The red chuprassie is ubiquitous; he is in the verandah of every official’s house in India, from the Governor-General downwards; he is in the portico of every Court of Justice, every Treasury, every Public Office, every Government School, every Government Dispensary in the country. He walks behind the Collector; he follows the conservancy carts; he prowls about the candidate for employment; he hovers over the accused and accuser; he haunts the Raja; he infests the tax-payer.
He wears the Imperial livery; he is to the entire population of India the exponent of British Rule; he is the mother-in-law of liars, the high-priest of extortioners, and the receiver-general of bribes.
Through this refracting medium the people of India see their rulers. The chuprassie paints his master in colours drawn from his own black heart. Every lie he tells, every insinuation he throws out, every demand he makes, is endorsed with his master’s name. He is the arch-slanderer of our name in India.
[He is not an individual—he is a member of a widely rammified society.] There is no city in India, no mofussil-station, no little settlement of officials far up country, in which the chuprassie does not find sworn brothers and confederates. The cutcherry clerks and the police are with him everywhere; higher native officials are often on his side.
He sits at the receipt of custom in the Collector’s verandah, and no native visitor dare approach who has not conciliated him with money. The candidate for employment, educated in our schools, and pregnant with words about purity, equality, justice, political economy, and all the rest of it, addresses him with joined hands as “Maharaj,” and slips silver into his itching palm. The successful place-hunter pays him a feudal relief on receiving office or promotion, and benevolences flow in from all who have anything to hope or fear from those in power.
[Illustration: THE RED CHUPRASSIE—“The corrupt lictor.”]
In the Native States the chuprassie flourishes rampantly. He receives a regular salary through their representatives or vakils at the agencies, from all the native chiefs round about, and on all occasions of visits or return visits, durbars, religious festivals, or public ceremonials, he claims and receives preposterous fees. The Rajas, whose dignity is always exceedingly delicate, stand in great fear of the chuprassies. They believe that on public occasions the chuprassies have sometimes the power of sicklying them o’er with the pale cast of neglect.
English officers who have become de-Europeanised from long residence among undomesticated natives, or by the habitual performance of petty ceremonial duties of an Oriental hue, employ chuprassies to aggrandise their importance. They always figure on a background of red chuprassies. Such officials are what Lord Lytton calls White Baboos.
[Mr. Whitley Stokes, in his own artless way, once proposed legislating against chuprassies, I am told. His plan was to include them among the criminal classes, and hand them over to Major Henderson, the Director-General of Thuggee and Dacoity; but this functionary, viewing the matter in a different light, made some demi-official representation to the Legal Member under the pseudonym of “Walker,” and the subject dropped.]