Thirty years have of course made great changes in many of the details of life in the districts of an Indian Province, now as a rule connected up by lines of railway. Improved leave rules and many other causes have rendered intercourse with the home country much easier. Whether or no this far easier intercourse is altogether an advantage to the rulers and the ruled is what is termed a “burning question” at the present moment. In a word, that improved communications have not correspondingly increased our sympathy with a new birth in intellect, social life, and the affairs of state, all of which are mainly the results of British rule.
The functions of a Collector, sketched by Ali Baba in an entertaining medley, have increased enormously of late years, and the position is now said to be less desirable than of old, when it was amusingly said of every member of civilian society, that the verb “to collect” was conjugated thus: “I am a collector, you are a collector, he should be a collector, they will be collectors,” and so on, ad infinitum.
BABY IN PARTIBUS
This sketch, which may well be termed a beautiful lament over poor Baby, has brought back vividly to many a one touching recollections: a picture in fact which appealed, and continues to appeal, to an audience infinitely wider than that of Anglo-India. The same may be said of the sketches “The Grass-Widow,” p. 139; “Mem-Sahib,” p. 157, by many considered the best sketch of all; and “Sahib,” p. 181. All of them full of that pathos and tenderness akin to, but yet differing widely from, the bantering style of the others, which are also full of allusions and covert references to individuals and affairs of the Anglo-India of thirty years ago.
In “Sahib,” however, there are traits of character and other touches taken from the life of one who was—among many other features—a “merry Collector,” not yet forgotten by a rapidly decreasing circle of contemporaries. While time and ameliorated conditions have changed the “loathsome Indian cemetery” into something of a garden in which Ali Baba our friend in common would have rejoiced.
THE RED CHUPRASSIE
Alas! the Red Chuprassie is still a rift in the lute of Indian administration; a reform in Chuprassies would doubtless be more beneficial to India than any wonder-working nostrum—such as Advisory Councils or extended Legislative Councils.
The cry for reform in Chuprassies, or in other words the underlings of many Departments, is a very old one. Ali Baba’s denunciation of the “Red Chuprassie” powerfully expands that one by Sir Alfred Lyall, where in his poem of The Old Pindaree, written in 1866, the “belted knave” is associated with the “hungry retainers” and others forming the camp establishment of an official on tour.