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Full text of "My India (1952)"

My India 











2JiJ(hawar705(ct>y3hoo.com 



My I ndia 



IM CORBiTT 



First Printed in 1952 



DEDICATION 

If you are looking for a history of India, or for an account of 
the rise and fall of the British raj, or for the reason for the 
cleaving of the subcontinent into two mutually antagonistic 
parts and the effect this mutilation will have on the 
respective sections, and ultimately on Asia, you will not find 
it in these pages; for though I have spent a lifetime in the 
country, I lived too near the seat of events, and was too 
intimately associated with the actors, to get the perspective 
needed for the impartial recording of these matters. 

In my India, the India I know, there are four hundred million 
people, ninety percent of whom are simple, honest, brave, 
loyal, hard-working souls whose daily prayer to God, and to 
whatever Government is in power, is to give them security of 
life and of property to enable them to enjoy the fruits of their 
labors. It is of these people, who are admittedly poor, and 
who are often described as 'India's starving millions', among 
whom I have lived and whom I love, that I shall endeavor to 
tell in the pages of this book, which I humbly dedicate to my 
friends, the poor of India. 



CONTENTS 



Introduction 


5 


i 


The Queen of the Village 


12 


ii 


Kunwar Singh 


21 


iii 


Mothi 


34 


iv 


Pre-Red-Tape Days 


63 


V 


The Law of the J ungles 


71 


vi 


The Brothers 


86 


vii 


Sultana: India's Robin Hood 


98 


viii 


Ljoyalty 


141 


ix 


Budhu 


161 


X 


Lala jee 


167 


xi 


Chamari 


174 


xii 


Life at M okameh Ghat 


183 



Introduction 

HAVING read my dedication you may ask: 'Who are these 
poor of India that you mention?' 'What do you mean by "My 
India"?' The questions are justified. The world has developed 
the habit of using the word 'Indian' to denote an inhabitant 
of the great peninsula that stretches upwards of two 
thousand miles from north to south, and as much from east 
to west. Geographically the term may pass muster, but when 
it comes to applying it to the people themselves one should 
not, without further explanation, use a description whose 
looseness has already led to infinite misunderstanding. The 
four hundred million people of India are divided horizontally 
by race, tribe, and caste into a far greater diversity than 
exists in Europe, and they are cleft vertically by religious 
differences fully as deep as those which under any one 
nation from another. It was religion, not race that split the 
Indian Empire into Hindustan and Pakistan. 

Let me; therefore, explain what I mean by the title of this 
book. 

'My India', about which these sketches of village life and 
work are written, refers to those portions of a vast land 
which I have known from my earliest days, and where I have 
worked; and the simple folk whose ways and characters I 
have tried to depict for you are those among whom I spent 
the greater part of seventy years. Look at a map of India. Pick 



out Gape Comorin, the most southerly point of the peninsula, 
and run your eye straight up to where the Gangetic Plain 
slopes up into the foothills of the Himalayas in the north of 
the United Provinces. There you will find the hill station of 
Naini Tal, the summer seat of the Government of the United 
Provinces, packed from April to November with Europeans 
and wealthier Indians seeking escape from the heat of the 
plains, and occupied during the winter only by a few 
permanent residents, of whom most of my life I was one. 
Now leave this hill station and run your eye down the Ganges 
River on its way to the sea, past Allahabad, Benares, and 
Patna, till you reach Mokameh Ghat, where I labored for 
twenty-one years. The scenes of my sketches centre round 
these two points in India: Naini Tal and M okameh Ghat. 

In addition to many footpaths, Naini Tal is accessible by a 
motor road of which we are justly proud, for it has the 
reputation of being the best-aligned and the best-maintained 
hill road in India. Starting at the railway terminus of 
Kathgodam the road, in its course of twenty-two miles, 
passes through forests where occasionally tiger and the 
dread hamadryad are to be seen, and climbs 4,500 feet by 
easy gradients to Naini Tal. Naini Tal can best be described as 
an open valley running east and west, surrounded on three 
sides by hills, the highest of which, Gheena, rises to a height 
of 8,569 feet. 

It is open at the end from which the motor road approaches 
it. Nestling in the valley is a lake a little more than two miles 
in circumference, fed at the upper end by a perennial spring 



and overflowing at the other end where the motor road 
terminates. At the upper and lower ends of the valley there 
are bazaars, and the surrounding wooded hills are dotted 
with residential houses, churches, schools, clubs, and hotels. 
Near the margin of the lake are boat houses, a picturesque 
Hindu temple, and a very sacred rock shrine presided over by 
an old Brahmin priest who has been a lifelong friend of mine. 

Geologists differ in their opinion as to the origin of the lake, 
some attributing it to glaciers and landslides, others to 
volcanic action. Hindu legends, however, give the credit for 
the lake to three ancient sages, Atri, Pulastyas and Pulaha. 
The sacred book Skanda- Puran tells how, while on a 
penitential pilgrimage, these three sages arrived at the crest 
of Cheena and, finding no water to quench their thirst, dug a 
hole at the foot of the hill and syphoned water into it from 
M anasarowar, the sacred lake in Tibet, After the departure of 
the sages the goddess Naini arrived and took up her abode in 
the waters of the lake. In course of time forests grew on the 
sides of the excavation and, attracted by the water and the 
vegetation, birds and animals in great numbers made their 
home in the valley. Within a radius of four miles of the 
goddess's temple I have, in addition to other animals, seen 
tiger, leopard, bear, and sambhar, and in the same area 
identified one hundred and twenty-eight varieties of birds. 
Rumours of the existence of the lake reached the early 
administrators of this part of India, and as the hill people 
were unwilling to disclose the position of their sacred lake, 
one of these administrators, in the yearl839, hit on the 



ingenious plan of placing a large stone on the head of a hill 
man, telling him he would have to carry it until he arrived at 
goddess Naini's lake. After wandering over the hills for many 
days the man eventually got tired of carrying the stone, and 
led the party who were following him to the lake. The stone 
alleged to have been carried by the man was shown to me 
when I was a small boy, and when I marked that it was a very 
big stone for a man to carry— it weighed about six hundred 
pounds— the hill man who showed it to me said, 'Yes, it is a 
big stone, but you must remember that in those days our 
people were very strong'. 

Provide yourself now with a good pair of field glasses and 
accompany me to the top of Cheena. From here you will get 
a bird's-eye view of the country surrounding Naini Tal. The 
road is steep, but if you are interested in birds, trees, and 
flowers you will not mind the three-mile climb and if you 
arrive at the top thirsty, as the three sages did, I will show 
you a crystal-clear spring of coldwater to quench your thirst. 
Having rested and eaten your lunch, turn now to the north. 
Immediately below you is a deep well-wooded valley running 
down to the Kosi River. Beyond the river are a number of 
parallel ridges with villages dotted here and there; on one of 
these ridges is the town of Almora, and on another, the 
cantonment of Ranikhet. Beyond these again are more 
ridges, the highest of which, Dungar Buqual, rises to a height 
of 14,200 feet and is dwarfed into insignificance by the 
mighty mass of the snow-clad Himalayas. 



Sixty miles due north of you, as the crow flies, is Trisul, and to 
the east and to the west of this imposing 23,406-foot peak 
the snow mountains stretch in an unbroken line for many 
hundreds of miles. Where the snows fade out of sight to the 
west of Trisul are first the Gangotri group, then the glaciers 
and mountains above the sacred shrines of Kedarnath and 
Badrinath, and then Kamet made famous by Smythe. 

To the east of Trisul, and set farther back, you can just see 
the top of Nanda Devi (25,689feet), the highest mountain in 
India. To your right front is Nanda Kot, the spotless pillow of 
the goddess Parvati, and a little farther east are the beautiful 
peaks of Ranch Chuli, the 'five cooking-places' used by the 
Pan-davas while on their way to Kailas in Tibet. At the first 
approach of dawn, while Cheena and the intervening hills are 
still shrouded in the mantle of night, the snowy range 
changes from indigo blue to rose pink, and as the sun 
touches the peaks nearest to heaven the pink gradually 
changes to dazzling white. During the day the mountains 
show up cold and white, each crest trailing a feather of 
powdered snow, and in the setting sun the scene may be 
painted pink, gold, or red according to the fancy of heaven's 
artist. 

Turn your back now on the snows and face south. At the limit 
of your range of vision you will see three cities: Bareilly, 
Kashipur, and Moradabad. These three cities, the nearest of 
which, Kashipur, is some fifty miles as the crow flies, are on 
the main railway that runs between Calcutta and the Punjab. 
There are three belts of country between the railway and the 



10 



foothills: first a cultivated belt some twenty miles wide, then 
a grass belt ten miles wide known as the Terai, and third a 
tree belt ten miles wide known as the Bhabar. In the Bhabar 
belt, which extends right up to the foothills, clearings have 
been made, and on this rich fertile soil, watered by many 
streams, villages of varying size have been established. The 
nearest group of villages, Kaladhungi, is fifteen miles from 
Naini Tal by road, and at the upper end of this group you will 
see our village, Choti Haldwani, surrounded by a three-mile- 
long stone wall. Only the roof of our cottage, which is at the 
junction of the road running down from Naini Tal with the 
road skirting the foothills, is visible in a group of big trees. 
The foothills in this area are composed almost entirely of iron 
ore, and it was at Kaladhungi that iron was first smelted in 
northern India. The fuel used was wood, and as the King of 
Kumaon, General Sir Henry Ramsay, feared that the furnaces 
would consume all the forests in the Bhabar, he closed down 
the: foundries. Between Kaladhungi and your seat on Cheena 
the low hills are densely wooded with sal, the trees which 
supply our railways with ties, or sleepers, and in the nearest 
fold of the ridge nestles the little lake of Khurpa Tal, 
surrounded by fields on which the best potatoes in India are 
grown. 

Away in the distance, to the right, you can see the sun 
glinting on the Ganges, and to the left you can see it glinting 
on the Sarda; the distance between these two rivers where 
they leave the foot hills is roughly two hundred miles. 



11 



Now turn to the east and before you in the near and middle 
distance you will see the country described in old gazetteers 
as 'the district of sixty lakes'. M any of these takes have silted 
up, some in my lifetime and the only ones of any size that 
now remain are Naini Tal, Sat Tal, Bhim Tal, and Nakuchia Tal. 
Beyond Nakuchia Tal is the cone-shaped hill, Choti Kailas. The 
gods do not favour the killing of bird or beast on this sacred 
hill, and the last man who disregarded their wishes— a soldier 
on leave during the war— unaccountably lost his footing alter 
killing a mountain goat and, in full view of his two 
companions, fell a thousand feet into the valley below. 

Beyond Choti Kailas is the Kala Agar ridge on which I hunted 
the Chowgarh man-eating tiger for two years, and beyond 
this ridge the mountains of Nepal fade out of sight. Turn now 
to the west. But first it will be necessary for you to descend a 
few hundred feet and take up a new position on Deopatta, a 
rocky peak 7,991 feet high adjoining Cheena. Immediately 
below you is a deep, wide, and densely wooded valley which 
starts on the saddle between Cheena and Deopatta and 
extends through Dachouri to Kaladhungi. It is richer in flora 
and fauna than any other in the Himalayas, and beyond this 
beautiful valley the hills extend in an unbroken line up to the 
Ganges, the waters of which you can see glinting m the sun 
over a hundred miles away. On the far side of the Ganges are 
the Siwalik range of hills— hills that were old before the 
mighty Himalayas were born. 



12 



I The Q ueen of the Village 

COME with me now to one of the villages you saw in your 
bird's-eye view from the top of Cheena. The parallel lines you 
saw etched across the face of the hill are terraced fields. 
Some of these are no more than ten feet wide, and the stone 
walls supporting them are in some cases thirty feet high. The 
ploughing of these narrow fields, with a steep hill on one side 
and a big drop on the other, is a difficult and a dangerous job, 
and is only made possible by the use of a plough with a short 
shaft and of cattle that have been bred on the hills and that 
are in consequence small and stocky, and as sure-footed as 
goats. The stout hearted people, who with infinite labour 
have made these terraced fields, live in a row of stone 
houses with slate roofs bordering the rough and narrow road 
that runs from the Bhabar, and the plains beyond, to the 
inner Himalayas. The people in this village know me, for in 
response to an urgent telegram, which the whole village 
subscribed to send me, and which was carried by runner to 
Naini Tal for transmission, I once came hot-foot from 
Mokameh Ghat, where I was working, to rid them of a man- 
eating tiger. 

The incident which necessitated the sending of the telegram 
took place at mid day in a field just above the row of houses. 
A woman and her twelve-year-old daughter were reaping 
wheat when a tiger suddenly appeared. As the girl attempted 
to run to her mother for protection the tiger struck at her, 
severed her head from her body, and catching the body in 



13 



mid-air bounded away into the jungle adjoining the field, 
leaving the head near the mother's feet. Telegrams, even 
urgent ones, take long in transmission, and as I had to do a 
journey of a thousand miles by rail and road, and the last 
twenty miles on foot, a week elapsed between the sending of 
the telegram and my arrival at the village; and in the 
meantime the tiger made another kill. 

The victim on this occasion was a woman who, with her 
husband and children, had lived for years in the compound of 
the house adjoining our home in Naini Tal. This woman, in 
company with several others, was cutting grass on the hill 
above the village when she was attacked by the tiger, killed, 
and carried off in full view of her companions. The screams of 
the frightened women were heard in the village, and, while 
the women were running back to Naini Tal to report the 
tragedy, the men of the village assembled and with great 
gallantry drove away the tiger. Knowing— with an Indian's 
trust— that I would respond to the telegram they had sent 
me, they wrapped the body in a blanket and tied it to the 
topmost branch of a thirty-foot rhododendron tree. From the 
tiger's subsequent actions it was evident that he had been 
lying up close by and had watched these proceedings, for if 
he had not seen the body being put up in a tree he would 
never have found it, as tigers have no sense of smell. 

When the women made their report in Naini Tal the husband 
of the dead woman came to my sister M aggie and told her of 
the killing of his wife, and at crack of dawn next morning 
Maggie sent out some of our men to make a machan over 



14 



the kill and to sit on the machan until I came, for I was 
expected to arrive that day. M aterials for making the machan 
were procured at the village and, accompanied by the 
villagers, my men proceeded to the rhododendron tree, 
where it was found that the tiger had climbed the tree, torn a 
hole in the blanket, and carried away the body. Again with 
commendable courage— for they were unarmed— the 
villagers and my men followed up the drag for half a mile; 
and on finding the partly eaten body they started to put up a 
machan in an oak tree immediately above it. Just as the 
machan was completed, a sportsman from Naini Tal, who 
was out on an all-day shoot, arrived quite by accident at the 
spot and, saying he was a friend of mine, he told my men to 
go away, as he would sit up for the tiger himself. So, while 
my men returned to Naini Tal to make their report to me— 
for I had arrived in the meantime— the sportsman, his gun 
bearer, and a man carrying his lunch basket and a lantern, 
took up their positions on the machan. 

There was no moon, and an hour after dark the gun-bearer 
asked the sportsman why he had allowed the tiger to carry 
away the kill, without firing at it. Refusing to believe that the 
tiger had been anywhere near the kill, the sportsman lit the 
lantern; and as he was letting it down on a length of string, to 
illuminate the ground, the string slipped through his fingers 
and the lantern crashed to the ground and caught fire. It was 
the month of M ay, when our forests are very dry, and with in 
a minute the dead grass and brushwood at the foot of the 
tree were burning fiercely. With great courage the sportsman 



15 



shinned down the tree and attempted to beat out the flames 
with his tweed coat, until he suddenly remembered the man- 
eater and hurriedly climbed back to the machan. He left his 
coat, which was on fire, behind him. 

The illumination from the fire revealed the fact that the Kill 
was indeed gone, but the sportsman at this stage had lost all 
interest in kills and his anxiety now was for his own safety, 
and for the damage the fire would do to the Government 
forest. Fanned by a strong wind the fire receded from the 
vicinity of the tree and eight hours later a heavy downpour of 
rain and hail extinguished it, but not before it had burnt out 
several square miles of forest. It was the sportsman's first 
attempt to make contact with a man-eater and, after his 
experience of first nearly having been roasted and later 
having been frozen, it was also his last. Next morning, while 
he was making his weary way back to Naini Tal by one road, I 
was on my way out to the village by another, in ignorance of 
what had happened the previous night. 

At my request the villagers took me to the rhododendron 
tree and I was amazed to see how determined the tiger had 
been to regain possession of his kill. The torn blanket was 
some twenty-five feet from the ground, and the claw marks 
on the tree, the condition of the soft ground, and the broken 
brushwood at the foot of it, showed that the tiger had 
climbed and fallen off the tree at least twenty times before 
he eventually succeeded in tearing a hole in die blanket and 
removing the body. 



16 



From this spot the tiger had carried the body half a mile, to 
the tree on which the machan had been built. Beyond this 
point the fire had obliterated all trace of a drag but, following 
on the line I thought the tiger would have taken, a mile 
farther on I stumbled on the charred head of the woman. A 
hundred yards beyond this spot there was heavy cover which 
the fire had not reached and for hours I searched this cover, 
right down to the foot of the valley five miles away, without, 
however, finding any trace of the tiger. 

(Five people lost their lives between the accidental arrivals of 
the sportsman at the machan, and the shooting of the tiger.) 
I arrived back in the village, after my fruitless search of the 
cover, late in the evening, and the wife of the headman 
prepared for me a meal which her daughters placed before 
me on brass plates. After a very generous, and a very 
welcome meal— for I had eaten nothing that day— I picked 
up the plates with the intention of washing them in a nearby 
spring. Seeing my intention the three girls ran forward and 
relieved me of the plates, saying, with a toss of their heads 
and a laugh, which it would not break their caste— they were 
Brahmins— to wash the plates from which the White Sadhu 
had eaten. 

The headman is dead now and his daughters have married 
and left the village, but his wife is alive, and you, who are 
accompanying me to the village, after your bird's-eye view 
from Cheena, must be prepared to drink the tea, not made 
with water but with rich fresh milk sweetened with jaggery, 
which she will brew for us. Our approach down the steep 



17 



hillside facing the village has been observed and a small 
square of frayed carpet and two wicker chairs, reinforced 
with ghooral skins, have been set ready for us. Standing near 
these chairs to welcome us is the wife of the headman; there 
is no purdah here and she will not be embarrassed if you take 
a good look at her, and she is worth looking at. Her hair, 
snow-white now, was raven-black when I first knew her, and 
her cheeks, which in those far-off days had a bloom on them, 
are now ivory-white, without a single crease or wrinkle. 
Daughter of a hundred generations of Brahmins, her blood is 
as pure as that of the ancestor who founded her line. 

Pride of pure ancestry is inherent in all men, but nowhere is 
there greater respect for pure ancestry than there is in India. 
There are several different castes of people in the village this 
dear old lady administers, but her rule is never questioned 
and her word is law, not because of the strong arm of 
retainers, for of these she has none, but because she is a 
Brahmin, the salt of India's earth. 

The high prices paid in recent years for field produce have 
brought prosperity— as it is known in India— to this hill 
village, and of this prosperity our hostess has had her full 
share The string of fluted gold beads that she brought as part 
of her dowry are still round her neck, but the thin silver 
necklace has been deposited in the family bank, the hole in 
the ground under the cooking-place, and her neck is now 
encircled by a solid gold band. In the far-off days her ears 
were unadorned, but now she has number of thin gold rings 
in the upper cartilage, and from her nose hangs a gold ring 



18 



five inches in diameter, the weight of which is partly carried 
by a thin gold chain looped over her right ear. Her dress is 
the same as that worn by all high-caste hill women: a shawl, 
a tight-fitting bodice of warm material, and a voluminous 
sprint skirt. Her feet are bare, for even in these advanced 
days the wearing of shoes among our hill folk denotes that 
the wearer is unchaste. 

The old lady has now retired to the inner recesses of her 
house to prepare tea, and while she is engaged on this 
pleasant task you can turn your attention to the bania's shop 
on the other side of the narrow road. The bania, too, is an old 
friend. Having greeted us and presented us with a packet of 
cigarettes he has gone back to squat cross-legged on the 
wooden platform on which his wares are exposed. These 
wares consist of the few articles that the village folk and 
wayfarers need in the way of atta, rice, dal, ghee, salt, stale 
sweets purchased at a discount in the Naini Tal bazaar, hill 
potatoes fit for the table of a king, enormous turnips so 
fierce that when eaten in public they make the onlookers' 
eyes water, cigarettes and matches, a tin of kerosene oil, and 
near the platform and within reach of his hand an iron pan in 
which milk is kept simmering throughout the day. 

As the bania takes his seat on the platform his few customers 
gather in front of him. First is a small boy, accompanied by an 
even smaller sister, who is the proud possessor of one pice, 
all of which he is anxious to invest in sweets. Taking the pice 
from the small grubby hand the bania drops it into an open 
box. Then, waving his hand over the tray to drive away the 



19 



wasps and flies, he picks up a square sweet made of sugar 
and curds, breal<s it in lialf and puts a piece into eacli eager 
outstretclied liand. 

Next comes a woman of the depressed class who has two 
annas to spend on her shopping. One anna is invested in atta, 
the coarse ground wheat that is the staple food of our hill 
folk, and two pice in the coarsest of the three qualities of dal 
exposed on the stall. With the remaining two pice she 
purchases a little salt and one of the fierce turnips and then, 
with a respectful salaam to the bania, for he is a man who 
commands respect, she hurries off to prepare the midday 
meal for her family. 

While the woman is being served the shrill whistles and 
shouts of men herald the approach of a string of pack mules, 
carrying cloth from the Moradabad hand looms to the 
markets in the interior of the hills. The sweating mules have 
had a stiff climb up the rough road from the foothills. A pice 
is worth about a farthing, but is itself made up of three 
smaller coins called pies. Four pice make an anna, sixteen 
annas a rupee and while they are having a breather the four 
men in charge have sat down on the bench provided by the 
bania for his customers and are treating themselves to a 
cigarette and a glass of milk. M ilk is the strongest drink that 
has ever been served at this shop, or at any other of the 
hundreds of wayside shops throughout the hills, for, except 
for those few who have come in contact with what is called 
civilization, our hill men do not drink. 



20 



Drinking among women, in my India, is unl<nown. No daily 
paper has ever found its way into this village, and the only 
news the inhabitants get of the outside world is from an 
occasional trip into Naini Tal and from wayfarers, the best- 
informed of whom are the packmen. On their way into the 
hills they bring news of the distant plains of India, and on 
their return journey a month or so later they have news from 
the trading centers where they sell their wares. 

The tea the old lady has prepared for us is now ready. You 
must be careful how you handle the metal cup filled to the 
brim, for it is hot enough to take the skin off your hands. 
Interest has now shifted from the packmen to us, and 
whether or not you like the sweet, hot liquid you must drink 
every drop of it, for the eyes of the entire village, whose 
guest you are, are on you; and to leave any dregs in your cup 
would mean that you did not consider the drink good enough 
for you. 

Others have attempted to offer recompense for hospitality 
but we will not make this mistake, for these simple and 
hospitable people are intensely proud, and it would be as 
great an insult to offer to pay the dear old lady for her cup of 
tea as it would have been to have offered to pay the bania 
for his packet of cigarettes. So, as we leave this village, which 
is only one of the many thousands of similar villages 
scattered over the vast area viewed through your good field 
glasses from the top of Cheena, where I have spent the best 
part of my life, you can be assured that the welcome we 
received on arrival, and the invitation to return soon, are 



21 



genuine expressions of the affection and goodwill of the 
people in my India for all who know and understand them. 



II Kunwar Singh 

KUNWAR SINGH was by caste a Thakur, and the 
headman of Chandni Chauk village. Whether, he was a good 
or a bad headman I do not know. What endeared him to me 
was the fact that he was the best and the most successful 
poacher in Kaladhungi, and a devoted admirer of my eldest 
brother Tom, my boyhood's hero. 

Kunwar Singh had many tales to tell of Tom, for he had 
accompanied him on many of his shikar expeditions, and the 
tale I like best, and that never lost anything in repetition, 
concerned an impromptus competition between brother 
Tom and a man by the name of Ellis, whom Tom had beaten 
by one point the previous year to win the B.P.R.A. gold medal 
for the best rifle-shot in India. 

Tom and Ellis, unknown to each other, were shooting in the 
same jungle near Garuppu, and early one morning, when the 
mist was just rising above the tree tops, they met on the 
approach to some high ground overlooking a wide 
depression in which, at that hour of the morning, deer and 
pig were always to be found. Tom was accompanied by 
Kunwar Singh, while Ellis was accompanied by a shikari from 



22 



NainiTal named Budhoo, whom Kunwar Singh despised 
because of his low caste and his ignorance of all matters 
connected with the jungles. 

After the usual greetings, Ellis said that, though Tom had 
beaten him by one miserable point on the rifle range, he 
would show Tom that he was a better game shot; and he 
suggested that they should each fire two shots to prove the 
point. Lots were drawn and Ellis, winning, decided to fire 
first. A careful approach was then made to the low ground, 
Ellis carrying the -450 Martini-Henry rifle with which he had 
competed at the B.P.R.A. meeting, while Tom carried a -400 
D.B. express by Westley-Richards of which he was justly 
proud, for few of these weapon shad up to that date arrived 
in India. The wind may have been wrong, or the approach 
careless. Anyway, when the competitors topped the high 
ground, no animals were in sight on the low ground. 

On the near side of the low ground there was a strip of dry 
grass beyond which the grass had been burnt, and it was on 
this burnt ground, now turning green with sprouting new 
shoots, that animals were to be seen both morning and 
evening. Kunwar Singh was of the opinion that some animals 
might be lurking in the strip of dry grass, and at his 
suggestion he and Budhoo set fire to it. 

When the grass was well alight and the drongos, rollers, and 
starlings were collecting from the four corners of the heavens 
to feed on the swarms of grasshoppers that were taking 
flight to escape from the flames, a movement was observed 



23 



at the farther edge of the grass, and presently two big boar 
came out and went streaking across the burnt ground for the 
shelter of the tree jungle three hundred yards away. Very 
deliberately Ellis, who weighed fourteen stone, knelt down, 
raised his rifle and sent a bullet after the hindmost pig, 
kicking up the dust between its hind legs. Lowering his rifle, 
Ellis adjusted the back sight to two hundred yards, ejected 
the spent cartridge, and rammed a fresh one into the breach. 
His second bullet sent up a cloud of dust immediately in front 
of the leading pig. This second bullet deflected the pigs to the 
right, bringing them broadside onto the guns, and making 
them increase their speed. 

It was now Tom's turn to shoot, and to shoot in a hurry, for 
the pigs were fast approaching the tree jungle, and getting 
out of range. Standing four-square, Tom raised his rifle and, 
as the two shots rang out the pigs, both shot through the 
head, went over like rabbits. Kunwar Singh's recital of this 
event invariably ended up with: 'And then I turned to 
Budhoo, that city-bred son of a low-caste man, the smell of 
whose oiled hair offended me, and said, "Did you see that, 
you, who boasted that your sahib would teach mine how to 
shoot? Had my sahib wanted to blacken the face of yours he 
would not have used two bullets, but would have killed both 
pigs with one".' 

Just how this feat could have been accomplished, Kunwar 
Singh never told me, and I never asked, for my faith in my 
hero was so great that I never for one moment doubted that, 
if he had wished, he could have killed both pigs with one 



24 



bullet. Kunwar Singh was the first to visit me that day of days 
when I was given my first gun. He came early, and as with 
great pride I put the old double-barrelled muzzle-loader into 
his hands he never, even by the flicker of an eyelid, showed 
that he had seen the gaping split in the right barrel, or the 
lappings of brass wire that held the stock and the barrels 
together. Only the good qualities of the left barrel were 
commented on, and extolled; its length, thickness, and the 
years of service it would give. And then, laying the gun aside, 
he turned to me and gladdened my eight-year-old heart and 
made me doubly proud of my possession by saying: 'You are 
now no longer a boy, but a man; and with this good gun you 
can go anywhere you like in our jungles and never be afraid, 
provided you learn how to climb trees. 

And I will now tell you a story to show how necessary it is for 
us men who shoot in the jungles to know how to do so. 'Har 
Singh and I went out to shoot one day last April, and all 
would have been well if a fox had not crossed our path as we 
were leaving the village. Har Singh, as you know, is a poor 
shikari with little knowledge of the jungle folk, and when, 
after seeing the fox, I suggested we should turn round and go 
home he laughed at me and said it was child's talk to say that 
a fox would bring us bad luck. So we continued on our way. 
We had started when the stars were paling, and near 
Garuppu I fired at a chital stag and unaccountably missed it. 
Later Har Singh broke the wing of a pea fowl, but though we 
chased the wounded bird as hard as we could it got away in 
the long grass, where we lost it. Thereafter, though we 



25 



combed the jungles we saw nothing to shoot, and towards 
the evening we turned our faces towards home. 

'Having fired two shots, and being afraid that the forest 
guards would be looking for us, we avoided the road and 
took a sandy nullah that ran through dense scrub and thorn- 
bamboo jungle. As we went along talking of our bad luck, 
suddenly a tiger came out into the nullah and stood looking 
at us. For a long minute the tiger stared and then it turned 
and went back the way it had come. 'After waiting a suitable 
time we continued on our way, when the tiger again came 
out into the nullah; and this time, as it stood and looked at 
us, it was growling and twitching its tail. We again stood 
quite still, and after a time the tiger quietened down and left 
the nullah. A little later a number of jungle fowl rose cackling 
out of the dense scrub, evidently disturbed by the tiger, and 
one of them came and sat on a haldu tree right in front of us. 
As the bird alighted on a branch in full view of us, Har Singh 
said he would shoot it and so avoid going home empty 
handed. He added that the shot would frighten away the 
tiger, and before I could stop him he fired. 

'Next second there was a terrifying roar as the tiger came 
crashing through the brushwood towards us. At this spot 
there were some runi trees growing on the edge of the 
nullah, and I dashed towards one while Har Singh dashed 
towards another. My tree was the nearer to the tiger, but 
before it arrived I had climbed out of reach. Har Singh had 
not learnt to climb trees when a boy, as I had and he was still 



26 



standing on the ground, reaching up and trying to grasp a 
branch, when the tiger, after leaving me, sprang at him. 

The tiger did not bite or scratch Har Singh, but standing on its 
hind legs it clasped the tree, pinning Har Singh against it, and 
then started to claw big bits of bark and wood off the far side 
of the tree. While it was so engaged, Har Singh was 
screaming and the tiger was roaring. I had taken my gun up 
into the tree with me, so now, holding on with my bare feet, I 
cocked the hammer and fired the gun off into the air. On 
hearing the shot so close to it the tiger bounded away, and 
Har Singh collapsed at the foot of the tree.' 

When the tiger had been gone some time, I climbed down 
very silently, and went to Har Singh. I found that one of the 
tiger's claws had entered his stomach and torn the lining 
from near his navel to within a few fingers' breadth of the 
backbone, and that all his inside had fallen out. Here was 
great trouble for me. I could not run away and leave Har 
Singh, and not having any experience in these matters, I did 
not know whether it would be best to try and put all that 
mass of inside back into Har Singh's stomach, or cut it off. I 
talked in whispers on this matter with Har Singh, for we were 
afraid that if the tiger heard us it would return and kill us, 
and Har Singh was of the opinion that his inside should be 
put back into his stomach. 

So, while he lay on his back on the ground, I stuffed it all 
back, including the dry leaves and grass and bits of sticks that 
were sticking to it. I then wound my pugree round him. 



27 



knotting it tiglit to l<eep everytliing from falling out again, 
and we set out on the seven-mile walk to our village, myself 
in front, carrying the two guns, while Har Singh walked 
behind. 'We had to go slowly, for Har Singh was holding the 
pugree in position, and on the way night came on and Har 
Singh said he thought it would be better to go to the hospital 
at Kaladhungi than to our village; so I hid the guns, and we 
went the extra three miles to the hospital. 

The hospital was closed when we arrived, but the doctor 
babu who lives near by was awake, and when he heard our 
story he sent me to call Madia the tobacco seller, who is also 
postmaster at Kaladhungi and who receives five rupees pay 
per month from Government, while he lit a lantern and went 
to the hospital hut with Har Singh. When I returned with 
Madia, the doctor had laid Har Singh on a string bed and, 
while Madia held the lantern and I held the two pieces of 
flesh together, the doctor sewed up the hole in Har Singh's 
stomach. Thereafter the doctor, who is a very kind man of 
raw years and who refused to take the two rupees I offered 
him, gave Har Singh a drink of very good medicine to make 
him forget the pain in his stomach and we went home and 
found our women folk crying, for they thought we had been 
killed in the jungle by dacoits, or by wild animals. So you see. 
Sahib, how necessary it is for us men who shoot in the 
jungles to know how to climb trees, for if Har Singh had had 
someone to advise him when he was a boy, he would not 
have brought all that trouble on us. 



28 



I learnt many things from Kunwar Singh during the first few 
years that I carried the old muzzle-loader, one of them being 
the making of mental maps. The jungles we hunted in, 
sometimes together, but more often alone— for Kunwar 
Singh had a horror of dacoits and there were times when for 
weeks on end he would not leave his village— were many 
hundreds of miles square with only one road running through 
them. Times without number when returning from a shoot I 
called in at Kunwar Singh's village, which was three miles 
nearer the forest than my house was, to tell him I had shot a 
chital or sambhar stag, or maybe a big pig, and to ask him to 
retrieve the bag. 

He never once failed to do so, no matter in how great a 
wilderness of tree or scrub or grass jungle I had carefully 
hidden the animal I had shot, to protect it from vultures. We 
had a name for every outstanding tree, and for every water 
hole, game track, and nullah. All our distances were 
measured by imaginary flight of a bullet fired from a muzzle- 
loader, and all our directions fixed by' The runi tree against 
which the tigress— who evidently had just given birth to cubs 
in that area, and who resented the presence of human 
beings— pinned Har Singh, was about eighteen inches thick, 
and in her rage the tigress tore away a third of it. 

This tree became a landmark for all who shot or poached in 
the Garuppu jungles until, some twenty-five years later; it 
was destroyed by a forest fire. Har Singh, in spite of the 
rough and ready treatment he received at the hands of his 
three friends, and in spite of the vegetation that went inside 



29 



him, suffered no ill effects from his wound, and lived to die of 
old age. The four points of the compass. When I had hidden 
an animal, or Kunwar Singh had seen vultures collected on a 
tree and suspected that a leopard or a tiger had made a kill, 
either he or I would set out with absolute, confidence that 
we would find the spot indicated, no matter what time of day 
or night it might be. 

After I left school and started work in Bengal I was only able 
to visit Kaladhungi for about three weeks each year, and I 
was greatly distressed to find on one of these annual visits 
that my old friend Kunwar Singh had fallen a victim to the 
curse of our foothills, opium. With a constitution weakened 
by malaria the pernicious habit grew on him, and though he 
made me many promises he had not the moral strength to 
keep them. I was therefore not surprised, on my visit to 
Kaladhungi one February; to be told by the men in our village 
that Kunwar Singh was very seriously ill. News of my arrival 
spread through Kaladhungi that night, and next day Kunwar 
Singh's youngest son, a lad of eighteen, came hot-foot to tell 
me that his father was at death's door, and that he wished to 
see me before he died. 

As headman of Chandni Chauk, paying Government land 
revenue of four thousand rupees, Kunwar Singh was an 
important person, and lived in a big stone-built house with a 
slate roof in which I had often enjoyed his hospitality. Now as 
I approached the village in company with his son, I heard the 
wailing of women coming, not from the house, but from a 
small one-roomed hut Kunwar Singh had built for one of his 



30 



servants. As the son led me towards the hut, he said his 
father had been moved to it because the grandchildren 
disturbed his sleep. Seeing us coming, Kunwar Singh's eldest 
son stepped out of the hut and informed me that his father 
was unconscious, and that he only had a few minutes to live. 
I stopped at the door of the hut, and when my eyes had got 
accustomed to the dim light, made dimmer by a thick pall of 
smoke which filled the room, I saw Kunwar Singh lying on the 
bare mud floor, naked, and partly covered with a sheet. His 
nerveless right arm was supported by an old man sitting on 
the floor near him, and his fingers were being held round the 
tail of a cow. (This custom of a dying man being made to hold 
the tail of a cow— preferably that of a black heifer— has its 
origin in the Hindu belief that when the spirit leaves its 
earthly body it is confronted with a river of blood, on the far 
side of which sits the Judge before whom the spirit must 
appear to answer for its sins. The heifer's tail is the only way 
by which the departing spirit can cross the river, and if the 
spirit is not provided with means of transit it is condemned 
to remain on earth, to be a torment to those who failed to 
enable it to appear before the judgment seat.) 

Near Kunwar Singh's head was a brazier with cow-dung cakes 
burning on it, and by the brazier a priest was sitting, intoning 
prayers and ringing a bell. Every available inch of floor space 
was packed with men, and with women who were wailing 
and repeating over and over again, 'He has gone! He has 
gone!' I knew men died like this in India every day, but I was 
not going to let my friend be one of them. In fact, if I could 



31 



help it he would not die at all, and anyway not at present. 
Striding into the room, I picked up the iron brazier, which 
was hotter than I expected it to be, and burnt my hands. This 
I carried to the door and flung outside. Returning, I cut the 
bark rope by which the cow was tethered to a peg driven into 
the mud floor, and led it outside. 

As these acts, which I had performed in silence, became 
evident to the people assembled in the room, the hubbub 
began to die down, and it ceased altogether when I took the 
priest's arm and conducted him from the room. Then, 
standing at the door, I ordered everyone to go outside; the 
order was obeyed without a murmur or a single protest. The 
number of people, both old and young, who emerged from 
the hut, was incredible. When the last of them had crossed 
the doorstep, I told Kunwar Singh's eldest son to warm two 
seers of fresh milk and to bring it to me with as little delay as 
possible. The man looked at me in blank surprise, but when I 
repeated the order he hurried off to execute it. I now re- 
entered the hut, pulled forward a string bed which had been 
pushed against the wall, picked Kunwar Singh up and laid him 
on it. 

Fresh air, and plenty of it, was urgently needed, and as I 
looked round I saw a small window which had been boarded 
up. It did not take long to tear down the boards and let a 
stream of clean sweet air blow directly from the jungles into 
the overheated room which reeked with the smell of human 
beings, cow dung, burnt ghee, and acrid smoke. When I 
picked up Kunwar Singh's wasted frame, I knew there was a 



32 



little life in it, but only a very little. His eyes, which were sunk 
deep into his head, were closed, his lips were blue, and his 
breath was coming in short gasps. 

Soon, however, the fresh, clean air began to revive him and 
his breathing became less laboured and more regular, and 
presently, as I sat on his bed and watched through the door 
the commotion that was taking place among the mourners 
whom I had ejected from the death-chamber, I became 
aware that he had opened his eyes and was looking at me; 
and without turning my head, I began to speak. 'Times have 
changed, uncle, and you with them. There was a day when 
no man would have dared to remove you from your own 
house, and lay you on the ground in a servant's hut to die like 
an outcaste and a beggar. You would not listen to my words 
of warning and now the accursed drug has brought you to 
this. Had I delayed but a few minutes in answering your 
summons this day, you know you would by now have been 
on your way to the burning-ghat. As headman of Chandni 
Chauk and the best shikari in Kaladhungi, all men respected 
you. But now you have lost that respect, and you who were 
strong, and who ate of the best, are weak and empty of 
stomach, for as we came your son told me nothing has 
passed your lips for sixteen days. But you are not going to 
die, old friend, as they told you were. You will live for many 
more years, and though we may never shoot together again 
in the Garuppu jungles, you will not want for game, for I will 
share all I shoot with you, as I have always done. 'And now, 
here in this hut, with the sacred thread round your fingers 



33 



and a pipal leaf in your hands, you must swear an oath on 
your eldest son's head that never again will you touch the 
foul drug. And this time you will and you shall keep your 
oath. And now, while we wait for the milk your son is 
bringing, we will smoke.' 

Kunwar Singh had not taken his eyes off me while I was 
speaking and now for the first time he opened his lips and 
said, 'How can a man who is dying smoke?' 'On the subject of 
dying', I said, 'we will say no more, for as I have just told you, 
you are not going to die. And as to how we will smoke, I will 
show you.' Then, taking two cigarettes from my case, I lit one 
and placed it between his lips. Slowly he took a pull at it, 
coughed, and with a very feeble hand removed the cigarette. 
But when the fit of coughing was over, he replaced it 
between his lips and continued to draw on it. Before we had 
finished our smoke, Kunwar Singh's son returned carrying a 
big brass vessel, which he would have dropped at the door if 
I had not hurriedly relieved him of it. His surprise was 
understandable, for the father whom he had last seen lying 
on the ground dying, was now lying on the bed, his head 
resting on my hat, smoking. There was nothing in the hut to 
drink from, so I sent the son back to the house for a cup; and 
when he had brought it I gave Kunwar Singh a drink of warm 
milk. 

I stayed in the hut till late into the night, and when I left 
Kunwar Singh had drunk a seer of milk and was sleeping 
peacefully on a warm and comfortable bed. Before I left I 
warned the son that he was on no account to allow anyone 



34 



to come near the hut; that he was to sit by his father and give 
him a drink of milk every time he awoke; and that if on my 
return in the morning I found Kunwar Singh dead, I would 
burn down the village. The sun was just rising next morning 
when I returned to Chandni Chaukto find both Kunwar Singh 
and his son fast asleep and the brass vessel empty. Kunwar 
Singh kept his oath, and though he never regained sufficient 
strength to accompany me on my shikar expeditions, he 
visited me often and died peacefully four years later in his 
own house and on his own bed. 



Ill Mothi 

MOTHI had the delicate, finely chiselled features that 
are the heritage of all high-caste people in India, but he was 
only a young stripling, all arms and legs, when his father and 
mother died and left him with the responsibilities of the 
family. Fortunately it was a small one, consisting only of his 
younger brother and sister. Mothi was at that time fourteen 
years of age, and had been married for six years. One of his 
first acts on finding himself unexpectedly the head of the 
family was to fetch his twelve-year-old wife— whom he had 
not seen since the day of their wedding— from her father's 
house in the Kota Dun, some dozen miles from Kaladhungi. 
As the cultivation of the six acres of land Mothi inherited 
entailed more work than the four young people could tackle, 
Mothi took on a partner, locally known as Agee, who in 
return for his day-and-night services received free board and 



35 



lodging and half of the crops produced. The building of the 
communal hut with bamboos and grass procured from the 
jungles, under permit, and carried long distances on shoulder 
and on head, and the constant repairs to the hut 
necessitated by the violent storms that sweep the foothills, 
threw a heavy burden on Mothi and his helpers, and to 
relieve them of this burden I built them a masonry house, 
with three rooms and a wide veranda, on a four-foot plinth. 
For, with the exception of M othi's wife who had come from a 
higher altitude, all of them were steeped in malaria. 

To protect their crops the tenants used to erect a 
thorn fence round the entire village, but though it entailed 
weeks of hard labour, this flimsy fence afforded little 
protection against stray cattle and wild animals, and when 
the crops were on the ground the tenants, or members of 
their families, had to keep watch in the fields all night. 
Firearms were strictly rationed, and for our forty tenants the 
Government allowed us one single-barrelled muzzle-loading 
gun. This gun enables one tenant in turn to protect his crops 
with a lethal weapon, while the others had to rely on tin cans 
which they beat throughout the night. Though the gun 
accounted for a certain number of pigs and porcupines, 
which were the worst offenders, the nightly damage was 
considerable, for the village was isolated and surrounded by 
forests. So, when my handling contract at Mokameh Ghat 
began paying a dividend, I started building a masonry wall 
round the village. When completed the wall was six feet high 
and three miles long. It took ten years to build, for my share 



36 



of the dividends was small. If today you motor from Haldwani 
to Ramnagar, through Kaladhungi, you will sl<irt the upper 
end of the wall before you cross the Boar Bridge and enter 
the forest. 

I was wall<ing through the village one cold December 
morning, with Robin, my dog, running ahead and putting up 
covey after covey of grey partridge which no one but Robin 
ever disturbed— for all who lived in the village loved to hear 
them calling at sunrise and at sunset— when in the soft 
ground at the edge of one of the irrigation channels I saw the 
tracks of a pig. This pig, with great, curved, wicked-looking 
tusks, was as big as a buffalo calf and was known to everyone 
in the village. As a squeaker he had wormed his way through 
the thorn fence and fattened on the crops the wall had 
worried him at first, but it had a rough face and, being a 
determined pig, he had in time learnt to climb it. Time and 
time again the watchers in the fields had fired at him and on 
several occasions he had left a blood trail, but none of his 
wounds had proved fatal and the only effect they had had on 
him was to make him more wary. 

On this December morning the pig's tracks led me towards 
M othi's holding, and as I approached the house I saw M othi's 
wife standing in front of it, her hands on her hips, surveying 
the ruin of their potato patch. The pig had done a very 
thorough job, for the tubers were not mature and he had 
been hungry, and while Robin cast round to see in which 
direction the marauder had gone the woman gave vent to 
her feelings. 'It is all Punwa's father's fault', she said. 'It was 



37 



his turn for the gun last night, and instead of staying at home 
and looking after his own property he must need go and sit 
up in Kalu's wheat field because he thought there was a 
chance of shooting a sambhar there. And while he was away, 
this is what the shaitan has done.' No woman in our part of 
India ever refers to her husband, or addresses him, by name. 
Before children are born he is referred to as the man of the 
house, and after children come is spoken of and addressed as 
the father of the firstborn. M othi now had three children, of 
whom the eldest was Punwa, so to his wife he was 'Punwa's 
father', and his wife to everyone in the village was 'Punwa's 
mother'. 

Punwa's mother was not only the hardest-working woman in 
our village but she also had the sharpest tongue, and after 
telling me in no uncertain terms what she thought of 
Punwa's father for having absented himself the previous 
night, she turned on me and said I had wasted my money in 
building a wall over which a pig could climb to eat her 
potatoes, and that if I could not shoot the pig myself it was 
my duty to raise the wall a few feet so that no pig could climb 
over it. Mothi fortunately arrived while the storm was still 
breaking over my head, so whistling to Robin I beat a hasty 
retreat and left him to weather it. 

That evening I picked up the tracks of the pig on the far side 
of the wall and followed them for two miles, at times along 
game paths and at times along the bank of the Boar River, 
until they led me to a dense patch of thorn bushes interlaced 
with lantana. At the edge of this cover I took up position, as 



38 



there was a fifty- fifty chance of the pig leaving the cover 
while there was still sufficient light for me to shoot by. 
Shortly after I had taken up position behind a rock on the 
bank of the river, a sambhar hind started belling at the upper 
end of the jungle in which a few years later I was to shoot the 
Bachelor of Powalgarh. The hind was warning the jungle folk 
of the presence of a tiger. A fortnight previously a party of 
three guns, with eight elephants, had arrived in Kaladhungi 
with the express purpose of shooting a tiger which, at that 
time, had his headquarters in the forest block for which I had 
a shooting pass. 

The Boar River formed the boundary between my block and 
the block taken by the party of three guns, and they had 
enticed the tiger to kill in their block by tying up fourteen 
young buffaloes on their side of the river. Two of these 
buffaloes had been killed by the tiger, the other twelve had 
died of neglect, and at about nine o'clock the previous night I 
had heard the report of a heavy rifle. I sat behind the rock for 
two hours, listening to the belling sambhar but without 
seeing anything of the pig, and when there was no longer any 
light to shoot by I crossed the river and, gaining the Kota 
road, loped down it, easing up and moving cautiously when 
passing the caves in which a big python lived, and where Bill 
Bailey of the Forest Department a month previously had shot 
a twelve-foot hamadryad. At the village gate I stopped and 
shouted to M othi to be ready to accompany me at crack of 
dawn next morning. 



39 



Mothi had been my constant companion in the Kaladhungi 
jungles for many years. He was keen and intelligent, gifted 
with good eyesight and hearing, could move through the 
jungles silently, and was as brave as man could be. He was 
never late for an appointment, and as we walked through the 
dew- drenched jungle that morning, listening to the 
multitude of sounds of the awakening jungle folk, I told him 
of the belling of the sambhar hind and of my suspicion that 
she had witnessed the killing of her young one by the tiger, 
and that she had stayed to watch the tiger on his kill— a not 
uncommon occurrence— for in no other way could I account 
for her sustained belling. 

Mothi was delighted at the prospect of our finding a fresh 
kill, for his means only permitted of his buying meat for his 
family once a month, and a sambhar, chital, or pig, freshly 
killed by a tiger or by a leopard, was a godsend to him. I had 
located the belling sambhar as being due north and some 
fifteen hundred yards from me the previous evening, and 
when we arrived at this spot and found no kill we started 
looking on the ground for blood, hair, or a drag mark that 
would lead us to the kill; for I was still convinced that there 
was a kill to be found and that the killer was a tiger. 

At this spot two shallow depressions, coming down from the 
foot of the hill a few hundred yards away, met. The 
depressions ran more or less parallel to each other at a 
distance of about thirty yards and Mothi suggested that he 
should go up the right-hand depression while I went up the 
other. As there were only low bushes between, and we 



40 



should be close to, and within sight of, each other, I agreed 
to the suggestion. 

We had proceeded a hundred yards examining every foot of 
the ground, and going dead slow, when Mothi, just as I 
turned my head to look at him started backwards, screaming 
as he did so. Then he whipped round and ran for dear life, 
beating the air with his hands as if warding off a swarm of 
bees and continuing to scream as he ran. The sudden and 
piercing scream of a human being in a jungle where a 
moment before all has been silent is terrifying to hear, and 
quite impossible to describe. Instinctively I knew what had 
happened. With his eyes fixed on the ground, looking for 
blood or hair, Mothi had failed to see where he was going, 
and had walked on to the tiger. Whether he had been badly 
mauled or not I could not see, for only his head and 
shoulders were visible above the bushes. I kept the sights of 
my rifle a foot behind him as he ran, intending to press the 
trigger if I saw any movement, but to my intense relief there 
was no movement as I swung round, and after he had 
covered a hundred yards 

I considered he was safe. I yelled to him to stop, adding that I 
was coming to him, then, backing away for a few yards, for I 
did not know whether the tiger had changed his position I 
hurried down the depression towards Mothi. He was 
standing with his back against a tree and I was greatly 
relieved to see that there was no blood on him or on the 
ground on which he was standing. As I reached him he asked 
what had happened, and when I told him that nothing had 



41 



happened he expressed great surprise. He asked if the tiger 
had not sprung at him, or followed him; and when I replied 
that he had done everything possible to make the tiger do so, 
he said, 'I know. Sahib. I know I should not have screamed 
and run, but I— could— not— help— ' as his voice tailed away 
and his head came forward I caught him by the throat, but he 
slipped through my hands and slumped to the ground. Every 
drop of blood had drained from his face, and as he lay minute 
after long minute without any movement, I feared the shock 
had killed him. 

There is little one can do in the jungles in an emergency of 
this kind, and that little I did. I stretched Mothi on his back, 
loosened his clothes, and massaged the region of his heart. 
J ust as I was giving up hope and preparing to carry him home, 
he opened his eyes. 

When M othi was comfortably seated on the ground with his 
back to the tree and a half-smoked cigarette between his lips 
I asked him to tell me exactly what had happened. 

'I had gone a short distance up the depression after I left 
you', he said, 'closely examining the ground for traces of 
blood or hair, when I saw what looked like a spot of dry 
blood on a leaf. So I stooped down to have a closer look and, 
as I raised my head, I looked straight into the face of the 
tiger. The tiger was lying crouched down facing me at a 
distance of three or four paces. His head was a little raised 
off the ground; his mouth was wide open, and there was 
blood on his chin and on his chest. He looked as though he 



42 



was on the point of springing at me, so I lost my head and 
screamed and ran away. 

He had seen nothing of the sambhar kill. He said the ground 
was open and free of bushes and there was no kill where the 
tiger was lying. 

Telling Mothi to stay where he was I stubbed out my 
cigarette and set off to investigate, for I could think of no 
reason why a tiger with its mouth open, and blood on its chin 
and on its chest, should allow Mothi to approach within a 
few feet, over open ground, and not kill him when he 
screamed in its face. Going with the utmost caution to the 
spot where Mothi was standing when he screamed, I saw in 
front of me a bare patch of ground from which the tiger had 
swept the carpet of dead leaves as he had rolled from side to 
side; at the nearer edge of this bare patch of ground there 
was a semicircle of clotted blood. Skirting round where the 
tiger had been lying, to avoid disturbing the ground, I picked 
up on the far side of it a light and fresh blood trail, which for 
no apparent reason zigzagged towards the hill, and then 
continued along the foot of the hill for a few hundred yards 
and entered a deep and narrow ravine in which there was a 
little stream. Up this ravine, which ran deep into the foothills, 
the tiger had gone. I made my way back to the bare patch of 
ground and examined the clotted blood. There were splinters 
of bone and teeth in it, and these splinters provided me with 
the explanation I was looking for. The rifle-shot I had heard 
two nights previously had shattered the tiger's lower jaw, 
and he had made for the jungle in which he had his home. He 



43 



had gone as far as his sufferings and loss of blood permitted 
and had then lain down on the spot where first the sambhar 
had seen him tossing about, and where thirty hours later 
Mothi walked on to him. 

The most painful wound that can be inflicted on an animal, 
the shattering of the lower jaw, had quite evidently induced 
high fever and the poor beast had perhaps only been semi- 
conscious when he heard M othi screaming in his face. He had 
got up quietly and staggered away, in a last effort to reach 
the ravine in which he knew there was water. 

To make quite sure that my deductions were correct Mothi 
and I crossed the river into the adjoining 
shooting block to have a look at the ground where the 
fourteen buffaloes had been tied up. Here, high up in a tree, 
we found the machan the three guns had sat on, and the kill 
the tiger had been eating when fired at. From the kill a heavy 
blood trail led down to the river, with elephant tracks on 
each side of it. Leaving Mothi on the right bani I recrossed 
the river into my block, picked up the blood trail and the 
elephant tracks, and followed them for five or six hundred 
yards to where the blood trail led into heavy cover. At the 
edge of the cover the elephants had halted and, after 
standing about for some time, had turned to the right and 
gone away in the direction of Kaladhungi. I had met the 
returning elephants as I was starting out the previous 
evening to try and get a shot at the old pig, and one of the 
guns had asked me where I was going, and when I told him, 
had appeared to want to tell me something but was 



44 



restrained from doing so by his companions. So, while the 
party of three guns went off on their elephants to the Forest 
Bungalow where they were staying, I had gone off on foot, 
without any warning, into the jungle in which they had left a 
wounded tiger. 

The walk back to the village from where I had left M othi was 
only about three miles, but it took us about as many hours to 
cover the distance, for Mothi was unaccountably weak and 
had to rest frequently. After leaving him at his house I went 
straight to the Forest Bungalow, where I found the party of 
three packed up and on the point of leaving to catch the 
evening train at Haldwani. We talked on the steps of the 
veranda for some little time, I doing most of the talking, and 
when I learnt that the only reason they could not spare the 
time to recover the tiger they had wounded was the keeping 
of a social engagement, I told them that if Mothi died as a 
result of shock or if the tiger killed any of my tenants, they 
would have to face a charge of manslaughter. 
The party left after my talk with them, and next morning, 
armed with a heavy rifle, I entered the ravine up which the 
tiger had gone, not with the object of recovering a trophy for 
others, but with the object of putting the tiger out of his 
misery and burning his skin. The ravine, every foot of which I 
knew, was the last place I would have selected in which to 
look for a wounded tiger. However, I searched it from top to 
bottom, and also the hills on either side, for the whole of 
that day without finding any trace of the tiger, for the blood 
trail had stopped shortly after he entered the ravine. 



45 



Ten days later a forest guard on his rounds came on the 
remains of a tiger that had been eaten by vultures. 
In the summer of that year Government made a rule 
prohibiting sitting up for tigers between the hours of sunset 
and sunrise, and making it incumbent on sportsmen 
wounding tigers to make every effort to bring the wounded 
animal to bag, and to make an immediate report of the 
occurrence to the nearest Forest Officer and police outpost. 
Mothi met with his experience in December, and when we 
left Kaladhungi in April he appeared to be 
little the worse for the shock. But his luck was out, for a 
month later be was badly mauled by a leopard he wounded 
one night in his field and followed next morning into heavy 
covers and he had hardly recovered from his wounds when 
he had the misfortune of being responsible for the death of a 
cow— the greatest crime a Hindu can commit. 
The cow, an old and decrepit animal that had strayed in from 
an adjoining village, was grazing in Mothi's field, and as he 
attempted to drive it out it put its hoof in a deep rat-hole and 
broke its leg. For weeks Mothi attended assiduously to the 
cow as it lay in his field, but it died eventually, and the matter 
being too serious for the village priest to deal with, he 
ordered Mothi to make a pilgrimage to Hardwar. So, having 
borrowed money for the journey, to Hardwar Mothi went. 
Here to the head priest at the main temple Mothi confessed 
his crime, and after that dignitary had given the offence due 
consideration he ordered Mothi to make a donation to the 
temple: this would absolve him of his crime, but in order to 
show repentance he would have also to do penance. The 
priest then asked him from what acts he derived most 



46 



pleasure and Mothi, being without guile, made answer that 
he derived most pleasure from shooting, and from eating 
meat. Mothi was then told by the priest that in future he 
must refrain from these two pleasures. 
Mothi returned from his pilgrimage cleared of his crime, but 
burdened with a lifelong penance. His opportunities-for 
shooting had been few, for besides having to share the 
muzzle-loading gun with others he had had to confine his 
shooting to the village boundaries, as no man in his position 
was permitted to shoot in Government forests; even so, 
M othi had derived great pleasure from the old gun, and from 
the occasional shots I had permitted him— against all rules— 
to fire from my rifle. Hard as this half of his penance was the 
second half was even harder, and, moreover, it adversely 
affected his health. Though his means had only allowed him 
to buy a small meat ration once a month, pigs and 
porcupines were plentiful, and deer occasionally strayed into 
the fields at night. It was the custom in our village, a custom 
to which I also adhered, for an animal shot by one to be 
shared by all, so M othi had not had to depend entirely on the 
meat he could buy. 

It was during the winter following his pilgrimage to Hardwar 
that Mothi developed a hacking cough. As the remedies we 
tried failed to give relief, I got a doctor friend who was 
passing through Kaladhungi to examine him, and was 
horrified to learn that he was suffering from tuberculosis. 
On the doctor's recommendation I sent M othi to the Bhowali 
Sanatorium, thirty miles away. Five days later he returned 
with a letter from the Superintendent of the Sanatorium 
saying that the case was hopeless, and that for this reason 



47 



the Superintendent regretted he could not admit IMothi. A 
medical missionary who was staying with us at the time, and 
who had worked for years in a sanatorium, advised us to 
make Mothi sleep in the open and drink a quart of milk with 
a few drops of paraffin in it each morning. 
So for the rest of that winter Mothi slept in the open, and 
while sitting on our veranda, smoking a cigarette and talking 
to me, each morning drank a quart of milk fresh from our 
cows. 

The poor of India are fatalists, and in addition have little 
stamina to fight disease. Deprived of our company, though 
not of our help, Mothi lost hope when we left for our 
summer home, and died a month later. 
The women of our foothills are the hardest workers in India, 
and the hardest working of them all was Mothi's widow, 
Punwa's mother. A small compact woman, as hard as flint 
and a beaver for work— young enough to remarry but 
precluded from doing so by reasons of her caste— she- 
bravely and resolutely faced the future, and right gallantly 
she fulfilled her task, ably assisted by her young children. Of 
her three children, Punwa, the eldest, was now twelve, and 
with the assistance of neighbors was able to do the 
ploughing and other field jobs. 

Kunthi, a girl, was ten and married, and until she left the 
village five years later to join her husband she assisted her 
mother in all her thousand and one tasks, which included 
cooking the food and washing up the dishes; washing and 
mending the clothes— for Punwa's mother was very 
particular about her own and her children's dress, and no 



48 



matter how old and patched the garments were, they always 
had to be clean;, fetching water from the irrigation furrow or 
from the Boar river for domestic purposes; bringing firewood 
from the jungles, and grass and tender young leaves for the 
milch, cows and their calves; weeding and cutting the crops; 
husking the paddy, in a hole cut in a slab of rock, with an iron 
shod staff that was heavy enough to tire the muscles of any 
man; winnowing the wheat for Punwa to take to the 
watermill to be ground into atta; and making frequent visits 
to the bazaar two miles away to drive hard bargains for the 
few articles of food and clothing the family could afford to 
buy. Sher Singh, the youngest child, was eight, and from the 
moment he opened his eyes at crack of dawn each morning 
until he closed them when the evening meal had been eaten 
he did everything that a boy could do. He even gave Punwa a 
hand with the ploughing, though he had to be helped at the 
end of each furrow as he was not strong enough to turn the 
plough. 

Sher Singh, without a care in the world, was the happiest 
child in the village. When he could not be seen he could 
always be heard, for he loved to sing. The cattle four 
bullocks, twelve cows, eight calves, and Lalu the bull —were 
his special charge, and each morning after milking the cows 
he released the herd from the stakes to which he had 
tethered them the evening before, drove them out of the 
shed and through a wicket in the boundary wall, and then set 
to clean up the shed. It would now be time for the morning 
meal, and when he heard the call from his brother, or Kunthi, 
he would hurry home across the fields taking the milk can 



49 



with him. The frugal morning meal consisted of fresh hot 
chapatis and dal, liberally seasoned with green chillies and 
salt and cooked in mustard oil. Having breakfasted, and 
finished any chores about the house that he was called upon 
to do, Sher Singh would begin his day's real work. This was to 
graze the cattle in the jungle, prevent them from straying, 
and guard them against leopards and tigers. Having collected 
the four bullocks and twelve cows from the open ground 
beyond the boundary wall, where they would be lying 
basking in the sun, and left Kunthi to keep an eye on the 
calves, this small tousle-headed boy, his axe over his 
shoulder and Lalu the bull following him, would drive his 
charges over the Boar Bridge and into the dense jungle 
beyond, calling to each by name. 

Lalu was a young scrub bull destined to be a plough-bullock 
when he had run his course but who, at the time 1 am writing 
about, was free of foot and the pride of Sher Singh his foster- 
brother, for Lalu had shared his mother's milk with Sher 
Singh. Sher Singh had christened his foster-brother 
Lalu, which means red. But Lalu was not red. He was of a 
light dun colour, with stronger markings on the shoulders 
and a dark, almost black line running down the length of his 
back. His horns were short, sharp, and strong, with the light 
and dark colourings associated with the shoehorns that 
adorned dressing tables of that period. 
When human beings and animals live in close association 
with each other under conditions in which they are daily 
subjected to common dangers, each infuses the other with a 
measure of courage and confidence which the one possesses 
and the other lacks. Sher Singh, whose father and 



50 



grandfather had been more at home in the jungles than in 
the wall<s of men, had no fear of anything that wall<ed, and 
\jdi\u, young and vigorous, had unbounded confidence in 
himself. So while Sher Singh infused Lalu with courage, Lalu 
in turn infused Sher Singh with confidence. In consequence 
Sher Singh's cattle grazed where others feared to go, and he 
was justly proud of the fact that they were in better 
condition than any others in the village, and that no-leopard 
or tiger had ever taken toll of them. 
Four miles from our village there is a valley about five miles 
in length, running north and south, which has no equal in 
beauty or richness of wild life in the five thousand square 
miles of forest land in the United Provinces. At the upper end 
of the valley a clear stream, which grows in volume as it 
progresses, gushes from a cave in which a python lives, from 
under the roots of an old jamun tree. This crystal-clear 
stream with its pools and runs is alive with many kinds of 
small fish on which live no fewer than five varieties of 
kingfishers. 

In the valley grow flowering and fruit-bearing trees and 
bushes that attract a multitude of nectar-drinking and fruit- 
eating birds and animals, which in turn attract predatory 
birds and carnivorous animals which find ample cover in the 
dense undergrowth and matted cane-brakes. In places the 
set of the streamhas caused miniature landslides, and on 
these grows a reedy kind of grass, with broad lush leaves, 
much fancied by sambhar and kakar. 
The valley was a favourite haunt of mine. One winter - 
evening, shortly after our descent to Kaladhungi from our 
summer home, I was standing at a point where there is a 



51 



clear view into the valley when, in a clump of grass to the 
left, 1 saw a movement. After a long scrutiny the movement 
revealed itself as an animal feeding on the lush grass on a 
steep slope. The animal was too light for a sambhar and too 
big for a kakar, so 1 set out to stalk it, and as 1 did so a tiger 
started calling in the valley a few hundred yards lower down. 
My quarry also heard the tiger, and as it raised its head 1 saw 
to my surprise that it was Lalu. With head poised he stood 
perfectly still listening to the tiger, and when it stopped 
calling, he unconcernedly resumed cropping the grass. This 
was forbidden ground for Lalu, for cattle are not permitted to 
graze in Government Reserved Forests, and moreover Lalu 
was in danger from the tiger; so 1 called to him by name and, 
after a little hesitation, he came up the steep bank and we 
returned to the village together. Sher Singh was tying up his 
cattle in the shed when we arrived, and when 1 told him 
where 1 had found Lalu he laughed and said, 'Don't fear for 
this one. Sahib. The forest guard is a friend of mine and 
would not impound my Lalu, and as for the tiger, Lalu is well 
able to take care of himself.' 
Not long after this incident, the Chief Conservator of Forests, 

Smythies, and his wife arrived on tour in Kaladhungi, and as 
the camels carrying their camp equipment were coming 
down the forest road towards the Boar Bridge, a tiger killed a 
cow on the road in front of them. On the approach of the 
camels, and the shouting of the men with them, the tiger left 
the cow on the road and bounded into the jungle. The 
Smythies were sitting on our veranda having morning coffee 
when the camel men brought word of the killing of the cow. 
M rs. Smythies was keen to shoot the tiger, so 1 went off with 



52 



two of her men to put up a machan for her, and found that in 
the meantime the tiger had returned and dragged the cow 
twenty yards into the jungle. When the machan was ready I 
sent back for IMrs. Smythies and, after putting her into the 
machan with a forest guard to keep her company, I climbed a 
tree on the edge of the road hoping to get a photograph of 
the tiger. 

It was 4 p.m. We had been in position half an hour and a 
kakar had just started barking in the direction in which we 
knew the tiger was lying up, when down the road came Lalu. 
On reaching the spot where the cow had been killed he very 
carefully smelt the ground and a big pool of blood, then 
turned to the edge of the road and with head held high and 
nose stretched out started to follow the drag. When he saw 
the cow he circled round her, tearing up the ground with his 
hoofs and snorting with rage. After tying my camera to a 
branch I slipped off the tree and conducted a very angry and 
protesting Lalu to the edge of the village. Hardly had I 
returned to my perch on the tree, however, when up the 
road came Lalu to make a second demonstration round the 
dead cow. Mrs. Smythies now sent the forest guard to drive 
Lalu away, and as the man passed me I told him to take the 
bull across the Boar Bridge and to remain there with the 
elephant that was coming later for M rs. Smythies. 
The kakar had stopped barking some time previously and a 
covey of jungle fowl now started cackling a few yards behind 
the machan. Getting my camera ready I looked towards M rs. 
Smythies, and saw she had her rifle poised, and at that 
moment Lalu appeared for the third time. (We learnt later 



53 



that, after being taken across the bridge, he had circled 
round, crossed the river bed lower down and disappeared 
into the jungle.) This time Lalu trotted up to the cow and, 
either seeing or smelling the tiger, lowered his head and 
charged into the bushes, bellowing loudly. Three times he did 
this, and after each charge he retreated backwards to his 
starting-point, slashing upwards with his horns as he did so. 
I have seen buffaloes driving tigers away from their kills, and I 
have seen cattle doing the same with leopards but, with the 
exception of a Himalayan bear, I had never before seen a 
solitary animal— and a scrub bull at that— drive a tiger away 
from his kill. 

Courageous as Lalu was he was no match for the tiger, who 
was now losing his temper and answering Lalu's bellows with 
angry growls. Remembering a small boy back in the village 
whose heart would break if anything happened to his 
beloved companion, I was on the point of going to Lalu's help 
when Mrs. Smythies very sportingly gave up her chance of 
shooting the tiger, so 1 shouted to the mahout to bring up the 
elephant. Lalu was very subdued as he followed me to the 
shed where Sher Singh was waiting to tie him up, and I think 
he was as relieved as I was that the tiger had not accepted 
his challenge while he was defending the dead cow. 
The tiger fed on the cow that night and next evening, and 
while M rs. Smythies was having another Unsuccessful try to 
get a shot at him, I took a cine picture which some who read 
this story may remember having seen. 



54 



In the picture the tiger is seen coming down a steep bank, 

and drinking at a little pool. 

The jungle was Sher Singh's playground, the only playground 
he ever knew, just as it had been my playground as a boy, 
and of all whom I have known he alone enjoyed the jungles 
as much as I have done. Intelligent and observant, his 
knowledge of jungle lore was incredible. Nothing escaped his 
attention, and he was as fearless as the animal whose name 
he bore. 

Our favourite evening walk was along one of the three roads 
which met on the far side of the Boar Bridge— the 
abandoned trunk road to Moradabad, the road to Kota, and 
the forest road to Ramnagar. Most evenings at sundown we 
would hear Sher Singh before we saw him, for he sang with 
abandon in a clear treble voice that carried far as he drove 
his cattle home. Always he would greet us with a smile and a 
salaam, and always he would have something interesting to 
tell us. 

'The big tiger's tracks were on the road this morning coming 
from the direction of Kota and going towards Naya Gaon, and 
at midday I heard him calling at the lower end of the 
Dhunigad cane-brake.' 'Near Saryapani I heard the clattering 
of horns, so I climbed a tree and saw two chital stags righting. 
One of them has very big horns. Sahib, and is very fat, and I 
have eaten no meat for many days.' ' 
What am I carrying?'— He had something wrapped in big 
green leaves and tied round with bark balanced on his 
tousled head. 'I am carrying a pig's leg. I saw some vultures 
on a tree, so I went to have a look and under a bush I found a 



55 



pig killed by a leopard last night and partly eaten. If you want 
to shoot the leopard, Sahib, 1 will take you to the kill.' 'Today 1 
found a beehive in a hollow haldu tree', he said one day, 
proudly exhibiting a large platter of leaves held together with 
long thorns on which the snow-white comb was resting. '1 
have brought the honey for you.' Then, glancing at the rifle in 
my hands, he added, 'I will bring the honey to the house 
when I have finished my work for perchance you may meet a 
pig or a kakar and with the honey in your hands you would 
not be able to shoot.' The cutting of the hive out of the haldu 
tree with his small axe had probably taken him two hours or 
more, and he had got badly stung in the process, for his 
hands were swollen and one eye was nearly closed, but he 
said nothing about this and to have commented on it would 
have embarrassed him. 

Later that night, while we were having dinner, he slipped 
silently into the room and as he laid the brass tray, polished 
till it looked like gold, on our table, he touched the elbow of 
his right arm with the fingers of his left hand, an old hill 
custom denoting respect, which is fast dying out. 
After depositing such a gift on the table, leaving the tray for 
Kunthi to call for in the morning, Sher Singh would pause at 
the door and, looking down and scratching the carpet with 
his toes, would say, 'If you are going bird shooting tomorrow 
1 will send Kunthi out with the cattle and come with you, for 1 
know where there are a lot of birds'. He was always shy in a 
house, and on these occasions spoke with a catch in his voice 
as though he had too many words in his mouth and was 
trying, with difficulty, to swallow the ones that were getting 
in his way. 



56 



Sher Singh was in liis element on tliese bird shoots, which the 
boys of the village enjoyed as much as he and I did, for in 
addition to the excitement and the prospect of having a bird 
to take home at the end of the day, there was always a halt 
at midday at a prearranged spot to which the man sent out 
earlier would bring the fresh sweets and parched gram that 
would provide a meal for all. 

When I had taken my position, Sher Singh would line up his 
companions and beat the selected cover towards me, 
shouting the loudest of them all and worming his way 
through the thickest cover. When a bird was put up he would 
yell, 'it's coming. Sahib! It's coming!' Or when a heavy animal 
went crashing through the undergrowth, as very frequently 
happened, he would call to his companions not to run away, 
assuring them that it was only a sambhar, or a chital, or 
maybe a sounder of pig. Ten to twelve patches of cover 
would be beaten in the course of the day, yielding as many 
pea fowl and jungle fowl, and two or three hares, and 
possibly a small pig or a porcupine. At the end of the last 
beat the bag would be shared out among the beaters and the 
gun, or if the bag was small only among the beaters and Sher 
Singh was never more happy than when, at the end of the 
day, he made for home with a peacock in full plumage 
proudly draped over his shoulders. 
Punwa was now married, and the day was fast approaching 
when Sher Singh would have to leave the home, for there 
was not sufficient room on the small holding of six acres for 
the two brothers. Knowing that it would break Sher Singh's 
heart to leave the village and his beloved jungles, I decided to 



57 



apprentice him to a friend who had a garage at Kathgodam, 
and who ran a fleet of cars on the Naini Tal motor road. 
After his training it was my intention to employ Sher Singh to 
drive our car and accompany me on my shooting trips during 
the winter, and to look after our cottage and garden at 
Kaladhungi while we were in Naini Tal during the summer. 
Sher Singh was speechless with delight when I told him of the 
plans I had made for him, plans which ensured his continued 
residence in the village, and within sight and calling distance 
of the home he had never left from the day of his birth. 
Plans a-many we make in life, and I am not sure there is 
cause for regret when some go wrong. Sher Singh was to 
have started his apprenticeship when we returned to 
Kaladhungi in November. In October he contracted malignant 
malaria which led to pneumonia, and a few days before we 
arrived he died. During his boyhood's years he had sung 
through life happy as the day was long and, had he lived, who 
can say that his life in a changing world would have been as 
happy, and as carefree, as those first few years? 
Before leaving our home for a spell, to regain in new climes 
the health we lost in Hitler's war, I called together our 
tenants and their families as I had done on two previous 
occasions, to tell them the time had come for them to take 
over their holdings and run the village for themselves. 
Punwa's mother was the spokesman for the tenants on this 
occasion, and after I had had my say she got to her feet and, 
in her practical way, spoke as follows: 'You have called us 
away from our work to no purpose. We have told you before 
and we tell you again that we will not take your land from 
you, for to do so would imply that we were no longer your 



58 



people. And now, Sahib, what about the pig, the son of the 
shaitan who climbed your wall and ate my potatoes? Punwa 
and these others cannot shoot it and 1 am tired of sitting up 
all night and beating a tin can.' 

M aggie and 1 were walking along the fire-track that skirts the 
foothills with David at our heels when the pig— worthy son 
of the old shaitan who, full of years and pellets of buckshot, 
had been killed in an all-night fight with a tiger— trotted 
across the track. 

The sun had set and the range was long— all of three 
hundred yards— but a shot was justifiable for the pig was 
quite evidently on his way to the village. 1 adjusted the sights 
and, resting the rifle against a tree, waited until the pig 
paused at the edge of a deep depression. When 1 pressed the 
trigger, the pig jumped into the depression, scrambled out on 
the far side, and made off at top speed. 'Have you missed 
him?' asked Maggie, and with his eyes David put the same 
question. There was no reason, except miscalculation of the 
range, why 1 should not have hit the pig, for my silver 
foresight had shown up clearly on his black skin, and the tree 
had assisted me to take steady aim. Anyway, it was time to 
make for home, and as the cattle track down which the pig 
had been going would lead us to the Boar Bridge we set off 
to see the result of my shot. The pig's feet had bitten deeply 
into the ground where he had taken off, and on the far side 
of the depression, where he had scrambled out, there was 
blood. Two hundred yards in the direction in which the pig 
had gone there was a narrow strip of dense cover. 1 should 



59 



probably find him dead in the morning in this cover, for the 
blood trail was heavy; but if he was not dead and there was 
trouble, Maggie would not be with me, and there would be 
more light to shoot by in the morning than there was now. 

Punwa had heard my shot and was waiting on the bridge for 
us. 'Yes', I said, in reply to his eager inquiry,'it was the old pig 
I fired at, and judging by the blood trail, he is hit hard.' I 
added that if he met me on the bridge next morning I would 
show him where the pig was, so that later he could take out a 
party of men to bring it in. 'M ay I bring the old havildar too?' 
said Punwa, and I agreed. 

The havildar, a kindly old man who had won the respect and 
affection of all, was a Gurkha who on leaving the army had 
joined the police, and having retired a year previously had 
settled down with his wife and two sons on a plot of land we 
had given him in our village. Like all Gurkhas the havildar had 
an insatiable appetite for pig's flesh, and when a pig was shot 
by any of us it was an understood thing that, no matter who 
went short, the ex-soldier-policeman must have his share. 
Punwa and the havildar were waiting for me at the bridge 
next morning. Following the cattle track, we soon reached 
the spot where, the previous evening, I had seen the blood. 
From here we followed the well- defined blood trail which 
led us, as I had expected, to the dense cover. I left my 
companions at the edge of the cover, for a wounded pig is a 
dangerous animal, and with one exception— a bear— is the 
only animal in our jungles that has the unpleasant habit of 
savaging any human being who has the misfortune to be 
attacked and knocked down by him. For this reason wounded 



60 



pigs, especially if they have big tusks, have to be treated with 
great respect. The pig had stopped where 1 had expected him 
to, but he had not died, and at daybreak he had got up from 
where he had been lying all night and left the cover. I 
whistled to Punwa and the havildar and when they rejoined 
me we set off to trail the animal. 

The trail led us across the fire-track, and from the direction in 
which the wounded animal was going it was evident he was 
making for the heavy jungle on the far side of the hill, from 
which I suspected he had come the previous evening. The 
morning blood trail was light and continued to get lighter the 
farther we went, until we lost it altogether in a belt of trees, 
the fallen leaves of which a gust of wind had disturbed. In 
front of us at this spot was a tinder-dry stretch of waist-high 
grass. Still under the conviction that the pig was heading for 
the heavy jungle on the far side of the hill, I entered the 
grass, hoping to pick up the tracks again on the far side. 

The havildar had lagged some distance behind, but Punwa 
was immediately behind me when, after we had gone a few 
yards into the grass, my woollen stockings caught on the 
thorns of a low bush. While I was stooping to free myself, 
Punwa, to avoid the thorns, moved a few paces to the right 
and I just got free and was straightening up when out of the 
grass shot the pig and with an angry grunt went straight for 
Punwa, who was wearing a white shirt. I then did what I have 
always asked companions who have accompanied me into 
the jungles after dangerous game to do if they saw me 
attacked by a wounded animal. I threw the muzzle of my rifle 



61 



into the air, and sliouted at tlie top of my voice as I pressed 
the trigger. 

If the thorns had not caught in my stockings and lost me a 
fraction of a second, all would have been well, for I should 
have killed the pig before it got to Punwa; but once the pig 
had reached him the only thing I could do to help him was to 
try to cause a diversion, for to have fired in his direction 
would further have endangered his life. As the bullet was 
leaving my rifle to land in the jungle a mile away, Punwa, 
with adespairing scream of 'Sahib', was falling backwards into 
the grass with the pig right on top of him, but at my shout 
and the crack of the rifle the pig turned like a whiplash 
straight for me, and before I was able to eject the spent 
cartridge and ram a fresh one into the chamber of the -275 
rifle, he was at me. Taking my right hand from the rifle I 
stretched the arm out palm downwards, and as my hand 
came in contact with his forehead he stopped dead, for no 
other reason than that my time had not come, for he was big 
and angry enough to have knocked over and savaged a cart 
horse. The pig's body had stopped but his head was very 
active, and as he cut upwards with his great tusks, first on 
one side and then on the other, fortunately cutting only the 
air, he wore the skin off the palm of my hand with his rough 
forehead. Then, for no apparent reason, he turned away, and 
as he made off I put two bullets into him in quick succession 
and he pitched forward on his head. 
After that one despairing scream Punwa had made no sound 
or movement, and with the awful thought of what I would 
say to his mother, and the still more awful thought of what 
she would say to me, I went with fear and trembling to 



62 



where he was lying out of sight in the grass, expecting to find 
him ripped open from end to end. He was laying full stretch 
on his back, and his eyes were closed, but to my intense 
relief I saw no blood on his white clothes. I shook him by the 
shoulder and asked him how he was, and where he had been 
hurt. In a very weak voice he said he was dead, and that his 
back was broken. 

I straddled his body and gently raised him to a sitting 
position, and was overjoyed to find that he was able to retain 
this position when I released my hold. Passing my hand down 
his back I assured him that it was not broken, and after he 
had verified this fact with his own hand, he turned his head 
and looked behind him to where a dry stump was projecting 
two or three inches above the ground. Evidently he had 
fainted when the pig knocked him over and, on coming to, 
feeling the stump boring into his back, had jumped to the 
conclusion that it was broken. 

And so the old pig, son of the shaitan, died, and in dying 
nearly frightened the lives out of two of us. But 
beyond rubbing a little skin off my hand he did us no harm, 
for Punwa escaped without a scratch and with a grand story 
to tell. The havildar, like the wise old soldier he was, had 
remained in the background. None the less he claimed a 
lion's share of the pig, for had he not stood foursquare in 
reserve to render assistance if assistance had been called 
for? And further, was it not the custom for those present at a 
killing to receive a double share, and what difference was 
there between seeing and hearing the shots that had killed 
the pig? So a double share was not denied him, and he too, in 



63 



the course of time, had a grand story to tell of the part he 
took in that morning's exploit. 

Punwa now reigns, and is raising a family, in the house I built 
for his father. Kunthi has left the village to join her husband, 
and Sher Singh waits in the Happy Hunting Grounds. Punwa's 
mother is still alive, and if you stop at the village gate and 
walk through the fields to Punwa's house you will find her 
keeping house for Punwa and his family and working as hard 
and as cheerfully at her thousand and one tasks as she 
worked when she first came to our village as M othi's bride. 
During the war years Maggie spent the winters alone in our 
cottage at Kaladhungi, without transport, and fourteen miles 
from the nearest settlement. Her safety gave me no anxiety, 
for I knew she was safe among my friends, the poor of India. 



IV Pre-Red-Tape Days 

I WAS camping with Anderson one winter in the Terai, the 
low-lying stretch of country at the foot of the 
Himalayas, and having left Bindukhera after breakfast one 
morning in early January, we made a wide detour to Boksar, 
our next camping-place, to give our servants time to pack up 
and pitch our tents before our arrival. 
There were two small unbridged rivers to cross between 
Bindukhera and Boksar, and at the second of these rivers one 
of the camels carrying our tents slipped on the clay bottom 



64 



and deposited its load in the river. This accident resulted in a 
long delay, with the result that we arrived at Boksar, after a 
very successful day's black partridge shooting, while our kit 
was still being unloaded from the camels. 
The camp site was only a few hundred yards from Boksar 
village, and as Anderson's arrival was a great event, the 
entire population had turned out to pay their respects to him 
and to render what assistance they could in setting up our 
camp. 

Sir Frederick Anderson was at that time Superintendent of 
the Terai and Bhabar Government Estates, and by reason of 
the large amount of the milk of human kindness that he was 
endowed with he had endeared himself to the large 
population, embracing all castes and creeds, living in the 
many thousands of square miles of country he ruled over. In 
addition to his kindly nature, Anderson was a great 
administrator and was gifted with a memory which I have 
only seen equalled in one other man. General Sir Henry 
Ramsay, who for twenty-eight years administered the same 
tract of country, and who throughout his service was known 
as the Uncrowned King of Kumaon. Both Ramsay and 
Anderson were Scotsmen, and it was said of them that once 
having heard a name or seen a face they never forgot it. It is 
only those who have had dealings with simple uneducated 
people who can realize the value of a good memory, for 
nothing appeals so much to a humble man as the 
remembering of his name, or the circumstances in which he 
has previously been met. 

When the history of the rise and fall of British Imperialism is 
written, due consideration will have to be given to the 



65 



important part red tape played in the fall of the British raj. 
Both Ramsay and Anderson served India at a time when red 
tape was unknown, and their popularity and the success of 
their administration was in great measure due to their hands' 
not being tied with it. 

Ramsay, in addition to being Judge of Kumaon, was also 
magistrate, policeman, forest officer, and engineer, and as 
his duties were manifold and onerous he performed many of 
them while walking from one camp to another. It was his 
custom while on these long walks, and while accompanied by 
a crowd of people, to try all his civil and criminal cases. The 
complainant and his witnesses were first heard, and then the 
defendant and his witnesses, and after due deliberation, 
Ramsay would pronounce judgment, which might be either a 
fine or a sentence to imprisonment. In no case was his 
judgment known to be questioned, nor did any man whom 
he had sentenced to a fine or imprisonment fail to pay the 
fine into the Government Treasury or fail to report himself at 
the nearest jail to carry out the term of simple or rigorous 
imprisonment to which Ramsay had sentenced him. 
As Superintendent of the Terai and Bhabar, Anderson had 
only to perform a part of the duties that had been performed 
by his predecessor Ramsay, but he had wide administrative 
powers, and that afternoon, while our tents were being 
pitched on the camping ground at Boksar, Anderson told the 
assembled people to sit down, adding that he would listen to 
any complaints they had to make and receive any petitions 
they wished to present. 

The first petition came from the headman of a village 
adjoining Boksar. It appeared that this village and Boksar had 



66 



a joint irrigation channel tliat served botli villages, and that 
ran through Boksar. Owing to the partial failure of the 
monsoon rains, the water in the channel had not been 
sufficient for both villages and Boksar village had used it all, 
with the result that the paddy crop of the lower village had 
been ruined. The headman of Boksar admitted that no water 
had been allowed to go down the channel to the lower 
village and justified his action by pointing out that, if the 
water had been shared, the paddy crops of both villages 
would have been ruined. The crop had been harvested and 
threshed a few days before our arrival, and after Anderson 
had heard what the two headmen had to say, he ordered 
that the paddy should be divided up according to the acreage 
of the two villages. The people of Boksar acknowledged the 
justice of this decision, but claimed they were entitled to 
payment of the labour that had been employed in harvesting 
and threshing the crop. To this claim the lower village 
objected on the ground that no request had been made to 
them for help while the Boksar crop was being harvested and 
threshed. Anderson upheld the objection, and while the two 
headmen went off to divide the paddy the next petition was 
presented to him. 

This was from Chadi, accusing Kalu of having abducted 
his wife Tilni. Chadi's complaint was that three weeks 
previously Kalu had made advances to Tilni; that in spite of 
his protests Kalu had persisted in his advances; and that 
ultimately Tilni had left his hut and taken up residence with 
Kalu. When Anderson asked if Kalu was present, a man sitting 
at the edge of the semicircle in front of us stood up and said 
he was Kalu. 



67 



While the case of the paddy had been under discussion 
the assembled women and girls had shown little interest, for 
that was a matter to be decided by their menfolk. But this 
abduction case, judging from the expression on their faces 
and the sharp intakes of breath, was one in which they were 
all intensely interested. 

When Anderson asked Kalu if he admitted the charge that 
Chadi had brought against him, he admitted that Tilni was 
living in the hut he had provided for her but he stoutly 
denied that he had abducted her. When asked if he was 
prepared to return Tilni to her lawful husband, Kalu replied 
that Tilni had come to him of her own free will and that he 
was not prepared to force her to return to Chadi. 'Is Tilni 
present?' asked Anderson. A girl from among the group of 
women came forward and said, '1 am Tilni. What does 
Your Honour want with me?' 

Tilni was a clean-limbed attractive young girl, some eighteen 
years of age. Her hair, done in a foot-high cone in the 
traditional manner of the women of the Terai, was draped 
with a white-bordered black sari, her upper person was 
encased in a tight-fitting red bodice, and a voluminous gaily 
coloured skirt completed her costume. When asked by 
Anderson why she had left her husband, she pointed to Chadi 
and said, 'Look at him. Not only is he dirty, as you can see, 
but he is also a miser; and during the two years I have been 
married to him he has not given me any clothes, nor has he 
given me any jewellery. These clothes that you are looking at 
and this jewellery', she said, touching some silver bangles on 
her wrists, and several strings of glass beads round her neck,' 
were given to me by Kalu.' Asked if she was willing to go back 



68 



to Chadi, Tilni tossed her head and said nothing would induce 
her to do so. 

This aboriginal tribe, living in the unhealthy Terai, is 
renowned for two sterling qualities— cleanliness, and the 
independence of the women. In no other part of India are 
villages and the individual dwellings as spotlessly clean as 
they are in the Terai, and in no other part of India would a 
young girl have dared 

or in fact been permitted, to stand before a mixed gathering 
including two white men to plead her own cause. Chadi was 
now asked by Anderson if he had any suggestions to make, to 
which he replied: 'You are my mother and my father. I came 
to you for justice, and if Your Honour is not prepared to 
compel my wife to return to me, I claim compensation for 
her.' 'To what extent do you claim compensation for her?' 
asked Anderson, to which Chadi replied, 'I claim one hundred 
and fifty rupees'. From all sides of the semicircle there were 
now exclamations of 'He claims too much', 'far too much', 
and 'She is not worth it'. On being asked by Anderson if he 
was willing to pay one hundred and fifty rupees for Tilni, Kalu 
said the price demanded was excessive and added that he 
knew, as everyone in Boksar knew, that Chadi had only paid a 
hundred rupees for Tilni. This price, he argued, had been paid 
for Tilni when she was 'new', and as this was no longer the 
case the most he was willing to pay was fifty rupees. 
The assembled people now took sides; some maintaining 
that the sum demanded was too great, while others as 
vigorously maintained that the sum offered was too small. 
Eventually, after giving due consideration to the arguments 
for and against— arguments that went into very minute and 



69 



very personal details, and to which Tilni listened with an 
amused smile on her pretty face— Anderson fixed the price 
of Tilni at seventy-five rupees, and this sum Kalu was ordered 
to pay Chadi. Opening his waistband, Kalu produced a string 
purse, and emptied it on the carpet at Anderson's feet. The 
contents amounted to fifty-two silver rupees. When two of 
Kalu's friends had come to his assistance and added another 
twenty-three rupees, Chadi was told to count the money. 
When he had done so and stated that the sum was correct, a 
woman whom 1 had noticed coming very slowly and 
apparently very painfully from the direction of the village 
after all the others were seated and who had sat down a little 
apart from the rest, got with some difficulty to her feet and 
said, 'What about me. Your Honour?' 'Who are you?' asked 
Anderson. 'I am Kalu's wife', she replied. 

She was a tall gaunt woman, every drop of blood drained 

from her ivory-white face, her body-line distorted with an 

enormous spleen, and her feet swollen— the result of 

malaria, the scourge of the Terai. 

In a tired, toneless voice the woman said that now that Kalu 
had purchased another wife she would be homeless; and as 
she had no relatives in the village, and was too ill to work, 
she would die of neglect and starvation. Then she covered 
her face with her sari and began to cry silently, great sobs 
shaking her wasted frame and tears splashing down on her 
distorted body. 



70 



Here was an unexpected and an unfortunate complication, 

and one that was for Anderson difficult of solution, for while 

the case had been under discussion there had been no hint 

that Kalu already had a wife. 

The uncomfortable silence following on the woman's pitiful 
outburst had lasted some time when Tilni, who had remained 
standing, ran across to the poor weeping woman, and 
flinging her strong young arms round her said, 'Don't cry, 
sister, don't cry; and don't say you are homeless, for I will 
share the new hut Kalu has built for me with you, and I will 
take care of you and nurse you and one half of all that Kalu 
gives me I will give you. So don't cry any more, sister, and 
now come with me and I will take you to our hut.' 
As Tilni and the sick woman moved off, Anderson stood up 
and, blowing his nose violently, said the wind coming down 
from the hills had given him a damned cold, and that the 
proceedings were closed for the day. The wind coming down 
from the hills appeared to have affected others in the same 
way as it had affected Anderson, for his was not the only 
nose that was in urgent need of blowing. But the proceedings 
were not quite over, for Chadi now approached Anderson 
and asked for the return of his petition. Having torn his 
petition into small bits, Chadi took the piece of cloth in which 
he had tied up the seventy-five rupees from his pocket, 
opened it and said: 'Kalu and I be men of the same village, 
and as he has now two mouths to feed, one of which 
requires special food, he will need all his money. So permit 
me. Your Honour, to return this money to him.' 



71 



While touring his domain, Anderson and his predecessors in 
pre-red-tape days settled to the mutual satisfaction of all 
concerned hundreds, nay thousands, of cases similar to 
these, without the contestants being put to one pice of 
expense. Now, since the introduction of red tape, these cases 
are taken to courts of law where both the complainant and 
the defendant are bled white, and where seeds of dissension 
are sown that inevitably lead to more and more court cases, 
to the enrichment of the legal profession and the ruin of the 
poor, simple, honest, hardworking peasantry. 



The Law of the J angles 



HARK WAR and Kunthi were married before their total ages 
had reached double figures. This was quite normal in the 
India of those days, and would possibly still have been so had 
M ahatma Gandhi and M iss M ayo never lived. 
Harkwar and Kunthi lived in villages a few miles apart at the 
foot of the great Dunagiri Mountain, and had never seen 
each other until the great day when, dressed in bright new 
clothes, they had for all too short a time been the centre of 
attraction of a vast crowd of relatives and friends. That day 
lived long in their memories as the wonderful occasion when 
they had been able to fill their small bellies to bursting- 
point with halwa and purls. The day also lived for long years 
in the memory of their respective fathers, for on it the village 
bania, who was their 'father and mother', realizing their great 



72 



necessity had provided the few rupees that had enabled 
them to retain the respect of their community by marrying 
their children at the age that which children should be 
married, and on the propitious date selected by the priest of 
the village— and had made a fresh entry against their names 
in his register. 

True, the fifty per cent, interest demanded for the 
accommodation was excessive, but, God willing, a part of it 
would be paid, for there were other children yet to be 
married, and who but the good bania was there to help 
them? Kunthi returned to her father's home after her 
wedding and for the next few years performed all the duties 
that children are called upon to perform in the homes of the 
very poor. The only difference her married state made in her 
life was that she was no longer permitted to wear the one- 
piece dress that unmarried girls wear. Her new costume now 
consisted of three pieces, a chaddar a yard and a half long, 
one end of which was tucked into her skirt and the other 
draped over her head, a tiny sleeveless bodice, and a skirt a 
few inches long. 

Several uneventful and care free years went by for Kunthi 
until the day came when she was judged old enough to join 
her husband. Once again the bania came to the rescue and, 
arrayed in her new clothes, a very tearful girl-bride set out 
for the home of her boy-husband. The change from one 
home to another only meant for Kunthi the performing of 
chores for her mother-in-law which she had previously 
performed for her mother. There are no drones in a poor 
man's household in India; young and old have their allotted 
work to do and they do it cheerfully. Kunthi was now old 



73 



enough to help with the cooking, and as soon as the morning 
meal had been eaten all who were capable of working for 
wages set out to perform their respective tasks, which, no 
matter how minor they were, brought grist to the family mill. 
Harkwar's father was a mason and was engaged on building a 
chapel at the American M ission School. I 
was Harkwar's ambition to follow in his father's profession 
and, until he had the strength to do so, he helped the family 
exchequer by carrying the materials used by his father and 
the other masons, earning two annas a day for his ten hours' 
labour. 

The crops on the low irrigated lands were ripening, and after 
Kunthi had washed and polished the metal pots and pans 
used for the morning meal she accompanied her mother-in- 
law and her numerous sisters-in-law to the fields of the 
headman of the village, where with other women and girls 
she laboured as many hours as her husband for half the wage 
he received. When the day's work was done the family 
walked back in the twilight to the hut Harkwar's father had 
been permitted to build on the headman's land, and with the 
dry sticks the younger children had collected during their 
elders' absence, the evening meal was cooked and eaten. 
Except for the fire, there had never been any other form of 
illumination in the hut, and when the pots and pans had 
been cleaned and put away, each member of the family 
retired to his or her allotted place, Harkwar and his brothers 
sleeping with their father and Kunthi sleeping with the other 
female members of the family. 

When Harkwar was eighteen and Kunthi sixteen, they left 
and, carrying their few possessions, set up home in a hut 



74 



placed at their disposal by an uncle of Harkwar's in a village 
three miles from the cantonment of Ranikhet. A number of 
barracks were under construction in the cantonment and 
Harkwar had no difficulty in finding work as a mason; nor had 
Kunthi any difficulty in finding work as a labourer, carrying 
stones from a quarry to the site of the building. 
For four years the young couple worked on the barracks at 
Ranikhet, and during this period Kunthi had two children. In 
November of the fourth year the buildings were completed 
and Harkwar and Kunthi had to find new work, for their 
savings were small and would only keep them in food for a 
few days. 

Winter set in early that year and promised to be unusually 
severe. The family had no warm clothes, and after a week's 
unsuccessful search for work Harkwar suggested that they 
should migrate to the foothills where he heard a canal 
headworks was being constructed. 

So, early in December, the family set out in high spirits on 
their long walk to the foothills. The distance between the 
village in which they had made their home for four years and 
the canal headworks at Kaladhungi, where they hoped to 
procure work, was roughly fifty miles. 
Sleeping under trees at night, toiling up and down steep and 
rough roads during the day, and carrying all their worldly 
possessions and the children by turns, Harkwar and Kunthi, 
tired and footsore, accomplished the journey to Kaladhungi 
in six days. 

Other landless members of the depressed class had migrated 
earlier in the winter from the high hills to the foothills and 
built themselves communal huts capable of housing as many 



75 



as thirty families. In these huts Harl<war and Kunthi were 
unable to find accommodation, so they had to build a hut for 
themselves. They chose a site at the edge of the forest where 
there was an abundant supply of fuel, within easy reach of 
the bazaar, and laboured early and late on a small hut of 
branches and leaves, for their supply of hard cash had 
dwindled to a few rupees and there was no friendly bania 
here to whom they could turn for help. 
The forest at the edge of which Harkwar and Kunthi built 
their hut was a favourite hunting-ground of mine. I had first 
entered it carrying my old muzzle-loader to shoot red jungle 
fowl and pea fowl for the family larder, and later I had 
penetrated to every corner, armed with a modern rifle, in 
search of big game. At the time Harkwar and Kunthi and their 
two children, Punwa, a boy aged three, and Putali, a girl aged 
two, took up their residence in the hut, there were in that 
forest, to my certain knowledge, 

five tigers; eight leopards; a family of four sloth bears; two 
Himalayan black bears, which had come down from the high 
hills to feed on wild plums and honey; a number of hyenas 
who had their burrows in the grasslands five miles away and 
who visited the forest nightly to feed on the discarded 
portions of the tigers' and leopards' kills; a pair of wild dogs; 
numerous jackals and foxes and pine martens; and a variety 
of civet and other cats. 

There were also two pythons, many kinds of snakes, crested 
and tawny eagles, and hundreds of vultures in the forest. I 
have not mentioned animals such as deer, antelope, pigs, 
and monkeys, which are harmless to human beings, for they 
have no part in my story. 



76 



The day after the flimsy hut was completed, Harkwar found 
work as a qualified mason on a daily wage of 
eight annas with the contractor who was building the canal 
headworks, and Kunthi purchased for two rupees a permit 
from the Forest Department which entitled her to cut grass 
on the foothills, which she sold as fodder for the cattle of the 
shopkeepers in the bazaar. For her bundle of green grass 
weighing anything up to eighty pounds and which 
necessitated a walk of from ten to fourteen miles, mostly up 
and down steep hills, Kunthi received four annas, one anna 
of which was taken by the man who held the Government 
contract for sale of grass in the bazaar. On the eight annas 
earned by Harkwar, plus the three annas earned by Kunthi, 
the family of four lived in comparative comfort, for food was 
plentiful and cheap and for the first time in their lives they 
were able to afford one meat meal a month. 

Two of the three months that Harkwar and Kunthi intended 

spending in Kaladhungi passed very peacefully. The hours of 

work were long, and admitted of no relaxation, but to that 

they had been accustomed from childhood. The weather was 

perfect, the children kept in good health, and except during 

the first few days while the hut was being built they had 

never gone hungry. 

The children had in the beginning been an anxiety, for they 
were too young to accompany Harkwar to the canal head 
works, or Kunthi on her long journeys in search of grass. Then 



77 



a kindly old crippled woman living in the communal hut a few 
hundred yards away came to the rescue by offering to keep a 
general eye on the children while the parents were away at 
work. This arrangement worked satisfactorily for two 
months, and each evening when Harkwar returned from the 
canal headworks four miles away, and Kunthi returned a little 
later after selling her grass in the bazaar, they found Punwa 
and Putali eagerly awaiting their return. 
Friday was fair day in Kaladhungi and on that day everyone in 
the surrounding villages made it a point to visit the bazaar, 
where open booths were erected for the display of cheap 
food, fruit, and vegetables. On these fair days Harkwar and 
Kunthi returned from work half an hour before their usual 
time, for if any vegetables had been left over it was possible 
to buy them at a reduced price before the booths closed 
down for the night. 

One particular Friday, when Harkwar and Kunthi returned to 
the hut after making their modest purchases of vegetables 
and a pound of goat's meat, Punwa and Putali were not at 
the hut to welcome them. On making inquiries from the 
crippled woman at the communal hut, they learned that she 
had not seen the children since midday. The woman 
suggested that they had probably gone to the bazaar to see a 
merry- go-round that had attracted all the children from the 
communal hut, and as this seemed a reasonable explanation 
Harkwar set off to search the bazaar while Kunthi returned to 
the hut to prepare the evening meal. An hour later Harkwar 
returned with several men who had assisted him in his search 
to report that no trace of the children could be found, and 



78 



that of all the people he had questioned, none admitted 
having seen them. 

At that time a rumour was running through the length and 
breadth of India of the kidnapping of Hindu children by fakirs, 
for sale on the north-west frontier for immoral purposes. 
What truth there was in this rumour I am unable to say, but I 
had frequently read in the daily press of fakirs being man 
handled, and on several occasions being rescued by the 
police from crowds intent on lynching them. It is safe to say 
that every parent in India had heard these rumours, and 
when Harkwar and the friends who had helped him in his 
search returned to the hut, they communicated their fears to 
Kunthi that the children had been kidnapped by fakirs, who 
had probably come to the fair for that purpose. 
At the lower end of the village there was a police station in 
charge of a head constable and two constables. To this police 
station Harkwar and Kunthi repaired, with a growing crowd 
of well-wishers. The head constable was a kindly old man 
who had children of his own, and after lie had listened 
sympathetically to the distracted parents' story, and 
recorded their statements in his diary, he said -that 
nothing could be done that night, but that next morning he 
would send the town crier round to all the fifteen villages in 
Kaladhungi to announce the loss of the children. He then 
suggested that if the town crier could announce a reward of 
fifty rupees, it would greatly assist in the safe return of the 
children. Fifty rupees! Harkwar and Kunthi were aghast at the 
suggestion, for they did not know there was so much money 
in all the world. However when the town crier set out on his 
round the following morning, he was able to announce the 



79 



reward, for a man in Kaladhungi who had heard of the head 
constable's suggestion had offered the money. 
The evening meal was eaten late that night. The childrens' 
portion was laid aside, and through out the night a small fire 
was kept burning, for it was bitterly cold, and at short 
intervals Harkwar and Kunthi went out into the night to call 
to their children, though they knew there was no hope of 
receiving an answer. 

At Kaladhungi two roads cross each other at right angles, one 
running along the foot of the hills from Haldwani to 
Ramnagar, and the other running from Naini Tal to Bazpur. 
During that Friday night, sitting close to the small fire to keep 
themselves warm, Harkwar and Kunthi decided that if the 
children did not turn up by morning, they would go along the 
former road and make inquiries, as this was the most likely 
route for the kidnappers to have taken. 
At day break on Saturday morning they went to the police 
station to tell the head constable of their decision, and were 
instructed to lodge a report at the Haldwani and Ramnagar 
police stations. They were greatly heartened when the head 
constable told them that he was sending a letter by mail 
runner to no less a person than the Inspector of Police at 
Haldwani, requesting him to telegraph to all railwayjunctions 
to keep a look-out for the children, a description of whom he 
was sending with his letter. 

Near sunset that evening Kunthi returned from her twenty- 
eight-mile walk to Haldwani and went straight to the police 
station to inquire about her children and to tell the head 
constable that, though her quest had been fruitless, she had 



80 



lodged a report as instructed at the Haldwani police station. 
Shortly afterwards Harkwar returned from his thirty-six-mile 
walk to Ramnagar, and he too went straight to the police 
station to make inquiries and to report that he had found no 
trace of the children, but had carried out the head 
constable's instructions. M any friends, including a number of 
mothers who feared for the safety of their own children, 
were waiting at the hut to express their sympathy for 
Harkwar and for Punwa's mother— for, as is the custom in 
India, Kunthi when she married lost the name she had been 
given at birth, and until Punwa was born had been addressed 
and referred to as 'Harkwar's wife', and after Punwa's birth 
as 'Punwa's mother. 

Sunday was a repetition of Saturday, with the difference that 
instead of going east and west, Kunthi went north to Naini 
Tal while Harkwar went south to Bazpur. The former covered 
thirty miles, and the latter thirty-two. Starting early and 
returning at nightfall, the distracted parents traversed many 
miles of rough roads through dense forests, where people do 
not usually go except in large parties, and where Harkwar 
and Kunthi would not have dreamed of going alone had not 
anxiety for their children overcome their fear of dacoits and 
of wild animals. 

On that Sunday evening, weary and hungry, they returned to 
their hut from their fruitless visit to Naini Tal and to Bazpur, 
to be met by the news that the town crier's visit to the 
villages and the police inquiries had failed to find any trace of 
the children. Then they lost heart and gave up all hope of 
ever seeing Punwa and Putali again. The anger of the gods. 



81 



that had resulted in a fakir being able to steal their children 
in broad daylight, was not to be explained. 
Before starting on their long walk from the hills-they had 
consulted the village priest, and he had selected the 
propitious day for them to set out on their journey. At every 
shrine they had passed they had made the requisite offering; 
at one place, a dry bit of wood, in another a small strip of 
cloth torn from the hem of Kunthi's chaddar, and in yet 
another a pice, which they could ill afford. And here, at 
Kaladhungi, every time they passed the temple that their low 
caste did not permit them to enter; they had never failed to 
raise their clasped hands in supplication. Why then had this 
great misfortune befallen them, who had done all that the 
gods demanded of them and who had never wronged any 
man? 

Monday found the pair too dispirited and too tired to leave 
their hut. There was no food, and would be none until they 
resumed work. But of what use was it to work now, when the 
children for whom they had ungrudgingly laboured from 
morn to night were gone? So, while friends came and went, 
offering what sympathy they could, Hark-war sat at the door 
of the hut staring into a bleak and hopeless future, while 
Kunthi, her tears all gone, sat in a corner, hour after hour, 
rocking herself to and fro, to and fro. 
On that Monday a man of my acquaintance was herding 
buffaloes in the jungle in which lived the wild 
animals and birds 1 have mentioned. He was a simple soul 
who had spent the greater part of his life in the jungles 
herding the buffaloes of the headman at Patabpur village. He 



82 



knew the danger from tigers, and near sundown he collected 
the buffaloes and started to drive them to the village, along a 
cattle track that ran through the densest part of the jungle. 
Presently he noticed that as each buffalo got to a certain spot 
in the track it turned its head to the right and stopped, until 
urged on by the horns of the animal following. When he got 
to this spot he also turned his head to the right, and in a little 
depression a few feet from the track saw two small children 
lying. 

M an had been in the jungle with his buffaloes when the town 

crier had made his round of the villages on Saturday, but that 

night, and the following night also, the kidnapping of 

Harkwar's children had been the topic of conversation round 

the village fire, as in fact it had been round every village fire 

in the whole of Kaladhungi. Here then were the missing 

children for whom a reward of fifty rupees had been offered. 

But why had they been murdered and brought to this remote 

spot? The children were naked, and were clasped in each 

other's arms. The herdsman defended into the depression 

and squatted down on his hunkers to determine, if he could, 

how the children had met their death. That the children were 

dead he was convinced, yet now as he sat closely scrutinizing 



83 



them he suddenly saw that they were breathing; that in fact 

they were not dead, but sound asleep. He was a father 

himself, and very gently he touched the children and roused 

them. To touch them was a crime against his caste, for he 

was a Brahmin and they were low-caste children, but what 

mattered caste in an emergency like this? So, leaving his 

buffaloes to find their own way home, he picked up the 

children, who were too weak to walk, and set out for the 

Kaladhungi bazaar with one on each shoulder. The man was 

not too strong himself, for like all who live in the foothills he 

had suffered much from malaria. 

The children were an awkward load and had to be held in 
position. M oreover, as all the cattle tracks and game paths in 
this jungle run from north to south, and his way lay from east 
to west, he had to make frequent detours to avoid 
impenetrable thickets and deep ravines. But he carried on 
manfully, resting every now and then in the course of his six- 
mile walk. Putali was beyond speech, but Punwa was able to 
talk a little and all the explanation he could give for their 
being in the jungle was that they had been playing and had 
got lost. 

Harkwar was sitting at the door of his hut staring into the 
darkening night, in which points of light were beginning to 



84 



appear as a lantern or cooking-fire was lit here and there, 
when he saw a small crowd of people appearing from the 
direction of the bazaar. At the head of the procession a man 
was walking, carrying something on his shoulders. From all 
sides people were converging on the procession and he 
could hear an excited murmur of 'Harkwar's children'. 
Harkwar's children. He could not believe his ears, 
and yet there appeared to be no mistake, for the procession 
was coming straight towards his hut. 
Kunthi, having reached the limit of her misery and of her 
physical endurance, had fallen asleep curled up in a corner of 
the hut. Harkwar shook her awake and got her to the door 
just as the herdsman carrying Punwa and Putali reached it. 
When the tearful greetings, and blessings and thanks for the 
rescuer, and the congratulations of friends had partly 
subsided, the question of the reward the herdsman had 
earned was mooted. To a poor man fifty rupees was wealth, 
untold, and with it the herdsman could buy three buffaloes 
or ten cows, and be independent for life. But the rescuer was 
a better man than the crowd gave him credit for. The 
blessings and thanks that had been showered on his head 
that night, he said, was reward enough for him, and he 
stoutly refused to touch one pice of the fifty rupees. Nor 
would Harkwar or Kunthi accept the reward either as a gift or 
a loan. They had got back the children they had lost all hope 
of ever seeing again, and would resume work as their 
strength returned. In the meantime the milk and sweets and 
puris that one and another of the assembled people, out of 
the goodness of their hearts, had run to the bazaar to fetch 
would be amply sufficient to sustain them. 



85 



Two-year-old Putali and three-year-old Punwa were lost at 
midday on Friday, and were found by the 
herdsman at about 5 p.m. on IMonday, a matter of seventy- 
seven hours. I have given a description of the wild life which 
to my knowledge was in the forest in which the children 
spent those seventy-seven hours, and it would be 
unreasonable to assume that none of the animals or birds 
saw, heard, or smelt the children. And yet, when the 
herdsman put Putali and Punwa into their parents' arms, 
there was not a single mark of tooth or claw on them. 
I once saw a tigress stalking a month-old kid. The ground was 
very open and the kid saw the tigress while she was still 
some distance away and started bleating, where on the 
tigress gave up her stalk and walked straight up to it. When 
the tigress had approached to within a few yards, the kid 
went forward to meet her, and on reaching the tigress 
stretched out its neck and put up its head to smell her. For 
the duration of a few heart beats the month-old kid and the 
Queen of the Forest stood nose to nose, and 'then the queen 
turned and walked off in the direction from which she had 
come. 

When Hitler's war was nearing its end, in one week I read 
extracts from speeches of three of the greatest men in the 
British Empire, condemning war atrocities, and accusing the 
enemy of attempting to introduce the 'law of the jungle' into 
the dealings of warring man and man. Had the Creator made 
the same law for man as He has made for the jungle folk, 
there would be no wars, for the strong in man would have 



86 



the same consideration for the weak as is the established law 
of the jungles. 



VI The Brothers 

THE long years of training boys for jungle warfare were over, 
and we were sitting one morning after breakfast on the 
veranda of our cottage at Kaladhungi. My sister Maggie was 
knitting a khaki pullover for me, and 1 was putting the 
finishing touches to a favourite fly-rod that suffered from 
years of disuse, when a man wearing a clean but much- 
patched cotton suit walked up the steps of the veranda with 
a broad grin on his face, salaamed, and asked if we 
remembered him. 

M any people, clean and not so clean, old and young, rich and 
poor (but mostly poor), Hindus, Mohammedans, and 
Christians, walked up those steps, for our cottage was at a 
cross-roads at the foot of the hills and on the border line 
between the cultivated land and the forest. All who were sick 
or sorry, in want of a helping hand, or in need of a little 
human companionship and a cup of tea, whether living on 
the cultivated land or working in the forest or just passing on 
their way from one place to another, found their way to our 
cottage. Had a record been maintained over the years of only 
the sick and injured treated, it would have had thousands of 
names in it. And the cases dealt with would have covered 
every ailment that human flesh is heir to— and subject to. 



87 



when living in an unhealthy area, working in forests on 
dangerous jobs among animals who occasionally lose their 
tempers. 

There was the case of the woman who came one morning 
and complained that her son had great difficulty in eating the 
linseed poultice that had been given to her the previous 
evening to apply on a boil: as the poultice did not appear to 
have done the boy any good, she asked to have the medicine 
changed. And the case of the old M ohammedan woman who 
came late one evening, with tears streaming down her face, 
and begged Maggie to save her husband who was dying of 
pneumonia. She looked a glance at the tablets of M . & B. 693 
and asked if that was all that was to be given to a dying man 
to make him well; but next day she returned with a beaming 
countenance to report that her husband had recovered, and 
begged for the same kind of medicine for the four friends she 
had brought with her, each of whom had husbands as old as 
hers who might at any time get pneumonia. And there was 
the case of the girl about eight years old, who, after some 
difficulty in reaching the latch of the gate, marched up to the 
veranda firmly holding the hand of a boy some two years 
younger, and asked for medicine for the boy's sore eyes. She 
sat herself down on the ground, made the boy lie on his back, 
and having got his head between her knees said, 'Now, M iss 
Sahib, you can do anything you like to him.' This girl was the 
daughter of the headman of a village six miles away. Seeing 
her class mate suffering from sore eyes, she had taken it 



88 



upon herself to bring him to M aggie for treatment, and for a 
whole week, until his eyes were quite well, the young 
Samaritan brought the boy to the cottage, though in order to 
do so she had to walk an additional four miles each day. 
Then there was the case of the sawyer from Delhi, who 
limped into the compound one day with his right leg ripped 
open by the tusk of a pig from his heel to the back of his 
knee. All the time his leg was being attended to he swore at 
the unclean beast that had done this terrible thing to him, for 
he was a follower of the Prophet. His story was that when 
that morning he had approached the tree he had felled the 
previous day, to saw it up, a pig which had been sheltering 
among the branches ran against him and cut his leg. When I 
suggested that it was his own fault for having got in the way 
of the pig, he indignantly exclaimed: 'With the whole jungle 
to run about in, what need was there for it to have run 
against me when I had done nothing, to offend it, and in fact 
before I had even seen it?' 

There was another sawyer too. While turning over a log he 
had been stung on the palm of his hand by a scorpion 'as big 
as this'. After treatment, he rolled on the ground loudly 
lamenting his fate and asserting that the medicine was doing 
him no good, but not long after he was observed to be 
holding his sides and choking with laughter. It was the day of 
the children's annual fete, and when the races had been run 
and the two hundred children and their mothers had been 
fed on sweets and fruit, a circle had been formed. A 
blindfolded boy had been set to break a paper bag containing 
nuts of all kinds, which was slung between two bamboos 
held upright by two men; and it was when the boy brought 



89 



his stick down on tlie liead of one of tliese men tliat tlie 
scorpion patient was found to be laugliing the loudest of all 
the assembly. When asl<ed how the pain now was, the man 
replied that it had gone, and that in any case he would not 
mind how many scorpions stung him provided he could take 
part in a tamasha like this. 

The members of our family have been amateur physicians for 
more years than I can remember, and as Indians, especially 
the poorer ones, have long memories, and never forget a 
kindness no matter how trivial it may have been, not all the 
people who walked up the steps of our cottage at Kaladhungi 
were patients. Many there were who had marched for days 
over rough tracks in all weathers to thank us for small 
kindnesses shown to them, maybe the previous year, or 
maybe many years previously. 

One of these was a sixteen-year-old boy, who with his 
mother had been housed for some days in our village while 
Maggie treated his mother for influenza and badly inflamed 
eyes; now he had done a march of many days to bring 
Maggie his mother's thanks and a present of a few 
pomegranates which his mother had picked for her 'with her 
own hand '. And only that day, an hour before the man 
wearing the patched suit had arrived, an old man had walked 
up the steps and seated himself on the veranda with his back 
to one of the pillars and, after looking at me for some time, 
had shaken his head in a disapproving manner and said, 'You 
are looking much older. Sahib, than you were when I last saw 
you.' 'Yes', I replied, 'all of us are apt to look older after ten 
years.' 'Not all of us. Sahib,' he rejoined, 'for I look and feel 
no older than when I last sat in your veranda not ten, but 



90 



twelve years ago. On that occasion I was returning on foot 
from a pilgrimage to Badrinath, and seeing your gate open, 
and being tired and in urgent need of ten rupees, I asked you 
to let me rest for a while, and appealed to you for help. I am 
now returning from another pilgrimage, this time to the 
sacred city of Benares. I am in no need of money and have 
only come to thank you for the help you gave me before and 
to tell you that I got home safely. After this smoke, and a 
little rest, I shall return to rejoin my family, whom I left at 
Haldwani.' A fourteen-mile walk each way. And in spite of his 
assertion that twelve years had not made him look or feel 
any older, he was a frail old man. 

Though the face of the man in the patched cotton suit who 
now stood before us on the veranda was vaguely familiar, we 
could not remember his name or the circumstances in which 
we had last seen him. Seeing that he was not recognized, the 
man removed his coat, opened his shirt, and exposed his 
chest and right shoulder. That shoulder brought him to 
instant memory. He was Narwa. Narwa the basket-maker, 
and there was some excuse for our not having recognized 
him, for when we had last seen him, six years previously, he 
was mere skin and bone; only with great difficulty had he 
been able to put one foot before another, and he had 
needed a stick to support himself. Looking now at his 
misshapen shoulder, the crushed and broken bones of which 
had calloused without being set, the puckered and 
discoloured skin of his chest and back, and his partially 
withered right arm, we who for three months had watched 
his gallant fight for life marvelled how well he had survived 
his ordeal. Moving his arm up and down, and closing and 



91 



opening his hand, Narwa said that his arm was getting 
stronger every day. His fingers had not got stiff, as we feared 
they would, so he had been able to resume his trade. His 
object now, he said, was to show us that he was quite well 
and to thank M aggie —which he proceeded to do by putting 
his head on her feet— for having supplied all his wants, and 
the wants of his wife and child, during the months he had 
lain between life and death. 

Narwa and Haria were not blood brothers, though they so 
described themselves. They had been born and had grown up 
in the same village near Almora, and when old enough to 
work had adopted the same profession, basket-making— 
which means that they wereuntouchables, for in the United 
Provinces baskets are only made by untouchables. 
During the summer months Narwa and Haria worked at their 
trade in their village near Almora, and in the winter months 
they came down to Kaladhungi where there was a great 
demand for the huge baskets, measuring up to fifteen feet in 
diameter, which they made for our villagers for the storage 
of grain. In their hill village near Almora they made their 
baskets of ringals— thin bamboo an inch thick and up to 
twenty feet long, which grows at an altitude of four to ten 
thousand feet, and which incidentally makes the most 
perfect of fly- rods —and in Kaladhungi they made them of 
bamboos. 

The bamboos in Kaladhungi grow in the Government 
Reserved Forests, and we who cultivate land near the 
Reserved Forests are permitted to cut a certain number each 
year for our personal use. But people who use the bamboos 
for commercial purposes have to take out a licence from the 



92 



forest guard of the area, paying two annas per headload, and 
a small consideration to the forest guard for his trouble in 
filling in the licence. As the licence is a personal one and 
covers an individual headload it is safe to assume that as 
many lengths of two-year-old bamboos— the age when a 
bamboo is best for basket-making— were included in the load 
as a man could carry. 

At daybreak on the morning of 26 December 1939 Narwa and 
Haria set out from their communal hut near the bazaar at 
Kaladhungi to walk eight miles to Naini village, obtain a 
licence from the forest guard, cut two headloads of bamboos 
in the Naini Reserved Forests, and return to Kaladhungi the 
same evening. It was bitterly cold when they started, so the 
two men wrapped coarse cotton sheets round their 
shoulders to keep out the cold. For a mile their way ran along 
the canal bank. Then, after negotiating the series of high 
walls which form the headworks of the canal, they took a 
footpath which runs alternately through patches of dense 
scrub jungle and over long stretches of the boulder-strewn 
bank of the Boar river, stretches where a pair of otters are 
usually to be seen in the early morning, and where, when the 
sun is on the water, mahseer up to three or four pounds can 
be taken on a fly-rod. Two miles up they crossed by a shallow 
ford from the right to the left bank of the river and 
entered a tree and grass jungle, where morning and evening 
are to be seen several small herds of chital and sambhar, and 
an occasional kakar, leopard, or tiger. A mile through this 
jungle, they came to where the hills converge, and where 
some years previously Robin picked up the tracks of the 
Bachelor of Powalgarh. From this point onwards the valley 



93 



opens out and is known to all who graze cattle, or who 
poach or shoot in the area, as Samal Chour. In this valley one 
has to walk warily, for the footpath is used almost as much 
by tigers as it is by human beings. 

At the upper end of the valley the footpath, before going 
steeply up the hill for two miles to Naini village, passes 
through a strip of grass. This strip of eight-foot grass is thirty 
yards wide and extends for about fifty yards on either side of 
the path. In anticipation of the stiff climb up the NaIni hill, 
shortly before reaching the grass Narwa divested himself of 
his cotton sheet, folded it small and placed it on his right 
shoulder. Haria was leading, with Narwa following a few 
steps behind, and he had only gone three or four yards into 
the grass when he heard the angry roar of a tiger, and 
simultaneously a shriek from Narwa. Haria turned and 
dashed back, and on the open ground at the edge of the 
grass he saw Narwa on his back with a tiger lying diagonally 
across him. Narwa's feet were nearest to him, and grasping 
an ankle in each hand he started to pull him away from under 
the tiger. As he did this the tiger stood up, turned towards 
him and started to growl. After dragging Narwa along on his 
back for a short distance Haria got his arms round him and 
set him on his feet. But Narwa was too badly injured and 
shaken to stand or walk, so Haria put his arms round him, 
and alternately dragged and carried him— while the tiger 
continued to growl— through the open ground skirting the 
grass, and so regained the path to NaIni village. 
By superhuman efforts Haria eventually got Narwa to NaIni, 
where it was found that in spite of the folded sheet which he 
had been carrying on his right shoulder, and which Haria had 



94 



retrieved while pulling him away, the tiger had crushed the 
bones of the shoulder, lacerated the flesh, and exposed the 
bones on the right side of the chest and back. All four of the 
tiger's canine teeth had penetrated some eight folds of the 
sheet, and but for this obstruction they would have met in 
Narwa's chest and inflicted a fatal wound. 
The forest guard and the people of Naini were unable to do 
anything for Narwa, so Haria hired a pack pony for two 
rupees, mounted Narwa on it, and set out for Kaladhungi. 
The distance, as 1 have already said, was eight miles, but 
Haria was unwilling to face the tiger a second time so he 
made a wide detour through Musabanga village, adding ten 
miles to Narwa's agonizing journey. There were no saddles at 
Nalni and he had been mounted on a hard pack used for 
carrying grain, and the first nine miles of his ride was over 
incredibly steep and rough ground. 
Maggie was having tea on the veranda of our cottage when 
Narwa, soaked in blood and being held on the pony by Haria, 
arrived at the steps. A glance was enough to show that the 
case was one she could not deal with, so she quickly gave 
Narwa a stiff dose of sal volatile— for he was on the point of 
fainting— and made a sling for his arm. Then she tore up a 
bed sheet to be used for bandages and wrote a note to the 
Assistant Surgeon in charge of the Kaladhungi hospital, 
begging him to attend to Narwa immediately, and do all he 
could for him. She gave the note to our head boy and sent 
him to the hospital with the two men. 
1 was out bird shooting that day with a party of friends who 
were spending their Christmas holiday at Kaladhungi, and 
when 1 returned in the late evening Maggie told me about 



95 



Narwa. Early next morning I was at the hospital, where I was 
informed by a very young and very inexperienced doctor that 
he had done all he could for Narwa, but as he had little hope 
of his recovery, and no arrangements for in-patients, he had 
sent Narwa home after treating him. 
In the large communal hut, which housed about twenty 
families, each of which appeared to have a record number of 
small children, I found Narwa lying in a corner on a bed of 
straw and leaves. It was the last place for a man in his terrible 
condition to be in, for his wounds were showing signs of 
getting septic. For a week Narwa lay in the corner of the 
noisy and insanitary hut, at times raving in high fever, at 
times in a state of coma, watched over by his weeping wife, 
and his devoted 'brother' Haria, and by other friends. 
It was now apparent, even to my inexperienced eyes, that if 
Narwa's septic wounds were not opened up, drained, and 
cleaned, there was a certainty of the doctor's predictions 
being fulfilled, so, after making arrangements for his care 
while under treatment, I removed him to the hospital. To 
give the young doctor credit, when he undertook to do job 
he did it thoroughly, and many of the long scars on his chest 
and back that Narwa will carry to the burning-ghat were 
made not by the tiger but by the doctor's lancet, which he 
used very freely. 

With the exception of professional beggars, the poor in India 
can only eat when they work, and as Narwa's wife's days 
were fully occupied in visiting him at the hospital, and later in 
nursing him when he returned to the communal hut, and in 
caring for her three-year-old girl and her young baby, M aggie 
supplied all Narwa's wants, and the wants of his family (Small 



96 



hospitals in India do not provide either attendants or food for 
patients.). Three months later, reduced to skin and bone and 
with a right arm that looked as though it could never be used 
again, Narwa crawled from the hut to our cottage to bid us 
goodbye and the next day he and Haria and their families set 
out for their village near Almora. 

After visiting Narwa in the communal hut that first morning, 
and getting a firsthand account of the incident from Haria, I 
was convinced that the tiger's encounter with Narwa was 
accidental. However, to satisfy myself that my reconstruction 
of the event was right— and to shoot the tiger if I was 
wrong— I followed, foot by foot, the track the brothers had 
taken the previous day when on their way to Naini 
village. For a few yards the track runs along the edge of the 
strip of high grass at the foot of the NaIni hill, before turning 
at right angles to cross the grass. Shortly before the two men 
arrived at this spot, the tiger had killed a sambhar stag and 
carried it into the grass close to the right-hand side of the 
track. When Haria entered the grass the tiger heard the 
rustling, and coming out, ran into Narwa, who was a few 
yards behind Haria and a yard or two from the turning. The 
encounter was accidental, for the grass was too thick and too 
high for the tiger to have seen Narwa before he bumped into 
him. Furthermore it had made no attempt to savage Narwa, 
and had even allowed Haria to drag the man on whom it was 
lying away from under it. So the tiger was allowed to live, and 
was later induced to join the party of tigers that are 
mentioned in the chapter 'Just Tigers' in Man-eaters of 
Kumaon. 



97 



Of all the brave deeds that I have witnessed, or that I have 
read or heard about, I count Maria's rescue of Narwa the 
greatest. Unarmed and alone in a great expanse of jungle, to 
respond to the cry of a companion in distress and to pull that 
companion away from an angry tiger that was lying on him, 
and then to drag and carry that companion for two miles up 
a steep hill to a place of safety, not knowing but that the 
tiger was following, needed a degree of courage that is given 
to few, and that any man could envy. When I took down 
Maria's statement— which was later corroborated in every 
detail by Narwa— with the object, unknown to him, of his act 
receiving recognition, so far from thinking that he had done 
anything deserving of commendation, after I had finished 
questioning him he said: 'I have not done anything. Sahib, 
have I, that is likely to bring trouble on me or on my brother 
Narwa?' 

And Narwa, a few days later, when I took down what I feared 
would be his dying declaration, said in avoice racked with 
pain and little above a whisper, 'Don't let my brother get into 
any trouble. Sahib, for it was not his fault that the tiger 
attacked me, and he risked his life to save mine'. 
I should have liked to have been able to end my story by 
telling you that Maria's brave act, and Narwa'sheroic fight for 
life against great odds, had been acknowledged by a 
certificate of merit, or some other small token of award, for 
both were poor men. Unfortunately red tape proved too 
much for me, for the Government was not willing to make 
any award in a case of which the truth could not be sworn to 
by independent and unbiased witnesses. 



98 



So one of the bravest deeds ever performed has gone 
unrecognized because there were no 'independent and 
unbiased witnesses'; and of the brothers Haria is the poorer 
of the two, for he has nothing to show for the part he played, 
while Narwa has his scars and the sheet with many holes, 
stained with his blood. 

For many days I toyed with the idea of appealing to His 
Majesty the King, but with a world war starting and all it 
implied I very reluctantly abandoned the idea. 

VII Sultana: India's Robin Hood 

IN a country as vast as India, with its great areas of forest 
land and bad communications, and with its teeming 
population chronically on the verge of starvation, it is easy to 
understand the temptations to embark on a life of crime, and 
the difficulty the Government have in rounding up criminals. 
In addition to the ordinary criminals to be found in all 
countries, there are in India whole tribes classed as criminals 
who are segregated in settlements set apart for them by the 
Government and subjected to a greater or lesser degree of 
restraint according to the crimes they specialize in. 
While I was engaged on welfare work during a part of the last 
war, I frequently visited one of these criminal settlements. 
The inmates were not kept under close restraint, and I had 
many interesting talks with them and with the Government 
representative in charge of the settlement. In an effort to 
wean this tribe from a life of crime the Government had 
given them, free of rent, a large tract of alluvial land on the 



99 



left bank of the Jumna river in tlie Meerut District. Tliis ricli 
land produced bumper crops of sugarcane, wheat, barley, 
rape seed, and other cereals, but crime persisted. The 
Government representative blamed the girls, who, he said, 
refused to marry any but successful criminals. The tribe 
specialized in robbery, and there were old men in the 
settlement who trained the younger generation on a profit- 
sharing basis. 

Men were allowed to leave the settlement on ticket of leave 
for stated periods, but women were not permitted to leave. 
The elders of the tribe strictly enforced three rules: first, that 
all robberies were to be carried out single-handed ; second, 
that the scene of the crime was to be as distant from the 
settlement as possible; and third, that violence while 
committing the crime was not to be resorted to in any 
circumstances. 

The method invariably adopted by a young man, after he had 
completed his training, was to secure employment as a 
house servant with a rich man in Calcutta, Bombay, or some 
other distant city, and when opportunity offered to rob his 
master of articles which could be easily secreted, such as 
gold, jewellery, or precious stones. On one occasion while I 
was paying a number of young men who had been driving 
black partridge out of a sugarcane field for me, the 
Government representative informed me that the young 
man into whose hands I had just dropped his wage of eight 
annas, plus two annas for a runner he had retrieved, had 
returned to the settlement a few days previously, after an 
absence of a year, with a diamond worth thirty thousand 
rupees. 



100 



After valuation by the experts of the tribe the diamond had 
been hidden, and the most sought-after girl in the settlement 
had promised to marry the successful criminal during the 
next marriage season. Another of the men standing near by, 
who had not taken part in the partridge drive, had conceived 
the novel plan of impressing the girl of his choice by driving 
up to the settlement, along a most appalling cart-track, in a 
new motor-car he had stolen in Calcutta. In order to carry out 
his plan he had first had to pay for driving lessons. 
Some members of criminal tribes who are not subjected to 
strict control find employment as night 
Watch men in private houses, and I know of instances where 
it was a sufficient guarantee against theft for the watchman 
to place a pair of his shoes on the door step of the house in 
which he was employed. This may savour of blackmail, but it 
was cheap blackmail, for the wages paid varied from three to 
five rupees a month, according to the standing of the 
criminal, and the money was easily earned as all the 
watchman had to do was to place his shoes in position at 
night, and remove them again the next morning. 
Owing to their preference for violent crime the Bhantus were 
one of the criminal tribes in the United Provinces that were 
kept under strict restraint, and Sultana, the famous dacoit 
who for three years defied all the Government's efforts to 
capture him, was a member of this tribe. It is about Sultana 
that this story is written. 

When I first knew it, Naya Gaon was one of the most 
nourishing villages in the Terai and Bhabar— the tract of land 
running along the foothills of the Himalayas. Every yard of 
the rich soil, carved out of virgin forest, was under intensive 
cultivation, and the hundred or more tenants were 



101 



prosperous, contented, and happy. Sir Henry Ramsay, the 
King of Kumaon, had brought these hardy people down from 
the Himalayas, and for a generation they retained their 
vigour and flourished exceedingly. 
Malaria at that time was known as 'Bhabar fever', and the 
few doctors, scattered over a wide area, who were 
responsible for the health of the people, had neither the 
ability nor the means to cope with this scourge of the 
foothills. Naya Gaon, situated in the heart of the forest, was 
one of the first villages in the Bhabar to be decimated by the 
disease. Field after field went out of cultivation as the 
tenants died, until only a handful of the sturdy pioneers were 
left, and when these survivors were given land in our village 
Naya Gaon reverted to jungle. 

Only once in later years was an attempt made to recultivate 
the land, the intrepid pioneer on this occasion being a doctor 
from the Punjab; but when first his daughter, then his wife, 
and finally he himself died of malaria, Naya Gaon for the 
second time went back to the jungle. 
On the land which had been cleared with great labour, on 
which bumper crops of sugarcane, wheat, mustard, and rice 
had been grown, luxuriant grass sprang up. Attracted by this 
rich feed, the cattle from our village three miles away 
adopted the deserted fields of Naya Gaon as their regular 
feeding ground. When cattle graze for long periods over 
open ground surrounded by jungle they invariably attract 
carnivora, and I was not surprised to hear one year, on our 
descent from our summer home in Naini Tal to our winter 
home in Kaladhungi, that a leopard had taken up residence in 
the jungles adjoining the grazing-ground and that he was 



102 



taking heavy toll of our cattle. There were no trees on the 
grassland in which I could sit over a kill, so I determined to 
shoot the leopard either in the early morning, when he was 
on his way to lie up in thick cover for the day, or in the 
evening, when he was returning to a kill or intent on making 
a fresh one. For either of these plans to be effective it was 
necessary to discover in what part of the surrounding jungles 
the leopard had made his home, so early one morning Robin 
and I set out to glean this information. 
Naya Gaon— for though the land has been out of cultivation 
for many years it retains its name to this day— is bounded on 
the north by the road known as the Kandi Sarak, and on the 
east by the old Trunk Road which before the advent of 
railways connected the plains of the United Provinces with 
the interior of Kumaon. 

To the south and west, Naya Gaon is bounded by dense 
jungle. Both the Kandi Sarak and the Trunk Road are little 
used in these days and I decided to try them first before 
trying the more difficult ground to the south and west. At the 
junction of the roads, where in the days gone by a police 
guard was posted for the protection of wayfarers against 
dacoits, Robin and I found the tracks of a female leopard. 
This leopard was well known to Robin and me, for she had 
lived for several years in a heavy patch of lantana at the 
lower end of our village. Apart from never molesting our 
cattle, she had kept pigs and monkeys from damaging our 
crops, so we ignored her tracks and carried on along the 
Trunk Road in the direction of Garuppu. There had been no 
traffic on the road since the previous evening, and the tracks 



103 



of animals who had used or crossed it were registered on the 
dusty surface. 

From the rifle in my hands Robin, who was a wise dog and 
my constant companion, knew we were not after birds so he 
paid no attention to the pea fowl that occasionally scurried 
across the road or to the jungle fowl that were scratching up 
the dead leaves at the side of it, but concentrated on the 
tracks of a tigress and her two half-grown cubs that had gone 
down the road an hour ahead of us. In places the wide road 
was overgrown with short dub grass. On this dew-drenched 
grass the cubs had rolled and tumbled, and Robin filled his 
nostrils to his heart's content with the sweet and terrifying 
smell of tiger. The family had kept to the road for a mile and 
had then gone east along a game track. Three miles from the 
junction, and two miles above Garuppu, a well-used game 
track coming from the direction of Naya Gaon crosses the 
road diagonally, and on this track we saw the fresh pug 
marks of a big male leopard. 

We had found what we were looking for. This leopard had 
come from the grazing ground and crossed the road. It was 
capable of killing a full-grown cow and there were not likely 
to be two leopards of this size in the same area. Robin was 
keen on following up the tracks, but the dense scrub 
jungle the leopard was making for— the same jungle in which 
Kunwar Singh and Har Singh had nearly lost their lives some 
years previously— was not suitable for stalking an animal 
with the sight and hearing of a leopard. Moreover, I had a 
better and simpler plan of making contact with the leopard, 
so we turned about and made for home and breakfast. 



104 



After lunch Robin and I, accompanied by IM aggie, retraced 
our steps down the Garuppu road. The leopard had not killed 
any of our cattle the previous day but he might have killed a 
chital or a pig which shared the grazing ground with the 
cattle; and even if he had no kill to return to there was a very 
good chance of his visiting his regular hunting ground. So 
Maggie and I, with Robin lying between us, took up position 
behind a bush on the side of the road, a hundred yards from 
the game track along which the leopard had gone that 
morning. We had been in position about an hour, listening to 
the multitude of bird calls, when a peacock in full plumage 
majestically crossed the road and went down the game path. 
A little later, ten or a dozen chital, in the direction of the 
heavy jungle in which we expected the leopard to be lying 
up, warned the jungle folk of the presence of a leopard. Ten 
minutes thereafter, and a little nearer to us, a single chital 
repeated the warning. The leopard was on the move and 
coming in our direction, and as he was making no attempt to 
conceal himself he was probably on his way to a kill. 
Robin had lain with chin on outstretched paws without 
movement, listening as we were to what the jungle folk had 
to say, and when he saw me draw up my leg and rest the rifle 
on my knee, his body, which was against my left leg, started 
to tremble. The spotted killer, whom he feared more than 
any other beast in the jungle would presently put its head 
out of the bushes and, after looking up and down the road, 
would come towards us. Whether it died in its tracks, or 
roared and tumbled about with a mortal wound, he would 
remain perfectly still and silent, for he was taking part in a 



105 



game with every move of which he was familiar, and which 
was as fascinating as it was terrifying. 
After going a short distance down the game path the peacock 
had climbed into the branches of a plum tree and was busily 
engaged in eating ripe fruit. Suddenly it sprang into the air 
with a harsh scream and alighted on the limb of a dead tree, 
adding its warning to that already given by the chital. A few 
minutes now, five at the most, for the leopard would 
approach the road very cautiously, and then out of the 
corner of my eye I caught sight of a movement far down the 
road. It was a man running, and every now and then, without 
slackening his pace, he looked over his shoulder behind him. 
To see a man on that road at this hour of the evening— the 
sun was near setting— was very unusual, and to see him 
alone was even more unusual. Every stride the man took 
lessened our chances of bagging the leopard. However, that 
could not be helped, for the runner was evidently in great 
distress, and possibly in need of help. 1 recognized him while 
he was still some distance from us; he was a tenant in a 
village adjoining ours who during the winter months was 
engaged as herdsman at a cattle station three miles east of 
Garuppu. 

On catching sight of us the runner started violently, but when 
he recognized me he came towards us and in a very agitated 
voice said, 'Run, Sahib, run for your life! Sultana's men are 
after me.' 

He was winded and in great distress. Taking no notice of my 
invitation to sit down and rest, he turned his leg and said, 
'See what they have done to me! If they catch me they will 
surely kill me and you also, if you do not run.' The leg he 



106 



turned for our inspection was slashed from the bacl< of the 
l<nee to the heel, and dust-clotted blood was flowing from 
the ugly wound. Telling the man that if he would not rest 
there was at least no need for him to run any more, I moved 
out of the bushes to where I could get a clear view down the 
road, while the man limped off in the direction of his village. 
Neither the leopard nor Sultana's men showed up, and when 
there was no longer light for accurate shooting, M aggie and I, 
with a very disgusted Robin at our heels, returned to our 
homeat Kaladhungi. 

Next morning I got the man's story. He was grazing his 
buffaloes between Garuppu and the cattle station when he 
heard a gunshot. The nephew of the headman of his village 
had arrived at the cattle station at dawn that morning with 
the object of poaching a chital, and while he had been sitting 
in the shade of a tree, speculating as to whether the shot had 
been effective or not and, if effective, whether a portion of 
the venison would be left at the cattle station for his evening 
meal, he heard a rustle behind him. Looking round, he saw 
five men standing over him. He was told to get up and take 
the party to where the gun had been fired. 
When he said he had been asleep and had not heard the shot 
he was ordered to lead the way to the cattle station, to 
which they thought the gunman would probably go. The 
party had no firearms, but the man who appeared to be their 
leader had a naked sword in his hand and said he would cut 
the herdsman's head off with it if he attempted to run away 
or shout a warning. 

As they made their way through the jungle the swordsman 
informed the herdsman that they were members of Sultana's 



107 



gang and that Sultana was camped near by. When he heard 
the shot Sultana had ordered them to bring him the gun. 
Therefore if they met with any opposition at the cattle 
station they would burn it down and kill their guide. This 
threat presented my friend with a dilemma. His companions 
at the cattle station were a tough lot, and if they offered 
resistance he would undoubtedly be killed; on the other 
hand, if they did not resist, his crime in leading the dread 
Sultana's men to the station would never be forgotten or 
forgiven. While these unpleasant thoughts were running 
through his head a chital stag pursued by a pack of wild dogs 
came dashing through the jungle and passed within a few 
yards of them. Seeing that his escort had stopped and were 
watching the chase the herdsman dived into the high grass 
on the side of the path and, despite the wound he received 
on his leg as the swordsman tried to cut him down, he had 
managed to shake his pursuers off and gain the Trunk Road, 
where in due course he ran into us while we were waiting for 
the leopard. 

Sultana was a member of the Bhantu criminal tribe. With the 
rights and wrongs of classing a tribe as' criminal' and 
confining it within the four walls of the Najibabad Fort I am 
not concerned. It suffices to say that Sultana, with his young 
wife and infant son and some hundreds of other Bhantus, 
was confined in the fort under the charge of the Salvation 
Army. Chafing at his confinement, he scaled the mud walls of 
the fort one night and escaped, as any young and high- 
spirited man would have done. This escape had been 
effected a year previous to the opening of my story and 
during that year Sultana had collected a hundred kindred 



108 



spirits, all armed with guns, around him. This imposing gang, 
whose declared object was dacoity, led a roving life in the 
jungles of the Terai and Bhabar, their activities extending 
from Gonda in the east to Saharanpur in the west, a distance 
of several hundred miles, with occasional raids into the 
adjoining province of the Punjab. 

There are many fat files in Government offices on the 
activities of Sultana and his gang of dacoits. I have not had 
access to these files, and if my story, which only deals with 
events in which I took part or events which came to my 
personal notice, differs or conflicts in any respects with 
Government reports I can only express my regret. At the 
same time I do not retract one word of my story. 
I first heard of Sultana when he was camping in the Garuppu 
jungles a few miles from our winter home at Kaladhungi. 
Percy Wyndham was at that time Commissioner of Kumaon, 
and as the Terai and Bhabar forests in which Sultana had 
apparently established himself were in Wyndham's charge he 
asked Government for the services of Freddy Young, a keen 
young police officer with a few years' service in the United 
Provinces to his credit. The Government granted Wyndham's 
request, and sanctioned the creation of a Special Dacoity 
Police Force of three hundred picked men. Freddy was put in 
supreme command of this force and given a free hand in the 
selection of his men. He earned a lot of unpopularity by 
building up his force with the best men from adjoining 
districts, for Sultana was a coveted prize and their own 
officers resented having to surrender men who might have 
helped them to acquire the prize. 



109 



While Freddy was mustering his force, Sultana was getting his 
hand in by raiding small townships in the Terai and Bhabar. 
Freddy's first attempt to capture Sultana was made in the 
forests west of Ramnagar. The Forest Department were 
felling a portion of these forests, employing a large labour 
force, and one of the contractors in charge of the labour was 
induced to invite Sultana, who was known to be camping in 
the vicinity, to a dance to be followed by a feast. Sultana and 
his merry men accepted the invitation, but just before the 
festivities began they prevailed on their host to make a slight 
alteration in the programme and have the feast first and the 
dance later. Sultana said his men would enjoy the dance 
more on full stomachs than on empty ones. 
Here it is necessary to interrupt my story to explain for the 
benefit of those who have never been in the East that guests 
at a dance, or a 'nautch' as it is called here, do not take any 
part in the proceedings. The dancing is confined to a troop of 
professional dancing-girls and their male orchestra. 
Funds in plenty were available on both sides and, as money 
goes as far in the East towards buying information as it does 
in the West, one of the first moves of the two contestants in 
the game that was to be played was the organization of 
efficient secret services. Here Sultana had the advantage, for 
whereas Freddy could only reward for services rendered. 
Sultana could not only reward but could also punish for 
information withheld, or for information about his 
movements to the police, and when his method of dealing 
with offenders became known none were willing to court his 
displeasure. 



110 



Having known what it was to be poor, really poor, during his 
long years of confinement in the Najibabad Fort, Sultana had 
a warm corner in his heart for all poor people. It was said of 
him that, throughout his career as a dacoit, he never robbed 
a pice from a poor man, never refused an appeal for charity, 
and paid twice the price asked for all he purchased from 
small shopkeepers. LJttle wonder then that his intelligence 
staff numbered hundreds and that he knew the invitation he 
had received to the dance and feast had been issued at 
Freddy's instigation. 

Meanwhile plans were on foot for the great night. The 
contractor, reputed to be a rich man, extended invitations to 
his friends in Ramnagar and in Kashipur; the best dancing- 
girls and their orchestras were engaged, and large quantities 
of eatables and drink— the latter specially for the benefit of 
the dacoits— were purchased and transported by bullock 
cart to the camp. 

At the appointed time on the night that was to see the 
undoing of Sultana, the contractor's guests assembled and 
the feast began. It is possible that the contractor's friends did 
not show who their fellow guests were, for on these 
occasions the different castes sit in groups by themselves and 
the illumination provided by firelight and a few lanterns was 
of the poorest. Sultana and his men ate and drank wisely and 
well, and when the feast was nearing its end the dacoit 
leader led his host aside, thanked him for his hospitality, and 
said that as he and his men had a long away to go he 
regretted they could not stay for the dance. Before leaving, 
however, he requested— and Sultana's requests were never 



Ill 



disregarded— that the festivities should continue as had been 
arranged. 

The principal instrument of music at a nautch is a drum, and 
the sound of the drums was to be Freddy's signal to leave the 
position he had taken up and deploy his force to surround 
the camp. One section of this force was led by a forest guard, 
and the night being dark the forest guard lost his way. This 
section, which was to have blocked Sultana's line of retreat, 
remained lost for the remainder of the night. As a matter of 
fact the forest guard, who had to live in the forest with 
Sultana and was a wise man, need not have given himself the 
trouble of getting lost, for by his request for a slight 
alteration in the programme Sultana had given himself ample 
time to get clear of the net before the signal was given. So all 
that the attacking force found when they arrived at the 
camp, after a long and a difficult march through dense forest, 
was a troop of frightened girls, their even more frightened 
orchestra, and the mystified friends of the contractor. 
After his escape from the Ramnagar forests Sultana paid a 
visit to the Punjab. Here, with no forests in which to shelter, 
he was out of his element and after a brief stay, which 
yielded a hundred thousand rupees' worth of gold 
ornaments, he returned to the dense jungles of the United 
Provinces. On his way back from the Punjab he had to cross 
the Ganges canal, the bridges over which are spaced at 
intervals of four miles, and as his movements were known, 
the bridges he was likely to cross were heavily guarded. 
Avoiding these. Sultana made for a bridge which his 
intelligence staff informed him was not guarded, and on his 
way passed close to a large village in which a band was 



112 



playing Indian music. On learning from his guides that a rich 
man's son was being married, he ordered them to take him 
to the village. 

The wedding party and some thousand guests were 
assembled on a wide open space in the centre of the village. 
As he entered the glare of the high-powered lamps Sultana's 
appearance caused a stir, but he requested the assembly to 
remain seated and added that if they complied with his 
request they had nothing to fear. He then summoned the 
headman of the village and the father of the bridegroom and 
made it known that, as this was a propitious time for the 
giving and receiving of gifts, he would like the 
headman's recently purchased gun for himself and ten 
thousand rupees in cash for his men. The gun and the money 
were produced in the shortest time possible, and having 
wished the assembly good night Sultana led his men out of 
the village. Not till the following day did he learn that his 
lieutenant, Pailwan, had abducted the bride. Sultana did not 
approve of women being molested by his gang, so Pailwan 
was severely reprimanded and the girl was sent back, with a 
suitable present to compensate her for the 
inconvenience to which she had been put. 
After the incident of the herdsman's slashed leg Sultana 
remained in our vicinity for some time. He moved camp 
frequently and I came upon several old sites while out 
shooting. It was at this time that I had a very exciting 
experience. 

One evening I shot a fine leopard on a fire-track five miles 
from home, and as there was not sufficient time to collect 
carriers to bring it in, I skinned it on the spot and carried the 



113 



skin home; but on arrival I found tliat I liad left my favourite 
hunting-knife behind. 

Early next morning I set out to retrieve the knife and as I 
approached the spot where I had left it I saw the glimmer of 
a fire through a forest glade, some distance from the track. 
Reports of Sultana's presence in this forest had been coming 
in for some days, and on the spur of the moment I decided to 
investigate the fire. Heavy dew on the dead leaves made it 
possible to move without sound, so taking what cover was 
available I stalked the fire, which was burning in a little 
hollow, and found some twenty to twenty-five men sitting 
round it. Stacked upright against a nearby tree, the fire 
glinting on their barrels, were a number of guns. Sultana was 
not present, for, though I had not seen him up to that time, 
he had been described to me as a young man, small and trim, 
who invariably dressed in semi-military khaki uniform. 
This was evidently part of his gang, however, and what was I 
going to do about it? The old head constable and his equally 
elderly force of two constables at Kaladhungi would be of 
little help, and Haldwani, where there was a big 
concentration of police, was fifteen miles away. 
While I was considering my next move, I heard one oi the 
men say it was time to be going. Fearing that if I now tried to 
retreat I should be seen, and trouble might follow, 1 took a 
few rapid steps forward and got between the men and their 
guns. As I did so a ring of surprised faces looked up at me, for 
I was on slightly higher ground. When I asked them what 
they were doing here the men looked at each other, and the 
first to recover from his surprise said, 'Nothing'. In reply to 
further questions I was told that they were charcoal burners 



114 



who had come from Bareilly and had lost their way. I then 
turned and looked towards the tree, and found that what I 
had taken to be gun barrels were stacked axes, the handles 
of which, polished by long and hard use, had reflected the 
firelight. Telling the men that my feet were wet and cold I 
joined their circle, and after we had smoked my cigarettes 
and talked of many things, I directed them to the charcoal- 
burners' camp they were looking for, recovered my knife, 
and returned home. 

In times of sustained excitement imagination is apt to play 
queer tricks. Sitting on the ground near a sambhar killed by a 
tiger 1 have heard the tiger coming and coming, and getting 
no nearer, and when the tension had become unbearable 
have turned round with finger on trigger to find a caterpillar 
biting minute bits out of a crisp leaf near my head. Again, 
when the light was fading and the time had come for the 
tiger to return to his kill, out of the corner of my eye I have 
seen a large animal appear; and as I was gripping my rifle and 
preparing for a shot an ant had crawled out on a dry twig a 
few inches from my face. With my thoughts on Sultana the 
glint of firelight on the polished axe-handles had converted 
them into gun barrels, and I never looked at them again until 
the men had convinced me they were charcoal burners. 
With his efficient organization and better means of transport, 
Freddy was beginning to exert pressure on Sultana, and to 
ease the strain the dacoit leader took his gang, by this time 
considerably reduced by desertion and capture, to Pilibhit on 
the eastern border of the district. Here he remained for a few 
months, raiding as far afield as Gorakhpur and building up his 
store of gold. 



115 



On his return to the forests in our vicinity he learned that a 
very rich dancing-girl from the State of Rampur had recently 
taken up residence with the headman of Lamachour, a village 
seven miles from our home. Anticipating a raid, the headman 
provided himself with a guard of thirty of his tenants. The 
guard was not armed, and when Sultana arrived, before his 
men were able to surround the house the dancing-girl 
slipped through a back door and escaped into the night with 
all her jewellery. The headman and his tenants were rounded 
up in the courtyard, and when they denied all knowledge of 
the girl orders were given to tie them up and beat them to 
refresh their memories. To this order one of the tenants 
raised an objection. He said Sultana could do what he liked to 
him and his fellow tenants, but that he had no right to 
disgrace the headman by having him tied up and beaten. He 
was ordered to keep his mouth shut, but as one of the 
dacoits advanced towards the headman with a length of rope 
this intrepid man pulled a length of bamboo out of a lean-to 
and dashed at the dacoit. He was shot through the chest by 
one of the gang, but fearing the shot would arouse armed 
men in neighbouring villages Sultana beat a hasty retreat, 
taking with him a horse which the headman had recently 
purchased. I heard of the murder of the brave tenant next 
morning and sent one of my men to Lamachour to inquire 
what family the dead man had left, and I sent another man 
with an open letter to all the headmen of the surrounding 
villages to ask if they would join in raising a fund for the 
support of his family. The response to my appeal was as 
generous as I expected it to be, for the poor are always 
generous, but the fund was never raised, for the man who 



116 



had given his life for his master came from Nepal twenty 
years previously, and neither his friends nor the inquiries I 
made in Nepal revealed that he had a wife or children. 
It was after the incident just related that I accepted Freddy's 
invitation to take a hand in rounding up Sultana, and a month 
later I joined him at his headquarters at Hardwar, During his 
eighteen years as Collector of Mirzapur Wyndham had 
employed ten Koles and ten Bhunyas from the tribes living in 
the M irzapur forests to assist him in tiger shooting, and the 
four best of these men, who were old friends of 
mine, were now placed by Wyndham at Freddy's disposal 
and I found them waiting for me at Hardwar. 
Freddy's plan was for my four friends and myself to track 
down Sultana, and when we had done this, to lead his force 
to a convenient place from which to launch his attack. Both 
these operations, for reasons already given, were to be 
carried out at night. But Sultana was restless. Perhaps it was 
just nervousness or he may have had forewarning of Freddy's 
plans; anyway he never stayed for more than a day in anyone 
place, and he moved his force long distances at night. 
The weather was intensely hot and eventually, tired of 
inaction, the four men and I held a council of war the result 
of which was that after dinner that night, when Freddy was 
comfortably seated in a cool part of the veranda where there 
was no possibility of our being overheard, I put the following 
proposal before him. He was to let it be known that 
Wyndham had recalled his men for a tiger shoot, to which I 
had been invited, and was to have tickets to Haldwani 
purchased for us and see us off from the Hardwar station by 
the night train. At the first stop the train made, however, the 



117 



four men, armed with guns provided by Freddy, and I with 
my own rifle were to leave the train. Thereafter we were to 
have a free hand to bring in Sultana, dead or alive, as 
opportunity offered. 

Freddy sat for a long time with his eyes closed after hearing 
my proposal— he weighed 20 stone 4 pounds and was apt to 
doze after dinner— but he was not asleep, for he suddenly 
sat up and in a very decided voice said, 'No. I am responsible 
for your lives, and I won't sanction this mad 'scheme'. 
Arguing with him was of no avail, so the next morning the 
four men and I left for our respective homes.l was wrong to 
have made the proposal and Freddy was right in turning it 
down. The four men and I had no official standing, and had 
trouble resulted from our attempt to capture Sultana our 
action could not have been justified. For the rest, neither 
Sultana's life nor ours was in any danger, for we had agreed 
that if Sultana could not be taken alive he would not be taken 
at all, and we were quite capable of looking after ourselves. 
Three months later, when the monsoon was in full blast, 
Freddy asked Herbert of the Forest Department, Fred 
Anderson, Superintendent of the Terai and Bhabar, and 
myself, to join him at Hardwar, On arrival we learnt that 
Freddy had located Sultana's permanent camp in the heart of 
the Najibabad jungles, and he wanted us to assist him in 
surrounding the camp, and to cut off Sultana's retreat if he 
slipped out of the ring. 

Herbert, a famous polo player, was to be put in command of 
the fifty mounted men who were to prevent Sultana's 
escape, while Anderson and I were to accompany Freddy and 
help him to form the ring. By this time Freddy had no 



118 



illusions about the efficiency of Sultana's intelligence service, 
and with the exception of Freddy's two assistants, and the 
three of us no one knew of the contemplated raid. Each 
evening the police force, fully armed, were sent out on a long 
route march, while the four of us went out for an equally 
long walk, returning after dark to the Dam Bungalow in which 
we were staying. On the appointed night, instead of 
marching over the level crossing as they had been wont to 
do, the route marchers went through the Hardwar goods 
yard to a siding in which a rake of wagons, with engine and 
brake-van attached, was standing with doors open on the 
side away from the station buildings. The last of the doors 
was being shut as we arrived, and the moment we had 
climbed into the guard's van the train, without any warning 
whistles, started. Everything that could be done to allay 
suspicion had been done, even to the cooking of the men's 
food in their lines and to the laying of our table for dinner. 
We had started an hour after dark. At 9 p.m. the train drew 
up between two stations in the heart of the jungle and the 
order was passed from wagon to wagon for the force to 
detrain, and as soon as this order had been carried out the 
train steamed on. 

Of Freddy's force of three hundred men, the fifty to be Led 
by Herbert— who served in France in the First World War 
with the Indian cavalry— had been sent out the previous 
night with instructions to make a wide detour to where their 
mounts were waiting for them, while the main force of two 
hundred and fifty men with Freddy and Anderson in the lead, 
and myself bringing up the rear, set off for a destination 
which was said to be some twenty miles away. Heavy clouds 



119 



had been banking up all day and when we left the train it was 
raining in torrents. 

Our direction was north for a mile, then east for two miles, 
again north for a mile, then west for two miles and finally 
again north. I knew the changes in direction were being 
made to avoid villages in which there were men in Sultana's 
pay, and the fact that not a village pye, the best watchdog in 
the world, barked at us testifies to the skill with which the 
manoeuvre was carried out. Hour after hour I plodded on, in 
drenching rain, in the wake of two hundred and fifty heavy 
men who had left pot holes in the soft ground into which I 
floundered up to my knees at every second step. For miles 
we went through elephant grass higher than my head, and 
balancing on the pitted and slippery ground became more 
difficult from the necessity of using one hand to shield my 
eyes from the stiff razor-edged grass. I had often marvelled 
at Freddy's 20 stone 4 pounds of energy, but never as I did 
that night. True, he was walking on comparatively firm 
ground while I was walking in a bog; yet even so he was 
carrying nine stone more than I, and the line moved on with 
never a halt. 

We had started at 9 p.m. At 2 a.m. I sent a verbal message up 
the line to ask Freddy if we were going in the right direction. I 
sent this message because for an hour we had left our 
original direction northwards, and had been going east. After 
a long interval word came back that the Captain Sahib said it 
was all right. After another two hours, through thick tree and 
scrub jungle or across patches of high grass, I sent a second 
message to Freddy asking him to halt the line as I was coming 
up to speak to him. Silence had been enjoined before 



120 



starting, and as I made my way to the front I passed a very 
quiet and weary line of men, some of them sitting on the wet 
ground and others leaning against trees. 
I found Freddy and Anderson with their four guides at the 
head of the column. When Freddy asked if anything was 
wrong— this I knew referred to stragglers— I said all was well 
with the men but otherwise everything was wrong, for we 
were walking in circles. Having lived so much of my life in 
jungles in which it is very easy to get lost I have acquired a 
sense of direction which functions as well by night as it does 
by day. Our change of direction when we first started had 
been as evident to me as it had been two hours back when 
we changed direction from north to east. In addition, an hour 
previously I had noted that we passed under a simul tree 
with a vulture's nest in it, and when 1 sent my message to 
Freddy to halt the line I was again under the same tree. 
Of the four guides, two were Bhantus of Sultana's gang who 
had been captured a few days previously in the Hardwar 
bazaar, and on whose information the present raid had been 
organized. These two men had lived off and on for two years 
in Sultana's camp and had been promised their freedom for 
this night's work. The other two were cattle men who had 
grazed their cattle in these jungles all their lives, and who 
daily supplied Sultana with milk. All four men stoutly denied 
having lost their way, but on being pressed, they hesitated, 
and finally admitted that they would feel happier about the 
direction in which they were leading the force if they could 
see the hills. To see the hills, possibly thirty miles away, on a 
dark night with thick fog descending down to tree-top level, 
was impossible, so here was a check which threatened to 



121 



ruin all Freddy's well-laid plans and, what was even worse, to 
give Sultana the laugh on us. Our intention had been a 
surprise attack on the camp, and in order to accomplish this 
it was necessary to get within striking distance while it was 
still dark. The guides had informed us that it was not possible 
to approach the camp in daylight from the side we had 
chosen without being seen by two guards who were 
constantly on watch from a machan in a high tree which 
overlooked a wide stretch of grass to the south of the camp. 
With our guides now freely admitting they had lost their way, 
only another hour of darkness left and, worst of all, without 
knowing how far we were from the camp or in which 
direction it lay, our chance of a surprise attack was receding 
with every minute that passed. Then a way out of the 
dilemma occurred to me. I asked the four men if there was 
any feature, such as a stream or a well-defined cattle-track, 
in the direction in which we had originally started, by which 
they could regain direction, and when they replied that there 
was an old and well-defined cart-track a mile to the south of 
the camp, I obtained Freddy's permission to take the lead. I 
set off at a fast pace in a direction which all who were 
following me were, I am sure, convinced would lead back to 
the railway line we had left seven hours earlier. 
The rain had stopped, a fresh breeze had cleared the sky of 
clouds, and it was just getting light in the east when I 
stumbled into a deep cart-rut. Here was the disused track the 
guides had mentioned, and their joy on seeing it confirmed 
the opinion I had formed earlier, that losing themselves in 
the jungle had not been intentional. Taking over the lead 
again, the men led us along the track for a mile to where a 



122 



well-used game-track crossed it. Half a mile up the game- 
track we came to a deep and sluggish stream some thirty feet 
wide which I was glad to see the track did not cross, for I am 
terrified of these Terai streams, on the banks and in the 
depths of which I have seen huge pythons lurking. The track 
skirted the right bank of the stream, through shoulder-high 
grass, and after going along it for a few hundred yards the 
men slowed down. From the way they kept looking to the 
left I concluded we were getting within sight of the machan, 
for it was now full daylight with the sun touching the tops of 
the trees. Presently the leading man crouched down, and 
when his companions had done the same, he beckoned us to 
approach. 

After signalling to the line to halt and sit down, Freddy, 
Anderson, and I crept up to the leading guide. Lying beside 
him and looking through the grass in the direction in which 
he was pointing we saw a 

machan built in the upper branches of a big tree, between 
thirty and forty feet above ground. On the machan, with the 
level sun shining on them, were two men, one sitting with his 
right shoulder towards us smoking a hookah, and the other 
lying on his back with his knees drawn up. The tree in which 
the machan was built was growing on the border of the tree 
and grass jungle and overlooked a wide expanse of open 
ground. Sultana's camp, the guides said, was three hundred 
yards inside the tree jungle. 

A few feet from where we were lying was a strip of short 
grass twenty yards wide, running from the stream on our 
right far out on to the open ground. To retreat a little, cross 
the stream, and recross it opposite Sultana's camp was the 



123 



obvious thing to do, but the guides said this would not be 
possible; not only was the stream too deep to wade, but 
there was quicksand along the far bank. There remained the 
doubtful possibility of getting the whole force across the strip 
of short grass without being seen by the two guards, either of 
whom might at any moment look in our direction. 
Freddy had a service revolver, Anderson was unarmed, and I 
was the only one in the whole force who was carrying a 
rifle— the police were armed with 12-bore muskets using 
buckshot, with an effective range of from sixty to eighty 
yards. I was therefore the only one of the party who could 
deal with the two guards from our present position. The rifle 
shots would, of course, be heard in the camp, but the two 
Bhantus with us were of the opinion that when the guards 
did not return to the camp to report, men would be sent out 
to make inquiries. They thought that while this was being 
done it would be possible for us to encircle the camp. 
The two men on the machan were outlaws, and quite - 
possibly murderers to boot, and with the rifle in my hands I 
could have shot the hookah out of the smoker's hands and 
'the heel off the other man's shoe without injury to either. 
But to shoot the men in cold, or in any other temperature of 
blood, was beyond my powers. So I made the following 
alternative suggestion: that Freddy give me permission to 
stalk the men— which would be quite easy, for the tall grass 
and tree jungle extended right up to the tree in which the 
machan was built and was soaking wet after the all-night 
rain— and occupy the machan with them while Freddy and 
his men carried on with their job. At first Freddy demurred, 
for there were two guns on the machan within easy reach of 



124 



the men's hands, but eventually he consented and without 
further ado I slipped across the open ground and set off, for 
the Bhantus said the time was approaching for the guards to 
be changed. 

I had covered about a third of the way to the tree when I 
heard a noise behind and saw Anderson hurrying after me. 
What Anderson had said to Freddy, or Freddy had said to 
Anderson I do not know— both were my very good friends. 
Anyway, Anderson was determined to accompany me. He 
admitted he could not get through the jungle silently; that 
there was a good chance of the men on the machan hearing 
and seeing us; that we might run into the relief guard or find 
additional guards at the foot of the tree; that being unarmed 
he would not be able to defend himself, nevertheless and not 
withstanding, he was not going to let me go alone. When a 
man from across the Clyde digs his toes in he is more 
stubborn than a mule. 

In desperation I started to retrace my steps to solicit Freddy's 
help. But Freddy in the meantime had had time to regret his 
sanction (I learnt later the Bhantus had informed him the 
men on the machan were very good shots), and when he saw 
us returning he gave the signal for the line to advance. 
Fifty or more men had crossed the open strip of ground and 
we who were in advance were within two hundred yards of 
the camp when a zealous young constable, catching sight of 
the machan, fired off his musket. The two men on the 
machan were down the ladder in a flash. They mounted the 
horses that were tethered at the foot of the tree and raced 
for the camp. There was now no longer any necessity for 
silence and in a voice that did not need the aid of a 



125 



megaphone, Freddy gave the order to charge. In a solid line 
we swept down on the camp, to find it deserted. 
The camp was on a little knoll and consisted of three tents 
and a grass hut used as a kitchen. One of the tents was a 
store and was stacked with sacks of atta, rice, dal, sugar, tins 
of ghee, two pyramids of boxes containing some thousands 
of rounds of 12-bore ammunition, and eleven guns in gun 
cases. The other two tents were sleeping places and were 
strewn with blankets and a medley of articles of clothing. 
Hanging from branches near the kitchen were three flayed 
goats. 

In the confusion following the arrival in camp of the two 
guards it was possible that some of the partly clothed gang 
had taken shelter in the high grass surrounding the camp, so 
orders were given to our men to make a long line, our 
intention being to beat a wide strip of jungle in the direction 
in which Herbert and his mounted men were on guard. While 
the line was being formed I made a cast round the knoll. 
Having found the tracks of ten or a dozen barefooted men in 
a nullah close to the camp, I suggested to Freddy that we 
should follow them and see where they led to. The nullah 
was fifteen feet wide and five feet deep, and Freddy, 
Anderson, and I had proceeded along it for about two 
hundred yards when we came on an outcrop of gravel, where 
1 lost the tracks. Beyond the gravel the nullah opened out 
and on the left bank, near where we were standing, was a 
giant banyan tree with multiple stems. With its forest of 
stems, and branches sweeping down to the ground, this tree 
appeared to me to be an ideal place for anyone to hide in, so 
going to the bank, which at this point was as high as my chin. 



126 



I attempted to climb up. There was no handhold on the bank 
and each time I l<icl<ed a hole in the soft earth the foothold 
gave way, and I wasjust contemplating going forward and 
getting on to the bank where the nullah Rattened out, when 
a fusillade of shots followed by shouting broke out in the 
direction of the camp. We dashed back the waywe had come 
and near the camp found a Havildar shot through the chest, 
and near him a dacoit, with a wisp of cloth round his loins, 
shot through both legs. The Havildar was sitting on the 
ground with his back to a tree; his shirt was open, and on the 
nipple of his left breast there was a spot of blood. Freddy 
produced a flask and put it to the Havildar's lips, but the man 
shook his head and put the flask aside, saying, 'It is wine. I 
cannot drink it'. When pressed he added, 'All my life I have 
been an abstainer, and I cannot go to my Creator with wine 
on my lips. I am thirsty and crave a little water'. His brother 
was standing near by. Someone gave him a hat and he 
dashed off to the stream that had hampered our 
movements, and returned in a few minutes with some dirty 
water which the wounded man drank eagerly. The wound 
had been made by a pellet of shot and when I could not feel 
it under the skin I said, 'Keep a strong heart, Havildar Sahib, 
and the doctor at Najibabad will make you well'. Smiling up 
at me he replied, 'I will keep a strong heart. Sahib; but no 
doctor can make me well'. 

The dacoit had no inhibitions about 'wine,' and in a few gulps 
he emptied the contents of the flask of which he was in great 
need, for he had been shot with a 12-bore musket at very 
short range. 



127 



Two stretchers were improvised from material taken from 
Sultana's camp, and willing hands— for no distinction was 
made between the high-caste member of the police force 
and the low-caste dacoit— took them up. With spare runners 
running alongside, the stretchers set off through the jungle 
for the Najibabad hospital twelve miles away. The dacoit died 
of loss of blood and of shock on the way, and the Havildar 
died a few minutes after being admitted to the hospital. 
The beat was abandoned. Herbert did not come into the 
picture, for Sultana had been warned of the concentration of 
horse and none of the dacoits tried to cross the line he was 
guarding. So the sum total of our carefully planned raid, 
which had miscarried through no one's fault, was Sultana's 
entire camp less a few guns, and two dead men One a poor 
man, who, chafing at confinement, had sough liberty and 
adopted the only means of livelihood open to him and who 
would be mourned by a widow in the Najibabad fort. And the 
other a man respected by his superiors and loved by his men, 
whose widow would be cared for, and who had bravely died 
for a principle— for the 'wine' with which he refused to defile 
his lips would have sustained him until he had been laid on 
the operating table. 

Three days after the raid Freddy received a letter from the 
dacoit leader in which Sultana regretted that a shortage of 
arms and ammunition in the police force had necessitated a 
raid on his camp, and stating that if in future Freddy would 
let him know his requirements he. Sultana, would be very 
glad to supply him. 

The supply of arms and ammunition to Sultana was a very 
sore point with Freddy. Stringent orders on the subject had 



128 



been issued, but it was not surprising that every licensed 
dealer and every licensed gun-holder in the area in which 
Sultana was operating was willing to risk the Government's 
displeasure when the alternative was the certainty of having 
his house raided, and the possibility of having his throat cut, 
if he refused Sultana's demands. So the offer of arms and 
ammunition was no idle one and it was the most unkind cut 
the dacoit leader could have delivered to the head of the 
Special Dacoity Police Force. 

With his hide-out gone, harried from end to end of the Terai 
and Bhabar, and with his gang reduced to forty— all well 
armed, for the dacoits had soon replaced the arms and 
ammunition taken from them— Freddy thought the time had 
now come for Sultana to surrender. So, after obtaining 
Government sanction— which was given on the 
understanding that he personally accepted full 
responsibility— he invited Sultana to a meeting, whenever 
and wherever convenient. Sultana accepted the invitation, 
named the time, date, and place, and stipulated that both 
should attend the meeting alone and unarmed. On the 
appointed day, as Freddy stepped out on one side of a wide 
open glade, in the centre of which a solitary tree was 
growing. Sultana stepped out on the other side. Their 
meeting was friendly, as all who have lived in the East would 
have expected it to be, and when they had seated 
themselves in the shade of the tree— one a mountain of 
energy and good humour with the authority of the 
Government behind him, and the other a dapper little man 
with a price on his head— Sultana produced a water melon 
which he smilingly said Freddy could partake of without 



129 



reservation. The meeting ended in a deadlock, however, for 
Sultana refused to accept Freddy's terms of unconditional 
surrender. It was at this meeting that Sultana begged Freddy 
not to take undue risks. On the day of the raid, he said, he 
with ten of his men, all fully armed, had taken cover under a 
banyan tree and had watched Freddy and two other sahibs 
coming down the nullah towards the tree. 'Had the sahib 
who was trying to climb the bank succeeded in doing so'. 
Sultana added, 'it would have been necessary to shoot the 
three of you.' 

The final round of the heavy-light-weight contest was now to 
be staged, and Freddy invited Wyndham and I myself to 
Hardwar to witness and take part in it. Sultana and the 
remnants of his gang, now weary of movement, had taken up 
residence at a cattle station in the heart of the Najibabad 
jungles, and Freddy's plan was to convey his entire force 
down the Ganges in boats, land at a convenient spot, and 
surround the cattle station. This raid, like the one already 
described, was to take place at night. But on this occasion the 
raid had been timed for the full moon. 
On the day chosen, the entire force of three hundred men, 
with the addition of Freddy's cousin, Wyndham, and myself, 
embarked as night was falling in ten country boats which had 
been assembled at a secluded spot on the right bank of the 
Ganges, a few miles below Hardwar. I was in the leading 
boat, and all went well until we crossed to the left bank and 
entered a side channel. The passage down this channel was 
one of the most terrifying experiences, off dry land, that I 
have ever had. For a few hundred yards the boat glided over 
a wide expanse of moonlit water without a ripple on its 



130 



surface to distort the reflection of tlie trees on the margin. 
Gradually the channel narrowed and the speed of the boat 
increased, and at the same time we heard the distant sound 
of rushing water. I have often fished in these side channels of 
the Ganges, for they are preferred to the main stream by 
fish, and I marvelled at the courage of the boatmen who 
were willing to risk their lives and their craft in the rapids we 
were fast approaching. The boat, like the other nine, was an 
open cargo freighter eminently suitable for work on the open 
Ganges, but here in this narrow swift-flowing channel she 
was just an unmanageable hulk, which threatened to become 
a wreck every time her bottom planks came in violent 
contact with submerged boulders. The urgent call of the 
captain to his crew to fend the boat off the rocky banks and 
keep her in the middle of the stream, or she would founder, 
did nothing to allay my fears, for at the time the warning was 
given the boat was drifting sideways and threatening to 
break up or capsize every time she struck the bottom. But 
nightmares cannot last for ever. Though the one that night 
was long-drawn-out, for we had twenty miles to go, mostly 
through broken water, it ended when one of the boatmen 
sprang ashore on the left bank with one end of a long rope 
and made it fast to a tree. Boat after boat passed us and tied 
up lower down, until all ten had been accounted for. 
The force was disembarked on a sandy beach and when cuts 
and abrasions resulting from contact with the rough timbers 
of the boats had been attended to, and the boatmen had 
been instructed to take their craft five miles farther down 
stream and await orders, we set off in single file to battle our 
way through half a mile of the heaviest elephant grass I have 



131 



ever tried to penetrate on foot. The grass was ten to twelve 
feet high and was weighted down with river fog and dew, 
and before we had gone a hundred yards we were wet to the 
skin. When we eventually arrived on the far side we were 
faced with a wide expanse of water which we took to be an 
old bed of the Ganges, and scouting parties were sent right 
and left to find the shortest way round the obstruction. The 
party that had gone to the right returned first and reported 
that a quarter of a mile from where we were standing the 
'lake' narrowed, and that from this point to the junction of 
the channel down which we had come there was a swift- 
flowing river. Soon after the other party returned and 
reported that there was an unfordable river flowing into the 
upper end of the lake. It was now quite evident that our 
boatmen, intentionally or accidentally, had marooned us on 
an island. 

With our boats gone and daylight not far off it was necessary 
to do something, so we moved down to the lower end of the 
wide expanse of water to see if we could effect a crossing 
between it and the junction of the two channels. Where the 
water narrowed and the toe or draw of the stream started, 
there appeared to be a possible crossing; above this point 
the water was twenty feet deep, and below it was a raging 
torrent. While the rest of us were looking at the fast-flowing 
water and speculating as to whether anyone would be able 
to cross it, Wyndham was divesting himself of his clothes. 
When I remarked that this was an unnecessary proceeding in 
view of the fact that he was already wet to the skin, he 
replied that he was not thinking of his clothes, but of his life. 
When he had taken off every stitch of clothing he tied it into 



132 



a bundle, using his sliirt for tlie purpose, and placed the 
bundle firmly on his head, caught the arm of a strapping 
young constable standing near by and said, 'Come with me'. 
The young man was so taken aback at being selected to have 
the honour of drowning with the Commissioner Sahib that he 
said nothing, and together, with linked arms, the two 
stepped into the water. 

I do not think any of us breathed while we watched that 
crossing. With the water at times round their waists, and at 
times up to their armpits, it seemed impossible for them to 
avoid being carried off their feet and swept into the raging 
torrent below where no man, no matter how good a 
swimmer he was, could have lived. Steadily the two brave 
men, one the oldest in the party and the other possibly the 
youngest, fought their way on and when at last they 
struggled out on the far bank a sigh of relief went up from 
the spectators, which would have been a cheer audible in 
Hardwar, twenty miles away, had silence not been imposed 
on us. 

Where two men could go three hundred could follow, so a 
chain was made; and though individual links were at times 
swept off their feet, the chain held, and the whole force 
landed safely on the far side. Here we were met by one of 
Freddy's most trusted informers who, pointing to the rising 
sun, said we had come too late; that it would not be possible 
for such a large force to cross the open ground between us 
and the forest without being seen by the herdsmen in the 
area, and that therefore the only thing for us to do was to go 
back to the island. So back to the island we went, the 



133 



crossing from this side not being as bad as it had been from 
the other. 

Back in the elephant grass our first concern was to dry our 
clothes. This was soon accomplished, for the sun was by now 
hot, and when we were once again dry and warm Freddy, 
from his capacious haversack, produced a chicken and a loaf 
of bread which were no less welcome for having been 
immersed in the cold waters of the Ganges. I have the ability 
to sleep anywhere and at any time, and, having found a 
sandy hollow, most of the day had passed when I was 
awakened by violent sneezing. On joining my companions I 
found that all three of them were suffering from varying 
degrees of hay fever. The grass we were in was of the 
plumed variety and when we had passed through it in the 
early morning the plumes had been wet. But now, in the hot 
sun, the plumes had fluffed out and while moving about and 
trying to find cool places to rest in my companions had 
shaken the pollen down, with the result that they had given 
themselves hay fever. 

Indians do not get hay fever and I myself have never had it. 
This was the first time I had ever seen anyone suffering from 
it, and what I saw alarmed me. Freddy's cousin— a planter on 
holiday from Bengal— was the worst of the three; his eyes 
were streaming and swollen to the extent that he could not 
see, and his nose was running. Freddy could see a little but 
he could not stop sneezing, and when Freddy sneezed the 
earth shook. Wyndham, tough old campaigner that he was, 
while protesting that he was quite all right, was unable to 
keep his handkerchief away from his nose and eyes. It was 
bad enough being thrown about in an open boat, marooned 



134 



on a desert island, and fording raging torrents; but here was 
the climax. To lead three men who threatened to go blind 
back to Hardwar at the head of the three hundred policemen 
was a prospect that made me feel colder than I had felt when 
crossing the ice-cold waters of the Ganges. As evening closed 
in the condition of the sufferers improved, much to my relief, 
and by the time we had crossed the ford for the third time 
Freddy and Wyndham were all right and the cousin had 
regained his sight to the extent that it was no longer 
necessary to tell him when to raise his foot to avoid a stone. 
Freddy's informer and a guide were waiting for us and led us 
over the open ground to the mouth of a dry watercourse 
about a hundred yards wide. The moon had just risen and 
visibility was nearly as good as in sunlight when, rounding a 
bend, we came face to face with an elephant We had heard 
there was a rogue elephant in this area, and here he was, 
tusks flashing in the moonlight, ears spread out, and emitting 
loud squeals. The guide did nothing to improve the situation 
by stating that the elephant was very bad tempered, that he 
had killed many people, and that he was sure to kill a number 
of us. At first it appeared that the rogue was going to make 
good the guide's predictions, for with trunk raised high he 
advanced a few yards. Then he swung round and dashed up 
the bank, trumpeting defiance as he gained the shelter of the 
jungle. 

Another mile up the watercourse and we came on what the 
guide said was a fire-track. Here the going was very pleasant, 
for with short green grass underfoot, and the moonlight 
glinting on every leaf and blade, it was possible to forget our 
errand and revel in the beauty of the jungle. As we 



135 



approached a stretch of burnt grass where an old peacock, 
perched high on a leafless tree, was sending his warning cry 
into the night, two leopards stepped out on the track, saw us, 
and gracefully bounded away and faded out of sight in the 
shadows. I had been out of my element during the long 
passage down the side channel, but now, what with the 
elephant— who was, I knew, only curious and intended us no 
harm— and then the peacock warning the jungle folk of the 
presence of danger, and finally the leopards merging into the 
shadows, I was back on familiar ground, ground that I loved 
and understood. 

Leaving the track, which ran from east to west, the guide led 
us north for a mile or more through scrub and tree jungle to 
the bank of a tiny stream overhung by a giant banyan tree. 
Here we were told to sit down and wait, while the guide 
went forward to confer with his brother at the cattle station. 
A long and weary wait it was, which was in no way relieved 
by pangs of hunger, for we had eaten nothing since our 
meal off the chicken and loaf of bread, and it was now past 
midnight; and to make matters worse I, the only one who 
smoked, had exhausted my supply of cigarettes. The guide 
returned towards the early hours of the morning and 
reported that Sultana and the remnants of his gang, now 
reduced to nine, had left the cattle station the previous 
evening to raid a village in the direction of Hardwar and that 
they were expected back that night, or the following day. 
Before leaving to try to get us a little food, of which we were 
in urgent need, the guide and the informer warned us that 
we were in Sultana's territory and that it would be unwise for 
any of us to leave the shelter of the banyan tree. 



136 



Another weary day passed, the last Wyndham could spend 
with us, for in addition to being Commissioner of Kumaon he 
was Political Agent of Tehri State and was due to meet the 
ruler at Narindra Nagar in two days time. 
After nightfall a cart loaded with grass arrived, and when the 
grass had been removed a few sacks of parched gram and 
forty pounds of gur were revealed. This scanty but welcome 
ration was distributed among the men. The guide had not 
forgotten the sahibs, and before driving away he handed 
Freddy a few chapattis tied up in a piece of cloth that had 
seen hard times and better days. As we lay on 
our backs with all topics of conversation exhausted, thinking 
of hot meals and soft beds in far-off Hardwar, I heard the 
welcome sounds of a leopard killing a chital a few hundred 
yards from our tree. Here was an opportunity of getting a 
square meal, for my portion of chapatti, far from allaying my 
hunger, had only added to it; so I jumped up and asked 
Freddy for his kukri. When he asked what on earth I wanted 
it for, I told him it was to cut off the hind legs of the chital the 
leopard had just killed. 'What leopard and what chital', he 
asked, 'are you talking about?' Yes, he could hear the chital 
calling, but how was he to know that they were not alarmed 
by some of Sultana's men who were scouting round to spy on 
us? And anyway, if I was right in thinking a leopard had made 
a kill, which he doubted, how was I going to take the chital 
away from it when I could not use a musket (I had not 
brought my rifle with me on this occasion for I did not know 
to what use I might be asked to put it) so close to the cattle 
station? No, he concluded, the whole idea was absurd. So 
very regretfully I again lay down with my hunger. How could I 



137 



convince anyone who did not know the jungle folk and their 
language that 1 knew the deer had not been alarmed by 
human beings; that they were watching one of their number 
being killed by a leopard; and that there was no danger in 
taking the kill, or as much of it as I wanted, away from the 
leopard? 

The night passed without further incident and at crack of 
dawn Wyndham and 1 set out on our long walk to Hardwar. 
We crossed the Ganges by the Bhimgoda Dam and after a 
quick meal at the Dam Bungalow had an evening's fishing on 
the wide expanse of water above the dam that will long be 
remembered. 

Next morning, just as Wyndham was leaving to keep-his 
appointment at Narindra Nagar, and 1 was collecting some 
eatables to take back to my hungry companions, word was 
brought to us by runner that Freddy had captured Sultana. 
Sultana had returned to the cattle station the previous 
evening. After his men had surrounded the station, Freddy 
crept up to the large hut used by the cattle men, and, seeing 
a sheeted figure asleep on the only charpoy the hut 
contained, sat down on it. Pinned down by 20 stone 4 
pounds Sultana was not unable to offer any resistance, nor 
was he able to carry out his resolve of not being taken alive. 
Of the six dacoits in the hut at the time of the raid, four, 
including Sultana, were captured and the other two, Babu 
and Pailwan, Sultana's lieutenants, broke throught he police 
cordon and escaped, after being fired at. 
I do not know how many murders Sultana was responsible 
for, but when brought to trial the main charge against him 
was the murder, by one of his gang, of the tenant of the 



138 



headman of Lamachour. While in the condemned cell Sultana 
sent for Freddy and bequeathed to him his wife and son in 
the Najibabad Fort, and his dog, of whom he was very fond. 
Freddy adopted the dog, and those who know Freddy will not 
need to be told that he faithfully carried out his promise to 
care for Sultana's family. 

Some months later Freddy, now promoted and the youngest 
man in the Indian Police service ever to be honoured by His 
Majesty the King with a CLE., was attending the annual 
Police Week at M oradabad. One of the functions at this week 
was a dinner to which all the police officers in the province 
were invited. During the dinner one of the waiters whispered 
to Freddy that his orderly wanted to speak to him. This 
orderly had been with Freddy during the years Freddy had 
been in pursuit of Sultana. Now, having an evening off, he 
had strolled down to the M oradabad railway station. While 
he was there, a train came in, and as he idly watched the 
passengers alighting two men came out of a, compartment 
near him. One of these men spoke to the other, who hastily 
put a handkerchief up to his face, but not before the orderly 
had seen that he had a piece of cotton wool sticking to his 
nose. The orderly kept his eye on the men, who had a 
considerable amount of luggage, and when they had made 
themselves comfortable in a corner of the waiting room he 
commandeered an ekka and hastened to inform Freddy. 
When Sultana's two lieutenants, Babu and Pailwan, broke 
through the cordon surrounding the cattle station, they had 
been fired at, and shortly thereafter a man had visited a 
small dispensary near Najibabad to have an injury to his 
nose, which he said had been caused by a dog bite, attended 



139 



to. When reporting the case to the police, the compounder 
who dressed the wound said he suspected it had been 
caused by a pellet of buckshot. So the entire police force of 
the province were on the lookout for a man with an injured 
nose, all the more so because Babu and Pailwan were 
credited with having committed most of the murders for 
which Sultana's gang were responsible. 
When he heard the orderly's story Freddy jumped into his car 
and dashed to the station— dashed is the right word, for 
when Freddy is in a hurry the road is before him and traffic 
and corners do not exist. At the station he placed guards at 
all the exits to the waiting room and then went up to the two 
men and asked them who they were. Merchants, they 
answered, on their way from Bareilly to the Punjab. Why 
then, asked Freddy, had they taken a train that terminated at 
Moradabad? He was told that there had been two trains at 
the Bareilly platform and they had been directed to the 
wrong one. When Freddy learnt the men had not had any 
food, and that they would have to wait until next morning for 
a connecting train, he invited them to accompany him and be 
his guests. For a moment the men hesitated, and then said, 
'As you wish. Sahib'. 

With the two men in the back of the car Freddy drove slowly, 
closely questioning them, and to all his questions he received 
prompt answers. The men then asked Freddy if it was 
customary for sahibs to visit railway stations at night and 
carry off passengers, leaving their luggage to be plundered by 
any who cared to do so. Freddy knew that his action, without 
a duly executed warrant, could be described as high-handed 
and might land him in serious trouble if the members of 



140 



Sultana's gang serving sentences In the M oradabad jail failed 
to identify their late companions. While these unpleasant 
thoughts were chasing each other through his mind, the car 
arrived at the bungalow in which he was putting up for the 
Police Week. All dogs love Freddy, and Sultana's dog was no 
exception. In the months that had passed this pye with a 
dash of terrier blood had given Freddy all his affection, and 
now, when the car stopped and the three men got out, the 
dog came dashing out of the bungalow, stopped in surprise, 
and then hurled himself at the two travellers with every 
manifestation of delight that a dog can exhibit. For a tense 
minute Freddy and the two men looked at each other in 
silence and then PalTwan, who knew the fate that awaited 
him, stooped down and patting the dog's head said, 'In face 
of this honest witness what use is it. Young Sahib, for us to 
deny we are the men you think we are'. 
Society demands protection against criminals, and Sultana 
was a criminal. He was tried under the law of the land, found 
guilty, and executed. Nevertheless, I cannot withhold a great 
measure of admiration for the little man who set at nought 
the might of the Government for three long years, and who 
by his brave demeanour won the respect of those who 
guarded him in the condemned cell. 
I could have wished that justice had not demanded that 
Sultana be exhibited in manacles and leg-irons, and exposed 
to ridicule from those who trembled at the mere mention of 
his name while he was at liberty. I could also have wished 
that he had been given a more lenient sentence, for no other 
reasons than that he had been branded a criminal at birth, 
and had not had a fair chance; that when power was in his 



141 



hands he had not oppressed the poor; that when I tracked 
him to the banyan tree he spared my life and the lives of my 
friends. And finally, that he went to his meeting with Freddy, 
not armed with a knife or a revolver, but with a water melon 
in his hands. 



VIII Loyalty 

THE mail train was running at its maximum speed of thirty 
miles per hour through country that was 
familiar. For mile upon mile the newly risen sun had been 
shining on fields where people were reaping 
the golden wheat, for it was the month of April and the train 
was passing through the Gangetic valley, the most fertile land 
in India. 

During the previous year India had witnessed one of her 
worst famines. I had seen whole villages existing on the bark 
of trees; on minute grass seeds swept up with infinite labour 
from scorching plains; and on the wild plums that grow on 
waste lands too poor for the raising of crops. Mercifully the 
weather had changed, good winter rains had brought back 
fertility to the land, and the people who had starved for a 
year were now eagerly reaping a good harvest. Early though 
the hour was, the scene was one of intense activity in which 
every individual of the community had his, or her, allotted 
part. The reaping was being done by women, most of them 
landless labourers who move from area to area, as the crop 
ripens, and who for their labour— which starts at dawn and 
ends when there is no longer light to work by— receive one- 



142 



twelfth to one-sixteenth of the crop they cut in the course of 
the day. 

There were no hedges to obstruct the view, and from the 
carriage window no mechanical device of any kind was to be 
seen. The ploughing had been done by oxen, two to a plough; 
the reaping was being done by sickles with a curved blade 
eighteen inches long; the sheaves, tied with twisted stalks of 
wheat straw, were being carted to the threshing floor on ox- 
carts with wooden wheels; and on the threshing floor, 
plastered over with cow dung, oxen were treading out the 
corn; they were tied to a long rope, one end of which was 
made fast to a pole firmly fixed in the ground. As a field was 
cleared of the sheaves children drove cattle on to it to graze 
on the stubble and amongst the cattle old and infirm women 
were sweeping the ground to recover any seed that had 
fallen from the ears when the wheat was being cut. Half of 
what these toilers collected would be taken by the owner of 
the field and the other half— which might amount to as much 
as a pound or two, if the ground was not too sun cracked— 
they would be permitted to retain. 

M y journey was to last for thirty-six hours. I had the carriage 
to myself, and the train would stop for breakfast, lunch, and 
dinner. Every mile of the country through which the train was 
running was interesting; and yet I was not happy, for in the 
steel trunk under my seat was a string bag containing two 
hundred rupees which did not belong to me. 
Eighteen months previously I had taken employment as a 
Fuel Inspector with the railway on which I was now travelling. 
I had gone straight from school to this job, and for those 
eighteen months I had lived in the forest cutting five hundred 



143 



thousand cubic feet of timber, to be used as fuel in 
locomotives. After the trees had been felled and billeted, 
each billet not more and not less than thirty-six inches long, 
the fuel was carted ten miles to the nearest point of the 
railway, where it was stacked and measured and then loaded 
into fuel trains and taken to the stations where it was 
needed. Those eighteen months alone in the forest had been 
strenuous, but I had kept fit and enjoyed the work. There was 
plenty of game in the forest in the way of chital, four-horned 
antelope, pig, and pea fowl, and in the river that formed one 
boundary of the forest there were several varieties of fish 
and many alligators and python. My work did not permit of 
my indulging in sport during daylight hours so I had to do all 
my shooting for the pot, and fishing, at night. Shooting by 
moonlight is very different from shooting in daylight, for 
though it is easier to stalk a deer or a rooting pig at night it is 
difficult to shoot accurately unless the moon can be got to 
shine on the foresight. The pea fowl had to be shot while 
they were roosting, and I am not ashamed to say that I 
occasionally indulged in this form of murder, for the only 
meat I ate during that year and a half was what I shot on 
moonlight nights; during the dark period of the moon I had 
perforce to be a vegetarian. 

The felling of the forest disarranged the normal life of the 
jungle folk and left me with the care of many 
waifs and orphans, all of whom had to share my small tent 
with me. It was when I was a bit crowded with two broods of 
partridges— one black and the other grey, four pea fowl 
chicks, two leverets, and two baby four-horned antelope that 
could only just stand upright on their spindle legs, that Rex 



144 



the python took up his quarters in the tent. I returned an 
hour after nightfall that day, and while I was feeding the 
four-footed inmates with milk I saw the lantern light glinting 
on something in a corner of the tent and on investigation 
found Rex coiled up on the straw used as a bed by the baby 
antelope. A hurried count revealed that none of the young 
inmates of the tent were missing, so I left Rex in the corner 
he had selected. For two months thereafter Rex left the tent 
each day to bask in the sun, returning to his corner at 
sundown, and during the whole of that period he never 
harmed any of the young life he shared the tent with. 
Of all the waifs and orphans who were brought up in the 
tent, and who were returned to the forest as soon as they 
were able to fend for themselves, Tiddley-de-winks, a four- 
horned antelope, was the only one who refused to leave me. 
She followed me when I moved camp to be nearer to the 
railway line to supervise the loading of the fuel, and in doing 
so nearly lost her life. Having been brought up by hand she 
had no fear of human beings and the day after our move she 
approached a man who, thinking she was a wild animal, tried 
to kill her. When I returned to the tent that evening I found 
her lying near my camp bed and on picking her up saw that 
both her forelegs had been broken, and that the broken ends 
of the bones had worked through the skin. While I was 
getting a little milk down her throat, and trying to summon 
sufficient courage to do what I knew should be done, my 
servant came into the tent with a man who admitted to 
having tried to kill the poor beast. It appeared that this man 
had been working in his field when Tiddley-de-winks went up 
to him, and thinking she had strayed in from the nearby 



145 



forest, he struck her with a stick and then chased her; and it 
was only when she entered my tent that he realized she was 
a tame animal. My servant had advised him to leave before I 
returned, but this the man had refused to do. When he had 
told his story he said he would return early next morning 
with a bone-setter from his village. There was nothing I could 
do for the injured animal, beyond making a soft bed for her 
and giving her milk at short intervals, and at day break next 
morning the man returned with the bone-setter. 
It is unwise in India to judge from appearances. The bone- 
setter was a feeble old man, exhibiting in his person and 
tattered dress every sign of poverty, but he was none the less 
a specialist, and a man of few words. He asked me to lift up 
the injured animal, stood looking at her for a few minutes, 
and then turned and left the tent, saying over his shoulder 
that he would be back in two hours. I had worked week in 
week out for months on end so I considered I was justified in 
taking a morning off, and before the old man returned I had 
cut a number of stakes in the nearby jungle and constructed 
a small pen in a corner of the tent. The man brought back 
with him a number of dry jute stalks from which the bark had 
been removed, a quantity of green paste, several young 
castor-oil plant leaves as big as plates, and a roll of thin jute 
twine. When I had seated myself on the edge of the camp 
bed with Tiddley-de-winks across my knees, her weight partly 
supported by her hind legs and partly by my knees, the old 
man sat down on the ground in front of her with his 
materials within reach. 

The bones of both forelegs had been splintered midway 
between the knees and the tiny hooves, and the dangling 



146 



portion of the legs had twisted round and round. Very gently 
the old man untwisted the legs, covered them from knee to 
hoof with a thick layer of green paste, laid strips of the 
castor-oil leaves over the paste to keep it in position, and 
over the leaves laid the jute stalks, binding them to the legs 
with jute twine. Next morning he returned with splints made 
of jute stalks strung together, and when they had been fitted 
to her legs Tiddley-de-winks was able to bend her knees and 
place her hooves, which extended an inch beyond the splints, 
on the ground. 

The bone-setter's fee was one rupee, plus two annas for the 
ingredients he had put in the paste and the twine he had 
purchased in the bazaar and not until the splints had been 
removed and the little antelope was able to skip about again 
would he accept either his fee or the little present I gratefully 
offered him. 

My work, every day of which I had enjoyed, was over now 
and I was on my way to headquarters to render an account 
of the money I had spent and, I feared, to look for another 
job; for the locomotives had been converted to coal-burning 
and no more wood fuel would be needed. M y books were all 
in perfect order and I had the feeling that I had rendered 
good service, for I had done in eighteen months what had 
been estimated to take two years. Yet I was uneasy, and the 
reason for my being so was the bag of money in my steel 
trunk. 

I reached my destination, Samastipur, at 9 a.m. and after 
depositing my luggage in the waiting-room set out for the 
office of the head of the department I had been working for, 
with my account books and the bag containing the two 



147 



hundred rupees. At the office I was told by a very imposing 
doorl<eeper that the master was engaged, and that I would 
have to wait. It was hot in the open veranda, and as the 
minutes dragged by my nervousness increased, for an old 
railway hand who had helped me to make up my book shad 
warned me that to submit balanced accounts and then 
admit, as I had every intention of doing, that I had two 
hundred rupees in excess would land me in very great 
trouble. Eventually the door opened and av ery harassed- 
looking man emerged; and before the doorkeeper could 
close it, a voice from inside the room bellowed at me to 
come in. 

Ryles, the head of the Locomotive Department of the Bengal 
and North Western Railway, was a man weighing sixteen 
stone, with a voice that struck terror into all who served 
under him, and with a heart of gold. Bidding me sit down he 
drew my books towards him, summoned a clerk and very 
carefully checked my figures with those received from the 
stations to which the fuel had been sent. Then he told me he 
regretted my services would no longer be needed, said that 
discharge orders would be sent to me later in the day, and 
indicated that the interview was over. Having picked my hat 
off the floor I started to leave, but was called back and told I 
had forgotten to remove what appeared to be a bag of 
money that I had placed on the table. It was foolish of me to 
have thought I could just leave the two hundred rupees and 
walk away, but that was what I was trying to do when Ryles 
called me; so I went back to the table and told him that the 
money belonged to the Railway, and as I did not know how 
to account for it in my books, I had brought it to him. 'Your 



148 



books are balanced', Ryles said, 'and if you liave not fal<ed 
your accounts I should lil<e an explanation. 'Tewari, tlie head 
clerl<, had come into the room with a tray of papers and he 
stood behind Ryles's chair, with encouragement in his kindly 
old eyes, as I gave Ryles the following explanation. 
When my work was nearing completion, fifteen cart-men, 
who had been engaged to cart fuel from the forest to the 
railway line, came to me one night and stated they had 
received an urgent summons to return to their village, to 
harvest the crops. The fuel they had carted was scattered 
over a wide area, and as it would take several days to stack 
and measure it they wanted me to make a rough calculation 
of the amount due to them, as it was essential for them to 
start on their journey that night. It was a dark night and quite 
impossible for me to calculate the cubic contents of the fuel, 
so I told them I would accept their figures. Two hours later 
they returned, and within a few minutes of paying them, I 
heard their carts creaking away into the night. They left no 
address with me, and several weeks later, when the fuel was 
stacked and measured, I found they had underestimated the 
amount due to them by two hundred rupees. 
When I had told my story Ryles informed me that the Agent, 
Izat, was expected in Samastipur next day, and that he would 
leave him to deal with me. Izat, Agent of three of the most 
flourishing railways in India, arrived next morning and at 
midday I received a summons to attend Ryles's office. Izat, a 
small dapper man with piercing eyes, was alone in the office 
when I entered it, and after complimenting me on having 
finished my job six months ahead of time he said Ryles had 
shown him my books and given him a report and that he 



149 



wanted to ask one question. Why had I not pocketed the two 
hundred rupees, and said nothing about it? My answer to 
this question was evidently satisfactory, for that evening, 
while waiting at the station in a state of uncertainty, I 
received two letters, one from Tewari thanking me for my 
contribution of two hundred rupees to the Railway men's 
Widows' and Orphans' Fund, of which he was Honorary 
Secretary, and the other from Izat informing me that my 
services were being retained, and instructing me to report to 
Ryles for duty. 

For a year there after I worked up and down the railway on a 
variety of jobs, at times on the footplates of locomotives 
reporting on consumption of coal— a job I liked for I was 
permitted to drive the engines; at times as guard of goods 
trains, a tedious job, for the railway was short-handed and on 
many occasions I was on duty for forty-eight hours at a 
stretch; and at times as assistant storekeeper, or assistant 
station-master. And then one day I received orders to go to 
Mokameh Ghat and see Storrar, the Ferry Superintendent. 
The Bengal and North Western Railway runs through the 
Gangetic valley at varying distances from the Ganges river, 
and at several places branch line stake off from the main line 
and run down to the river and, by means of ferries, connect 
up with the broad gauge railways on the right bank. 
Mokameh Ghat on the right bank of the Ganges is the most 
important of these connexions. 

I left Samastipur in the early hours of the morning and at the 
branch-line terminus, Samaria Ghat, boarded the S.S.Gor 
akhpur. Storrar had been apprised of my visit but no reason 
had been given, and as I had not been told why I was to go to 



150 



Mokameh Ghat, we spent the day partly in his house and 
partly in walking about the extensive sheds, in which there 
appeared to be a considerable congestion of goods. Two days 
later I was summoned to Gorakhpur, the headquarters of the 
railway, and informed that I had been posted to Mokameh 
Ghat as Trans-shipment Inspector, that my pay had been 
increased from one hundred to one hundred and fifty rupees 
per month, and that I was to take over the contract for 
handling goods a week later. 

So back to M okameh Ghat I went, arriving on this occasion at 
night, to take up a job about which I knew nothing, and to 
take on a contract without knowing where to get a single 
labourer, and, most important of all, with a capital of only 
one hundred and fifty rupees, saved during my two and a half 
years' service. 

Storrar was not expecting me on this occasion, but he gave 
me dinner, and when I told him why I had returned we took 
our chairs on to the veranda, where a cool wind was blowing 
off the river, and talked late into the night. Storrar was twice 
my age and had been at M okameh Ghat for several years. He 
was employed as Ferry Superintendent by the Bengal and 
North Western (metre-gauge) Railway, and was in charge of a 
fleet of steamers and barges that ferried passengers and 
metre-gauge wagons between Samaria Ghat and Mokameh 
Ghat. I learnt from him that eighty per cent, of the long- 
distance traffic on the Bengal and North Western Railway 
passed through Mokameh Ghat; and that each year, from 
March to September, congestion of goods traffic took place 
at Mokameh Ghat and caused serious loss to the 
Railway. 



151 



The transfer of goods between the two railways at M okameh 
Ghat, necessitated by a break of gauge, was done by a 
labour Company which held the contract for handling goods 
throughout the length of the broad-gauge railway. In 
Storrar's opinion the indifference of this company to the 
interests of the metre- gauge railway, and the seasonal 
shortage of labour due to the harvesting of crops in the 
Gangetic valley, were the causes of the annual congestion. 
Having imparted this information, he very pertinently asked 
how I, a total stranger to the locality and without any 
capital— he brushed aside my hard-earned savings- 
proposed to accomplish what the Labour Company with all 
their resources had failed to do. The sheds at M okameh 
Ghat, he added, were stacked to the roof with goods; there 
were four hundred wagons in the yard waiting to be 
unloaded, and a thousand wagons on the far side of the river 
waiting to be ferried across. 'My advice to you', he 
concluded, 'is to catch the early steamer to Samaria Ghat and 
to go straight back to Gorakhpur. Tell the Railway you will 
have nothing to do with the handling contract.' 
I was up early next morning but I did not catch the steamer 
to Samaria Ghat. Instead, I went on a tour of inspection of 
the sheds and of the goods yard. Storrar had not over 
painted the picture: in fact the conditions were even worse 
than he had said they were, for in addition to the four 
hundred metre-gauge wagons there were the same number 
of broad-gauge wagons waiting to be unloaded. At a rough 
calculation I put the goods at M okameh Ghat waiting to be 
dealt with at fifteen thousand tons, and I had been sent to 
clear up the mess. Well, I was not quite twenty-one years of 



152 



age, and summer was starting, a season when all of us are a 
little bit mad. By the time I met Ram Saran I had made up my 
mind that I 

would take on the job, no matter what the result might be. 
Ram Saran was station-master at M okameh Ghat, a post he 
had held for two years. He was twenty years older than I was, 
had an enormous jet black beard, and was the father of five 
children. He had been advised by telegram of my arrival, but 
had not been told that I was to take over the handling 
contract. 

When I gave him this bit of news his face beamed all over 
and he said, 'Good, Sir. Very good. We will manage.' My 
heart warmed towards Ram Saran on hearing that 'we', and 
up to his death, thirty-five years later, it never cooled. 
When I told Storrar over breakfast that morning that I had 
decided to take on the handling contract he remarked that 
fools never took good advice, but added that he would do all 
he could to help me, a promise he faithfully kept. In the 
months that followed he kept his ferry running day and night 
to keep me supplied with wagons. 

The journey from Gorakhpur had taken two days, so when I 
arrived at M okameh Ghat I had five days in which to learn 
what my duties were, and to make arrangements for taking 
over the handling contract. The first two days I spent in 
getting acquainted with my staff which, in addition to Ram 
Saran, consisted of an assistant station-master, a grand old 
man by the name of Chatterji who was old enough to be my 
grandfather, sixty-five clerks, and a hundred shunters, 
pointsmen, and watchmen. My duties extended across the 
river to Samaria Ghat where I had a clerical and menial staff a 



153 



hundred strong. The supervising of these two staffs, and the 
care of the goods in transit, was in itself a terrifying job and 
added to it was the responsibility of providing a labour force 
sufficient to keep the five hundred thousand tons of goods 
that passed through Mokameh Ghat annually flowing 
smoothly. 

The men employed by the big Labour Company were on 
piece work, and as all work at M okameh Ghat was practically 
at a stand still, there were several hundred very discontented 
men sitting about the sheds, many of whom offered me their 
services when they heard that I was going to do the handling 
for the metre-gauge railway. I was under no agreement not 
to employ the Labour Company's men, but thought it 
prudent not to do so. However, I saw no reason why I should 
not employ their relatives, so on the first of the three days I 
had in hand I selected twelve men and appointed them 
headmen. Eleven of these headmen undertook to provide 
ten men each, to start with, for the handling of goods, and 
the twelfth undertook to provide a mixed gang of sixty men 
and women for the handling of coal. The traffic to be dealt 
with consisted of a variety of commodities, and this meant 
employing different castes to deal with the different classes 
of goods. So of the twelve headmen, eight were Hindus, two 
Mohammedans, and two men of the depressed class; and as 
only one of the twelve was literate I employed one Hindu and 
one M ohammedan clerk to keep their accounts. 
While one Labour Company was doing the work of both 
railways the interchange of goods had taken place from 
wagon to wagon. Now each railway was to unload its goods 
in the sheds, and reload from shed to wagon. For all classes 



154 



of goods, excluding heavy machinery and coal, I was to be 
paid at the rate of Re 1-7-0 (equivalent to is. nd. at the rate of 
exchange then current) for every thousand maunds of goods 
unloaded from wagons to shed or loaded from shed to 
wagons. Heavy machinery and coal were one-way traffic and 
as these two commodities were to be trans-shipped from 
wagon to wagon and only one contractor could be employed 
for the purpose, the work was entrusted to me, and I was to 
receive Re 1-4- {is. 8d.) for unloading, and the same for 
loading, one thousand maunds. There are eighty pounds in a 
maund, and a thousand maunds therefore are equal to over 
thirty-five tons. These rates will appear incredible, but their 
accuracy can be verified by a reference to the records of the 
two railways. 

A call-over on the last evening revealed that I had eleven 
headmen, each with a gang of ten men, and one headman 
with a mixed gang of sixty men and women. This, together 
with the two clerks, completed my force. At daybreak next 
morning I telegraphed to Gorakhpur that I had assumed my 
duties as Trans-shipment Inspector, and had taken over the 
handling contract. 

Ram Saran's opposite number on the broad-gauge railway 
was an Irishman by the name of Tom Kelly. Kelly had been at 
Mokameh Ghat for some years and though he was very 
pessimistic of my success, he very sportingly offered to help 
me in every way he could. With the sheds congested with 
goods, and with four hundred wagons of each railway waiting 
to be unloaded, it was necessary to do something drastic to 
make room in the sheds and get the traffic moving, so I 
arranged with Kelly that I would take the risk of unloading a 



155 



thousand tons of wheat on the ground outside the sheds and 
with the wagons so released clear a space in the sheds for 
Kelly to unload a thousand tons of salt and sugar. Kelly then 
with his empty wagons would clear a space in the sheds for 
me. This plan worked admirably. Fortunately for me it did not 
rain while my thousand tons of wheat were exposed to the 
weather, and in ten days we had not only cleared the 
accumulation in the sheds but also the accumulation of 
wagons. Kelly and I were then able to advise our respective 
headquarters to resume the booking of goods via Mokameh 
Ghat, which had been suspended for a fortnight. 
I took over the contract at the beginning of the summer, the 
season when traffic on Indian railways is at its heaviest, and 
as soon as booking was opened a steady stream of 
downwards traffic from the Bengal and North Western 
Railway and an equally heavy stream from the broad-gauge 
railway started pouring into Mokameh Ghat. The rates on 
which I had been given the contract were the lowest paid to 
any contractor in India, and the only way in which I could 
hope to keep my labour was by cutting it down to the 
absolute minimum and making it work harder in order that it 
would earn as much, or possibly a little more, than other 
labour on similar work. All the labour at Mokameh Ghat was 
on piece work, and at the end of the first week my men and I 
were overjoyed to find that they had earned, on paper, fifty 
per cent, more than the Labour Company's men had earned. 
When entrusting me with the contract the Railway promised 
to pay me weekly, and I on my part promised to pay my 
labour weekly. The Railway, however, when making their 
promise, failed to realize that by switching over from one 



156 



handling contractor to another they would be raising 
complications for their Audit Department that would take 
time to resolve. For the Railway this was a small matter, but 
for me it was very different. My total capital on arrival at 
Mokameh Ghat had been one hundred and fifty rupees, and 
there was no one in all the world I could call on to help me 
with a loan, so until the Railway paid me I could not pay my 
men. 

I have entitled this story Loyalty and I do not think that 
anyone has ever received greater loyalty than I 
did, not only from my labour, but also from the railway staff, 
during those first three months that I was at M okameh Ghat. 
Nor do I think that men have ever worked harder. The work 
started every morning, weekdays and Sundays alike, at 4 
a.m., and continued without interruption up to 8 p.m. The 
clerks whose duty it was to check and tally the goods took 
their meals at different hours to avoid a stoppage of work 
and my men ate their food, which was brought to them by 
wives, mothers, or daughters, in the sheds. 
There were no trade unions or slaves and slave-drivers in 
those days and every individual was at liberty to work as 
many, or as few, hours as he or she wished to. And everyone 
worked cheerfully and happily; for no matter whether it was 
the procuring of more and better food and clothing for the 
family, the buying of a new ox to replace a worn-out one, or 
the paying-off of a debt, the incentive, without which no man 
can work his best, was there. My work and Ram Saran's did 
not end when the men knocked off work, for there was 
correspondence to attend to, and the next day's work to be 
planned and arranged for, and during those first three 



157 



months neither of us spent more than four hours in bed each 
night. I was not twenty-one and as hard as nails, but Ram 
Saran was twenty years older and soft, and at the end of the 
three months he had lost a stone in weight but none of his 
cheerfulness. 

Lack of money was now a constant worry to me, and as week 
succeeded week the worry became a hideous nightmare that 
never left me. First the headmen and then the labourers 
pledged their cheap and pitiful bits of jewellery and now all 
credit had gone; and to make matters worse, the men of the 
Labour Company, who were jealous that my men had earned 
more than they did, were beginning to taunt my men. On 
several occasions ugly incidents were narrowly avoided, for 
semi-starvation had not impaired the loyalty of my men and 
they were willing to give battle to anyone who as much as 
hinted that I had tricked them into working for me, and that 
they would never see a pice of the money they had earned. 
The monsoon was late in coming that year and the red ball in 
the sky, fanned by a wind from an unseen furnace, was 
making life a burden. At the end of a long and a very trying 
day I received a telegram from Samaria Ghat informing me 
that an engine had been derailed on the slipway that fed the 
barges on which wagons were ferried across to Mokameh 
Ghat. A launch conveyed me across the river and twice within 
the next three hours the engine was replaced on the track, 
with the aid of hand jacks, only to be derailed again. It was 
not until the wind had died down and the powdery sand 
could be packed under the wooden sleepers that the engine 
was re-railed for the third time, and the slipway again 
brought into use. Tired and worn out, and with eyes swollen 



158 



and sore from the wind and sand, I had just sat down to my 
first meal that day when my twelve headmen filed into the 
room, and seeing my servant placing a plate in front of me, 
with the innate courtesy of Indians, filed out again. I then, as 
I ate my dinner, heard the following conversation taking 
place in the veranda. 

One of the headmen. What was on the plate you put in front 
of the sahib? 

My servant. A chapati and a little dal. 

One of the headmen. Why only one chapati and a little dal? 

My servant. Because there is no money to buy more. 

One of the headmen. What else does the sahib eat? 

Myservant. Nothing. 

After a short silence I heard the oldest of the headmen, a 

M ohammedan with a great beard dyed with henna, say to his 

companions, 'Go home. I will stay and speak to the sahib.' 
When my servant had removed the empty plate the old 
headman requested permission to enter the room, and 
standing before me spoke as follows: 'We came to tell you 
that our stomachs have long been empty and that after 
tomorrow it would be no longer possible for us to work. But 
we have seen tonight that your case is as bad as ours and we 
will carry on as long as we have strength to stand. I will, with 



159 



your permission, go now, sahib, and, for the sake of Allah, 1 
beg you will do something to help us.' 
Every day for weeks 1 had been appealing to headquarters at 
Gorakhpur for funds and the only reply 1 could elicit was that 
steps were being taken to make early payment of my bills. 
After the bearded headman left me that night I walked across 
to the Telegraph Office, where the telegraphist on duty was 
sending the report I submitted each night of the work done 
during the day, took a form off his table and told him to clear 
the line for an urgent message to Gorakhpur. It was then a 
few minutes after midnight and the message I sent read: 
'Work at M okameh Ghat ceases at midday today unless I am 
assured that twelve thousand rupees has been dispatched by 
morning train.' The telegraphist read the message over and 
looking up at me said: 'If I have your permission I will tell my 
brother, who is on duty at this hour, to deliver the message 
at once and not wait until office hours in the morning.' Ten 
hours later, and with two hours of my ultimatum still to run, I 
saw a telegraph messenger hurrying towards me with a buff- 
coloured envelope in his hand. Each group of men he passed 
stopped work to stare after him, for everyone in M okameh 
Ghat knew the purport of the telegram I had sent at 
midnight. 

After I had read the telegram the messenger, who was the 
son of my office peon, asked if the news was good; and when 
I told him it was good, he dashed off and his passage down 
the sheds was punctuated by shouts of delight. The money 
could not arrive until the following morning, but what did a 
few hours matter to those who had waited for long months? 



160 



The pay clerk who presented himself at my office next day, 
accompanied by some of my men carrying a cash chest slung 
on a bamboo pole and guarded by two policemen, was a 
jovial Hindu who was as broad as he was long and who 
exuded good humour and sweat in equal proportions. I never 
saw him without a pair of spectacles tied across his forehead 
with red tape. Having settled himself on the floor of my office 
he drew on a cord tied round his neck and from somewhere 
deep down in his person pulled up a key. He opened the cash 
chest, and lifted out twelve string-bags each containing one 
thousand freshly minted silver rupees. He licked a stamp, and 
stuck it to the receipt I had signed. Then, delving into a 
pocket that would comfortably have housed two rabbits, he 
produced an envelope containing bank notes to the value of 
four hundred and fifty rupees, my arrears of pay for three 
months. 

I do not think anyone has ever had as great pleasure in 
paying out money as I had when I placed a bag containing a 
thousand rupees into the hands of each of the twelve 
headmen, nor do I think men have ever received money with 
greater pleasure than they did. The advent of the fat pay 
clerk had relieved a tension that had become almost 
unbearable, and the occasion called for some form of 
celebration, so the remainder of the day was declared a 
holiday— the first my men and I had indulged in for ninety- 
five days. I do not know how the others spent their hours of 
relaxation. For myself, I am not ashamed to admit that I 
spent mine in sound and restful sleep. 
For twenty-one years my men and I worked the handling 
contract at Mokameh Ghat, and during the whole of that 



161 



long period, and even when I was absent in France and in 
Waziristan during the 1914-18 war, the traffic flowed 
smoothly through the main outlet of the Bengal and North 
Western Railway with never a hitch. When we took over the 
contract, between four and five hundred thousand tons of 
goods were passing through Mokameh Ghat, and when I 
handed over to Ram Saran the traffic had increased to a 
million tons. 



IX Budhu 



BUDHU was a man of the Depressed Class, and during all the 
years I knew him 1 never saw him smile: his life had been too 
hard and the iron had entered deep into his very soul. He 
was about thirty-five years of age, a tall gaunt man, with a 
wife and two young children, when he applied to me for 
work. At his request I put him on to trans-shipping coal from 
broad-gauge trucks to metre-gauge wagons at Mokameh 
Ghat, for in this task men and women could work together, 
and Budhu wanted his wife to work with him. 
The broad-gauge trucks and metre-gauge wagons stood 
opposite each other with a four-foot-wide sloping platform 
between, and the coal had to be partly shovelled and partly 
carried in baskets from the trucks into the wagons. 
The work was cruelly hard, for there was no covering to the 
platform. In winter the men and women worked in bitter 



162 



cold, often wet with rain for days on end, and in summer tlie 
bricl< platform and the iron floors of the trucks and wagons 
blistered their bare feet. A shovel in the hands of a novice, 
working for his bread and the bread of his children, is a cruel 
tool. The first day's work leaves the hands red and sore and 
the back with an ache that is a torment. On the second day 
blisters form on the hands, and the ache in the back becomes 
an even greater torment. On the third day the blisters break 
and become septic, and the back can with difficulty be 
straightened. Thereafter for a week or ten days only guts, 
and plenty of them, can keep the sufferer at work— as I know 
from experience. 

Budhu and his wife went through all these phases, and often, 
when they had done sixteen hours' piece work and were 
dragging themselves to the quarters I had provided for them, 
I was tempted to tell them they had suffered enough and 
should look for other less strenuous work. But they were 
making good wages, better (Budhu said) than they had ever 
made before, so I let them carry on, and the day came when 
with hardened hands and backs that no longer ached they 
left their work with as brisk and as light a step as they had 
approached it. 

I had some two hundred men and women trans-shipping coal 
at that time, for the coal traffic was as heavy as it always was 
in the summer. India was an exporting country in those days, 
and the wagons that took the grain, opium, indigo, hides, and 
bones to Calcutta returned from the collieries in Bengal 
loaded with coal, five hundred thousand tons of which 
passed through M okameh Ghat. 



163 



One day Budhu and his wife were absent from work. 
Dhamari, the headman of the coal gang, informed me that 
Budhu had received a postcard the previous day and had left 
that morning with his family, saying he would return to work 
as soon as it was possible for him to do so. Two months later 
the family returned and reoccupied their quarters, and 
Budhu and his wife worked as industriously as they had 
always done. At about the same time the following year 
Budhu, whose frame had now filled out, and his wife, who 
had lost her haggard look, again absented themselves from 
work. On this occasion they were absent three months, and 
looked tired and worn out on their return. 
Except when consulted, or when information was voluntarily 
given, I never inquired into the private affairs of my work 
people, for Indians are sensitive on this point; so I did not 
know why Budhu periodically left his work which he 
invariably did after receiving a postcard. The post for the 
work people was delivered to the headmen and distributed 
by them to the men and women working under them, so I 
instructed Chamari to send Budhu to me the next time he 
received a card. Nine months later, when the coal traffic was 
unusually heavy and every man and woman in my employ 
was working to full capacity, Budhu, carrying a post card in 
his hand, presented himself at my office. The postcard was in 
a script that I could not read so I asked Budhu to read it to 
me. This he could not do, for he had not been taught to read 
and write, but he said Chamari had read it to him and that it 
was an order from his master to come at once as the crops 
were ready to harvest. The following was Budhu's story as he 



164 



told it to me that day in my office, and his story is the story of 
millions of poor people in India. 

'My grandfather, who was a field labourer, borrowed two 
rupees from the bania of the village in which he lived. The 
bania retained one of the rupees as advance interest for one 
year, and made my grandfather put his thumb-mark to an 
entry in hlsbhai khata (register of account). When my 
grandfather was able to do so from time to time, he paid the 
bania a few annas by way of interest. On the death of my 
grandfather my father took over the debt, which then 
amounted to fifty rupees. During my father's lifetime the 
debt increased to one hundred and fifteen rupees. In the 
meantime the old bania died and his son, who reigned in his 
place, sent for me when my father died and informed me 
that as the family debt now amounted to a considerable sum 
it would be necessary for me to give him a stamped and duly 
executed document. This I did, and as I had no money to pay 
for the stamped paper and for the registration of the 
document the bania advanced the required amount and 
added it to the debt, which together with interest now 
amounted to one hundred and thirty rupees. As a special 
favour the bania consented to reduce the interest to twenty- 
five per cent. This favour he granted me on condition that my 
wife and I helped him each year to harvest his crops, until the 
debt was paid in full. This agreement, for my wife and I to 
work for the bania without wages, was written on another 
piece of paper to which I put my thumb-mark. For ten years 
my wife and I have helped to harvest the bania's crops, and 
each year after the bania has made up the account and 
entered it on the back of the stamped paper he takes my 



165 



thumb impression on tlie document. I do not l<now how 
much the debt has increased since I took it over. For years I 
was not able to pay anything towards it, but since I have 
been working for you I have paid five, seven, and thirteen 
rupees— twenty-five rupees altogether.' 
Budhu had never dreamed of repudiating the debt. To 
repudiate a debt was unthinkable: not only would it blacken 
his own face, but, what was far worse, it would blacken the 
reputation of his father and grandfather. So he continued to 
pay what he could in cash and in labour, and lived on without 
hope of ever liquidating the debt; on his death, it would be 
passed on to his eldest son. 

Having elicited from Budhu the information that there was a 
Vakill in the village in which the bania lived, and taken his 
name and address, I told Budhu to return to work and said I 
would see what could be done with the bania. Thereafter 
followed a long correspondence with an advocate, or lawyer. 
The Vakil, a stout-hearted Brahmin, who became a firm ally 
after the bania had insulted him by ordering 
him out of his house and telling him to mind his own 
business. From the Vakil I learnt that the bhai khata inherited 
by the bania from his father could not be produced in a court 
of law as evidence, for it bore the thumb-marks of men long 
since dead. The bania had tricked Budhu into executing a 
document which clearly stated that Budhu had borrowed one 
hundred and fifty rupees at a rate of twenty-five per cent, 
interest. The Vakil advised me not to contest the case for the 
document Budhu had executed was valid, and Budhu had 
admitted its validity by paying three installments as part 
interest, and putting his thumb- mark to these payments on 



166 



the document. When I had sent the Vakil a money order in 
full satisfaction of the debt, plus interest at twenty-five per 
cent., the bania surrendered the legal document; but he 
refused to surrender the private agreement binding Budhu 
and his wife to work without wages on harvesting his crops. 
It was only when I threatened, on the Vakil's advice, to 
prosecute for extortion that he handed the agreement over 
to the Vakil. 

Budhu was very uneasy while these transactions were 
dragging on. He never spoke to me on the subject, but I could 
see from the way in which he looked at me whenever I 
passed him at work that he was speculating as to whether he 
had been wise in leaving me to deal with the all-powerful 
bania, and what his position would be if the bania suddenly 
appeared and demanded an explanation for his conduct. And 
then one day I received by registered post a heavily sealed 
letter containing a much thumb-marked legal document, an 
agreement also thumb-marked, a stamped receipt for the 
Vakil's fees, and a letter informing me that Budhu was now a 
free man. The whole transaction had cost me two hundred 
and twenty-five rupees. 

Budhu was leaving work that evening when I met him, took 
the documents out of the envelope, and told him to hold 
them while I set a match to them. 'No, Sahib, no', he said. 
'You must not burn these papers, for I am now your slave 
and, God willing, I will one day pay off my debt to you.' 
Not only did Budhu never smile but he was also a very silent 
man. When I told him that, as he would not let me burn the 
papers, he could keep them, he only put his hands together 
and touched my feet; but when he raised his head and 



167 



turned to walk away, tears were ploughing furrows down his 
coal-grimed face. 

Only one of millions freed of a debt that had oppressed three 
generations, but had the number been legion my pleasure 
could not have been greater, nor could any words have 
affected me more deeply than Budhu's mute gesture, and 
the tears that blinded him as he stumbled away to tell his 
wife that the bania's debt had been paid and that they were 
free. 



X Lalajee 

THE passenger steamer was late in arriving from Samaria 
Ghat. I was standing on the landing stage, watching the 
passengers disembark and hurry up the ramp to the broad- 
gauge train, which I had arranged to detain a few minutes for 
them. Last to leave the steamer was a thin man with eyes 
sunk deep in their sockets, wearing a patched suit which in 
the days of long ago had been white, and carrying a small 
bundle tied up in a coloured handkerchief. By clutching the 
handrail of the gangway for support, he managed to gain the 
landing stage, but he turned off at the ramp, walked with 
slow and feeble steps to the edge of the river, and was 
violently and repeatedly sick. Having stooped to wash his 
face, he opened his bundle, took from it a sheet, spread it on 
the bank, and lay down with the Ganges water lapping the 
soles of his feet. Evidently he had no intention of catching 
the train, for when the warning bell rang and the engine 



168 



whistled, he made no movement. He was lying on his back, 
and when I told him he had missed his train he opened his 
sunken eyes to look up at me and said, 'I have no need of 
trains. Sahib, for I am dying'. 

It was the mango season, the hottest time of the year, when 
cholera is always at its worst. When the man passed me at 
the foot of the gangway I suspected he was suffering from 
cholera, and my suspicions were confirmed when I saw him 
being violently sick. In reply to my questions the man said he 
was travelling alone, and had no friends at Mokameh Ghat, 
so I helped him to his feet and led him the two hundred yards 
that separated my bungalow from the Ganges. Then I made 
him comfortable in my punkah coolie's house, which was 
empty, and detached from the servants' quarters. 
I had been at Mokameh Ghat ten years, employing a large 
labour force. Some of the people lived under my supervision 
in houses provided by me, and the balance lived in 
surrounding villages. I had seen enough of cholera among my 
own people and also among the villagers to make me pray 
that if I ever contracted the hateful and foul disease some 
Good Samaritan would take pity on me and put a bullet 
through my head, or give me an overdose of opium. 
Few will agree with me that of the tens of thousands of 
people reported as having died of cholera each year at least 
half die not of cholera but of fear. We, who live in India, as 
distinct from those who visit the country for a longer or 
shorter period, are fatalists, believing that a man cannot die 
before his allotted time. This, however, does not mean that 
we are indifferent to epidemic diseases. Cholera is dreaded 



169 



throughout the land, and when it comes in epidemic form as 
many die of stark fear as die of the actual disease. 
There was no question that the man in my punkah coolie's 
house was suffering from a bad attack of cholera and if he 
was to survive, his faith and my crude treatment alone would 
pull him through; for the only medical aid within miles was a 
brute of a doctor, as callous as he was inefficient, and whose 
fat oily throat I am convinced I should have one day had the 
pleasure of cutting had not a young probationer clerk, who 
had been sent to me to train, found a less messy way of 
removing this medico who was hated by the whole staff. This 
young hopeful gained the confidence of the doctor and of his 
wife, both of whom were thoroughly immoral, and who 
confided to the clerk that they greatly missed the 
fleshpots of Egypt and the pleasures they had enjoyed before 
coming to Mokameh Ghat. This information set the clerk 
thinking, and a few nights later, and a little before the 
passenger steamer was due to leave for Samaria Ghat, a 
letter was delivered to the doctor, on reading which he told 
his wife that he had been summoned to Samaria Ghat to 
attend an urgent case and that he would be absent all night. 
He spruced himself up before leaving the house, was met 
outside by the clerk, and conducted in great secrecy to an 
empty room at the end of a block of buildings in which one of 
my pointsmen had died a few nights previously of coal-gas 
poisoning. 

After the doctor had been waiting some time in the room, 
which had a single solid door and a small grated window, the 
door opened to admit a heavily veiled figure and was then 
pulled to and locked on the outside. 



170 



I was returning late that night through the goods sheds and 
overheard part of a very animated conversation between the 
probationer clerk and a companion he was relieving on night 
duty. Next morning on my way to work I saw a crowd of men 
in front of the late pointsman's quarters and was informed, 
by a most innocent-looking spectator, that there appeared to 
be someone inside, though the door was padlocked on the 
outside. I told my informant to get a hammer and break the 
lock off and hurried away on my lawful occasions, for I had 
no desire to witness the discomfiture, richly as it was 
deserved, of the man and his wife when the door was broken 
open. Three entries appear in my diary for that date: '(i) 
Doctor and his wife left on urgent private affairs. (2) Shiv Deb 
probationer confirmed as a Tally Clerk on salary of twenty 
rupees per month. (3) Lock, points, alleged to have been run 
over by engine, replaced by new one.' And that was the last 
Mokameh Ghat ever saw of the man who was a disgrace to 
the honourable profession he claimed to belong to. 
I could not spare much time to nurse the thin man for I 
already had three cholera patients on my hands. 
From my servants I could expect no help, for they were of a 
different caste to the sufferer, and further, there was no 
justification for exposing them to the risk of infection. 
However, this did not matter, provided I could instil sufficient 
confidence into the man that my treatment was going to 
make him well. To this end I made it very clear to him that I 
had not brought him into my compound to die, and to give 
me the trouble of cremating him, but to make him well, and 
that it was only with his co-operation that this could be 
effected. That first night I feared that in spite of our joint 



171 



efforts he would die, but towards morning he rallied and 
from then on his condition continued to improve and all that 
remained to be done was to build up his strength, which 
cholera drains out of the human body more quickly than any 
other disease. At the end of a week he was able to give me 
his story. 

He was a Lala, a merchant, and at one time possessed a 
flourishing grain business; then he made the mistake of 
taking as partner a man about whom he knew nothing. For a 
few years the business prospered and all went well, but one 
day when he returned from a long journey he found the shop 
empty, and his partner gone. The little money in his 
possession was only sufficient to meet his personal debts, 
and bereft of credit he had to seek employment. This he 
found with a merchant with whom he had traded, and for 
ten years he had worked on seven rupees a month, which 
was only sufficient to support himself and his son— his wife 
having died shortly after his partner robbed him. He was on 
his way from M uzaffarpur to Gaya, on his master's business, 
when he was taken ill in the train. As he got worse on board 
the ferry steamer, he had crawled ashore to die on the banks 
of the sacred Ganges. 

Lalajee— I never knew him by any other name— stayed with 
me for about a month, and then one day he requested 
permission to continue his journey to Gaya. The request was 
made as we were walking through the sheds, for Lalajee was 
strong enough now to accompany me for a short distance 
each morning when I set out for work, and when I asked him 
what he would do if on arrival at Gaya he found his master 
had filled his place, he said he would try to find other 



172 



employment. 'Why not try to get someone to help you to be 
a merchant again?' I asked; and he replied: 'The thought of 
being a merchant once again, and able to educate my son, is 
with me night and day. Sahib, but there is no one in all the 
world who would trust me, a servant on seven rupees a 
month and without any security to offer, with the five 
hundred rupees I should need to give me a new start.' 
The train for Gaya left at 8 p.m. and when that evening I 
returned to the bungalow a little before that hour, I found 
Lalajee with freshly washed clothes, and a bundle in his hand 
a little bigger than the one he had arrived with, waiting in the 
veranda to say goodbye to me. When I put a ticket for Gaya 
and five one- hundred rupee notes into his hand he, like the 
man with the coal-grimed face, was tongue tied. All he could 
do was to keep glancing from the notes in his hand to my 
face, until the bell that warned passengers the train would 
leave in five minutes rang; then, putting his head on my feet, 
he said: 'Within one year your slave will return you this 
money.' 

And so Lalajee left me, taking with him the greater part of my 
savings. That I would see him again I never doubted, for the 
poor of India never forget a kindness; but the promise Lalajee 
had made was, I felt sure, beyond his powers of 
accomplishment. In this I was wrong, for returning late one 
evening I saw a man dressed in spotless white standing in my 
veranda. The light from the room behind him was in my 
eyes, and I did not recognize him until he spoke. It was 
Lalajee, come a few days before the expiry of the time limit 
he had set himself. That night as he sat on the floor near my 
chair he told me of his trading transactions, and the success 



173 



that had attended them. Starting with a few bags of grain 
and being content with a profit of only four annas per bag he 
had gradually, and steadily, built up his business until he was 
able to deal in consignments up to thirty tons in weight, on 
which he was making a profit of three rupees per ton. His son 
was in a good school, and as he could now afford to keep a 
wife he had married the daughter of a rich merchant of 
Patna; all this he had accomplished in a little under twelve 
months. As the time drew near for his train to leave he laid 
five one-hundred rupee notes on my knee. Then, he took a 
bag from his pocket, held it out to me and said, 'This is the 
interest, calculated at twenty-five per cent., that I owe you 
on the money you lent me'. I believe I deprived him of half 
the pleasure he had anticipated from his visit when I told him 
it was not our custom to accept interest from our friends. 
Before leaving me Lalajee said, 'during the month 1 stayed 
with you I had talks with your servants, and with your 
workmen, and I learnt from them that there was a time when 
you were reduced to one chapati and a little dal. If such a 
time should ever come again, which Parmeshwar forbid, your 
slave will place all that he has at your feet.' 
Until I left Mokameh Ghat, eleven years later, I received each 
year a big basket of the choicest mangoes from Lala-jee's 
garden, for he attained his ambition of becoming a merchant 
once again, and returned to the home he had left when his 
partner robbed him. 



174 



XI Chamari 



CHAMARI, as his name implies, belonged to the lowest strata 
of India's sixty million Untouchables. Accompanied by his 
wife, an angular person whose face was stamped with years 
of suffering and whose two young children were clutching 
her torn skirts, he applied to me for work. Chamari was an 
undersized man with a poor physique, and as he was not 
strong enough to work in the sheds I put him and his wife on 
to trans-shipping coal. Next morning I provided the pair of 
them with shovels and baskets, and they started work with 
courage and industry far beyond their strength. Towards 
evening I had to put others on to finishing their task, for the 
delay in unloading one of a rake of fifty wagons meant 
hanging up the work of several hundred labourers. 
For two days Chamari and his wife laboured valiantly but 
ineffectively. On the third morning when, their blistered 
hands tied up in dirty rags, they were waiting for work to be 
allotted to them I asked Chamari if he could read and write. 
When he said that he knew a little Hindi, I instructed him to 
return the shovels and baskets to the store and to come to 
my office for orders. A few days previously I had discharged 
the headman of the coal gang for his inability to keep 
sober— the only man I ever discharged— and as it was quite 
evident that neither Chamari nor his wife would be able to 
make a living at the job they were on, I decided to give 
Chamari a trial as a headman. 



175 



Chamari thought he had been summoned to the office to be 
sacked and was greatly relieved, and very proud, when I 
handed him a new account book and a pencil and told him to 
take down the numbers of the rake of broad-gauge wagons 
from which coal was being unloaded, together with the 
names of the men and women who were engaged on each 
wagon. Half an hour later he returned with the information I 
had asked for, neatly entered in the book. When I had 
verified the correctness of these entries I handed the book 
back to Chamari, told him I had appointed him headman of 
the coal gang, at that time numbering two hundred men and 
women, and explained his duties to him in detail. A humble 
man who one short hour earlier had laboured under all the 
disqualifications of his lowly birth walked out of my office 
with a book tucked under his arm, a pencil behind his ear 
and, for the first time in his life, his head in the air. 
Chamari was one of the most conscientious and hardworking 
men I have ever employed. In the gang he commanded there 
were men and women of all castes including Brahmins, 
Chattris, and Thakurs, and never once did he offend by 
rendering less respect to these high-caste men and women 
than was theirs by birthright, and never once was his 
authority questioned. He was responsible for keeping the 
individual accounts of everyone working under him, and 
during the twenty years he worked for me the correctness of 
his accounts was never disputed. 

On Sunday evenings Chamari and I would sit, he on a mat 
and I on a stool, with a great pile of copper pice between us, 
and ringed round by coal-grimed men and women eagerly 
waiting for their week's wages. I enjoyed those Sunday 



176 



evenings as much as did the simple hardworking people 
sitting round me, for my pleasure in giving them the wages 
they had earned with the sweat of their brows was as great 
as theirs in receiving them. 

During the week they worked on a platform half a mile long, 
and as some of them lived in the quarters I had built for 
them, while others lived in the surrounding villages, they had 
little opportunity for social intercourse. Sunday evenings 
gave them this opportunity, and they took full advantage of 
it. Hardworking people are always cheerful, for they have no 
time to manufacture imaginary troubles, which are always 
worse than real ones. My people were admittedly poor, and 
they had their full share of troubles; none the less they were 
full of good cheer, and as I could understand and speak their 
language as well as they could, I was able to take part in their 
light-hearted banter and appreciate all their jokes. 
The railway paid me by weight and I paid my people, both 
those who worked in the sheds and those who worked on 
the coal platform, at wagon rates. For work in the sheds I 
paid the headmen, who in turn paid the gangs employed by 
them, but the men and women working on coal were paid 
individually by me. Chamari would change the currency notes 
I gave him for pice in the Mokameh bazaar, and then, on 
Sunday evenings, as we sat with the pile of pice between us 
he would read out the names of the men and women who 
had been engaged on unloading every individual wagon 
during the week, while I made a quick mental calculation and 
paid the amount due to each worker. I paid forty pice (ten 
annas) for the unloading of each wagon, and when the pice 
would not divide up equally among the number that had 



177 



been engaged on unloading any particular wagon I gave the 
extra pice to one of their number, who would later purchase 
salt to be divided among them. This system of payment 
worked to the satisfaction of everyone, and though the work 
was hard, and the hours long, the wage earned was three 
times as much as could be earned on field work, and further, 
my work was permanent while field work was seasonal and 
temporary. 

I started Chamari on a salary of fifteen rupees a month and 
gradually increased it to forty rupees, which was more than 
the majority of the clerks employed by the railway were 
getting, and in addition I allowed him to employ a gang of ten 
men to work in the sheds. In India a man's worth is assessed, 
to a great extent, by the money he is earning and the use he 
makes of it. Chamari was held in great respect by all sections 
of the community for the good wages he was earning, but he 
was held in even greater respect for the unobtrusive use he 
made of his money. Having known hunger he made it his 
business to see that no one whom he could succour suffered 
as he had suffered. All of his own lowly caste who passed his 
door were welcome to share his food, and those whose caste 
prohibited them from eating the food cooked by his wife 
were provided with material to enable them to prepare their 
own food. When at his wife's request I spoke to Chamari on 
the subject of keeping open house, his answer invariably was 
that he and his family had found the fifteen rupees per 
month, on which I had engaged him, sufficient for their 
personal requirements and that to allow his wife more than 
that sum now would only encourage her to be extravagant. 
When I asked what form her extravagance was likely to take 



178 



he said she was always nagging him about his clothes and 
telling him he should be better dressed than the men who 
were working under him, whereas he thought money spent 
on clothes could be better spent on feeding the poor. Then to 
clinch the argument he said: 'Look at yourself, Maharaj,' —he 
had addressed me thus from the first day, and continued so 
to address me to the end— 'you have been wearing that suit 
for years, and if you can do that, why can't I?' As a matter of 
fact he was wrong about the suit, for I had two of the same 
material, one being cleaned of coal dust while the other was 
in use. 

I had been at Mokameh Ghat sixteen years when Kaiser 
Wilhelm started his war. The railway opposed my joining up 
but gave their consent when I agreed to retain the contract. 
It was impossible to explain the implications of the war to my 
people at the conference to which I summoned them. 
However, each and every one of them was willing to carry on 
during my absence, and it was entirely due to their loyalty 
and devotion that traffic through Mokameh Ghat flowed 
smoothly and without a single hitch during the years I was 
serving, first in France, and later in Waziristan. Ram Saran 
acted as Trans-shipment Inspector during my absence, and 
when I returned after four years I resumed contact with my 
people with the pleasant feeling that I had only been away 
from them for a day. M y safe return was attributed by them 
to the prayers they had offered up for me in temple and 
mosque, and at private shrines. 

The summer after my return from the war cholera was bad 
throughout Bengal, and at one time two women and a man 
of the coal gang were stricken down by the disease. Chamari 



179 



and I nursed the sufferers by turns, instilling confidence into 
them, and by sheer will power brought them through. Shortly 
thereafter 1 heard someone moving in my veranda one 
night— 1 had the bungalow to myself, for Storrar had left on 
promotion— and on my asking, who it was, a voice out of the 
darkness said, '1 am Chamari's wife. 1 have come to tell you 
that he has cholera'. Telling the woman to wait 1 hastily 
donned some clothes, lit a lantern, and set off with her 
armed with astick, for Mokameh Ghat was infested with 
poisonous snakes. 

Chamari had been at work all that day and in the afternoon 
had accompanied me to a nearby village in which a woman of 
his coal gang, by the name of Parbatti, was reported to be 
seriously ill. Parbatti, a widow with three children, was the 
first woman to volunteer to work for me when I arrived at 
Mokameh Ghat and for twenty years she had worked 
unflaggingly. Always cheerful and happy and willing to give a 
helping hand to any who needed it, she was the life and soul 
of the Sunday evening gatherings, for, being a widow, she 
could bandy words with all and sundry without offending 
India's very strict M other Grundy. 

The boy who brought me the news that she was ill did not 
know what ailed her, but was convinced that she was dying, 
so I armed myself with a few simple remedies and calling for 
Chamari on the way hurried to the village. We found Parbatti 
lying on the floor of her hut with her head in her grey-haired 
mother's lap. It was the first case of tetanus I had ever seen, 
and I hope the last I shall ever see. Parbatti's teeth, which 
would have made the fortune of a film star, had been broken 
in an attempt to lever them apart, to give her water. She was 



180 



conscious, but unable to speak, and the torments she was 
enduring are beyond any words of mine to describe. There 
was nothing I could do to give her relief beyond massaging 
the tense muscles of her throat to try to ease her breathing, 
and while I was doing this, her body was convulsed as though 
she had received an electric shock. Mercifully her heart 
stopped beating, and her sufferings ended. Chamari and I 
had no words to exchange as we walked away from the 
humble home in which preparations were already under way 
for the cremation ceremony, for though an ocean of 
prejudices had lain between the high-caste woman and us it 
had made no difference to our affection for her, and we both 
knew that we would miss the cheerful hardworking little 
woman more than either of us cared to admit. I had not seen 
Chamari again that evening, for work had taken me to 
Samaria Ghat; and now his wife had come to tell me he was 
suffering from cholera. 

We in India loathe and dread cholera but we are not 
frightened of infection, possibly because we are fatalists, and 
I was not surprised therefore to find a number of men 
squatting on the floor round Chamari's string bed. The room 
was dark, but he recognized me in the light of the lantern I 
was carrying and said, 'Forgive the woman for having called 
you at this hour.'— it was 2 a.m.— 'I ordered her not to 
disturb you until morning, and she disobeyed me.' Chamari 
had left me, apparently in good health, ten hours previously 
and I was shocked to see the change those few hours had 
made in his appearance. Always a thin, lightly built man, he 
appeared to have shrunk to half his size; his eyes had sunk 
deep into their sockets, and his voice was weak and little 



181 



more than a whisper. It was oppressively hot in the room, so 
I covered his partly naked body with a sheet and made the 
men carry the bed out into the open courtyard. It was a 
public place for a man suffering from cholera to be in, but 
better a public place than a hot room in which there was not 
sufficient air for a man in his condition to breathe. 
Chamari and I had fought many cases of cholera together and 
he knew, none better, the danger of panicking and the 
necessity for unbounded faith in the simple remedies at my 
command. Heroically he fought the foul disease, never losing 
hope and taking everything I offered him to combat the 
cholera and sustain his strength. Hot as it was, he was cold, 
and the only way I was able to maintain any heat in his body 
was by placing a brazier with hot embers under his bed, and 
getting helpers to rub powdered ginger into the palms of his 
hands and the soles of his feet. For forty- eight hours the 
battle lasted, every minute being desperately contested with 
death, and then the gallant little man fell into a coma, his 
pulse fading out and his breathing becoming hardly 
perceptible. From midnight to a little after 4 a.m. he lay in 
this condition, and I knew that my friend would never rally. 
Hushed people who had watched with me during those long 
hours were either sitting on the ground or standing round 
when Chamari suddenly sat up and in an urgent and perfectly 
natural voice said, 'Maharaj, Maharaj! Where are you?' I was 
standing at the head of the bed, and when I leant forward 
and put my hand on his shoulder he caught it in both of his 
and said, 'M aharaj, Parmeshwar is calling me, and I must go'. 
Then, putting his hands together and bowing his head, he 



182 



said, 'Parmeshwar, I come'. He was dead when I laid him bacl< 
on the bed. 

Possibly a hundred people of all castes were present and 
heard Chamari's last words, and among them was a stranger, 
with sandalwood caste-marks on his forehead. When 1 laid 
the wasted frame down on the bed the stranger asked who 
the dead man was and, when told that he was Chamari, said: 
'1 have found what 1 have long been searching for. 1 am a 
priest of the great Vishnu temple at Kashi.My master 
the head priest, hearing of the good deeds of this man, sent 
me to find him and take him to the temple that he might 
have darshan of him. And now 1 will go back to my master 
and tell him Chamari is dead, and 1 will repeat to him the 
words 1 heard Chamari say.' Then, having laid the bundle he 
was carrying on the ground, and slipped off his sandals, this 
Brahmin priest approached the foot of the bed and made 
obeisance to the dead Untouchable. 
There will never again be a funeral like Chamari's at 
Mokameh Ghat, for all sections of the community, high and 
low, rich and poor, Hindu, Mohammedan, Untouchable, and 
Christian, turned out to pay their last respects to one who 
had arrived friendless and weighed down with 
disqualifications, and who left respected by all and loved by 
many. Chamari was a heathen, according to our Christian 
belief, and the lowest of India's Untouchables, but if 1 am 
privileged to go where he has gone, 1 shall be content. 



183 



XII Life at Mokameh Ghat 

My men and I did not spend all our time at Mokameh Ghat 
working and sleeping. Work at the start had been very 
strenuous for all of us, and continued to be so, but as time 
passed and hands hardened and back-muscles developed, we 
settled down in our collars, and as we were pulling in the 
same direction with a common object— better conditions for 
those dependent on us— work moved smoothly and allowed 
of short periods for recreation. The reputation we had 
earned for ourselves by clearing the heavy accumulation of 
goods at Mokameh Ghat, and thereafter keeping the traffic 
moving, was something that all of us had contributed 
towards, and all of us took a pride in having earned this 
reputation and were determined to retain it. When therefore 
an individual absented himself to attend to private affairs, his 
work was cheerfully performed by his companions. 

One of my first undertakings, when I had a little time to 
myself and a few rupees in my pocket, was to start a school 
for the sons of my workmen, and for the sons of the lower 
paid railway staff. The idea originated with Ram Saran, who 
was a keen educationist, possibly because of the few 
opportunities he himself had had for education. Between us 
we rented a hut, installed a master, and the school— known 
ever afterwards as Ram Saran's School— started with a 
membership of twenty boys. Caste prejudices were the first 
snag we ran up against, but our master soon circumnavigated 



184 



it by removing the sides of the hut. For whereas high- and 
low-caste boys could not sit together in cold brittle air 
the same hut, there was no objection to their sitting in the 
same shed. From the very start the school was a great 
success, thanks entirely to Ram Saran's unflagging interest. 
When suitable buildings had been erected, an additional 
seven masters employed, and the students increased to two 
hundred, the Government relieved us of our financial 
responsibilities. They raised the school to the status of a 
M iddle School and rewarded Ram Saran, to the delight of all 
his friends, by conferring on him the title of Rai Sahib. 

Tom Kelly, Ram Saran's opposite number on the broad-gauge 
railway, was a keen sportsman, and he and I started a 
recreation club. We cleared a plot of ground, marked out a 
football and a hockey ground, erected goal-posts, purchased 
a football and hockey sticks, and started to train each his 
own football and hockey team. The training for football was 
comparatively easy, but not so the training for hockey, for as 
our means did not run to the regulation hockey stick we 
purchased what at that time was known as a Khalsa stick: this 
was made in the Punjab from a blackthorn or small oak tree, 
the root being bent to a suitable angle to form the crook. The 
casualties at the start were considerable, for 98 per cent, of 
the players were bare footed, the sticks were heavy and 
devoid of lapping, and the ball used was made of 
wood. When our teams had learnt the rudiments of the two 
games, which amounted to no more than knowing in which 
direction to propel the ball, we started inter-railway matches. 



185 



The matches were enjoyed as much by the spectators as by 
us who took part in them. Kelly was stouter than he would 
have admitted to being and always played in goal for his side, 
or for our team when we combined to play out- station 
teams. 

I was thin and light and played centre forward and was 
greatly embarrassed when I was accidentally tripped up by 
foot or by hockey stick, for when this happened all the 
players, with the exception of Kelly, abandoned the game to 
set me on my feet and dust my clothes. On one occasion 
while I was receiving these attentions, one of the opposing 
team dribbled the ball down the field and was prevented 
from scoring a goal by the spectators, who impounded the 
ball and arrested the player! 

Shortly after we started the recreation club the Bengal and 
North Western Railway built a club house and made a tennis 
court for their European staff which, including myself, 
numbered four. Kelly was made an honorary member of the 
club, and a very useful member he proved, for he was good 
at both billiards and tennis. Kelly and I were not able to 
indulge in tennis more than two or three times a month, but 
when the day's work was done we spent many pleasant 
evenings together playing billiards. 
The goods sheds and sidings at Mokameh Ghat were over a 
mile and a half long, and to save Kelly unnecessary walking 
his railway provided him with a rail trolly and four men to 
push it. This trolly was a great joy to Kelly and myself, for 
during the winter months, when the barheaded and greylag 
geese were in, and the moon was at or near the full, we 



186 



trolled down the main line for nine miles to where there 
were a number of small tanks. These tanks, some of which 
were only a few yards across while others were an acre or 
more in extent, were surrounded by lentil crops which gave 
us ample cover. We timed ourselves to arrive at the tanks as 
the sun was setting, and shortly after we had taken up our 
positions— Kelly at one of the tanks and I at another— we 
would see the geese coming. 

The geese, literally tens of thousands of them, spent the day 
on the islands in the Ganges and in the evening left the 
islands to feed on the weeds in the tanks, or on the ripening 
wheat and grain crops beyond. After crossing the railway 
line, which was half-way between our positions and the 
Ganges, the geese would start losing height, and they passed 
over our heads within easy range. Shooting by moonlight 
needs a little practice, for birds flighting overhead appear to 
be farther off than they actually are and one is apt to fire too 
far ahead of them. When this happened, the birds, seeing the 
flash of the gun and hearing the report, sprang straight up in 
the air and before they flattened out again were out of range 
of the second barrel. Those winter evenings when the full 
moon was rising over the palm-trees that fringed the river, 
and the cold brittle air throbbed and reverberated with the 
honking of geese and the swish of their wings as they passed 
overhead in flights of from ten to a hundred, are among the 
happiest of my recollections of the years I spent at M okameh 
Ghat. 

My work was never dull, and time never hung heavy on my 
hands, for in addition to arranging for the crossing of the 
Ganges, and the handling at M okameh Ghat of a million tons 



187 



of goods, I was responsible for the running of the steamers 
that ferried several hundred thousand passengers annually 
between the two banks of the river. The crossing of the river, 
which after heavy rains in the Himalayas was four to five 
miles wide, was always a pleasure to me, not only because it 
gave me time to rest my legs and have a quiet smoke but also 
because it gave me an opportunity of indulging in one of my 
hobbies— the study of human beings. The ferry was a link 
between two great systems of railways, one radiating north 
and the other radiating south, and among the seven hundred 
passengers who crossed at each trip were people from all 
parts of India, and from countries beyond her borders. 
One morning I was leaning over the upper deck of the 
steamer watching the third-class passengers taking their 
seats on the lower deck. With me was a young man from 
England who had recently joined the railway, and who had 
been sent to me to study the system of work at Mokameh 
Ghat. He had spent a fortnight with me and I was now 
accompanying him across the river to Samaria Ghat to see 
him off on his long railway journey to Gorakh-pur. Sitting 
cross-legged, or tailor wise, on a bench next to me and also 
looking down on the lower deck was an Indian. Crosthwaite, 
my young companion, was very enthusiastic about 
everything in the country in which he had come to serve, and 
as we watched the chattering crowds accommodating 
themselves on the open deck he remarked that he would 
dearly love to know who these people were, and why they 
were travelling from one part of India to another. The crowd, 
packed like sardines, had now settled down, so I said I would 
try to satisfy his curiosity. Let us start, I said, at the right and 



188 



work round the deck, taking only the outer fringe of people 
who have their backs to the rail. The three men nearest to us 
are Brahmins, and the big copper vessels, sealed with wet 
clay, that they are so carefully guarding, contain Ganges 
water. The water on the right bank of the Ganges is 
considered to be more holy than the water on the left bank 
and these three Brahmins, servants of a well-known 
Maharaja, have filled the vessels on the right bank and are 
taking the water eighty miles by river and rail for the 
personal use of the Maharaja who, even when he is 
travelling, never uses any but Ganges water for domestic 
purposes. The man next to the Brahmins is a Mohammedan, 
a dhoonia by profession. He travels from station to station 
teasing the cotton in old and lumpy mattresses with the 
harp-like implement lying on the deck beside him. With this 
implement he teases old cotton until it resembles floss silk. 
Next to him are two Tibetan lamas who are returning from a 
pilgrimage to the sacred Buddhist shrine at Gaya, and who, 
even on this winter morning, are feeling hot, as you can see 
from the beads of sweat standing out on their foreheads. 
Next to the lamas are a group of four men returning from a 
pilgrimage to Benares, to their home on the foothills of 
Nepal. Each of the four men, as you can see, has two blown- 
glass jars, protected with wickerwork, slung to a short 
bamboo pole. These jars contain water which they have 
drawn from the Ganges at Benares and which they will sell 
drop by drop in their own and adjoining villages for religious 
ceremonies. 

And so on round the deck until 1 came to the last man on the 
left. This man, 1 told Crosthwaite, was an oldfriend of mine. 



189 



the father of one of my workmen, who was crossing the river 
to plough his field on the left bank. 
Crosthwaite listened with great interest to all I had told him 
about the passengers on the lower deck, and he now asked 
me who the man was who was sitting on the bench near us. 
'Oh', I said, 'he is a Mohammedan gentleman. A hide 
merchant on his way from Gaya to M uzaffarpur.' As I ceased 
speaking the man on the bench unfolded his legs, placed his 
feet on the deck and started laughing. Then turning tome he 
said in perfect English, 'I have been greatly entertained 
listening to the description you have given your friend of the 
men on the deck below us, and also of your description of 
me. M y tan hid my blushes, for I had assumed that he did not 
know English. 'I believe that with one exception, myself, your 
descriptions were right in every case. I am a Mohammedan 
as you say, and I am travelling from Gaya to M uzaffarpur, 
though how you know this I cannot think for I have not 
shown my railway ticket to anyone since I purchased it at 
Gaya. But you were wrong in describing me as a hide 
merchant. I do not deal in hides. I deal in tobacco.' 
On occasions special trains were run for important 
personages, and in connexion with these trains a 
special ferry steamer was run, for the timings of which I was 
responsible. I met one afternoon one of these special trains, 
which was conveying the Prime Minister of Nepal, twenty 
ladies of his household, a Secretary, and a large retinue of 
servants from Katmandu, the capital of Nepal, to Calcutta. As 
the train came to a standstill a blond-headed giant in 
Nepalese national dress jumped down from the train and 
went to the carriage in which the Prime Minister was 



190 



travelling. Here the man opened a big umbrella, put his back 
to the door of the carriage, lifted his right arm and placed his 
hand on his hip. Presently the door behind him opened and 
the Prime M inister appeared, carrying a gold-headed cane in 
his hand. With practiced ease the Prime "Minister took his 
seat on the man's arm and when he had made himself 
comfortable the man raised the umbrella over the Prime 
Minister's head and set off. He carried his burden as 
effortlessly as another would have carried a celluloid doll on 
his 300-yard walk, over loose sand, to the steamer. When I 
remarked to the Secretary, with whom I was acquainted, that 
I had never seen a greater feat of strength, he informed me 
that the Prime Minister always used the blond giant in the 
way I had just seen him being used, when other means of 
transport were not available. I was told that the man was a 
Nepalese, but my guess was that he was a national of 
northern Europe who for reasons best known to himself, or 
to his masters, had accepted service in an independent state 
on the borders of India. 

While the Prime Minister was being conveyed to the 
steamer, four attendants produced a rectangular piece of 
black silk, some twelve feet long and eight feet wide, which 
they laid on the sand close to a carriage, which had all its 
windows closed. The rectangle was fitted with loops at the 
four corners, and when hooks at the ends of four eight-foot 
silver staves had been inserted into the loops, and the staves 
stood on end, the rectangle revealed itself as a box-like 
structure without a bottom. One end of this structure was 
now raised to the level of the door of the closed carriage, and 
out of the carriage and into the silk box stepped the twenty 



191 



ladies of the Prime IMinister's household. With the stave- 
bearers wall<ing on the outside of the box and only the 
twinl<ling patent-leather-shod feet of the ladies showing, the 
procession set off for the steamer. On the lower deck of the 
steamer one end of the box was raised and the ladies, all of 
whom appeared to be between sixteen and eighteen years of 
age, ran lightly up the stairway on to the upper deck, where I 
was talking to the Prime M inister. On a previous occasion 1 
had suggested leaving the upper deck when the ladies 
arrived and had been told there was no necessity for me to 
do so and that the silk box was only intended to prevent the 
common men from seeing the ladies of the household. It is 
not possible for me to describe in detail the dress of the 
ladies, and all I can say is that in their gaily coloured, tight- 
fitting bodices and wide-spreading trousers, in the making of 
each of which forty yards of fine silk had been used, they 
looked, as they flitted from side to side of the steamer in an 
effort to see all that was to be seen, like rare and gorgeous 
butterflies. At Mokameh Ghat the same procedure was 
adopted to convey the Prime M inister and his ladies from the 
steamer to their special train, and when the whole party, and 
their mountain of luggage, were on board, the train steamed 
off on its way to Calcutta. Ten days later the party returned 
and I saw them off at Samaria Ghat on their way to 
Katmandu. 

A few days later I was working on a report that had to go in 
that night when my friend the Secretary walked into my 
office. With his clothes dirty and creased, and looking as 
though they had been slept in for many nights, he presented 
a very different appearance from the spruce and well- 



192 



dressed official I had last seen in company with the Prime 
Minister. He accepted the chair 1 offered him and said, 
without any preamble, that he was in great trouble. The 
following is the story he told me. 

'On the last day of our visit to Calcutta the Prime Minister 
took the ladies of his household to the shop of Hamilton and 
Co., the leading jewellers in the city, and told them to select 
the jewels they fancied. The jewels were paid for in silver 
rupees for, as you know, we always take sufficient cash with 
us from Nepal to pay all our expenses and for everything we 
purchase. The selection of the jewels, the counting of the 
cash, the packing of the jewels into the suit-case I had taken 
to the shop for the purpose, and the sealing of the case by 
the jeweller, all took more time than we had anticipated. The 
result was that we had to dash back to our hotel, collect our 
luggage and retinue, and hurry to the station where our 
special train was waiting for us. 

'We arrived back in Katmandu in the late evening, and the 
following morning the Prime M inister sent for me and asked 
for the suit-case containing the jewels. Every room in the 
palace was searched and everyone who had been on the trip 
to Calcutta was questioned, yet no trace of the suit-case was 
found, nor would anyone admit having seen it at any time. I 
remembered having taken it out of the motor-car that 
conveyed me from the shop to the hotel, but thereafter I 
could not remember having seen it at any stage of the 
journey. I am personally responsible for the case and its 
contents and if it is not recovered I may lose more than my 
job, for according to the laws of our land I have committed a 
great crime. 



193 



'There is in Nepal a hermit who is credited with second sight, 
and on the advice of my friends I went to him. I found the 
hermit, an old man in tattered clothing, living in a cave on the 
side of a great mountain, and to him I told my troubles. He 
listened to me in silence, asked no questions, and told me to 
return next morning. The following morning I again visited 
him and he told me that as he lay asleep the previous night 
he had a vision. In the vision he had seen the suit-case, with 
its seals intact, in a corner of a room hidden under boxes and 
bags of many kinds. The room was not far from a big river, 
had only one door leading into it, and this door was facing 
the east. This is all the hermit could tell me, so', the Secretary 
concluded, with tears in his eyes and a catch in his throat, 'I 
obtained permission to leave Nepal for a week and I have 
come to see if you can help me, for it is possible that the 
Ganges is the river the hermit saw in his vision.' 
In the Himalayas no one doubts the ability of individuals 
alleged to be gifted with second sight to help in recovering 
property lost or mislaid. That the Secretary believed what the 
hermit had told him there was no question, and his anxiety 
now was to regain possession of the suit-case, containing 
jewellery valued at Rs.150,000 (£10,000), before others 
found and rifled it. 

There were many rooms at Mokameh Ghat in which a 
miscellaneous assortment of goods was stored, but none of 
them answered to the description given by the hermit. I did, 
however, know of one room that answered to the 
description, and this room was the parcel office at M okameh 
Junction, two miles from Mokameh Ghat. Having borrowed 
Kelly's trolly, I sent the Secretary to the Junction with Ram 



194 



Saran. At the parcel office the clerk in charge denied all 
knowledge of the suit-case, but he raised no objection to the 
pile of luggage in the office being taken out on to the 
platform, and when this had been done, the suit- case was 
revealed with all its seals intact. 

The question then arose as to how the case came to be in the 
office without the clerk's knowledge. The station master now 
came on the scene and his inquiries elicited the fact that the 
suit-case had been put in the office by a carriage sweeper, 
the lowest-paid man on the staff. This man had been ordered 
to sweep out the train in which the Prime Minister had 
travelled from Calcutta to Mokameh Ghat, and tucked away 
under the seat in one of the carriages he had found the suit- 
case. When his task was finished he carried the suit-case a 
distance of a quarter of a mile to the platform, and there 
being no one on the platform at the time to whom he could 
hand over the case he had put it in a corner of the parcel 
office. He expressed regret, and asked for forgiveness if he 
had done anything wrong. 

Bachelors and their servants, as a rule, get into more or less 
set habits and my servants and I were no exception to the 
rule. Except when work was heavy 1 invariably returned to my 
house at 8 p.m. and when my house servant, waiting on the 
veranda, saw me coming he called to the waterman to lay my 
bath, for whether it was summer or winter 1 always had a hot 
bath. There were three rooms at the front of the house 
opening on to the veranda: a dining room, a sitting room, and 
a bedroom. Attached to the bedroom was a small bathroom, 
ten feet long and six wide. This bathroom had two doors and 
one small window. One of the doors opened on to the 



195 



veranda, and the other led to the bedroom. The window was 
opposite the bedroom door, and set high up in the outer wall 
of the house. The furniture of the bathroom consisted of an 
egg-shaped wooden bath, long enough to sit in, a wooden 
bath-mat with holes in it, and two earthen vessels containing 
cold water. After the waterman had laid the bath my servant 
would bolt the outer door of the bathroom and on his way 
through the bedroom pick up the shoes I had discarded and 
take them to the kitchen to clean. There he would remain 
until I called for dinner. 

One night after my servant had gone to the kitchen I took a 
small hand-lamp off the dressing table, went into the 
bathroom and there placed it on a low wall, six inches high 
and nine inches wide, which ran half-way across- the width of 
the room. Then I turned and bolted the door, which like most 
doors in India sagged on its hinges and would not remain 
shut unless bolted. I had spent most of that day on the coal 
platform so did not spare the soap, and with a lather on my 
head and face that did credit to the manufacturers I opened 
my eyes to replace the soap on the bath-mat and, to my 
horror, saw the head of a snake projecting up over the end of 
the bath and within a few inches of my toes. M y movements 
while soaping my head and splashing the water about had 
evidently annoyed the snake, a big cobra, for its hood was 
expanded and its long forked tongue was flicking in and out 
of its wicked-looking mouth. The right thing for me to have 
done would have been to keep my hands moving, draw my 
feet away from the snake, and moving very slowly stand up 
and step backwards to the door behind me, keeping my eyes 
on the snake all the time. But what I very foolishly did was to 



196 



grab the sides of the bath and stand up and step backwards, 
all in one movement, on to the low wall. On this cemented 
wall my foot slipped, and while trying to regain my balance a 
stream of water ran off my elbow on to the wick of the lamp 
and extinguished it, plunging the room in pitch darkness. So 
here I was shut in a small dark room with one of the most 
deadly snakes in India. One step to the left or one step to the 
rear would have taken me to either of the two doors, but not 
knowing where the snake was I was frightened to move for 
fear of putting my bare foot on it. Moreover, both doors 
were bolted at the bottom, and even if I avoided stepping on 
the snake I should have to feel about for the bolts where the 
snake, in his efforts to get out of the room, was most likely to 
be. 

The servants' quarters were in a corner of the compound fifty 
yards away on the dining-room side of the house, so shouting 
to them would be of no avail, and my only hope of rescue 
was that my servant would get tired of waiting for me to call 
for dinner, or that a friend would come to see me, and I 
devoutly hoped this would happen before the cobra bit me. 
The fact that the cobra was as much trapped as I was in no 
way comforted me, for only a few days previously one of my 
men had had a similar experience. He had gone into his 
house in the early afternoon in order to put away the wages I 
had just paid him. While he was opening his box he heard a 
hiss behind him, and turning round saw a cobra advancing 
towards him from the direction of the open door. Backing 
against the wall behind him, for there was only one door to 
the room, the unfortunate man had tried to fend off the 
cobra with his hands, and while doing so was bitten twelve 



197 



times on hands and on legs. Neighbours heard his cries and 
came to his rescue, but he died a few minutes later. 
I learnt that night that small things can be more nerve- 
racking and terrifying than big happenings. Every drop of 
water that trickled down my legs was converted in my 
imagination into the long forked tongue of the cobra licking 
my bare skin, a prelude to the burying of his fangs in my 
flesh. 

How long I remained in the room with the cobra I cannot say. 
My servant said later that it was only half an hour, and no 
sound has ever been more welcome to me than the sounds I 
heard as my servant laid the table for dinner. I called him to 
the bathroom door, told him of my predicament, and 
instructed him to fetch a lantern and a ladder. After another 
long wait I heard a babel of voices, followed by the scraping 
of the ladder against the outer wall of the house. When the 
lantern had been lifted to the window, ten feet above 
ground, it did not illuminate the room, so I told the man who 
was holding it to break a pane of glass and pass the lantern 
through the opening. The opening was too small for the 
lantern to be passed in upright. However, after it had been 
relit three times it was finally inserted into the room and, 
feeling that the cobra was behind me, I turned my head and 
saw it lying at the bottom of the bedroom door two feet 
away. Leaning forward very slowly, I picked up the heavy 
bath-mat, raised it high and let it fall as the cobra was sliding 
over the floor towards me. Fortunately I judged my aim 
accurately and the bath mat crashed down on the cobra's 
neck six inches from its head. As it bit at the wood and lashed 
about with its tail I took a hasty stride to the veranda door 



198 



and in a moment was outside among a crowd of men, armed 
witli sticl<s and carrying lanterns, for word had got round to 
the railway quarters that I was having a life-and-death 
struggle with a big snake in a locked room. 
The pinned-down snake was soon dispatched and it was not 
until the last of the men had gone, leaving their 
congratulations, that I realized I had no clothes on and that 
my eyes were full of soap. How the snake came to be in the 
bathroom I never knew. It may have entered by one of the 
doors, or it may have fallen from the roof, which was made 
of thatch and full of rats and squirrels, and tunnelled with 
sparrows' nests. Anyway, the servants who had laid my bath 
and I had much to be thankful for, for we approached that 
night very near the gate of the Happy Hunting Grounds. 
We at Mokameh Ghat observed no Hindu or Mohammedan 
holidays, for no matter what the day was work had to go on. 
There was, however, one day in the year that all of us looked 
forward to with anticipation and great pleasure, and that day 
was Christmas. On this day custom ordained that I should 
remain in my house until ten o'clock, and punctually at this 
hour Ram Saran— dressed in his best clothes and wearing an 
enormous pink silk turban, specially kept for the occasion- 
would present himself to conduct me to my office. Our funds 
did not run to bunting, but we had a large stock of red and 
green signal flags, and with these flags and strings of 
marigold and jasmine flowers. Ram Saran and his band of 
willing helpers, working from early morning, had given the 
office and its surroundings a gay and festive appearance. 
Near the office door a table and a chair were set, and on the 
table stood a metal pot containing a bunch of my best roses 



199 



tied round with twine as tight as twine could be tied. Ranged 
in front of the table were the railway staff, my headmen, and 
all my labourers. And all were dressed in clean clothes, for no 
matter how dirty we were during the rest of the year, on 
Christmas Day we had to be clean. 

After I had taken my seat on the chair and Ram Saran had put 
a garland of jasmine round my neck, the proceedings started 
with a long speech by Ram Saran, followed by a short one by 
me. Sweets were then distributed to the children, and after 
this messy proceeding was over to the satisfaction of all 
concerned, the real business of the day started— the 
distribution of a cash bonus to Ram Saran, to the staff, and to 
the labourers. The rates 1 received for my handling contract 
were woefully small, but even so, by the willing co-operation 
of all concerned, I did make a profit, and eighty per cent, of 
this profit was distributed on Christmas Day. Small as this 
bonus was— in the good years it amounted to no more than a 
month's pay, or a month's earnings— it was greatly 
appreciated, and the goodwill and willing co-operation it 
ensured enabled me to handle a million tons of goods a year 
for twenty-one years without one single unpleasant incident, 
and without one single day's stoppage of work. 



The End