Modern India eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 495 pages of information about Modern India.
a native servant is even more important, for travelers are required to carry their own bedding, make their own beds and furnish their own towels.  The company provides a bench for them to sleep on, similar to those we have in freight cabooses at home, a wash room and sometimes water.  But if you want to wash your face and hands in the morning it is always better to send your servant to the station master before the trains starts to see that the tank is filled.  Then a naked Hindu with a goat-skin of water comes along, fills the tank and stands around touching his forehead respectfully every time you look his way until you give him a penny.  The eating houses along the railway lines also expect travelers to bring their own servants, who raid their shelves and tables for food and drink and take it out to the cars.  That is another of the customs of the country.

For these reasons a special occupation has been created, peculiar to India—­that of travelers’ servants, or “bearers” as they are called.  I have never been able to satisfy myself as to the derivation of the name.  Some wise men say that formerly, before the days of railroads, people were carried about in sedan chairs, as they are still in China, and the men who carried them were called “bearers;” others contend that the name is due to the circumstance that these servants bear the white man’s burden, which is not at all likely.  They certainly do not bear his baggage.  They hire coolies to do it.  A self-respecting “bearer” will employ somebody at your expense to do everything he can avoid doing and will never demean himself by carrying a trunk, or a bag, or even a parcel.  You give him money to pay incidental expenses, for you don’t want him bothering you all the time, and he hires other natives to do the work.  But his wages are small.  A first-class bearer, who can talk English and cook, pack trunks, look after tickets, luggage and other business of travel, serve as guide at all places of interest and compel merchants to pay him a commission upon everything his employer purchases, can be obtained for forty-five rupees, which is $15 a month, and keep himself.  He gets his board for nothing at the hotels for waiting on his master, and on the pretext that he induced him to come there.  But you have to pay his railway fare, third class, and give him $3 to buy warm clothing.  He never buys it, because he does not need it, but that’s another custom of the country.  Then again, at the end of the engagement he expects a present—­a little backsheesh—­two or three dollars, and a certificate that you are pleased with his services.

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Modern India from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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