T. Stewart MacPherson

The Life of a Memsahib in the Mufassal

Calcutta Review, 274 (1913): 41-57

To the Briton in India the words “Calcutta and the Mufassal” convey much the same signification relatively as “London and the Provinces.” True, in strict parlance, one ought now to say “Delhi and the Mufassal” but many years are bound to pass before these words become a familiar phrase connoting the same ideas. The word “Mufassal,” however, has further use—each Province has its Capital and its Mufassal, each Division has its Divisional headquarters and its Mufassal, even each District has its District headquarters and its Mufassal. Mufassal is therefore a relative term, e.g., Hooghly is Mufassal with reference to Calcutta, but with reference to the Burdwan Division and to the Hooghly District, it rises to the dignity of a headquarters station as opposed to Mufassal. The Mufassal in which my experience has lain has been entirely away from Calcutta and chiefly within the province of Bihar, Chota Nagpur and Orissa.

In the Mufassal there are two kinds of memsahibs—the permanent residents and the fleeting official population. “Permanent residents” is a comparative term and is used to designate wives of planters, wives of those who have to do with mines, mills, estates, missionaries and members of “country families,” i.e., families long settled in certain districts and possessing often very considerable landed estates. Such memsahibs, by reason of their permanence, can, and do, make themselves exceedingly comfortable. Their houses are real homes. Their gardens, trim and well-cared for, are rich in flowers and produce every possible vegetable and fruit. Their poultry-yards, stables and kennels are justly the pride of their owners.

Far different is the position of the wife of the official. During many years of her husband’s service, she lives in daily dread of the arrival of a long envelope marked “Appointments Department” and containing orders of transfer, maybe to a station hundreds of miles distant. It is impossible for her to give to her house and compound that air of settled comfort which marks the permanent resident. She contents herself with endeavouring to make as attractive as possible the barest necessities of life.

It was on a day of torrential rain in July that I arrived at my first Indian station.

The Collector hospitably welcomed us and my earliest impression was a vague one of the great power exercised by him over the hundreds of thousands in his jurisdiction. After three days we took possession of our first home in India. It was a tiny bungalow, with no garden, standing on a wide maidan between the Judge’s and Doctor’s houses. The etiquette of the Mufassal is that the incoming officer takes over his predecessor’s furniture. We followed the usual rule and found ourselves the owners of the minimum of furniture of the simplest kind—a few tables of sisum wood, half-a-dozen office chairs, a few cane chairs, two nawar beds, two mirrors and three teapoys. The floors were covered with coarse bamboo matting—there were no carpets,—but fresh curtains, a few pictures, bric-à-brac, and our books invested this Arcadian simplicity with charm. Those accustomed to the mahogany and oak furniture and the rich Persian and Turkish carpets of luxurious Calcutta will hardly be able to realize such simplicity, yet it is almost invariable in the homes of young Government officers.

There were five other memsahibs in the station, but within a short time after my arrival all but one departed to the hills. The Joint Magistrate had heavy work. From 7 to 10 a.m. he worked in the bungalow. At 10-30 he went to Court and he rarely returned home before 6 p.m. The servants vanished shortly after breakfast and, till about 4 p.m., the house was absolutely deserted except for a diminutive punkah-wallah, a boy who was troubled with an abnormal thirst which necessitated frequent slaking, and, incidentally, a rest from punkah pulling. As I had to rely on my own resources for running the house, it was fortunate that my husband had taught me a little Hindustani before I left home. Daily orders to the servants I carefully prepared beforehand and I endeavoured to extend my knowledge by the regular study of manuals and dictionaries. As I had little opportunity of hearing the language it was some time before I could understand any but brief spoken sentences.

Every evening the whole station assembled at the Club. No doubt visions of the stately Bengal and United Service Clubs and the well-appointed Saturday Club rise before the eyes of the Calcuttaite. Very different was the modest three-roomed tiled bungalow dignified by the name of the Station Club, but it was a pleasant rendezvous for husbands, wives and children. There the news of the day was discussed and some home papers were available. There tennis, bridge or billiards could be enjoyed. As there was a nine hole golf course in the Collector’s compound, a variety of amusements was possible when work permitted. In the palmy days of indigo the station had been a large and gay one and polo had been a regular weekly pastime. On the Monthly District Board Meeting Days, when the few remaining planters came into the headquarters, it might still be enjoyed occasionally, but, as a rule, it was a gala day when there was a men’s four for either tennis or bridge.

The station church was a regulation red-brick Government building. Once a month the padre visited us, on the other Sundays the Judge read the Service. We arrived from Bombay on a Sunday when the Judge was taking the Service. On the following Friday he asked me if I would play the organ on the Sunday as the padre was due and the lady who usually played had gone to the hills. I consented with much trepidation for I did not know the Anglican Service at all and dreaded the unaccustomed chants. On the Saturday evening at the Club the ladies selected the hymns. Unfortunately two of the three had alternative tunes. In each case I chose the familiar Scottish tune, and, to my horror, found that I had not only to play but to sing them as solos! The tribulations of that Service were many. That the chants had to be played unannounced was a source of anxiety. The first chord of the Magnificat was sounded too soon and the organist received a stern look from the padre! Since then I have played the organ for and taken part in the Church Service many times and have grown to love it dearly. Mufassalites have reason to be deeply grateful to the Church of England for the opportunities she gives them of public worship.

Catering is a constant source of concern to the Mufassal memsahibs. In most stations beef is unknown and even mutton is often not available; away from the banks of the Ganges, there are few stations where fish can be obtained regularly. As a rule, from February till June fish must be looked on with suspicion. There is left only the never-failing murghi and one is reduced to ringing changes on murghi boil, murghi ros, murghi cutlis! The anxiety occasioned by a dinner party, still more by the entertainment of guests accustomed to the luxuries of Calcutta, may be imagined. A District headquarters station generally owns a “Mutton Club.” The club consists of five members and possesses two or three score sheep which are grass-fed for two months and gram-fed for two months more. Twice a week a sheep is killed and divided among the five members, the various portions going by rotation to each. If one is fortunate enough to be member of such a club, at least twice a week a good joint is assured. But there are many stations where no such club exists. My worst experience of the food difficulty was when my husband was Settlement Officer of a jungly district.

There the aborigines believe that milk was bestowed for sole benefit of the calves and do not even milk their cows. In so primitive a place it will be readily understood that, besides the perennial murghi, only jungle produce, e.g., jungle fowl and green pigeon, was available and occasionally even the supply of murghi failed. I well remember one morning’s experience in a forest hut in the heart of the jungle. Our larder was absolutely empty and the cook told me there was not even a chicken for dinner. Two aborigines suddenly appeared, and to my great relief one of them produced a basket of the scraggiest, most miserable-looking fowls imaginable but they were welcome in our famine-stricken condition. I gathered that he wished to sell them, but neither I nor the servants could understand his tribal language, nor could he understand anything they or I could say. A bag of pice was brought out and in them a common language was found. He lifted a noisy, protesting fowl from his basket and laid it on the verandah. I placed sixteen pice beside it. He laughed and shook his head, so I put down two pice more. Again he laughed more cheerily than before and made some jocular remark to his friend. Then he picked up the pice, keeping six for himself, he handed me back twelve and made over the chicken to the cook. This process was continued till I had bought his whole stock for an extremely small sum. No memsahib will be surprised to learn that after this first experience I never saw a poultry dealer. He always came before dawn or when I was arranging my toilet! Such possibilities of gain were too seductive for any servants and as they also were suffering considerable hardship in that jungle I made no remonstrance.

In Calcutta the memsahib has all the varied interests of life that a city can afford. There is a large European community from which to draw her circle of friends, entertainments and recreations of many kinds, social pleasures, good libraries and interesting shops. It is hard for her to imagine herself settled in a station with a limited European community—twelve families make a large station—and it is quite possible to be in a station where there is no other European family. Often there is no library, and shops in the European sense are non-existent. It therefore behoves the Mufassal memsahib to be self-reliant, to have infinite resources and interests within herself. Husband, children are all in all to her, but, cut off as she is from her white sisters, she cannot but be brought into close touch with the great Indian community around her. In those remote places the sahib is indeed the mabap of the people, and to the memsahib too the Indians come, confident that she also has their interest at heart. To an infinite number I have been mama since I landed in India and many are the interesting experiences I have had. I often regret that I cannot get to know the Indian ladies better. In Calcutta the shelter and etiquette of the purdah are being largely discarded but in the Mufassal the purdah is by no means a mere façon de parler. Ladies do not visit even among themselves, they see only their blood-relations and it would be considered a presumptuous intrusion on the part of any memsahib if she were to call on them without a special invitation. Such invitations I have been honoured with and it has been a pleasure to accept them. One of these visits had so interesting and unforeseen a result that I must narrate it. On one occasion we were camping near a Thakur’s garh or baronial mansion. On the evening of our arrival the Thakur and his son, a fragile looking boy of about four, resplendent in a suit of royal blue plush heavily trimmed with gold, paid a ceremonial visit to my husband. The little scion of an ancient house was the only child of the Thakur and the son of the fourth wife. A few days later I was invited to visit his zenana with my children. The appointed time found us at the palace gate where the Thakur and his son received us and led us through his office—a modern room with a typewriter, a full-plate camera and a variety of very fine weapons of the chase, varying from a Winchester repeater to a boar spear—along a maze of passages and across two courtyards. On the verandah of the third court beautiful Persian and Mirzapur rugs were spread and exquisite Kashmir chadars draped the chairs placed for us. Standing to receive us was the Thakur’s mother in the plain unadorned sari of a widow. During the Mutiny the feudal chief of the house rebelled, but she was nobly loyal to the British and bravely sheltered some British officers, thereby securing for her son the hereditary title of Thakur. The Thakur introduced us and withdrew. Then the courtyard quickly filled with female servants, dependants and children, and on to the verandah came the four wives each out-rivalling the other in the splendour of her dress. They sat on the rugs, the mother of the boy nearest me. Conversation was somewhat difficult. Only one lady spoke Hindustani—the only language I could command, the others spoke Oriya and local dialects. My ayah helped greatly by interpreting into a dialect which all seemed to know, still I was concerned about the success of the visit. Meantime the children made friends with the little heir and ayah suggested that one of my sons who wore full Highland costume should dance. The little fellow danced Highland dances with the pure delight and abandon of a child. The success of the afternoon was assured, tongues were loosed, an air of friendliness prevailed and we were asked to repeat the visit. The sequel is rather amusing. Some five years later I met the manager of the Thakur’s forests who told me that my son had made such an impression that forthwith the Thakur had ordered Highland costume for his son, and now on ceremonial occasions the boy accompanies his father in all the glory of full Highland dress, kilt, sporran, dirk, velvet coat, and silver buttons complete.

I have had the pleasure of dining in a Brahman Rani’s house—I cannot say of dining with her for she and her friends sat by the wall and watched us enjoy the feast she had prepared. We thought we had done ample justice to it, but she assured us that had we been Brahman ladies we should have left nothing to betray the late contents of the many dishes. I have also visited Muhammadan and Bengali ladies in their homes—but such opportunities occur only rarely.

Pardah schools and pardah hospitals offer opportunities for making the acquaintance of native ladies which the strict etiquette of the zenana denies. In Bengal one is amazed to find Brahman girls in a school taught by a pundit. Such a thing is unthinkable up-country where girls of much lower caste are strictly pardah. I was particularly interested in one pardah school. On my first visit my husband accompanied me. We were received with great empressement by the committee on a verandah where my husband was given a chair while I was conducted through what seemed endless passages to a thick pardah. Outside this my guide, who was the brother of the widowed head mistress, stopped and knocked. The head mistress drew me within the pardah and my guide vanished. I found myself in a large room filled with beautifully dressed high-caste girls of all stages. Some were married, some were betrothed, many were busily embroidering jackets and saris for their trousseau and all looked bright and attractive. On the occasion of a prize distribution in this same school, I had the unique pleasure of listening to an eloquent speech in the purest Hindi by a charming Rajput lady of about nineteen years of age. She knew not a word of English but with persuasive enthusiasm she urged upon her young sisters the necessity of education, so that with wide interests and wise judgment they might become worthy mothers of worthy sons of India.

The Lady Dufferin Zenana hospitals supply a much-felt want in the mufassal. There, pardah is strictly observed and admission as an inpatient is secured only on presentation of certificates of respectability and high caste from two independent Members of the Managing Committee. The early struggle of these hospitals against the prejudice of the high-born lady to leave her home is fascinating history, and naturally much of their success depends on the tact and skill of the lady doctor in charge. The story of one in which I was specially interested is probably typical. The well-equipped new building was put in charge of a competent lady doctor. Months passed during which the out-patient department gradually acquired a reputation which brought patients from far and near, but the wards remained empty. No lady of sufficient courage to leave her home and be nursed in the hospital had yet been found, though by her practice in the town the lady doctor had become known and confidence in her and in her methods had steadily grown. At last the opportunity came. A Brahman pilgrim from the North-West became seriously ill. No privacy or comfort could be had in the dharmsala and she was removed to the hospital. It was a critical case and was watched over by the doctor with more than usual anxiety for well she knew that the future of her hospital depended on a favourable issue. To her infinite relief, she was able in a few weeks to discharge her patient completely cured. The success of the hospital was assured. Twice over the wards have had to be enlarged and not only is there rarely a vacant bed there but even the cottage wards where three rupees a day is charged are constantly full. So unaccustomed were the patients to see strangers that sometimes they required some persuasion to admit me, and often my passport was not so much that I was the Collector’s wife as that I was the mother of sons. One found invariably, however, that those who had been most chary of receiving one were those to whom the visit seemed to give most satisfaction and they rarely allowed one to leave without pressing cordial requests that it might be repeated.

From the above it may easily be understood that opportunities for getting to know Indian ladies are comparatively few, but the friendly intercourse that my husband has with Indian gentlemen of position has brought many of them across my path and I am proud to reckon among my friends Indian Christians, Muhammadans and Hindus,—courteous and cultured men with whom it is a pleasure to converse. From others of lesser education and standing whom often I hardly know, delightful notes are occasionally received in which I am addressed as “Adored Mama” or “Respectable Madam.” A few exquisite rosebuds were once sent to me with the following note: “Revered Madam, Filial piety and devotion incessantly tend my heart to thy homage, so these fragrant flower buds are most humbly strewn before thee as token of worship by your most obedient servant.”

In conversation with these Indian friends pathetic glimpses of their difficulties are sometimes obtained. One high caste man once spoke of his family which consisted of three sons and eight daughters. “Ah Sir,” he said, “my God has been very terrible to me in matter of daughters.” In marrying three of them he had expended all his hard-earned savings. Every month he deposited one hundred rupees in the Savings Bank towards the marriage fund, but, he cried, “I do not think I shall live to marry the other five.” A husband could not be secured for less than three thousand rupees—a large sum to a man with a modest salary. Apparently the young men utilize the marriage dowries to finance their college career and the bitter disappointment, not only to himself and his own family, but to his little bride’s family, when a student fails to pass an examination may well be imagined. To a suggestion that he should send his daughters to college and make them either doctors or teachers our friend made the pitiful reply “Sir, our young men are of bad character. We cannot send a respectable girl to college.” Perhaps the time is not yet. One is reminded of the experience of a planter on his return to his factory from headquarters where he had just become the proud father of his first-born—a daughter. He was met by a doleful looking group of his office babus. On his enquiring as to the cause of their dejection the senior babu came forward and with a pitying look of commiseration said “Sir, it is the will of God.” Such were the congratulations that were showered on the delighted parent.

But no generalizations are wholly true even for one province, far less for all India. Among the lower castes the case is different. A daughter is a valuable asset and the would-be bridegroom has often to pay a considerable price for her.

Among the aborigines this price is so high that girls are rarely married before the age of seventeen or eighteen and, as purdah is unknown, the father of good-looking daughters has a fair chance to enrich himself in land and cattle. Aboriginal converts once tried to find out from a missionary friend what he had paid for his wife. He allowed them to guess. Suggestions of cattle, horses, even land, were all met by a vigorous shake of the head. There was silence for a time then came the awed suggestion “Had you to give a hathi?” Imagination could carry them no farther. A wife worth an elephant! Occasionally one is invited to an entertainment in honour of some local magnate—a bioscope show, a nautch, or merely an opportunity for expressing mutual admiration. If the entertainment be in one’s own honour it is somewhat trying. “Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest” is well observed in many hospitable stations. On one occasion a great show was organized to speed us en route for home. We were driven in a highly decorated coach-and-four to and from the hall where we were entertained to a bioscope show, and, later, fireworks. Even that did not exhaust the enthusiasm of the community. On the night of our departure the station was filled with a gaily dressed crowd through which it was hard to make our way to the train. My husband and I were so loaded with a multitude of garlands that our necks ached for hours afterwards. The children too were all garlanded, even my seven-month-old son was gay with flowers and tinsel. The official does not work for or expect gratitude or popularity. If they come, good and well. And if those whose interests he is earnestly trying to farther, show themselves friendly and sympathetic, he undoubtedly gains inspiration and help in his daily toil.

The wife of an Executive Officer spends most of the cold weather in camp.

In large districts one hundred and twenty days in the year and in small districts ninety days must be devoted to touring. In Lower Bengal where the swampy ground makes tenting for the most part impossible, touring may be done by launch or from Inspection Bungalow to Inspection Bungalow. In many places these consist of only one centre room which has to serve as both dining room and bedroom and often, when the beds are pushed against the walls, there is barely room to walk round the dining table. Such camping, however interesting the people and the country may be, means rank discomfort and scant privacy for the memsahib. When, however, tents can be utilized as in Bihar and other dry regions the touring season is wholly delightful. The weather is perfect. The days are not too warm and mornings and evenings are crisp and cold and bracing. Near many villages stands a mango-grove in the leafy shade of which the tents are pitched. If the sahib is a bachelor, he may carry a court tent; if he is travelling with his family, the tent will probably be required for them and his court will be held under a great mango tree in the open air. If he is trying “tories” in Chota Nagpur, a mandua made of intertwined branches may be constructed for him. The Swiss Cottage tents are pitched by the orderlies. They are floored with straw and carpeted with durries. The simple, camp furniture is arranged. Primitive fireplaces are built of clay on which gharas of water may be boiled. Two square holes are dug for the cook, over which he places iron grids, and on this simple stove he will cook an excellent dinner of many courses. The custom of the country was to provide fodder and fuel, gharas and perhaps other things, free, but the modern officer is exceedingly conscientious in making full—often excessive—payment for all his supplies, though he has frequently to confess, that despite his endeavours, the money may not reach the proper hands. A local bania sets up shop at the camp and is prepared to sell his rice and dal, etc., to litigants and servants.

A camp on a sahib’s arrival is an animated scene; Servants, orderlies and court clerks await him. There is a crowd of litigants with their witnesses and interested friends. Chaukidars and Police are in evidence and the neighbouring villagers, unwilling to lose any tamasha, swell the throng.

From camp to camp is anything from ten to twenty miles and from each camp as centre the sahib visits all the villages within a wide radius, making himself thoroughly acquainted with the special conditions of his jurisdiction. All schools, dispensaries, pounds, thanas and excise shops are inspected and the benefits of education are impressed on the somewhat sceptical village fathers. The condition of the roads calls for consideration and bridges, waterways and the vagaries of rivers are examined. Local cases are investigated and tried and all manner of disputes and grievances are adjusted. The local tyrant who has been harassing his raiyats with petty exactions, false suits, or forged documents is discovered. Local personages are received and many of them have business of interest to discuss. Altogether the short beautiful winter days speed only too quickly to their close.

Much of the walking and riding on inspection the memsahib can do with her husband. As practically everyone one passes on the road is hailed and engaged in conversation, this always offers much both of interest and fascination. Well I remember one evening walk. A widow had complained that her hereditary enemy had cut a large portion of her crop which she averred lay “about a mile” from our camp. As it was so near, the sahib said he would himself investigate the damage that evening and we duly set out to visit the field. There was no road, the path lay on the narrow embankment between paddy fields. On and on we walked at at a smart, steady pace for one and a half hours. As darkness was falling we reached a village. The headman on being summoned said that he knew the field but it was “about a mile farther”! We forthwith abandoned the search for that elusive field and turned our attention to supplying the immediate necessity of a lantern, for the night was moonless. The village fathers held a solemn conclave whilst we sat on the outside wall of the temple and at last procured for us the only lantern the village possessed. Filled with treacly oil, it offered a dusky, intermittent light, but we were thankful for it on these narrow embankments. Near the camp we met chaprasis with what seemed by comparison, dazzlingly brilliant lanterns and the whole camp was brightly lit up—the servants being much perturbed at our prolonged absence. It was a weary couple who meditated profoundly that night on the villager’s elastic sense of distance! How vague it is, only those who have experienced it know. In one district a kos is reckoned by the time it takes the cut branch of a tree to wither! In such circumstances it becomes abundantly evident that the length of the mile varies with the seasons.

Sometimes an early morning or an afternoon may be snatched for shikar. In some districts duck and teal abound and occasionally, with luck, a deer, a leopard or even a tiger may be bagged.

Our most exciting camping experiences were in Chota Nagpur. There the forest was too dense to admit of pitching tents and we camped from forest hut to forest hut. Moreover, the possible unwelcome visits of tigers or leopards made huts desirable. From hut to hut we made our way as best we could. Sometimes an aboriginal of the forest tribes went ahead wielding his axe to cut a path for my husband’s pony, sometimes the children and I rode on a pad elephant who tore off branches to clear his way, sometimes we bumped along on the Bengal-Nagpur Railway in a third class carriage swept out for the occasion. Passenger trains are not available at these small stations and two or three third class carriages are attached to the goods trains.

Our dak was brought by a peon on foot from the headquarters’ station, it might be a four days’ journey. No man would dare to traverse these jungles by night and even by day the peons did not care to walk alone.

As practically the only mode of transport was by coolies along jungle paths, it may easily be imagined that a very considerable retinue was required. The only current coin was the pice and we had always to carry with us a considerable quantity of that commodity. Though the forest was full of interest, camping there was exhausting for the memsahib, partly because of difficulties of transit and partly because of the constant anxiety about supplies.

No description, however brief, of a memsahib’s life in the Mufassal would be complete without some mention of the meets which enliven it from time to time. Of these Sonepur is too well known to require description. The Ranchi Puja Meet and Muzaffarpur Meets are also familiar. In addition to these most district headquarters stations have their annual meets. The raison d’être is often the necessity for assembling all the volunteers of the district—and every sahib is a volunteer—for parades. For four days n the selected station there is a ceaseless whirl of gaieties. The men bring in their wives, sisters and daughters. Every house in the station is filled with guests who overflow into tents in the compound and there is often a subscription camp as well. Parades begin at 6-30 a.m. and between 9 and 10 a.m. the men return, swallow a cup of tea, do a lightning change into tennis flannels and hurry off to the courts where the fair competitors are awaiting them. Breakfast is usually at noon and thereafter most people try to seize forty winks before tennis, cricket, polo or gymkhana begins again at 3 p.m. Scratch concerts and bridge fill the hours of darkness till dinner and after dinner three nights out of four there are dances and on the fourth a concert, theatricals or some similar show. Some men celebrate those days by never condescending to go to bed at all! They leave the dance only in time to go on parade, or if there is no parade, for the hunting field or tennis lawn. All the bons mots are saved up for the meets and the good fellowship and general air of festive friendliness are delightful. It is a strenuous time even for guests—how much more for hostesses!—but it is a time of inspiration and pleasure for the planter or official who has had months of loneliness and overwork in an isolated factory or station.

It is in the hot weather and rains that the Mufassal shows its trying side to the memsahib. In the hot weather the day begins before 5 a.m. Except in the damp districts of Bengal the courts sit at 6 a.m., which means an early chota hazri. Between 7 and 8 a.m. every door and window must be shut up to keep out the hot blast. As the sahib can rarely return before noon, the memsahib has a long morning, and it is hardly necessary to add that hand-pulled punkahs are neither so effective nor so steady as the electric fans of Calcutta. Even at 5 p.m. the atmosphere is so torrid that it takes some courage to venture out for tennis or golf. In some rocky places the heat is of such fierceness that it positively hurts the face as one motors or drives. In many stations ice is not available and drinks are cooled in a quaint fashion. A basket is suspended by a long rope from a tree. It is lined with straw and on this bottles of water and soda are placed; more straw is laid on top and water is poured over the whole. A boy is told off to rock this cradle and by the process of evaporation drinks may be made surprisingly cool. But such hot-weather comforts as ices and jellies must be foregone. At this season it is very probable that the memsahib may find herself the only lady in the station. Is it astonishing if, in the night when there is no relief from the scorching heat, when the punkah-wallah is drowsy and the mosquito and sandfly unpleasantly active and alert, the most ardent Mufassalite thinks with longing of the mists of the North Sea lying on the lush verdure of the meadows and even of the cutting breath of the east wind of Scotland?

But the hot weather passes anon and the advent of the rains brings a tempestuous outburst of life. The hard burnt-up ground is mantled in green. Broad rivers over which one has ridden without wetting one’s horse’s feet toss tawny waves across wide beds and communications may be washed away. During one of these floods we once had the trying experience of being isolated for two and-a-half days even from telegraphic communication and for three and-a-half days from railway communication with the outside world. Misfortunes rarely come singly and it so happened my husband was absent at a District Conference at the time. The house was floored with tubs and basins, the servants were alarmed and the food supply was limited entirely to the cereals, etc., in the storeroom and to milk of which haply there was plenty as the cows were housed in the compound. There was neither a fowl nor a slice of bread in the station! On the top of this a few hours after my husband’s return and before the railway line was repaired we were transferred and in the course of a twenty-three hours journey had to carry our tiny children into eleven different conveyances including two trolleys over sketchy bridges beneath which raging torrents raced. Fortunately such experiences, if always possible, are not frequent.

The Mufassal is no place for the social butterfly. It demands a self-reliance and an infinitude of resources on which city life makes no call, but in its deep peace and wide spaciousness, far from the fretting hurry of the town, she who has eyes to see and ears to hear will find an endless number of varied interests. And not the least of these will spring from this fact that her home is in the heart of India where she has an opportunity of learning the real Hindusthan which can never accrue to the dweller in occidentalised provincial capitals.

T. Stewart MacPherson, M.A.

Purulia