(23) Khidmutgar, Mushuulchee, Hookuh-burdar, Hookuh, Kaleaun, Goorgoory, and Neriaul [[112-122]]
[] Having disposed of those who pride themselves as appertaining to the nuokur, it remains to detail the services, &c., of such as come under the general designation of chakur.
The khidmutgar or, as he is often termed, the kismut-gar, is with very few exceptions, a Moossulman. He prepares all the apparatus, and waits at table. For this purpose, he repairs to the house of his employer shortly after daybreak; when, after seeing that the breakfast apartment has been swept, and that the bearers have put on a kettle, he lays the cloth with small plates, knives, forks, spoons, &c., together with bread, butter, sweetmeats, &c., but reserving all the tea-things for a side-table; at which, if there be no khansaman, he officiates, making the tea, coffee, chocolate, cocoa, or whatever is ordered.
Where there is an European lady in the family, she may perhaps have the cups, &c. set upon the breakfast table; but on account of the steam arising from the various preparations, this custom is by no means general; and often, after a while, it is relinquished in favour of the bachelor's mode, which is in every respect the most comfortable.
Every gentleman must have one khidmutgar; but the majority keep two, or even more; not only adding thereby to their own expense, but considerably incommoding every party in which they may dine. As every gentleman, when at table, is attended by his own servants, it may easily be conceived that where two or more are posted behind each guest, a living enclosure is formed, tending by its exhalations, added to those from their masters, and from the [] viands, to banish comfort, and to render all artificial means of cooling the apartment useless. Hence it is usual, at all public entertainments, to admit but one servant for each person invited: on some occasions a better plan is adopted, namely, that of employing only as many servants as may be deemed absolutely necessary.
Gentlemen fixed at Calcutta or at any other place, as residents, cause plates, knives, forks, spoons, napkins, and glasses to be laid for the whole company; but at all military stations, each guest sends his servant with two plates, a soup plate, a small plate for bones, &c., a tumbler, a long glass for claret, and a smaller for Madeira, a table spoon, a dessert spoon, perhaps also a marrow spoon, two or three knives and forks, and a napkin: these are usually taken to the rendezvous by one of his khidmutgars, who accompanies the ab-dar; the latter causing a bearer with a bangy, or sling, to carry the apparatus for cooling water. However luxurious the latter custom may seem, yet there is none more gratifying, or conducive to health. A glass of cold water is at times invaluable.
When seated at table, the khidmutgar stands behind his master to change his plates, &c., which are cleaned by servants without; and either to keep him cool by means of a small hand-fan made of palm-tree; or to drive away the flies with a whisk, called a chowry, made of the hair from a wild ox's tail, or of peacocks' feathers, or of the roots of grass, called kuss-kuss, &c. Often, howerer, these offices are left to a bearer, who likewise stands behind his master's chair for that purpose. After dinner the khidmutgars retire to their own homes, and, about sunset, attend their respective masters, if they have remained; but should they sup where they dined, as is customary where suppers are laid, the attendance is repeated, the same as at dinner-time; after which the khidmutgars [] go to their respective houses without ceremony.
The pay of this menial varies from five to perhaps ten rupees monthly; but the generality receive from six to eight. Much depends on the rank of the employer, and whether the khidmutgar is ever expected to officiate as khansaman; such is, indeed, the case with the families of single gentlemen not in possession of large receipts; but the officiating khidmutgar is honoured almost invariably, by all the other servants, with the title of khansaman.
Nor is such distinction always ill-bestowed; many of those who serve under gentlemen of a liberal disposition, and who take pleasure in keeping a good table, may be fairly compared with at least half the servants actually entitled to that designation, as to all the knowledge requisite to support its character. Few, however, of those who become thus capable of managing all that appertains to domestic economy, refrain from making attempts to enter the superior circle. Nor are there wanting persons ready to seduce such good servants from the employ of their acquaintances.
About forty years since, when it was the fashion for ladies and gentlemen to wear the hair full dressed, a good peruquier was an indispensable part of the establishment. The great difficulty of procuring persons properly qualified, induced several gentlemen to have lads instructed under those who were known to he expert. This often cost from eighty to a hundred rupees (ten or twelve guineas); but in many instances, the pupils had no sooner learned the business than offers were made clandestinely from other quarters, sometimes by intimate friends of their master, when some little disagreement was contrived so as to give pretext for quitting their service.
Khidmutgars are, with few exceptions, the sons of ayas, da,ees, &c. in the service of European, or native [] ladies. Their first introduction to the table commonly takes place at eight or nine years of age; when they are usually smart, intelligent, and well-featured. At first they attend only at the house of their employers; receiving no wages, or barely sufficient for clothing: by degrees they become useful, and are allowed to attend him abroad. Their dresses are generally of the same form; but the quality of the cloth, the length of the skirts and sleeves, and the trimmings, are matters of great consequence in the eyes of this vain tribe.
All endeavour to obtain turbans and cummer-bunds (i.e.
of the same colour, and are not the less pleased if a tassel of silver
fringe be added to the outer end of the former. They wear a coortah,
or vest, reaching at least to the knees. During the hot season this is
made of white calico or of chintz; but in the winter, one of perpet, or
other woollen of European manufacture, is deemed more respectable. The
long drawers are white, or of striped gingham.
The mushuulchee, or flambeau-bearer, may be considered as serving an apprenticeship to the khidmutgar. This lad should be agile and attentive; having to run for miles as fast as the ordinary rate of a carriage. He will find abundance of work in cleaning boots, shoes, knives, dishes, &c., together with numerous et cetera; and the many valuable articles in glass-ware and crockery given to his charge, for the purpose of being washed, require his diligent care. While a lad remains a mushuulchee, he may acquire much experience, as to the duties of a khidmutgar.
Some, indeed, are to be seen in the service of inferior persons, acting in both capacities, and carrying the umbrella; which is properly the duty of a bearer: but where the mushuulchee performs the khidmutgar's duties, bearers are rarely kept. Few mushuulchees are allowed [] more than five rupees monthly, and for this they supply the flambeaux and oil, where such are used. The usual pay is about four rupees; the master, as is now the general custom, using a lantern instead of a mushuul (or flambeau), and supplying ends of wax candles, or whole tallow candles for that purpose.
Many of this description of servants begin as coolies, or labourers, and gradually improve, so as to be admitted into the service of non-commissioned officers, &c.; whence they remove into the employ of gentlemen. A few come from the sepoy regiments, in which they have served as goorgahs, or fags [=servants], to some native officer, &c.; but, the generality of our sepoys are Hindoos, to whom various domestic operations occurring in the families of Europeans are obnoxious, on account of the nature of many aliments in use among us.
The mushuul, or flambeau, consists of old rags, wrapped very closely round a small stick about two feet long, and two inches and a half in diameter; to this an iron ring is fitted, so as to confine the fire within about an inch at the tip. Being refreshed, from time to time, with oil extracted from the sesamum, it burns with great fierceness, and as the cloth consumes, the ring is brought back, by means of an old fork, thereby renovating the flame. The oil is either carried in a glass bottle, to the embouchure of which a reed is fitted to prevent spilling; or it is contained in a brass vessel, holding nearly a quart. It is made expressly for the purpose, and thence called a tale daunny (i.e. oil-pot).
The dress of a mushuulchee consists of a turban, generally coloured; a short pair of drawers reaching half-way down the thigh, nearly the same as the jangheeahs of the native soldiery; and a cloth wrapped round the waist .[] But if he waits at table, he imitates the dress of the khidmutgar, so far as his pocket may allow. Persons of distinction, among both Europeans and natives, cause their mushuulchees to carry what are called branch-lights. These consist of a semicircular frame of iron, supported on a centre stem, to which the side ribs join; upon the circumference are five or seven spikes, on each of which a small mushuul is stuck. When they are all lighted, and raised above the head by means of the stem, they make a great show. Two or perhaps three branch-lights may be seen borne before a great personage. Two or more ordinary mushuuls, or lanterns, are also carried near the palanquin, to prevent the bearers from stumbling.
The next upon our list is the hookuh-burdar, or preparer of the pipe; a domestic of great consequence with those gentlemen who give themselves up almost wholly to the enjoyment of smoking. Some begin before they have half breakfasted, and smoke with little intermission till they retire to rest; nor is there any custom which becomes so habitual. To so great an extreme, indeed, is it carried, that there has been more than one instance of two hookuh-burdars being retained; one for the day, the other for the night. The wages are, in most services, from ten to fifteen rupees per month; occasionally less, but rarely exceeding; unless excessive partiality for his pipe should induce a gentleman to give more, under the common error of expecting satisfaction in proportion to the disbursement.
To such an excess has this opinion prevailed, that I have heard of no less than one hundred rupees per month having been given to a hookuh-burdar. In some instances he contracts for the whole expense, receiving such a sum as may, besides his wages, include tobacco, goals (or fire-balls), [] and chillums (or sockets for receiving the towah, or tile), on which the prepared tobacco is applied. Some even provide the snakes, or pliable conductors.
With respect to the tobacco used for smoking, few are to be found of the same opinion: and that opinion probably formed under the grossest deception. The little village of Bilsah, in the Muharutta country, has been long celebrated, and not without reason, for the fragrance of the tobacco there cultivated. But the quantity sold annually throughout Bengal, where it produces from thirty to sixty, and even eighty rupees per maund (if ascertained to be genuine), is known to exceed fully an hundredfold the amount of any crop ever raised at Bilsah.
The substitutes are various; but one kind, raised in the Bundel-cund district, supplies the greater portion; many, indeed, are of opinion that it is not inferior. May not its excellence be owing to the practice, common in that quarter, of sprinkling the plants at harvest time with a solution of molasses? We know that many fruits, for instance the raspberry, yield but little of their flavour, until excited by the saccharine acid. That very cheap tobacco, the cug-gareah, which ordinarily sells for about four rupees per maund (of 82 lb.), has been rendered so mellow and so fragrant by being worked up with molasses, and kept in close vessels for some months, as absolutely to be admired even by persons who prided themselves on never smoking any but the true Bilsah.
The usual mode of preparing tobacco for the hookuh, is by first chopping it very small; then adding ripe plantains, or apples, molasses, or raw sugar, together with some cinnamon, and other aromatics; keeping the mass, which resembles an electuary, in close vessels. When about to be used, it is again worked up well; adding a little tincture of musk, or a few grains of that perfume, [] or else pouring a solution of it, or a little rose water, down the snake, at the moment the hookuh is introduced. In either case, the fragrance of the tobacco is effectually superseded; giving ample scope for the hookuh-burdar to serve up rank mundungus (as bad tobacco is termed) in lieu of the supposed, or perhaps the real, Bilsah.
The hookuh-burdar rarely fails to smoke his master's best tobacco; which, however highly perfumed, will rarely be strong enough for his gratification. The deficiency is supplied by the admixture of bang, a preparation from the leaves of the ganjah, or hemp (the cannabis sativus), and is extremely intoxicating. The leaves of that plant, when triturated with water, compose a drink of the same tendency, known by the name of subzy (i.e. green), which is a constant beverage among the more luxurious; who rarely fail, towards night-fall, to take an ample dose of either bang, subzy, or majoom, the latter being sweetmeats impregnated with a decoction of the ganjah or hemp plant, much used by all debauchees, and too often admitted within the sacred area of the zenanah (or haram).
The use of any preparations of the ganjah, or hemp plant, is attended with much opprobrium. Like most intoxicating drugs and spirits, they in the first instance excite to gaiety, but ultimately leave their victim in the most deplorable state of stupefaction; the recovery from which is attended with dreadful head-ache, irritation of spirits, and hypochondria. Some hookuh-burdars indulge freely in the use of musk, which never fails, after a while, to produce considerable derangement of the nerves and, not unfrequently, that complete debility which is ever attended with the greatest depression.
A very common species of debauchery, in which I have known
or two gentlemen to indulge, is the incorporation of opium with the
tobacco, previous to [] its being spread upon the towah; a
custom so repugnant to discretion, as to leave little room for
the folly being usually of very short duration, and intermediately
with the most abject degradation. Many native princes who have been
from their thrones, and others who have been displaced from offices of
trust, are said to have been treacherously overcome by means of opium
Some of the real Persian kaleauns exhibit considerable ingenuity and taste on the part of their manufacturers. In the centre of the interior bunches of flowers, beautifully coloured, far too large and too delicate to have been introduced at the embouchures of the vessels, may be seen. Over these the glass, which is rarely of the best quality, though probably far superior to any of Hindoostanee formation, has evidently been cast, or blown.
Many of these artificial bouquets are, however, made piece-meal, as discovered by examining their construction, after their exterior cases had been accidentally broken. Such were found to consist of a cone of rosin firmly cemented by heat to the bottom of the kaleaun. It appeared that the several leaves, branches, flowers, birds, &c. were introduced one after the other, in a heated state, and applied to the rosin, in which they buried themselves sufficiently to retain a firm hold. It was likewise ascertained that [] some models of Persian architecture were combined in the same manner; while on the other hand,others, especially small figures of great personages seated on thrones, elephants, &c., were never subjected to that device: in the latter instance, some grapes were, however, joined in the manner above described.
The goorgoory is a very small kind of hookuh, intended to be conveyed in a palanquin, or to be carried about a house; the person who smokes, holding a vase-shaped bottom by its neck, and drawing through a stiff, instead of a pliant, pipe, formed of a reed, arched into such a shape as to conduct its end conveniently to the mouth. In this implement, very generally used by the middling classes of natives, and especially among the women in harams, the pipe is rarely more than a yard in length.
The neriaul is only a cocoa-nut, with the pipe-stem thrust through a hole at its top, and a piece of reed, about a cubit long, applied to another hole rather lower down. The nut-shell being half filled with water, we might suppose the air, or rather the smoke, would be cooled; but from observation, it is doubtful whether any change take place in the temperament of either. These little hookuhs (for however paltry, their owners do not omit to give them that designation) are often used without any reed to conduct the smoke; the lips being, in that case, applied to the small lateral aperture into which the reed should be fitted. One of these usually serves half a dozen men, who pass it round with great glee: it often forms an appendage about the feet of a palanquin, if the opportunity offers for securing it there without the master's knowledge.
The dress of a hookuh-burdar in the service of a gentleman of rank, is like that of a chob-dar; a jamma being generally worn by such; but in more humble situations, [] the courtah of a khidmutgar is common. In the former situation, his office is confined entirely to the hookuh; while, in the latter, he is generally expected to wait at table, at least on occasion; but wherever the master, of whatever rank, may go, thither the hookuh-burdar is expected to proceed, so as to furnish the pipe in due season after dinner, or at any other time it may be required. The ordinary periods for smoking are after breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper: such may be deemed regular, and two or three charges at each time are by no means considered exorbitant. It has been already stated, that some gentlemen smoke day and night.