Darkest India eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 172 pages of information about Darkest India.

But I am digressing.  My special object in this chapter is to show the minimum amount which is necessary for the subsistence of our destitute classes.

Another very interesting indication of the minimum cost of living in the cheapest native style, consistent with health, and a very moderate degree of comfort, is furnished by the experience of our village officers to whom we make a subsistence allowance of from eight to twelve annas per week.  This with the local gifts of food which they collect in the village enables them to live in the simplest way, and ensures them at least one good meal of curry and rice daily, the rest being locally supplied.

Here is the account of one of our Native Captains as to how he used to manage with his allowance of eight annas a week.  I have taken it down myself from his own lips.

“When in charge of a village corps, I received with others my weekly allowance.  When I was alone I used to get 10 annas, and when there were two of us together we got eight annas each.  This was sufficient to give us one good meal of kheechhree (rice and dal) every day, with a little over for extras, such as firewood, vegetables, oil and ghee.

    “We had two regular cooked meals daily, one about noon and the other
    in the evening.  Besides this we also had a piece of bajari bread
    left over from the previous day, when we got up in the morning.

    “For the morning meal we used to beg once a week uncooked food from
    the villagers.  They gave us about eight or nine seers, enough to
    last us for the week.

“It was a mixture of grains, consisting ordinarily of bajari, bhavtu, kodri, jawar and mat.  These we got ground up into flour.  It made a sort of bread which is known as Sangru and which we liked very much.  With it we would take some sag (vegetables) or dal.  This was our regular midday meal.

    “Including the value of the food we begged, the cost of living was
    just about two annas a day for each of us.  We could live comfortably
    upon this.

“The poorer Dhers in the villages seldom or never get kheechhree (rice and dal).  They could not afford it.  Most of them live on “ghens” (a mixture of buttermilk and coarse flour cooked into a sort of skilly, or gruel) and bhavtu or bajari bread, or “Sangru.”  The buttermilk is given to them by the village landowners, in return for their labour.  They are expected for instance to do odd jobs, cut grass, carry wood, &c.  The grain they commonly get either in harvest time in return for labour, or buy it as they require it several maunds at a time.  Occasionally they get it in exchange for cloth.  Living in the cheapest possible way, and eating the coarsest food, I don’t think they could manage on less than one annas’ worth of food a day.”

One of our European Officers, Staff Captain Hunter, who has lived in the same style for about four years among the villagers of Goojarat, and who has been in charge of some 30 or 40 of our Officers, confirms the above particulars.  He says that on two annas a day it is possible to live comfortably, but that one anna is the minimum below which it is impossible to go in order to support life even on the coarsest sorts of food.

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Darkest India from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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