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Behind the Bungalow   By: (1851-1909)

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Transcribed by David Price, email


Contents: Preface Engaging a Boy The Boy at Home The Dog boy The Ghorawalla, or Syce Bootlair Saheb Anglice, the Butler Domingo, the Cook The Mussaul, or Man of Lamps The Hamal The Body guards That Dhobie! The Ayah


These papers appeared in the Times of India, and were written, of course, for the Bombay Presidency; but the Indian Nowker exhibits very much the same traits wherever he is found and under whatsoever name.


Extended, six feet of me, over an ample easy chair, in absolute repose of mind and body, soothed with a cup of tea which Canjee had ministered to me, comforted by the slippers which he had put on my feet in place of a heavy pair of boots which he had unlaced and taken away, feeling in charity with all mankind from this standpoint I began to contemplate "The Boy."

What a wonderful provision of nature he is in this half hatched civilization of ours, which merely distracts our energies by multiplying our needs and leaves us no better off than we were before we discovered them! He seems to have a natural aptitude for discerning, or even inventing, your wants and supplies them before you yourself are aware of them. While in his hands nothing petty invades you. Great mindedness becomes possible. "Magnanimus AEneas" must have had an excellent Boy. What is the history of the Boy? How and where did he originate? What is the derivation of his name? I have heard it traced to the Hindoostanee word bhai, a brother, but the usual attitude of the Anglo Indian's mind towards his domestics does not give sufficient support to this. I incline to the belief that the word is of hybrid origin, having its roots in bhoee, a bearer, and drawing the tenderer shades of its meaning from the English word which it resembles. To this no doubt may be traced in part the master's disposition to regard his boy always as in statu pupillari. Perhaps he carries this view of the relationship too far, but the Boy, on the other hand, cheerfully regards him as in loco parentis and accepts much from him which he will not endure from a stranger. A cuff from his master (delivered in a right spirit) raises his dignity, but the same from a guest in the house wounds him terribly. He protests that it is "not regulation." And in this happy spirit of filial piety he will live until his hair grows white and his hand shaky and his teeth fall out and service gives place to worship, dulia to latria, and the most revered idol among his penates is the photograph of his departed master. With a tear in his dim old eye he takes it from its shrine and unwraps the red handkerchief in which it is folded, while he tells of the virtues of the great and good man. He says there are no such masters in these days, and when you reply that there are no such servants either, he does not contradict you. Yet he may have been a sad young scamp when he began life as a dog boy fifty five years ago, and, on the other hand, it is not so impossible as it seems that the scapegrace for whose special behoof you keep a rattan on your hat pegs may mellow into a most respectable and trustworthy old man, at least if he is happy enough to settle under a good master; for the Boy is often very much a reflection of the master. Often, but not always. Something depends on the grain of the material. There are Boys and Boys. There is a Boy with whom, when you get him, you can do nothing but dismiss him, and this is not a loss to him only, but to you, for every dismissal weakens your position. A man who parts lightly with his servants will never have a servant worth retaining. At the morning conference in the market, where masters are discussed over the soothing beeree, none holds so low a place as the saheb who has had eleven butlers in twelve months... Continue reading book >>

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