Saturday, September 24, 2011

From ‘Hindoo Holiday. An Indian Journal’ by J R Ackerley

- Published in 1932

Hindoos believe in one impersonal God, Brahma, the Universal Spirit or Energy, pervading, constituting everything. ……. it is forever evolving itself out of itself. Brahma is neuter; but it has developed a triple personality, three masculine deities called Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Preserver; and Siva, the Dissolver and Reproducer. These three principal personalities are sometimes considered as co-equal and their functions interchangeable; they are constantly manifested and finally reabsorbed into the one eternal, impersonal Essence, Brahma.

Mrs Montgomery gave me final advice.

‘You’ll never understand the dark and tortuous minds of the natives,’ she said: ‘and if you do I shan’t like you – you won't be healthy.’

I asked why the touch of a Mohammedan and a European was so contaminating, and the Dewan said it was due to their meat-eating habits and to their lack of scrupulosity in washing. If his wife left the kitchen for a moment, he said, to fetch him something, for instance, she would wash her hands carefully before returning; but Mohammedans and European had dirty habits: they used paper instead of water in their lavatories, they did not take off their leather shoes in the kitchen, they smoked in the kitchen and ate BEEF, and when they did wash they washed with soap which is made of animal fat.

Europeans touched their lips or the wet ends of their cigarettes, and cooked their foodor shook hands with other people afterwards without having washed. Smoking was a filthy habit, he considered ….. their disgusting custom of afternoon tea! The strainer they used! On account of it, though he had sometimes consented to drink tea with Europeans, he had never once accepted a second cup. What happened? When the cups were refilled, frequently without having been emptied of their dregs and rinsed with clean water, the mixture composed of new tea, dregs and sputum would rise and touch the strainer, which would then be transferred to the next person’s cup, and so on! Ice too! This was often put into a glass from which a man had already drunk, and so carelessly that the spoon was permitted to touch the polluted liquid and then the same spoon was used again for somebody else’s glass! …….. Disgusting ….

…….. cried the Dewan …… Europeans did not seem to attach much importance to a kiss; they kissed the mouth passionately or dispassionately according to their feelings. ‘But in India,’ he said, ‘a kiss on the mouth is a very big things; it is a completed sexual act.’

The European dresses, but the Hindoo undresses, for dinner. When a Hindoo feeds he wears nothing but his nether garment, his dhoti, his shirt being under various disqualifications. It is not washed as frequently as the dhoti, which one bathes in every day, and for other reasons, too, it cannot be considered so clean an article of clothing.

For one thing, being only an adopted garment, it is seldom of Indian manufacture and is usually sewn, and Heaven knows what fingers have sewn it; whereas the dhoti is a single piece of cloth, and is not sewn anywhere ………

Indians are great expectorators. Hawked-up phlegm, streams of red betel-juice saliva are shot about incessantly as they walk.

Hindoos require no furniture; even the bed (the charpai) is only a luxury for the well-to-do, and can be dispensed with, and it's place supplied with straw and a blanket. But chairs, and therefore tables, are rarely used in Chhokrapur, and then uneasily. When a man is tired of standing up he squats on his heels …… In this position he can remain for hours, and take his food or write his letters on the floor. It is very economic, and it seems a pity that Europeans have lost this simple use of their legs and burdened themselves instead with property and the class distinctions of property – special seats for special bottoms.

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