[Illustration: Old view of Government House, South aspect Photo by Johnston & Hoffmann]
RECOLLECTIONS OF OLD CALCUTTA
When I first came to Calcutta things were entirely different to the present day. There was, of course, a very much smaller European population, and every one was consequently pretty well known to every one else, but at the same time the cleavage between the different sections of society was much more marked than it is now. Members of the Civil Service were very exclusive, holding themselves much more aloof than the “heaven-born” do to-day; the military formed another distinct set; while the mercantile people, lawyers, barristers, and others not in any government service, had their own particular circle. This marked cleavage did not, however, prevent the different “sets” from having quite a good time, and as I have said, even if they did not mix together very closely and intimately, we all in a way knew each other.
Forty or fifty years ago, Calcutta was not so lively as it is to-day, especially in the cold weather, but there was one thing in those days which we do not see now. I refer to the regal pomp and circumstance which characterised Government House, and all the functions held there. The annual State Ball was an event which was always looked forward to, and it was a ball at which one could comfortably dance, instead of the crush it had become in the decade prior to 1911.
Looking back, one of the first things that strikes me is the change between then and now in the matter of locomotion. In my early days there were no taxi-cabs, trams, nor even fitton-gharries, the only conveyances for those who had not private carriages being palkis and bund-gharries. It would seem strange to-day to see Europeans being carried about the streets in palkis, but half a century or more ago they were by no means despised, especially by the newly-out chokras, whose salary was not at all too high. They had to choose between a palki and a ticca-gharry, which were very much alike in shape, the difference between them being that the one was carried on the shoulders of coolies, and the other drawn by a horse.
[Illustration: Old view of Esplanade East, showing Scott Thomson’s corner. Photo by Johnston & Hoffman]
[Illustration: Old River view, showing sailing ships Photo by Johnston & Hoffmann.]
[Illustration: Photo by Johnston & Hoffmann Royal Calcutta Turf Club’s Race Stands: Viceroy’s Cup Day.]
[Illustration: The Old Race Stands Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann.] The private conveyances of those days were as a rule quite elaborate affairs, and it used to be one of the sights of the evening to go on “the course,” which embraced the Strand and the Red Road, to see the richer inhabitants of the city taking their evening drive. Later, however, the haut ton, evidently thinking the Strand was getting too plebeian, confined their evening drive to a place in the stately procession up and down the Red Road, which thus became “the course.”