Bamdah PO

Via Simultala







110º in the shade



Dear Alex


Your letter posted on Feb 2nd arrived at Bamdah (brought by a relay of three native          from the railway station Simultala 14 miles NE) on March 8th.  I happened to be in camp in the jungle with Dr McPhail some 30 miles north of here, at that time.  A coolie brought it all that distance to us on the 9th – 4½ weeks is quite a good effort!


It will be impossible to deal in detail with life here in a single letter, and distance precludes very many letters but I suggest you get a batch of my letters home where I am writing copiously – almost continuously!  If you do so, do not destroy same.  I shall try to sweep through everything in concentrated forms.


Port Said was priceless : there is no other word for it.  The entire population lives on visitors coming ashore : opening at any hour of the night when steamers come in, and the streets thronging with Egyptians who harass one – at every second step with their Turkish Delight, honeymoon pyjamas (whatever they are), rings, jewelry, obscene postcards and invitations to hostels.  I wrote a 20 page account of adventures in Port Said House.


I had only about three hours in Colombo, but was in luck in that I found a letter waiting me from     and Belle Taylor, with a note of introduction to her.  Ness (Manager in a big Chemist Warehouse and nephew of Ness, with whom the former works).  He at once left his counter – as only managers can – and drove me round the town and suburbs and several miles out the broad, tarmacadam road South West towards Galle, where I spent a pleasant hour in the cool postico of his bungalow : built in the edge of a sandy cove and overshaded by lotus palms, built there by the blue sea on the chance of catching an occasional cooling breeze!  Both he and his wife were exceptionally nice people – members of the Scots Church there.  I was delighted with Colombo and surroundings : “The Garden of Ceylon” is a true phrase.  The house was a mass of tropical foliage and the suburbs of red, yellow and lilac blossoms.  The bright coloured garb of the Swahlian natives and the flashing metal of the smart, brightly pained motor-cars completed a brilliant scene.  Politically I understand Ceylon, is fairly tranquil, so far as Sraraj goes.  The movement in India has affected Ceylon not at all.










I had an invititation to Kaudy in the interim from some English missionaries there – for I have already discovered that missionaries are as “thick as thieves” in doing each other favours.  I had to forge this reluctantly for there         are very tropical forest and the lined cities of old  civilization dated back BC.  I bought a book in Colombo : The Jungle Tide (John Still) : Blackwood.  It is after the style of The Feat     Jungle, written by a naturalist and archeologist in the Ceylon jungle.  I think it is even better in a way and at any rate opens up a whole world unknown.  Read it if you can.  It is beautifully done.


I had no qualms about landing in a foreign country for I knew I was being met at Calcutta, although I did not know by whom.  It turned out to be by Willie C Somerville (nor Prof of Science in Scottish Church College) and Geo Maclaren (now of Kalma), so it was a fine ‘CU’ Reunion.  You will remember them both.  I only spent two days in Calcutta as I was keen to get on her.  Calcutta is the 2nd largest city (next to London) in the Empire, with one of the finest squares in the world, and a business quarter full of fine buildings and traffic as bad as Glasgow sometimes.  It was interesting to note colossal new Banks, Insurance Buildings going up : evidently European commercial people think their position quite secure.  In February a loan of £14,000,000 was raised by the Indian Government in a few hours (more of politics anon).  Anne was amazed at the small number of Europeans seen in the streets in such a large and obviously, European quarter.  I believe this is a common        of newcomers.  I stayed at the Scottish Church College – in the most respectable part of the native quarter.  It was interesting to find Dr Urqhart (the “Principal” 1200 shouts) the leading educationist in Bengal and just retired from the Vice-Chancellorship of Calcutta University (which if you include all affiliated Colleges – of which the Scottish Church College is the chief – has 12,000 shouts)!  It was tennis afternoon amongst the missionary staff, complete with servants to hand round afternoon tea, and ball-boys. 

I met Miss Knott of the Duff Girls’ School ((450 high centre Hindu girls) who asked me to breakfast (!) next day.  I had a very jolly time and was asked back for tea!  I met Miss M Ritchie there.  We knew each other slightly at Edinburgh but I knew she knew you much better so she was interested in all your doings. 










It was a wonderful school : complete with kindergarten rooms, etc.  It was one of the most amazing things I have seen – all the children, obviously of good family, having daily – and very thorough bible instruction (Miss Knott was of the energetic Miss Spark variety)!  Since there are hosts of Hindu schools in Calcutta, it is a tremendous tribute that their parents should send them there.  In the afternoon another visior to tea was a Hindu lady, Mrs Banerja, a teacher, and an old pupil whom the school has helped to win her freedom.  When she rose and said she must take a ‘bus, + Miss Knott said that 10 years ago, she would not have talked of entering a public bus, she laughed in a kindly way and said “Yes! Changed days!”  Her husband was doing part-graduate work at Edinburgh and is staying in Marchmont!  I told her what a “marchmont-egg” was.  (I wonder if it will pass into the Bangali language).


I scarcely know where to begin about Bandah.  I shall say to begin with that I am thoroughly happy here and enjoying life immensely.  I have no thought of wanting to go home in two years.  The area the C of      occupy is roughly 4,000 square miles, thickly populated with Santals and with a sprinkling of Hindu villages.  There are in this huge parish, four mission stations, each with one missionary.  Isn’t it really ridiculous!  I am not being overworked at the moment for I do not have Hindi yet for Hospital (where most of the patients are Hindus coming long distances for cataracts etc) and so can only ‘vet’ patients at the moment.  I have a local ‘pundit’ (teacher) a Santal who was an interpreter in France during the war.  He leaves me daily twixt exasperation and obstreperous amusement with his carefully written out tenses : “Singular : the rice was having been eaten; Plural : the rices were having been eatens” and so on!  Hindi, however, is an easy language.  In phrases Like “must be going” you simply translate each work literally.  Then I do not have Santali – unhappily because this will prevent me from getting into touch with the Santals closely, though most of them know Hindi.  But with Hindi necessary for hospital, it would be unwise to tackle Sawhali as well – a most complex and pictorial language with 24 tenses in the verb, special pronouns for each and a dual.  It sounds like band Glaswegian, all the t’s being slurred.











The Santals are a very delightful people – a jungle tribe – pre- D              , driven to the hills by successive invasions, have maintained purity of race thro’ the centuries  are          , but in spirit yet they are nearly all in a state of selfdom to Hindu rajahs (pretty landowners) who feed them, even clothe them, and yet take the rice from their fields in return.  Yet they are much more manly and more             than the Hindus, whom frankly I do not like.  Hindus fawn and whine and grovel at one’s feel; in hospital they may suddenly make a “rugger” tackle at your feet and nearly upset you!  They are hopelessly rude and prime spitters! The Santals have a hearty, good humoured contempt for t          - “dickens” – they call them, and if you see a Santal child wearing a lot of ornaments and ask if he has”turned dikes”, you can always raise a laugh.  When first I saw my hospital “compounds” (“assistants” – and jolly clever at their work too) and compared them with the wild, f         , M D looing non-Zian Santals from outlying villages – well, their smartness and intelligence of their former is the nearest thing to a miracle I have seen.  I came to India with a perfectly open mind as to Zian missions as a practical proposition, and I must say the results in individuals can be absolutely astounding.  The Santal jungle tribe number 2½ millions.  There is ONE who is studying medicine out of that number.  He is from Bandal.  But many are quite gifted speakers as pastors and I met Sangra, a Santal Zian of another invasion the other day, he has reached       standard (or “failed       standard” which is an almost equal qualification in India!) knows English well, and has become the mouth of his people in the Legislative Assembly.  Such things must give a great thrill to the older missionaries who have spent lifetimes for the nurturing of these people.


One of the happy surprises of the mission-field is the comfort in which the missionaries love, though by that I do not mean luxury.  Most of the bungalows are perfectly beautiful, cool,         tropical houses, white walled, red-tiled, all swinging glass-doors, decorated with pot plants and with gardens that are often a mass of red and yellow blooms.










Some are almost like small estates, with ground about 1 square mile!  This is not extravagant but land was cheap and often the church, hospital, mission-workers homes, etc may be built on that ground.  Then the servant “problem” as elsewhere in India is most amusing to a newcomer, I have eleven servants!!  This is partly a matter of cheap labour, partly due to the fact that we Europeans need more done for us here because of the heat, and partly because there is so much mission work to be done that it is simply a policy of leaving us entirely free from any household duties whatever.  Eleven of course is too many for me, but then the          household has usually consisted of 2 or 3.  They consist of 1) Sarden “the Controller of the Household and head “bearer” (waits at tables and          personal servant.  Does local bazaar household purchases, doles out provisions to the cook and other servants who can’t be trusted (or Sudian servants as a rule can’t be trusted) and keeps me informed when stores are running out and must be ordered from Calcutta (where of course we must get nearly everything by post) 2) Kissin, second bearer, 3) cook, who bakes all our bread and turns out 3 course dinners every night : we dine on chicken always.  Two fowls are killed daily, and cost 3 annas each (hens here, by the way as less civilized than at home and can fly faster!), 4) cook’s assistant (or ‘devil’), 4) sweeper who also services the bathrooms (of the Roman Bath variety – one to each bedroom) 5) a padhur, 6) a paniwala (women water bearer) who waters the flowers in the dry season, picturesquely bearing         water pot – or        on her head and bearing water to the bathrooms from the well, 7) chauffer for the mission car (he keeps a ‘man’ himself to clean the car), 8) a saïs to look after the pony – which is unfortunately old and rather done but he acts as guide at night when we go for our           walk in the jungle to ‘inspect’ (ie keep up to the mark by unexpected visits) one or two of the 60              ‘night schools’.  None of the teachers are trained and there is a ‘crying need’ for an     missionary to train them.  But I think it is one of two wonders of the world that the mighty British Raj that sits in Great       like Buckingham Palace in Delhi and Calcutta, finds time to inspect also and give grants to these little groups of jungle children -      half dozens gathered round the storm-lantern conning out the Hindu alphabet in their mud courtyard, beneath the stormy sky, 9) a dhal’s workman, 10) an old     women whose duty is to keep all the rooms of two bungalows     with flowers.  I can’t remember who the eleventh is at the moment!  Happily the mission Council is going to pay for several of these for us.  But in India one does not feed one’s servants and the total annual cost of the lot is only about £75.


For the last three weeks I have been on a ‘holiday’ of sorts.  First a camping expedition to Saloia – which I have mentioned – to a communion at a little