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.
Our annual Race Meet is the one great occasion of the year when all the dwellers in the district meet. Our races in Chumparun generally took place some time about Christmas. Long before the date fixed on, arrangements would be made for the exercise of hearty hospitality. The residents in the ‘station’ ask as many guests as will fill their houses, and their ‘compounds’ are crowded with tents, each holding a number of visitors, generally bachelors. The principal managers of the factories in the district, with their assistants, form a mess for the racing week, and, not unfrequently, one or two ladies lend their refining presence to the several camps. Friends from other districts, from up country, from Calcutta, gather together; and as the weather is bracing and cool, and every one determined to enjoy himself, the meet is one of the pleasantest of reunions. There are always several races specially got up for assistants’ horses, and long before, the youngsters are up in the early morning, giving their favourite nag a spin across the zeraats, or seeing the groom lead him out swathed in clothing and bandages, to get him into training for the Assistants’ race.
As the day draws near, great cases of tinned meats, hampers of beer and wine, and goodly supplies of all sorts are sent into the station to the various camps. Tents of snowy white canvas begin to peep out at you from among the trees. Great oblong booths of blue indigo sheeting show where the temporary stables for the horses are being erected; and at night the glittering of innumerable camp-fires betokens the presence of a whole army of grooms, grass-cutters, peons, watchmen, and other servants cooking their evening meal of rice, and discussing the chances of the horses of their respective masters in the approaching races. On the day before the first racing, the planters are up early, and in buggy, dogcart, or on horseback, singly, and by twos and threes, from all sides of the district, they find their way to the station. The Planter’s Club is the general rendezvous. The first comers, having found out their waiting servants, and consigned the smoking steeds to their care, seat themselves in the verandah, and eagerly watch every fresh arrival.
Up comes a buggy. ‘Hullo, who’s this?’
‘Oh, it’s “Giblets!” How do you do, “Giblets,” old man?’
Down jumps ‘Giblets,’ and a general handshaking ensues.
‘Here comes “Boach” and the “Moonshee,"’ yells out an observant youngster from the back verandah.
The venerable buggy of the esteemed ‘Boach’ approaches, and another jubilation takes place; the handshaking being so vigorous that the ‘Moonshee’s’ spectacles nearly come to grief. Now the arrivals ride and drive up fast and furious.