“I should say that all this would make endless complications in business and society. Each of these societies, or whatever you may call them, is independent, and has its own regulations. None of its members can marry into another caste, or even eat with those of a lower rank. A man born into one of these associations having a particular business cannot take up another calling without being pinched by the social law in all that he holds dear in life. His wife deserts him, his children refuse to acknowledge him as their father, and his property is absorbed by his society or caste. All this for no crime, no immorality; and he may be a noble and true man. If he chooses to be a tinker, instead of a trader, all the gods of Hindu antiquity light upon his head, and worry him to the funeral pyre by the shore.”
“That is quite true, Captain, and I join with you in condemning this grossly heathen institution,” added Sir Modava. “But time and Christianity will yet do their work, and my country will be saved. But I submit, my dear Captain, that there is another side to the question.”
“Quite true, and I was about to state it. The man who remains faithful to the requirements of the society is protected and supported. Wherever he goes, at whatever distance from his country he may be, he finds a roof and a hearthstone which he may make his own for the time. If gone for years, he will find the house and the field of his fathers undisturbed, of which he may take possession. This institution may remove care and anxiety from the mind of the man, and make him, as we find here, calm and contented, but without the ambition of the business-man. I have taken most of this from a book I found in Bombay.”
“The most influential caste here are mostly Jains and Buniahs; and though they belong to different tribes, they are united in business matters. They wear their own costumes; but they have done more than any others for the prosperity of the place,” said Lord Tremlyn. “They are the speculators in cottons and other goods, and many of them have immense wealth. The Buniahs are always intelligent, and somewhat aristocratic. You may know one of them by his tall turban, like a shako, though sometimes it is rolled like a conch-shell. Around his dress he wears a red band, which he twists about his limbs, and has a long calico tunic closely fitted to his chest. His chosen calling is that of a commercial broker.
“These rich Hindus, while adhering to everything required by their religion, adopt English fashions, and revel in British luxuries. You will see them late in the afternoon on the public roads, in elegant carriages, drawn by the finest horses, and attended by servants in rich liveries. Their houses are magnificent, furnished like the Parsee’s we visited the other evening. The social intercourse between them and their European neighbors is very limited.