The Boats Here, With The Exception Of Private Yachts, Which Are Not
Numerous, Are A Disgrace To A Civilized Place.
Nothing can be easily
imagined to be worse than the pattamars usually employed for the
conveyance of troops and travellers to distant points; they are dirty,
many so low in the roof that the passengers cannot stand upright in
them, and filled with insects and vermin.
The abundance and cheapness of fish render it the common food of the
lower classes, and consequently its effluvia sometimes pervade the
whole atmosphere. The smell of frying fish, with its accompaniment of
oil, is sufficiently disagreeable; but this is not all; a much more
powerful odour arises from fish drying for future use, while, as it
is commonly spread over the fields and employed as manure, the scents
wafted by the breezes upon these occasions breathe any thing but
There are many very delicate kinds of fish, which are held in great
esteem, to be seen at European tables; but, to a stranger, the
smell of the refuse allowed to decay is quite enough, and habit must
reconcile the residents of Bombay to this unpleasant assailant of
the olfactory nerves, before they can relish the finest specimens
of pomfret or other favourite. As it can always be purchased freshly
caught, fish appears at dinner as well as at the breakfast-table in
Bombay; the list of shell-fish includes oysters, which, though not
so tempting in their appearance as those of England, are of excellent
The fishermen, like those of Europe, leave the sale of their fish to
their wives, who are said to be a busy, bustling, active race, quite
equal to the tasks which devolve upon them, and, in consequence of the
command which their occupation gives them over the pecuniary receipts
of the house, exerting a proportionate degree of authority.
Fishermen's huts, though very picturesque, are not usually remarkable
for their neatness or their cleanliness, and those of Bombay form no
exception to their general appearance. They are usually surrounded by
a crowd of amphibious animals, in the shape of tribes of children, who
for the most part are perfectly free from the incumbrance of drapery.
Many, who have not a single rag to cover them, are, notwithstanding,
adorned with gold or silver ornaments, and some ingeniously transform
a pocket-handkerchief into a toga, or mantle, by tying two ends round
the throat, and leaving the remainder to float down behind, so that
they are well covered on one side, and perfectly bare on the other.
Amid the freaks of costume exhibited at Bombay, an undue preference
seems to be given to the upper portion of the person, which is
frequently well covered by a warm jacket with long sleeves, while the
lower limbs are entirely unclad.
There is said to be cotton goods to the amount of a million sterling
lying in the godowns and warehouses of Bombay, unemployed, in
consequence of the stoppage of the China trade, and it seems a pity
that the multitudes who wear gold chains about their necks, and gold
ear-rings in their ears, could not be prevailed upon to exchange a
part of this metal for a few yards of covering of some kind or other,
of which apparently they stand much in need.
Great numbers of the poorer classes seem to be ill-fed, ill-lodged,
and worse clothed; yet scantiness in this particular is certainly not
always the result of poverty, as the redundance of precious ornaments
above mentioned can witness. Neither does the wretched manner in which
many belonging to the lower orders of Bombay shelter themselves from
the elements appear to be an absolute necessity, and it is a pity that
some regulations should not be made to substitute a better method
of constructing the sheds in which so many poor people find a
dwelling-place. The precaution of raising the floor even a few inches
above the ground is not observed in these miserable hovels, and their
inhabitants, often destitute of bedsteads, sleep with nothing but a
mat, and perhaps not even that, between them and the bare earth.
At this season of the year, when no rain falls, the palm-branches with
which these huts are thatched are so carelessly placed, as to present
large apertures, which expose the inmates to sun-beams and to dews,
both of which, so freely admitted into a dwelling, cannot fail to
produce the most injurious effects. Were these houses raised a foot or
two from the ground, and well roofed with the dry palm-branches, which
seem to supply so cheap and efficient a material, they would prove
no despicable abodes in a country in which only at one season of the
year, the rains, very substantial shelter is required.
As it may be supposed, conflagrations are frequent in these hovels;
they are fortunately seldom attended with loss of life, or even of
much property, since the household furniture and wardrobes of the
family can be easily secured and carried off, while the people
themselves have nothing to do but to walk out. On these occasions, the
rats are seen to decamp in large troops, and gentlemen, returning
home from drives or parties, are often arrested by a fire, and by the
instructions they afford, do much towards staying the progress of the
flames, while the greater number of natives, Parsees in particular,
look quietly on, without offering to render the slightest assistance.
Whole clusters of huts are in this manner very frequently entirely
consumed; the mischief does not spread farther, and would be little to
be lamented should it lead to the entire demolition of dwelling-places
equally unsightly, and prejudicial to health.
Much to my astonishment, I have seen, in the midst of these very
wretched tenements, one superior to the rest placed upon a platform,
with its verandah in front, furnished with chairs, and surrounded
by all the dirt and rubbish accumulated by its poverty-stricken
neighbours, miserable-looking children picking up a scanty
subsistence, and lean cats groping about for food.
Enter page number
Page 70 of 79
Words from 70708 to 71725