No Hindoo dares, and no Christian or Muhammadan will condescend, to lop off the heads of these young trees, and if they did, it would only put off the evil and inevitable day; for such are the vital powers of their roots, when they have once penetrated deeply into a building, that they will send out their branches again, cut them off as often as you may, and carry on their internal attack with undiminished vigour. No wonder that superstition should have consecrated this tree, delicate and beautiful as it is, to the gods. The palace, the castle, the temple, and the tomb, all those works which man is most proud to raise to spread and to perpetuate his name, crumble to dust beneath her withering grasp. She rises triumphant over them all in her lofty beauty, bearing high in air amidst her light green foliage fragments of the wreck she has made, to show the nothingness of man’s greatest efforts.
While sitting at my tent-door looking out upon this beautiful sheet of water, and upon all the noble works around me, I thought of the charge, so often made against the people of this fine land, of the total want of public spirit among them, by those who have spent their Indian days in the busy courts of law, and still more busy commercial establishments of our great metropolis.
If by the term public spirit be meant a disposition on the part of individuals to sacrifice their own enjoyments, or their own means of enjoyment for the common good, there is perhaps no people in the world among whom it abounds so much as among the people of India. To live in the grateful recollections of their countrymen for benefits conferred upon them in great works of ornament and utility is the study of every Hindoo of rank and property. Such works tend, in his opinion, not only to spread and perpetuate his name in this world, but, through the good wishes and prayers of those who are benefited by them, to secure the favour of the Deity in the next.
According to their notions, every drop of rain-water or dew that falls to the ground from the green leaf of a fruit-tree, planted by them for the common good, proves a refreshing draught for their souls in the next [world]. When no descendant remains to pour the funeral libations in their name, the water from the trees they have planted for the public good is destined to supply its place. Everything judiciously laid out to promote the happiness of their fellow creatures will in the next world be repaid to them tenfold by the Deity.
In marching over the country in the hot season, we every morning find our tents pitched on the green sward amid beautiful groves of fruit-trees, with wells of ‘pakka’ (brick or stone) masonry, built at great expense, and containing the most delicious water; but how few of us ever dream of asking at whose cost the trees that afford us and our followers such agreeable shade were planted, or the wells that afford us such copious streams of fine water in the midst of dry, arid plains were formed! We go on enjoying all the advantages which arise from the noble public spirit that animates the people of India to benevolent exertions, without once calling in question the truth of the assertion of our metropolitan friends that ’the people of India have no public spirit’.