Tour Of India - From Abu To Karli
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Indian views of government—Minor officials The Ghats—Karli.
January 11, 1912, LONAVLA JUNCTION, G.I.P.
Apropos of what you say about Indians in the I.C.S., of course the whole crux of the question is simply " Is there a sufficient supply of Indians who've got the moral, political, and common sense requisite for responsible administration?" One ought to add perhaps " according to Western ideas," for we can never give up insisting on the application of some of our political ideas, such as liberty and justice and government for the good of the subject. The trouble is that Indians haven't yet accepted even these : their political ideas are seen in operation in the Native States, and a purely Indian I.C.S. would inevitably try to run its administration more on those lines than on ours and that would, I should think, produce a total breakdown of the Western machinery we have set up.
Many Englishmen think the Native State method of government is more congenial to the people than ours and should be encouraged. I heard this view urged by a civilian who has been several years in a Native State as Diwan, and helping to introduce Western reforms there. For instance, they have had compulsory free education there for the last eight years, but it has made very little difference. The poorer classes don't send their children unless they are driven, and the native inspectors are slack. Yet Nationalists give you glowing accounts of the progress of universal education in that State, which is an instance of how they will state and live upon an idea quite regardless of whether there is any fact corresponding to it. I believe they are really unable to distinguish between the intention and the effect of a policy.
Even in British India the civilians are hard put to it to make the administration efficient, because they can get absolutely no co-operation from the people. I heard some more about the difficulties of famine relief from one of the Gujerat men only yesterday. The direst extremities won't induce them to stir a yard beyond their accustomed range. One village flatly refused to come to some relief works because they would have had to cross a river which it was not their custom to cross (not from any religious reason). So they just starved contentedly. Similarly, if the man in charge of the works huffs them, they revenge themselves by boycotting his works and dying.
But where the relief is properly managed I'm told they are grateful, at least in remote parts. Where there is a native paper available it turns them against the Government. The men all sit round in the evenings while the wise man of the village reads it out, and it distorts every act of Government till it seems a selfish, blood-sucking piece of tyranny, and enough dirt sticks to kill all gratitude.
The people who suffer most from this want of co-operation are the police. I think I told you some stories last week about the natives' reluctance to' give evidence. Of course, this is partly due to intimidation, but still more, I gather, to their wholly passive view of their relation to the State. And so far from thinking, " I may be the next victim," and so helping to convict a murderer, they are much more likely to argue, " I may be the next murderer " and so help him to escape.
Another instance of the total absence of the idea of co-operation, on the other side, so to speak, is the way the petty officials use their powers to bully or bleed every one they can take advantage of. I saw a little incident at the station at Bombay this morning which roused my wrath. An English Tommy was in a hurry to catch the 7.30 train for Sialkot (near Kashmir). The booking-clerk deliberately ignored him for some minutes, though he was doing nothing, then ' he surlily denied the existence of the train and refused to issue a ticket finally he shouted most offensively, " It is too late ; it would take ten minutes to make out [the ticket], and you shan't have it, so there ! ' and flung the Government order for the ticket back in the Tommy's face. I told the Tommy to travel without a ticket, which he did, but he will naturally relieve his feelings on the first native who annoys him unprotected by a grille.
From what I've seen of them, the booking-office Babus are a poisonous crowd. They keep the unfortunate third-class passengers penned up in front of their grille and refuse to open the shutter till just before the train starts, and then often only issue tickets, I'm told, to those who promise backshish, and in the jostling rob them of their change, or tell them the price of the ticket wrong most of them can't read. It is the same with the luggage-weighing. If I go and give orders they cringe ; if I send my servant they cheat and bully him. And every one tells me that this corruption and petty tyranny is the curse of all minor native officials in every department. It makes my British blood boil, but one comforting reflection is that it is a pillar of the British Raj, since every native trusts any English official far sooner than a native one.
I joined Jim at Abu Road on Friday and we went to Ahmedabad for the Saturday (which was the Epiphany) and Sunday. Jim was busy, and I had seen the sights in Christmas week, so I stayed quiet mostly, and read more of Lovat Fraser. The chapter on Persia I found very illuminating, but when he gets back to Indian politics, e.g., in the Universities Act part, he becomes obscure by losing the thread of exposition in refuting charges against Lord Curzon on side issues.
Yesterday I invested in a kodak, as Southern India is much more primitive than Rajputana, and I may not be able to buy any photographs. How-ever, I doubt if my own will be a sufficient substitute, as there are so many ways of spoiling each film at every stage of its career that the chance of doing every operation right seems a remote one.
This morning I set out on my second missionary journey (I stay with missionaries). It has been a little altered since I sent you the map : but the first stage is the same, viz., a semi-camp life with Jim for ten days in the Ahmednagar district. Ahmednagar is near the eastern border of Bombay Presidency, right in the Deccan.
The Deccan is a high, flat plateau, like the high veldt (only it is two thousand feet up instead of five thousand feet), and of enormous extent. Between the coast and the Deccan is a strip of low, flat land full of creeks and palm-trees. This is called the Konkan. Then comes what corresponds to the Berg in South Africa, a line of steep hills which mark the rise from the Konkan to the Deccan plateau. These are called the Ghats. The Western Ghats (there are corresponding ones on the Madras side) run parallel to the coast some sixty miles inland, from about Surat (say a hundred and fifty miles north of Bombay) right down to Cochin, and are a great geographical feature of the land. Among other things they catch the south-west monsoon and bring it down all of a heap, so that while the Deccan is liable to famine, the Ghats and the strip just behind them never are. This place, for instance (Lonavla), is just on the top of the Ghats, near the edge, and looks beautifully green. I asked them if they had had a shortage of rain this year, and they told me that it had been nearly a hundred inches less than the average, but as they had had two hundred and twenty-three inches they could not complain !
I came up by an early morning train from Bombay in order to see the Karli Cave, which is near here. I am now waiting for the Poona Mail, in which I hope to find Jim.
The journey from Bombay to the bottom of the Ghats (pronounced, by the way, to rhyme with " carts," though many old residents make it rhyme with "thoughts ") is pretty in parts : you go over two causeways through the sea, the first from Bombay Island to Salsette Island, and the second from Salsette to the mainland : then you run south-east beside a creek which becomes a small river higher up. Then a stretch of flat land. When we got near the line of the Ghats we first entered a valley between two spurs, then edged on to one spur and the climb began. They put on two special engines, as it is a one in forty gradient. After a bit we got on to the watershed of the spur and ran up it ; and in between the numerous but short tunnels we could see a valley on either side, green and fertile, with thickly wooded slopes running up to the rugged brown rocks, a most beautiful view. In the rains the train passes fifty waterfalls in fifteen miles. Near the top was a reversing station, and we doubled back along the main mountain-side till we reached the plateau.
The cave of Karli is about six miles from here, and I drove there. It is a most remarkable piece of work, It must originally have been a small cave in the side of a hill, about five hundred feet up. The Buddhists, about 160 B.C., carved it into a fine temple. It looks like the nave of a big Norman church, a barrel roof, an aisle with tall octagonal pillars having beautifully carved capitals, an apse, and in the apse a domed cell containing relics of Buddha. Between the pillars and the rock are narrow side aisles. The entrance is by a door--way in a carved stone screen. This doorway is a magnificent arch. The wonderful thing is that roof, pillars, capitals, screen, arch and all are just carved from the solid rock, not blocks put into position. The whole " building " is one huge monolith carving. Its dimensions correspond approximately (says Fergusson) to the choir of Norwich Cathedral. One very curious thing is this : all the outer sides of the capitals (i.e., in side-aisles) are carved with horses - and bullocks, but one, and one only, has a regular and unmistakable Sphinx.
When Jim's train comes in we go on to Poona, where we dine at the Club, and proceed by the Madras Mail to Ahmednagar via Dhond.