6. LIFE, LUNATICS, AND DISEASE IN BENARES
5 Aug 1861. Today we had some heavy showers of rain completely flooding
one part of my compound.
6 Aug. Had heavy rain again. The 20th Regt seem to be badly off just now at Gorruckpore for vegetables the Quarter Master having written to me to ask what hind we were receiving for our men, their contractors not being able to procure any other than Dholl and which the soldiers don't like tho' this kind pays the contractors better than any other being generally cheap and always attainable. Touching now upon rations it is a fact when I say that of all my experience I never knew the con tractors for meat to bring a larger sheep when dressed that weighed over 20 lbs, the average being from 14 to 20 lb, owing most probably to India not being a meat producing country and the poorness of pasturage or in other words no pasturage at all. Excepting in the Hill stations the meat in general was anything but attractive, the beef being poor and insipid without a particle of fat upon any portion. In weight the quarters are extremely small and lean one fore and one hind not weighing more on an average than 80 lbs to 100 lbs.
For his daily ration and which is free of cost each Soldier receives:
1 lb of beef or mutton
1 lb of bread
5/7 oz of tea or coffee in lieu
1 oz salt
1 lb vegetables
1 oz or 2 oz of sugar
¼ lbs of rice,
besides which he subscribes to a messing account for milk etc. etc. which gives him as much food as well he can stow away comfortably.
Every year or as under the soldier is supplied with bedding and which he carries with him where ever he goes upon a march or changes quarters being as it is his own property:
1 quilt or cotton bed 7 feet by 9 feet each year
Seetingee every 3rd year
8 Aug 1861. Happening to fall upon the subjoined from the pen of a clever Medical Doctor relative to Calcutta I took a note of it as it stood verbatim.
1857. I cannot help stating that the perusal of that work (Surgeon Martin's of the Bengal Army) had ill prepared me for finding such an extraordinary absence of sanitary arrangements as apparently exists in this crowded city. The drainage is of a most unscientific and primitive kind, entirely surface drainage the refuse being carried along in conduits open to the air and in some parts of the city from want of proper inclination the neglect of the required flushing the accumulation of dark stagnant mud is so great and offensive that this alone provides a Nidus of malarious disease. The river is not enclosed by any artificial embankment and the mud left exposed at low tides, along its sides is calculated to exert a most deleterious influence in the atmosphere as might be expected from the large quantity of vegetable matter with which the water is contaminated from the crowded state of the shipping and from the practice among the Hindoo population of exposing their dead to float down the stream. The supply of water for culinary and drinking purposes is wholly obtained from rain collected in open tanks. Some of these are large excavations in the soil, others are mere mud holes being formed by digging out the clay of which the house or houses in the neighbourhood have been chiefly constructed.
Many of these tanks are rendered exceedingly offensive by neglect and the admission into them of refuse from the streets and houses.
Among some of the Hindoos the practice of burning instead of disposing of their dead by throwing them into the rivers is carried on.
Being an eye witness to a funeral of this kind I will describe what I observed. The body was brought from a village wrapped up in a cotton sheet on the shoulders of two half naked men whereon at their arrival at the brink of a Nulla (or stream) they placed it on the ground and after collecting a heap of dried stubble sufficient for their purpose, laid the body on the top and ignited the rubbish feeding the flame with this sort of fuel till the body had become consumed into a charred heap when they collected the ashes and threw them within the water to float away or to remain adhering to the mud or to the side of the nulla, the stench during the operation being most horrible and offensive.
19 Aug 1861. Today the air from the recent rain has become nice and cool and to add to the loveliness of the evening the moon lends her assistance. Cholera of late has been making sad havoc among Europeans at Agra, Delhi and Meerut as well visiting Benares on its tour.
24 Aug 1861. Having nothing to do particularly today I accompanied my friend Lassalles in a trap which we hired for the occasion to the prison where the natives committed by the Magistrate are confined as well too them who are of unsound mind of both sexes, our intention being to purchase articles for our use such as towels, horse rugs etc. etc. woven by the convicted prisoners. After satisfying our curiosity among that class of ragamuffins known as thieves etc. etc. we asked permission to enter the wards where the insane creatures are confined, on entering which the first object we saw was a being caged as if he had been a ferocious tiger, whose matted hair and dirty appearance created a sensation of disgust. There this creature was, clinging to the thick iron bars of his compartment entirely naked and filthy to the extreme, his gestures and manner convincing us that he was a most incurable savage maniac. In passing along the open space we soon became surrounded by a group of timid and half naked swarthy beings in all stages of mild idiotism, here and there two or three scanning our dress and persons with the greatest suspicion, while others as if to convey their wrongs peered into our faces with silent concern bearing upon their countenances such kind of grimaces that could not but excite within us much pity for their deplorable condition.
Among the many idiots there confined was one calling himself a Pundit, who talked so fast and long as to the destruction of the Europeans in India that one would almost credit him with sanity, were he not known to be otherwise; vehement in his manner of delivery as to his determination in regard to all white faces he certainly must have had some knowledge of what had transpired in the mutiny and as we saw that he desired to continue his conversation on that topic the warder cut him short by ordering him into his cell and locking him up.
In their division for Idiots there were many of all ages from the youth to the old man and of all stages, some mild and tractable, others the reverse and savage. Having contented ourselves with this visit we left the prison being much satisfied and thankful that we enjoyed our faculties and were not like the miserable objects that abide within its walls.
20 Oct 1861. His Excellency the Commander in Chief, Sir Hugh Rose, arrived at Benares today by Dak Gharry on his way to the Upper Provinces, stayed a few hours and inspected No 2 Barracks where the new machines for watering tatties and pulling punkahs were being put up and seemed pleased with the simplicity of their workings.
1 Nov 1861. The weather is now becoming very nice, tho' the mornings are cold. Today the relief is out for changes of quarters, the l9th to go to Meean Meer in the Punjab.