(24) Modes of carrying water, Bheesty, Tatties [[122-127]]
[] In such a climate, water is, during four months at least, the main spring of existence, both in the animal and the vegetable kingdom; consequently, its supply becomes a profession, giving subsistence to thousands. The water-carrier, if provided with a bullock for the purpose of conveying two large leather bags, each containing about twenty gallons, is called a puckaully; but if he carries the water himself, in the skin of a goat, prepared for that purpose, he then receives the designation of bheesty.
The bags for a puckaully are made of strong hide, sewed very firmly at the front, which is at right angles with the bottom, where the leather doubles, and consequently has no seam; the back part is diagonal, forming a kind of spout behind, opposite the bullock's knee; while the top is left open, rather in a funnel form, for about a foot, that the water may be poured in: the spout is first rolled up, and then tied with a strong strip of leather.
Every puckaully carries also a small bag, that he may serve as an ordinary hand-bheesty, when required. This is made of the skin of a goat, taken off in a particular manner. Being put into a solution of lime, the hair soon [] quits; when the inside fleshings are carefully scraped off. A tan is then made of the bark of baubool (mimosa), khut (catechu), and alum.
Bheesties are, with few exceptions, Moossulmans; it being contrary to the Hindoo code to touch either the carcases or the skins of animals killed in any way. Hence a Hindoo of this profession is extremely rare, and will seldom be discovered; owing to the necessity for [a] change of name, so as to pass for a Moossulman. Hindoos will, nevertheless, drink of the water supplied from the mussock (or bheesty-bag); though they are extremely partial to such as they can draw themselves, by means of a line and metal pot, with which most travellers are provided.
Some few are extravagantly scrupulous, and will undergo excessive thirst, rather than partake of the bheesty's supply. Dust, heat, and fatigue, however, rarely fail, after a while, to overcome their scruples. The puckaullies, or as they are usually called, the bullock-bheesties, replenish their bags by driving their cattle into some tank or pond, up to their knees or even deeper, then baling in the water, by means of a small leather bucket, holding about two quarts or more. The hand-bheesty usually sinks his bag under water, when it soon fills. When drawing water from the wells, the leather bucket, called a dole, is used by both the puckaully and the hand-bheesty.
The constant application of a wet skin to the clothes on the hip, necessarily disposes them to rot: on this account, most bheesties use a piece of cloth called karwah, which having been dyed in grain with a composition consisting chiefly of the solution of shell-lac, effectually resists the moisture.
The wages of a hand-bheesty are from four to five rupees, according to the agreement as whether he is to furnish his own mussock, &c., which is the general mode. His duty, during the cold season, and in [] the rains, is little more than to supply water for the horses, and to fill a few pots for culinary purposes, bathing, drinking, &c., all of which may employ half an hour.
But in the summer months, his labours are severe. Exclusive of the above requisitions, which are multiplied tenfold, he has to water the tatties (or frames filled with grass) placed on the windward side of every house to cool the air; which at that season is not only uncomfortably hot, but will absolutely parch the skin of a person not accustomed to it. By daybreak the bheesty must begin to fill the several tubs, or immense nauds (pans), of earthenware, placed near the house; this being done, he brings the tatties, and after wetting each thoroughly, as it lays on the ground, he places it against its respective aperture, supporting it with props and, during the whole day, indeed often till midnight, sprinkling it in every part; and occasionally replenishing the vessels.
In some very dry seasons, the bheesties are obliged to continue their labour during the whole night. There was an instance, in the year 1793, when the winds were rather hotter at night than in the daytime; so that it became absolutely necessary to keep the tatties up for a full week or more; and to procure additional bheesties to perform the night duty.
All the houses in India are tarrased, not only on the basements, but on every floor; therefore, previous to sweeping, the bheesty sprinkles the tarras slightly; to prevent the rising of dust. He likewise waters the precincts of the house several times daily, but especially towards sunset, when gentlemen usually take their tea in the open air. If persons of respectability go any distance, perhaps two or three miles, in their palanquins, during the prevalence of the hot winds, they are commonly accompanied by their bheesties, who carry a small quantity of water in their mussocks, to sprinkle the tatties applied to the sides [] of the vehicle; and thus the interior, which would otherwise be insufferably hot, is rendered agreeably cool. Those who do not take bheesties with them have their guttatopes (or palanquin covers), which are ordinarily made of the karwah before described, well soaked in water before they set out: this, though not so effectual, is no bad substitute.
Water dashed out from the end of a mussuck, or bheesty-bag, would be apt to penetrate into the interior of a palanquin; and as its expenditure, while proceeding any distance, should be economically managed, there is a very simple device which effectually answers every purpose. A small rose-head, similar to those affixed to the spouts of garden watering-pots, being firmly secured within the neck of the mussock, by means of the leather thong always attached to that part, divides the water more minutely and equally, and checks its too abundant supply.
Tatties are made of the roots of that long grass found in most of the jungles in India, and corresponding exactly with the Guinea grass once so ridiculously sent to the East as a great acquisition. The fibres are of a rusty brown colour, devious in their direction, and from ten to twenty inches long; of which, among us, clothes brushes and carpet brooms are made. The Hindoostanee name is kuss-kuss, and the general price may be about four rupees per maund (of 82 lb.).
It is enclosed in a frame made of split bamboo, chequered into squares of about four inches each way, and in the whole sufficiently extensive to overlap the exterior of the door or window to which it is to be applied, at least six inches, or perhaps a foot, at the sides and above. The kuss-kuss is placed very regularly on the bamboo frame as it lies on the ground, in the same manner [] as tiles; each layer being bound down, under a thin slip of bamboo extending the full breadth of the tatty. The great art is to make the tatty neither too thick, so as to exclude the wind; nor too thin, to let the dust pass through, without rendering the interior sufficiently cool
After many experiments, it has been found that a maund of kuss-kuss, applied so as to cover about a hundred square feet, answers extremely well. But it is best to have one or two tatties made rather thin, so as to apply in case of light winds: when it blows hard, these may be applied double, one at the back of the other. At such times, the interior of a house will be very cool; sometimes rather too much so; for the great evaporation caused by the heated air's passage through the cold medium produces perfect refrigeration.
In the western provinces, and other parts of India, tatties are frequently made of a short, prickly bush that thrives during the hottest months on sandy plains, especially in places inundated during the rainy season. This shrub is called jewassah; its leaves are not unlike those of rue, but not so numerous, nor of so deep a green. It is extremely prickly, being everywhere furnished with spines about the size of a pin. When fresh, the jewassah is most pleasing to the eye, and its scent equally agreeable; but after the first day, the verdure disappears, and the whole house is filled with leaves and thorns.
Hence the kuss-kuss, which when fresh is rather fragrant, though the scent is somewhat terraceous, is usually preferred in making those tatties which roll up, so as to be particularly applicable to palanquins, and are called cheeks; wherein nothing but kuss-kuss is ever employed. Where this root cannot be procured, or when, in the early part of the hot season, little has come to market, common grass pared from the soil, or even small boughs, straw, &c., are occasionally [] used to fill the space between two frames of bamboo. These answer tolerably when well watered; but are objectionable on account of their disposition to rot. Kuss-kuss will keep for years.
Very few puckaullies, or bullock-bheesties, are retained in the service of individuals; but usually attached to the establishments of barrack-masters and quarter-masters. They answer admirably for the supply of water at the soldiers' quarters and hospitals; where tatties are allowed, at the public expense, during the hot season. In most cases, the bullocks that carry the water, as well as the leather bags, appertain to the establishment, and the driver receives only the pay of a hand-bheesty. Where he supplies the whole, his pay is from ten to twelve rupees per month.