The crowd on this quay, and in every part of Calcutta, is great. No fighting, however, is visible, though we hear a great deal of scolding. A Hindoo hardly ever strikes an equal, however severely he may be provoked. The Arabs, as well as the Portuguese, are less patient, and at night, frays and even murders in the streets are of no unfrequent occurrence; chiefly, however, among the two descriptions of persons whom I have named. There are among the Hindoos very frequent instances of murder, but of a more cowardly and premeditated kind. They are cases chiefly of women murdered from jealousy, and children for the sake of the silver ornaments with which their parents are fond of decorating them. Out of thirty-six cases of murder reported in the province of Beni^ai, during the short space of, I believe, three months, seventeen were of children under these circumstances.

Though no slavery legally exists in the British territories at this moment, yet the terms and gestures used by servants to their superiors, all imply that such a distinction was, at no distant date, very common. “I am thy slave,” — “Thy slave hath no knowledge,” are continually used as expressions of submission and of ignorance. In general, however, I do not think that the Bengalee servants are more submissive or respectful to their masters than those of Europe. The habit of appearing with bare feet in the house, the manner of addressing their superiors by joining the hands as in the attitude of prayer, at first gave them such an appearance. But these are in fact nothing more tlian taking off the hat or bowing, in England; and the person who acts thus is as apt to speak saucily, or neglect our orders, as any English footman or groom. Some of their expressions, indeed, are often misunderstood by new comers as uncivil, when nothing less than incivility is intended. If you bid a man order breakfast, he will answer, “Have I not ordered it?” or, “Is it not already coming?” merely meaning to express his own alacrity in obeying you. They are, on the whole, intelligent, and are very attentive to supply your wishes, even half, or not at all expressed.

Masters seldom furnish any liveries, except turbans or girdles, which are of some distinctive colour and lace; the rest of the servant's dress is the cotton shirt, caftan, and trowsers of the country, and they are by no means exact as to its cleanliness. The servants of the governor-general have very handsome scarlet and gold caftans. [56-60]

Related material


Heber, Reginald. Narrative of a journey through the upper provinces of India, from Calcutta to Bombay, 1824-1825. Philadelphia: Cary, Lea, and Cary & Son, 1829. Vol. 1. Internet Archive online version of a copy in the University of Princeton Theological Seminary Library. Web. 25 November 2018.

Last modified 29 November 2018