A great Maharaja once told me that it was the tyranny of the Government chuprassies that made him take to drink. He spoke of them as “the Pindarries of modern India.” He had a theory that the small pay we gave them accounted for their evil courses. A chuprassie gets about eight pounds sterling a year. He added that if we saw a chuprassie on seven rupees a month living overtly at the rate of a thousand, we ought immediately to appoint him an attache or put him in gaol.
I make a simple rule in my own establishment of dismissing a chuprassie as soon as he begins to wax fat. A native cannot become rich without waxing fat, because wealth is primarily enjoyed by the mild Gentoo as a means of procuring greasy food in large quantities. His secondary enjoyment is to sit upon it. He digs a hole in the ground for his rupees, and broods over them, like a great obscene fowl. If you see a native sitting very hard on the same place day after day, you will find it worth your while to dig him up. Shares in this are better than the Madras gold mines.
In early Company days, when the Empire was a baby, the European writers[S] regarded with a kindly eye those profuse Orientals who went about bearing gifts; but Lord Clive closed this branch of the business, and it has been taken up by our scarlet runners or verandah parasites, in our name. Now, dear Vanity, you may call me a Russophile, or by any other marine term of endearment you like, if I don’t think the old plan was the better of the two. We ourselves could conduct corruption decently; but to be responsible for corruption over which we exercise no control is to lose the credit of a good name and the profits of a bad one.
[Old qui-hyes tell you that there are three things you cannot separate from an “Indian”—venality, perjury, and rupees. Now I totally disagree with the old qui-hyes. In secret I am a great admirer of the Indian, and publicly I always treat him with respect. I have such a regard for him that I never expose him to temptation. I pay him well, I explain to him my eccentric opinions about receiving bribes, and I remind him of the moral and electrifying properties of the different species of cane which Nature has so thoughtfully provided nearly everywhere in India. The consequence is that my chuprassies do not soil their hands with spurious gratifications, and figuratively describe me as their father and mother.]
I hear that the Government of India proposes to form a mixed committee of Rajas and chuprassies to discuss the question as to whether native chiefs ever give bribes and native servants ever take them. It is expected that a report favourable to Indian morality will be the result. Of course Raja Joe Hookham will preside.—ALI BABA, K.C.B.
[Illustration: THE PLANTER—“A farmer prince.”]