14 The Mall
Many thanks for your last two or three letters! It makes me quite ashamed of the comparative infrequency of mine.
By the time you get this Tess and Sylvia Ann will be within a few hours’ distance of you, and I am looking forward to hearing what you think of our fine, young daughter. (Her mother will tell how she is the apple of her Daddy’s eye).
We all left here on the 6th of April for Bombay by train – 850 miles away. We had talked of my not going in order to save expense. But at the last moment I went – fortunately, for our agents had mismanaged things and did not have Tess’s ticket at the dock, and Tess would not have been able to manage with Sylvia Ann on her hands. The journey and hotel for a night cost about ₤15. It is the great distances make it so expensive. The California was full of Scots stewards mostly from the West, and Tess was delighted to hear the familiar tongue. I never saw such pandemonium as everyone embarking got lost on the numerous decks, or so many children. The “Children’s Lunch” (which I attended as a visitor from the shore and partly partook of) in the Dining Saloon was a marvelous spectacle. At our round table Sylvia Ann had some other five small companions, with respective mothers or nannies, beside or behind them ramming mince etc down respective throats. While pugnacious little boys were being asked their choice from printed menus. They probably represented almost every Govt. service in every corner of India. A representative collection!
I am staying on in the bungalow where everything is familiar, discharged all the servants except the bearer and the sweeper (who have next to nothing to do) and have my meals with the Kennedys – the Glasgow IMS couple whom we knew in Bangalore, and who have followed us up here. The heat is now with us. There is something relentless about it. One can tell almost to a day each year when it become suddenly hotter, and after that one knows almost as exactly when the gradations further upwards will take place.
Perhaps because I am becoming acclimatized to it, it is not troubling me, and one learns with experience how to keep one’s house cool. Straw blinds (called “chiks”) are kept lowered all day on the verandahs which shield the house from the direct rays of the sun. The whole house all doors and windows – an Indian house has some ten doors for subsequent “airing” – are closed and curtains drawn from 8am till 4.30pm. This prevents the hot blasts of air from coming inside and raising the temperature. In a day or so I am hoping to get a “khus khus tattie”, which is a two-inch thick loose fiber door screen. This will be placed across the outside doorway of my bedroom and soaked at intervals with water. A table-fan which I have bought placed in front of it will such cooled air inwards. All this no doubt sounds very grim. But it has been possible even without the last means to reduce the outside shade temp. of 107 to 86 indoors. And far from a closed and curtained house being depressing – it is coolness and restfulness in contrast to the glare and the oven-hot air that strikes one on the fact when one goes out at mid-day.
The tempo of life, however, goes slowly in the hot weather, and it would be pleasant in many ways if it were not for its monotony.
I have sent Dad a batch of Indian newspapers which perhaps he will pass on. One of the local “repercussions” of the new constitution, is that the UP (United Provinces) Cabinet have tendered advise to Sir Harry Haig the Governor, that the Government and secretariat should not proceed to the hills this hot season (Naini Tal). This has been a hardy annual amongst Indians on the grounds of expense of the hills and the Government being away from the people. The Governor has naturally accepted his minister’s advice and he and the big fellows in the ICS are contemplating their first hot weather in the plains with some trepidation. A few days after, the (Indian) Lucknow Municipall Board decided unanimously to send the yak from the Lucknow Zoo to Naini Tal for the hot weather. One of the papers sent shows an excellent cartoon, of the yak leaving by rail for the hills – walking up the red carpet to his compartment, while the Governor and some other member of the ICS stand by, touching their topis, and saying “Carry your bag, sir?”
There is no doubt about it by the way that the majority Congress votes in seven out of ten provinces are an indication of the real feeling of the country. The figures would probably be more overwhelmingly so, but minor officials like police, govt. Clerks, etc, who are myriad in this huge country, little as they may like being ruled by Britain, feel surer of their pay and bread and butter with things as they are. Congress is not, as you suggest is sometimes stated, the only organized political body and thus catches the votes. It is a great pity Congress have not taken office. I think their demand for a Governors assurance was quite unnecessary, and looks to me very like a political maneuver to avoid office acceptance. Pandit Nehru has been against office acceptance all along in spite of the All India Congress’ decision to the contrary. There are now minority Govts. in most of the provinces. In UP they are a very distinguished crowd, several Knights and the rest Maharajahs. The Governor, presumably to give them time, or prevent an early dissolution which would oblige him to rule himself, refuses meantime, to call the Legislative Assembly. Meantime Pandid Pant (the leader of the local congress slings mud, and says the constitution is wrecked already). The Bombay Govt. has issued its programme, which includes taxing of luxury hotels and prohibition! It’s going to be an interesting country.
Through the kindness of my banker I sent ₤4-3-0 by air-mail the other day for Jean (Alford’s) insurance. It should just be in the nick of time.
When Tess and Sylvia Ann pay you a visit could you run them over to see M and B Taylor. I’d like them very much to see S.A, and they could appreciate it so much (no other relatives in Kirkcaldy please!). If you can’t get over, perhaps you could fix it up somehow.
I note the knitting (and sewing?) campaign has begun. Yes, I knot it my boy, but it will go on for good now.
I’m pleased to hear that Jean is keeping well, and await the good news in August.
Tess’s address in Paisley is:
45 Auchmannoch Avenue