Modern India eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 495 pages of information about Modern India.

II

THE CITY OF BOMBAY

There are two cities in Bombay, the native city and the foreign city.  The foreign city spreads out over a large area, and, although the population is only a small per cent of that of the native city, it occupies a much larger space, which is devoted to groves, gardens, lawns, and other breathing places and pleasure grounds, while, as is the custom in the Orient, the natives are packed away several hundred to the acre in tall houses, which, with over-hanging balconies and tile roofs, line the crooked and narrow streets on both sides.  Behind some of these tall and narrow fronts, however, are dwellings that cover a good deal of ground, being much larger than the houses we are accustomed to, because the Hindus have larger families and they all live together.  When a young man marries he brings his bride home to his father’s house, unless his mother-in-law happens to be a widow, when they often take up their abode with her.  But it is not common for young couples to have their own homes; hence the dwellings in the native quarters are packed with several generations of the same family, and that makes the occupants easy prey to plagues, famine and other agents of human destruction.

The Parsees love air and light, and many rich Hindus have followed the foreign colony out into the suburbs, where you find a succession of handsome villas or bungalows, as they are called, half-hidden by high walls that inclose charming gardens.  Some of these bungalows are very attractive, some are even sumptuous in their appointments—­veritable palaces, filled with costly furniture and ornaments—­but the climate forbids the use of many of the creature comforts which American and European taste demands.  The floors must be of tiles or cement and the curtains of bamboo, because hangings, carpets, rugs and upholstery furnish shelter for destructive and disagreeable insects, and the aim of everybody is to secure as much air as possible without admitting the heat.

Bombay is justly proud of her public buildings.  Few cities have such a splendid array.  None that I have ever visited except Vienna can show an assemblage so imposing, with such harmony and artistic uniformity combined with convenience of location, taste of arrangement and general architectural effect.  There is nothing, of course, in Bombay that will compare with our Capitol or Library at Washington, and its state and municipal buildings cannot compete individually with the Parliament House in London, the Hotel de Ville de Paris or the Palace of Justice in Brussels, or many others I might name.  But neither Washington nor London nor Paris nor any other European or American city possesses such a broad, shaded boulevard as Bombay, with the Indian Ocean upon one side and on the other, stretching for a mile or more, a succession of stately edifices.  Vienna has the boulevard and the buildings, but lacks the water effect.  It is as if all the buildings of the University of Chicago were scattered along the lake front in Chicago from the river to Twelfth street.

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Modern India from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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