all the lands have been again re-ploughed. Of course we are never wholly idle. There are always rents to collect, matters to adjust in connexion with our villages and tenantry, law-suits to recover bad debts, to enforce contracts, or protect manorial or other rights,—but generally speaking, when the lands have been prepared, we have a slack season or breathing time for a month or so.
Arrangements having been made for the supply of seed, which generally comes from about the neighbourhood of Cawnpore, as February draws near we make preparations for beginning our sowings. February is the usual month, but it depends on the moisture, and sometimes sowings may go on up till May and June. In Purneah and Bhaugulpore, where the cultivation is much rougher than in Tirhoot, the sowing is done broadcast. And in Bengal the sowing is often done upon the soft mud which is left on the banks of the rivers at the retiring of the annual floods. In Tirhoot, however, where the high farming I have been trying to describe is practised, the sowing is done by means of drills. Drills are got out, overhauled, and put in thorough repair. Bags of seed are sent out to the villages, advances for bullocks are given to the ryots, and on a certain day when all seems favourable—no sign of rain or high winds—the drills are set at work, and day and night the work goes on, till all the cultivation has been sown. As the drills go along, the hengha follows close behind, covering the seed in the furrows; and once again it is put over, till the fields are all level, shining, and clean, waiting for the first appearance of the young soft shoots.
These, after some seven, nine, or perhaps fifteen days, according to the weather, begin to appear in long lines of delicate pale yellowish green. This is a most anxious time. Should rain fall, the whole surface of the earth gets caked and hard, and the delicate plant burns out, or being chafed against the hard surface crust, it withers and dies. If the wind gets into the east, it brings a peculiar blight which settles round the leaf and collar of the stem of the young plant, chokes it, and sweeps off miles and miles of it. If hot west winds blow, the plant gets black, discoloured, burnt up, and dead. A south wind often brings caterpillars—at least this pest often makes its appearance when the wind is southerly; but as often as not caterpillars find their way to the young plant in the most mysterious manner,—no one knowing whence they come. Daily, nay almost hourly, reports come in from all parts of the zillah: now you hear of 'Lahee,' blight on some field; now it is 'Ihirka,' scorching, or 'Pilooa,' caterpillars. In some places the seed may have been bad or covered with too much earth, and the plant comes up straggling and thin. If there is abundant moisture, this must be re-sown. In fact, there is never-ending anxiety and work at this season, but when the plant has got into ten or fifteen leaf, and is an inch or two high, the most critical time is over, and one begins to think about the next operation, namely WEEDING.
The coolies are again in requisition. Each comes armed with a coorpee,—this is a small metal spatula, broad-pointed, with which they dig out the weeds with amazing deftness. Sometimes they may inadvertently take out a single stem of indigo with the weeds: the eye of the mate or Tokedar espies this at once, and the careless coolie is treated to a volley of Hindoo Billingsgate, in which all his relations are abused to the seventh generation. By the time the first weeding is finished, the plant will be over a foot high, and if necessary a second weeding is then given. After the second weeding, and if any rain has fallen in the interim, the plant will be fully two feet high.
It is now a noble-looking expanse of beautiful green waving foliage. As the wind ruffles its myriads of leaves, the sparkle of the sunbeams on the undulating mass produces the most wonderful combinations of light and shade; feathery sprays of a delicate pale green curl gracefully all over the field. It is like an ocean of vegetation, with billows of rich colour chasing each other, and blending in harmonious hues; the whole field looking a perfect oasis of beauty amid the surrounding dull brown tints of the season.
It is now time to give the plant a light touch of the plough. This eases the soil about the roots, lets in air and light, tends to clean the undergrowth of weeds, and gives it a great impetus. The operation is called Bedaheunee. By the beginning of June the tiny red flower is peeping from its leafy sheath, the lower leaves are turning yellowish and crisp, and it is almost time to begin the grandest and most important operation of the season, the manufacture of the dye from the plant.
To this you have been looking forward during the cold raw foggy days of November, when the ploughs were hard at work,—during the hot fierce winds of March, and the still, sultry, breathless early days of June, when the air was so still and oppressive that you could scarcely breathe. These sultry days are the lull before the storm—the pause before the moisture-laden clouds of the monsoon roll over the land 'rugged and brown,' and the wild rattle of thunder and the lurid glare of quivering never-ceasing lightning herald in the annual rains. The manufacture however deserves a chapter to itself.
Manufacture of Indigo.—Loading the vats.—Beating.—Boiling, straining, and pressing.—Scene in the Factory.—Fluctuation of produce.—Chemistry of Indigo.
Indigo is manufactured solely from the leaf. When arrangements have been made for cutting and carting the plant from the fields, the vats and machinery are all made ready, and a day is appointed to begin 'Mahye' or manufacture. The apparatus consists of, first, a strong serviceable pump for pumping up water into the vats: this is now mostly done by machinery, but many small factories still use the old Persian wheel, which may be shortly described as simply an endless chain of buckets, working on a revolving wheel or drum. The machine is worked by bullocks, and as the buckets ascend full from the well, they are emptied during their revolution into a small trough at the top, and the water is conveyed into a huge masonry reservoir or tank, situated high up above the vats, which forms a splendid open air bath for the planter when he feels inclined for a swim. Many of these tanks, called Kajhana, are capable of containing 40,000 cubic feet of water or more.
Below, and in a line with this reservoir, are the steeping vats, each capable of containing about 2000 cubic feet of water when full. Of course the vats vary in size, but what is called a pucca vat is of the above capacity. When the fresh green plant is brought in, the carts with their loads are ranged in line, opposite these loading vats. The loading coolies, 'Bojhunneas'—so called from 'Bojh,' a bundle—jump into the vats, and receive the plant from the cart-men, stacking it up in perpendicular layers, till the vat is full: a horizontal layer is put on top to make the surface look even. Bamboo battens are then placed over the plant, and these are pressed down, and held in their place by horizontal beams, working in upright posts. The uprights have holes at intervals of six inches. An iron pin is put in one of the holes; a lever is put under this pin, and the beam pressed down, till the next hole is reached and a fresh pin inserted, which keeps the beam down in its place. When sufficient pressure has been applied, the sluice in the reservoir is opened, and the water runs by a channel into the vat till it is full. Vat after vat is thus filled till all are finished, and the plant is allowed to steep from ten to thirteen or fourteen hours, according to the state of the weather, the temperature of the water, and other conditions and circumstances which have all to be carefully noted.
At first a greenish yellow tinge appears in the water, gradually deepening to an intense blue. As the fermentation goes on, froth forms on the surface of the vat, the water swells up, bubbles of gas arise to the surface, and the whole range of vats presents a frothing, bubbling, sweltering appearance, indicative of the chemical action going on in the interior. If a torch be applied to the surface of a vat, the accumulated gas ignites with a loud report, and a blue lambent flame travels with amazing rapidity over the effervescent liquid. In very hot weather I have seen the water swell up over the mid walls of the vats, till the whole range would be one uniform surface of frothing liquid, and on applying a light, the report has been as loud as that of a small cannon, and the flame has leapt from vat to vat like the flitting will-o'-the-wisp on the surface of some miasmatic marsh.
When fermentation has proceeded sufficiently, the temperature of the vat lowers somewhat, and the water, which has been globular and convex on the surface and at the sides, now becomes distinctly convex and recedes a very little. This is a sign that the plant has been steeped long enough, and that it is now time to open the vat. A pin is knocked out from the bottom, and the pent-up liquor rushes out in a golden yellow stream tinted with blue and green into the beating vat, which lies parallel to, but at a lower level than the loading vat.
Of course as the vats are loaded at different hours, and the steeping varies with circumstances, they must be ready to open also at different intervals. There are two men specially engaged to look after the opening. The time of loading each one is carefully noted; the time it will take to steep is guessed at, and an hour for opening written down. When this hour arrives, the Gunta parree, or time-keeper, looks at the vat, and if it appears ready he gets the pinmen to knock out the pin and let the steeped liquor run into the beating vat.
Where there are many vats, this goes on all night, and by the morning the beating vats are all full of steeped liquor, and ready to be beaten.
The beating now is mostly done by machinery; but the old style was very different. A gang of coolies (generally Dangurs) were put into the vats, having long sticks with a disc at the end, with which, standing in two rows, they threw up the liquor into the air. The quantity forced up by the one coolie encounters in mid air that sent up by the man standing immediately opposite to him, and the two jets meeting and mixing confusedly together, tumble down in broken frothy masses into the vat. Beginning with a slow steady stroke the coolies gradually increase the pace, shouting out a hoarse wild song at intervals; till, what with the swish and splash of the falling water, the measured beat of the furrovahs or beating rods, and the yells and cries with which they excite each other, the noise is almost deafening. The water, which at first is of a yellowish green, is now beginning to assume an intense blue tint; this is the result of the oxygenation going on. As the blue deepens, the exertions of the coolie increase, till with every muscle straining, head thrown back, chest expanded, his long black hair dripping with white foam, and his bronzed naked body glistening with blue liquor, he yells and shouts and twists and contorts his body till he looks like a true 'blue devil.' To see eight or ten vats full of yelling howling blue creatures, the water splashing high in mid air, the foam flecking the walls, and the measured beat of the furrovahs rising weird-like into the morning air, is almost enough to shake the nerve of a stranger, but it is music in the planter's ear, and he can scarce refrain from yelling out in sympathy with his coolies, and sharing in their frantic excitement. Indeed it is often necessary to encourage them if a vat proves obstinate, and the colour refuses to come—an event which occasionally does happen. It is very hard work beating, and when this constant violent exercise is kept up for about three hours (which is the time generally taken), the coolies are pretty well exhausted, and require a rest.
During the beating, two processes are going on simultaneously. One is chemical—oxygenation—turning the yellowish green dye into a deep intense blue: the other is mechanical—a separation of the particles of dye from the water in which it is held in solution. The beating seems to do this, causing the dye to granulate in larger particles.
When the vat has been beaten, the coolies remove the froth and scum from the surface of the water, and then leave the contents to settle. The fecula or dye, or mall, as it is technically called, now settles at the bottom of the vat in a soft pulpy sediment, and the waste liquor left on the top is let off through graduated holes in the front. Pin after pin is gradually removed, and the clear sherry-coloured waste allowed to run out till the last hole in the series is reached, and nothing but dye remains in the vat. By this time the coolies have had a rest and food, and now they return to the works, and either lift up the mall in earthen jars and take it to the mall tank, or—as is now more commonly done—they run it along a channel to the tank, and then wash out and clean the vat to be ready for the renewed beating on the morrow. When all the mall has been collected in the mall tank, it is next pumped up into the straining room. It is here strained through successive layers of wire gauze and cloth, till, free from dirt, sand and impurity, it is run into the large iron boilers, to be subjected to the next process. This is the boiling. This operation usually takes two or three hours, after which it is run off along narrow channels, till it reaches the straining-table. It is a very important part of the manufacture, and has to be carefully done. The straining-table is an oblong shallow wooden frame, in the shape of a trough, but all composed of open woodwork. It is covered by a large straining-sheet, on which the mall settles; while the waste water trickles through and is carried away by a drain. When the mall has stood on the table all night, it is next morning lifted up by scoops and buckets and put into the presses. These are square boxes of iron or wood, with perforated sides and bottom and a removeable perforated lid. The insides of the boxes are lined with press cloths, and when filled these cloths are carefully folded over the mall, which is now of the consistence of starch; and a heavy beam, worked on two upright three-inch screws, is let down on the lid of the press. A long lever is now put on the screws, and the nut worked slowly round. The pressure is enormous, and all the water remaining in the mall is pressed through the cloth and perforations in the press-box till nothing but the pure indigo remains behind.
The presses are now opened, and a square slab of dark moist indigo, about three or three and a half inches thick, is carried off on the bottom of the press (the top and sides having been removed), and carefully placed on the cutting frame. This frame corresponds in size to the bottom of the press, and is grooved in lines somewhat after the manner of a chess-board. A stiff iron rod with a brass wire attached is put through the groove under the slab, the wire is brought over the slab, and the rod being pulled smartly through brings the wire with it, cutting the indigo much in the same way as you would cut a bar of soap. When all the slab has been cut into bars, the wire and rod are next put into the grooves at right angles to the bars and again pulled through, thus dividing the bars into cubical cakes. Each cake is then stamped with the factory mark and number, and all are noted down in the books. They are then taken to the drying house; this is a large airy building, with strong shelves of bamboo reaching to the roof, and having narrow passages between the tiers of shelves. On these shelves or mychans, as they are called, the cakes are ranged to dry. The drying takes two or three months, and the cakes are turned and moved at frequent intervals, till thoroughly ready for packing. All the little pieces and corners and chips are carefully put by on separate shelves, and packed separately. Even the sweepings and refuse from the sheets and floor are all carefully collected, mixed with water, boiled separately, and made into cakes, which are called 'washings.'
During the drying a thick mould forms on the cakes. This is carefully brushed off before packing, and, mixed with sweepings and tiny chips is all ground up in a hand-mill, packed in separate chests, and sold as dust. In October, when mahye is over, and the preparation of the land going on again, the packing begins. The cakes, each of separate date, are carefully scrutinised, and placed in order of quality. The finest qualities are packed first, in layers, in mango-wood boxes; the boxes are first weighed empty, re-weighed when full, and the difference gives the nett weight of the indigo. The tare, gross, and nett weights are printed legibly on the chests, along with the factory mark and number of the chest, and when all are ready, they are sent down to the brokers in Calcutta for sale. Such shortly is the system of manufacture.
During mahye the factory is a busy scene. Long before break of day the ryots and coolies are busy cutting the plant, leaving it in green little heaps for the cartmen to load. In the early morning the carts are seen converging to the factory on every road, crawling along like huge green beetles. Here a cavalcade of twenty or thirty carts, there in clusters of twos or threes. When they reach the factory the loaders have several vats ready for the reception of the plant, while others are taking out the already steeped plant of yesterday; staggering under its weight, as, dripping with water, they toss it on the vast accumulating heap of refuse material.
Down in the vats below, the beating coolies are plashing, and shouting, and yelling, or the revolving wheel (where machinery is used) is scattering clouds of spray and foam in the blinding sunshine. The firemen stripped to the waist, are feeding the furnaces with the dried stems of last year's crop, which forms our only fuel. The smoke hovers in volumes over the boiling-house. The pinmen are busy sorting their pins, rolling hemp round them to make them fit the holes more exactly. Inside the boiling-house, dimly discernible through the clouds of stifling steam, the boilermen are seen with long rods, stirring slowly the boiling mass of bubbling blue. The clank of the levers resounds through the pressing-house, or the hoarse guttural 'hah, hah!' as the huge lever is strained and pulled at by the press-house coolies. The straining-table is being cleaned by the table 'mate' and his coolies, while the washerman stamps on his sheets and press-cloths to extract all the colour from them, and the cake-house boys run to and fro between the cutting-table and the cake-house with batches of cakes on their heads, borne on boards, like a baker taking his hot rolls from the oven, or like a busy swarm of ants taking the spoil of the granary to their forest haunt. Everywhere there is a confused jumble of sounds. The plash of water, the clank of machinery, the creaking of wheels, the roaring of the furnaces, mingle with the shouts, cries, and yells of the excited coolies; the vituperations of the drivers as some terrified or obstinate bullock plunges madly about; the objurgations of the 'mates' as some lazy fellow eases his stroke in the beating vats; the cracking of whips as the bullocks tear round the circle where the Persian wheel creaks and rumbles in the damp, dilapidated wheel-house; the-dripping buckets revolving clumsily on the drum, the arriving and departing carts; the clang of the anvil, as the blacksmith and his men hammer away at some huge screw which has been bent; the hurrying crowds of cartmen and loaders with their burdens of fresh green plant or dripping refuse;—form such a medley of sights and sounds as I have never seen equalled in any other industry.
The planter has to be here, there, and everywhere. He sends carts to this village or to that, according as the crop ripens. Coolies must be counted and paid daily. The stubble must be ploughed to give the plant a start for the second growth whenever the weather will admit of it. Reports have to be sent to the agents and owners. The boiling must be narrowly watched, as also the beating and the straining. He has a large staff of native assistants, but if his mahye is to be successful, his eye must be over all. It is an anxious time, but the constant work is grateful, and when the produce is good, and everything working smoothly, it is perhaps the most enjoyable time of the whole year. Is it nothing to see the crop, on which so much care has been expended, which you have watched day by day through all the vicissitudes of the season, through drought, and flood, and blight; is it nothing to see it safely harvested, and your shelves filling day by day with fine sound cakes, the representatives of wealth, that will fill your pockets with commission, and build up your name as a careful and painstaking planter?
'What's your produce?' is now the first query at this season, when planters meet. Calculations are made daily, nay hourly, to see how much is being got per beegah, or how much per vat. The presses are calculated to weigh so much. Some days you will get a press a vat, some days it will mount up to two presses a vat, and at other times it will recede to half a press a vat, or even less. Cold wet weather reduces the produce. Warm sunny weather will send it up again. Short stunted plant from poor lands will often reduce your average per acre, to be again sent up as fresh, hardy, leafy plant comes in from some favourite village, where you have new and fertile lands, or where the plant from the rich zeraats laden with broad strong leaf is tumbled into the loading vat.
So far as I know, there seems to be no law of produce. It is the most erratic and incomprehensible thing about planting. One day your presses are full to straining, next day half of them lie empty. No doubt the state of the weather, the quality of your plant, the temperature of the water, the length of time steeping, and other things have an influence; but I know of no planter who can entirely and satisfactorily account for the sudden and incomprehensible fluctuations and variations which undoubtedly take place in the produce or yield of the plant. It is a matter of more interest to the planter than to the general public, but all I can say is, that if the circumstances attendant on any sudden change in the yielding powers of the plant were more accurately noted; if the chemical conditions of the water, the air, and the raw material itself, more especially in reference to the soil on which it grows, the time it takes in transit from the field to the vat, and other points, which will at once suggest themselves to a practical planter, were more carefully, methodically, and scientifically observed, some coherent theory resulting in plain practical results might be evolved.
Planters should attend more to this. I believe the chemical history of indigo has yet to be written. The whole manufacture, so far as chemistry is concerned, is yet crude and ill-digested. I know that by careful experiment, and close scientific investigation and observation, the preparation of indigo could be much improved. So far as the mechanical appliances for the manufacture go, the last ten years have witnessed amazing and rapid improvements. What is now wanted, is, that what has been done for the mere mechanical appliances, should be done for the proper understanding of the chemical changes and conditions in the constitution of the plant, and in the various processes of its manufacture.
 Since the above chapter was written Mons. P.I. Michea, a French chemist of some experience in Indigo matters, has patented an invention (the result of much study, experiment, and investigation), by the application of which an immense increase in the produce of the plant has been obtained during the last season, in several factories where it has been worked in Jessore, Purneah, Kishnaghur, and other places. This increase, varying according to circumstances, has in some instances reached the amazing extent of 30 to 47 per cent., and so far from being attended with a deterioration of quality the dye produced is said to be finer than that obtained under the old crude process described in the above chapter. This shows what a waste must have been going on, and what may yet be done, by properly organised scientific investigation. I firmly believe that with an intelligent application of the principles of chemistry and agricultural science, not only to the manufacture but to growth, cultivation, nature of the soil, application of manures, and other such departments of the business, quite a revolution will set in, and a new era in the history of this great industry will be inaugurated. Less area for crop will be required, working expenses will be reduced, a greater out-turn, and a more certain crop secured, and all classes, planter and ryot alike, will be benefited.
Parewah factory.—A 'Bobbery Pack.'—Hunt through a village after a cat.—The pariah dog of India.—Fate of 'Pincher.'—Rampore hound. —Persian greyhound.—Caboolee dogs.—A jackal hunt.—Incidents of the chase.
After living at Puttihee for two years, I was transferred to another out-factory in the same concern, called Parewah. There was here a very nice little three-roomed bungalow, with airy verandahs all round. It was a pleasant change from Puttihee, and the situation was very pretty. A small stream, almost dry in the hot weather, but a swollen, deep, rapid torrent in the rains, meandered past the factory. Nearing the bullock-house it suddenly took a sweep to the left in the form of a wide horseshoe, and in this bend or pocket was situated the bungalow, with a pretty terraced garden sloping gently to the stream. Thus the river was in full view from both the front and the back verandahs. In front, and close on the bank of the river, stood the kitchen, fowl-house, and offices. To the right of the compound were the stables, while behind the bungalow, and some distance down the stream, the wheel-house, vats, press-house, boiling-house, cake-house, and workshops were grouped together. I was but nine miles from the bead-factory, and the same distance from the station of Mooteeharree, while over the river, and but three miles off, I had the factory of Meerpore, with its hospitable manager as my nearest neighbour. His lands and mine lay contiguous. In fact some of his villages lay beyond some of mine, and he had to ride through part of my cultivation to reach them.
Not unfrequently we would meet in the zillah of a morning, when we would invariably make for the nearest patch of grass or jungle, and enjoy a hunt together. In the cool early mornings, when the heavy night dews still lie glittering on the grass, when the cobwebs seem strung with pearls, and faint lines of soft fleecy mist lie in the hollows by the watercourses; long ere the hot, fiery sun has left his crimson bed behind the cold grey horizon, we are out on our favourite horse, the wiry, long-limbed syce or groom trotting along behind us. The mehter or dog-keeper is also in attendance with a couple of greyhounds in leash, and a motley pack of wicked little terriers frisking and frolicking behind him. This mongrel collection is known as 'the Bobbery Pack,' and forms a certain adjunct to every assistant's bungalow in the district. I had one very noble-looking kangaroo hound that I had brought from Australia with me, and my 'bobbery pack' of terriers contained canine specimens of all sorts, sizes, and colours.
On nearing a village, you would see one black fellow, 'Pincher,' set off at a round trot ahead, with seemingly the most innocent air in the world. 'Tilly,' 'Tiny,' and 'Nipper' follow.
Then 'Dandy,' 'Curly,' 'Brandy,' and 'Nettle,' till spying a cat in the distance, the whole pack with a whimper of excitement dash off at a mad scramble, the hound straining meanwhile at the slip, till he almost pulls the mehter off his legs. Off goes the cat, round the corner of a hut with her tail puffed up to fully three times its normal size. Round in mad, eager pursuit rattle the terriers, thirsting for her blood. The syce dashes forward, vainly hoping to turn them from their quest. Now a village dog, roused from his morning nap, bounds out with a demoniac howl, which is caught up and echoed by all the curs in the village.
Meanwhile the row inside the hut is fiendish. The sleeping family rudely roused by the yelping pack, utter the most discordant screams. The women with garments fluttering behind them, rush out beating their breasts, thinking the very devil is loose. The wails of the unfortunate cat mingle with the short snapping barks of the pack, or a howl of anguish as puss inflicts a caress on the face of some too careless or reckless dog. A howling village cur has rashly ventured too near. 'Pincher' has him by the hind leg before you could say 'Jack Robinson.' Leaving the dead cat for 'Toby' and 'Nettle' to worry, the whole pack now fiercely attack the luckless Pariah dog. A dozen of his village mates dance madly outside the ring, but are too wise or too cowardly to come to closer quarters. The kangaroo hound has now fairly torn the rope from the keeper's hand, and with one mighty bound is in the middle of the fight, scattering the village dogs right and left. The whole village is now in commotion, the syce and keeper shout the names of the terriers in vain. Oaths, cries, shouts, and screams mingle with the yelping and growling of the combatants, till riding up, I disperse the worrying pack with a few cracks of my hunting whip, and so on again over the zillah, leaving the women and children to recover their scattered senses, the old men to grumble over their broken slumbers, and the boys and young men to wonder at the pluck and dash of the Belaitee Kookoor, or English dog.
The common Pariah dog, or village dog of India, is a perfect cur; a mangy, carrion-loving, yellow-fanged, howling brute. A most unlovely and unloving beast. As you pass his village he will bounce out on you with the fiercest bark and the most menacing snarl; but lo! if a terrier the size of a teacup but boldly go at him, down goes his tail like a pump-handle, he turns white with fear, and like the arrant coward that he is, tumbles on his back and fairly screams for mercy. I have often been amused to see a great hulking cowardly brute come out like an avalanche at 'Pincher,' expecting to make one mouthful of him. What a look of bewilderment he would put on, as my gallant little 'Pincher,' with a short, sharp, defiant bark would go boldly at him. The huge yellow brute would stop dead short on all four legs, and as the rest of my pack would come scampering round the corner, he would find himself the centre of a ring of indomitable assailants.
How he curses his short-sighted temerity. With one long howl of utter dismay and deadly fear, he manages to get away from the pack, leaving my little doggies to come proudly round my horse with their mouths full of fur, and each of their little tails as stiff as an iron ramrod.
That 'Pincher,' in some respects, was a very fiend incarnate. There was no keeping him in. He was constantly getting into hot water himself, and leading the pack into all sorts of mischief. He was as bold as brass and as courageous as a lion. He stole food, worried sheep and goats, and was never out of a scrape. I tried thrashing him, tying him up, half starving him, but all to no purpose. He would be into every hut in a village whenever he had the chance, overturning brass pots, eating up rice and curries, and throwing the poor villager's household into dismay and confusion. He would never leave a cat if he once saw it. I've seen him scramble through the roofs of more than one hut, and oust the cat from its fancied stronghold.
I put him into an indigo vat with a big dog jackal once, and he whipped the jackal single-handed. He did not kill it, but he worried it till the jackal shammed dead and would not 'come to the scratch.' 'Pincher's' ears were perfect shreds, and his scars were as numerous almost as his hairs. My gallant 'Pincher!' His was a sad end. He got eaten up by an alligator in the 'Dhans,' a sluggish stream in Bhaugulpore. I had all my pack in the boat with me, the stream was swollen and full of weeds. A jackal gave tongue on the bank, and 'Pincher' bounded over the side of the boat at once. I tried to 'grab' him, and nearly upset the boat in doing so. Our boat was going rapidly down stream, and 'Pincher' tried to get ashore but got among the weeds. He gave a bark, poor gallant little dog, for help, but just then we saw a dark square snout shoot athwart the stream. A half-smothered sobbing cry from 'Pincher,' and the bravest little dog I ever possessed was gone for ever.
There is another breed of large, strong-limbed, big-boned dogs, called Rampore hounds. They are a cross breed from the original upcountry dog and the Persian greyhound. Some call them the Indian greyhound. They seem to be bred principally in the Rampore-Bareilly district, but one or more are generally to be found in every planter's pack. They are fast and strong enough, but I have often found them bad at tackling, and they are too fond of their keeper ever to make an affectionate faithful dog to the European.
Another somewhat similar breed is the Tazi. This, although not so large a dog as the Rhamporee, is a much pluckier animal, and when well trained will tackle a jackal with the utmost determination. He has a wrinkled almost hairless skin, but a very uncertain temper, and he is not very amenable to discipline. Tazi is simply the Persian word for a greyhound, and refers to no particular breed. The common name for a dog is Kutta, pronounced Cootta, but the Tazi has certainly been an importation from the North-west, hence the Persian name. The wandering Caboolees, who come down to the plains once a year with dried fruits, spices, and other products of field or garden, also bring with them the dogs of their native country for sale, and on occasion they bring lovely long-haired white Persian cats, very beautiful animals. These Caboolee dogs are tall, long-limbed brutes, generally white, with a long thin snout, very long silky-haired drooping ears, and generally wearing tufts of hair on their legs and tail, somewhat like the feathering of a spaniel, which makes them look rather clumsy. They cannot stand the heat of the plains at all well, and are difficult to tame, but fleet and plucky, hunting well with an English pack.
My neighbour Anthony at Meerpore had some very fine English greyhounds and bulldogs, and many a rattling burst have we had together after the fox or the jackal. Imagine a wide level plain, with one uniform dull covering of rice stubble, save where in the centre a mound rises some two acres in extent, covered with long thatching grass, a few scrubby acacia bushes, and other jungly brushwood. All round the circular horizon are dense forest masses of sombre looking foliage, save where some clump of palms uprear their stately heads, or the white shining walls of some temple, sacred to Shiva or Khristna glitter in the sunshine. Far to the left a sluggish creek winds slowly along through the plain, its banks fringed with acacias and wild rose jungle. On the far bank is a small patch of Sal forest jungle, with a thick rank undergrowth of ferns, thistles, and rank grass. As I am slowly riding along I hear a shout in the distance, and looking round behold Anthony advancing at a rapid hand gallop. His dogs and mine, being old friends, rapidly fraternise, and we determine on a hunt.
'Let's try the old patch, Anthony!'
'All right,' and away we go making straight for the mound. When we reach the grass the syces and keepers hold the hounds at the corners outside, while we ride through the grass urging on the terriers, who, quivering with excitement, utter short barks, and dash here and there among the thick grass, all eager for a find.
'Gone away, gone away!' shouts Anthony, as a fleet fox dashes out, closely followed by 'Pincher' and half a dozen others. The hounds are slipped, and away go the pack in full pursuit, we on our horses riding along, one on each side of the chase. The fox has a good start, but now the hounds are nearing him, when with a sudden whisk he doubles round the ridge encircling a rice field, the hounds overshoot him, and ere they turn the fox has put the breadth of a good field between himself and his pursuers. He is now making back again for the grass, but encounters some of the terriers who have tailed off behind. With panting chests and lolling tongues, they are pegging stolidly along, when fortune gives them this welcome chance. Redoubling their efforts, they dash at the fox. 'Bravo, Tilly! you tumbled him over that time;' but he is up and away again. Dodging, double-turning, and twisting, he has nearly run the gauntlet, and the friendly covert is close at hand, but the hounds are now up again and thirsting for his blood. 'Hurrah! Minnie has him!' cries Anthony, and riding up we divest poor Reynard of his brush, pat the dogs, ease the girths for a minute, and then again into the jungle for another beat.
This time a fat old jackal breaks to the left, long before the dogs are up. Yelling to the mehters not to slip the hounds, we gather the terriers together, and pound over the stubble and ridges. He is going very leisurely, casting an occasional scared look over his shoulder. 'Curly' and 'Legs,' two of my fastest terriers, are now in full view, they are laying themselves well to the ground, and Master Jackal thinks it's high time to increase his pace. He puts on a spurt, but condition tells. He is fat and pursy, and must have had a good feed last night on some poor dead bullock. He is shewing his teeth now. Curly makes his rush, and they both roll over together. Up hurries Legs, and the jackal gets a grip, gives him a shake, and then hobbles slowly on. The two terriers now hamper him terribly. One minute they are at his heels, and as soon as he turns, they are at his ear or shoulder. The rest of the pack are fast coming up.
Anthony has a magnificent bulldog, broad-chested, and a very Goliath among dogs. He is called 'Sailor.' Sailor always pounds along at the same steady pace; he never seems to get flurried. Sitting lazily at the door, he seems too indolent even to snap at a fly. He is a true philosopher, and nought seems to disturb his serenity. But see him after a jackal, his big red tongue hanging out, his eyes flashing fire, and his hair erected on his back like the bristles of a wild boar. He looks fiendish then, and he is a true bulldog. There is no flinching with Sailor. Once he gets his grip it's no use trying to make him let go.
Up comes Sailor now.
He has the jackal by the throat.
A hoarse, rattling, gasping yell, and the jackal has gone to the happy hunting grounds.
The sun is now mounting in the sky. The hounds and terriers feel the heat, so sending them home by the keeper, we diverge on our respective roads, ride over our cultivation, seeing the ploughing and preparations generally, till hot, tired, and dusty, we reach home about 11.30, tumble into our bath, and feeling refreshed, sit down contentedly to breakfast. If the dak or postman has come in we get our letters and papers, and the afternoon is devoted to office work and accounts, hearing complaints and reports from the villages, or looking over any labour that may be going on in the zeraats or at the workshops. In the evening we ride over the zeraats again, give orders for the morrow's work, consume a little tobacco, have an early dinner, and after a little reading, retire soon to bed to dream of far away friends and the happy memories of home. Many an evening it is very lonely work. No friendly face, and no congenial society within miles of your factory. Little wonder that the arrival of a brother planter sends a thrill through the frame, and that his advent is welcomed as the most agreeable break to the irksome monotony of our lonely life.