(26) Su,ee, Grass-cutter, Doob or Sun-grass, Malee, gardens of Europeans, mode of drawing water [[138-146]]
[] The su,ee, or groom, attends but one horse, and has attached to him an under-servant, whose business it is to provide grass for fodder, and to perform various services relating to cleanliness, &c. This may be looked upon as the extent of his duty while stationary; but when marching, the assistant or, as he is called, the gaus-kot [] (i.e. grass-cutter), carries the pickets, headstall, head and heel ropes, currycombs, clothing, &c. &c. to the next place of encampment. The labour, though certainly severe, is performed with tolerable alacrity, from the hope of one day succeeding to the post of su,ee.
A good groom is invaluable in India; the horses there being invariably high-spirited from want of castration, and often becoming, under the least provocation or licence, incorrigibly vicious. There we see gentlemen, when mounted, afraid to approach each other within ten or twelve yards, lest their horses should begin fighting. Some few have indeed been tempted, by the supposed passiveness of their respective steeds, to ride boot to boot; but rarely without experiencing some dreadful misfortune; many legs having been thus broken. Although much may depend on the natural temper of a horse, still there will remain much in the power of the su,ee. If he be timid, and the animal spirited, the latter gains such an ascendancy as renders him ungovernable. Being once let loose, and a mare within sight or scent, away goes the steed, completely disqualified for future saddling.
It is inconceivable what control some su,ees obtain over their horses, which will allow the approach of no other groom. This is often attended with most ludicrous, or rather most distressing, circumstances; it being very common to see persons sitting on horses from which they dare not alight until their own su,ees arrive and, by securing the head with a baug-door (or leading halter), grant them leave to quit the saddle.
When a person falls from his horse, the whole troop separate, lest the stray animal should attack them. In such a case, two or three active su,ees may prevent mischief; but few will attempt to catch a horse whose character for gentleness is not established. Every su,ee is [] provided with a strong cotton cord, rather thicker than a stout window-line, of several yards long, which he fastens to the left cheek of the bit when leading and does not loosen till his master has mounted; when, by drawing a slip knot, the animal is liberated from the groom's control. In general the line (baug-door) is affixed before dismounting; otherwise, the horse will in all probability gallop away to his stable, which may be some miles distant, leaving his incautious rider to walk after him.
In consequence of the immense number of gad-flies to be seen at all times of the year, each su,ee carries a whisk, made by fastening horse hair to a short stick, commonly lacquered in rings of alternate colours. This implement, with which the flies are driven away, is called a chowry, and costs about six or eight pence. A small sheet of karwah, either double or single, is usually thrown over the su,ee's shoulder, or fastened round his waist, before he sets off to accompany his master. This is laid over the horse's back when his master dismounts, to prevent the dry gripes; to which the animal, if much heated, would be subject, but for this precaution, and that of walking him about gently till perfectly cool. Thus, no gentleman ever rides without his groom.
Many of these grooms run so fast as to keep up for many miles with a gig going at a smart pace; for by habit, they become long-winded and capable of great fatigue. The dress of a su,ee, taken generally, is between that of a khidmutgar and a mushuulchee; while the dress of the gaus-kot rarely exceeds that of a common labourer. The former receives per month from four to six rupees; five being the general rate: the latter has usually three, when paid independently of the su,ee; who often makes a small deduction, resistance to which would incur a discharge, either peremptorily or by the imputation of some neglect, &c.
[] The grass-cutter should provide a net for carrying a large bundle of fodder, and a paring instrument, called a koorpah, to cut the grass about half an inch under the surface of the soil: the upper part of the root being considered extremely nourishing. Hay is much less suited to India, nor is ever seen there, except that the Muharuttas make a coarse kind of hay to feed, at certain seasons, their large bodies of horse; but their condition, in general, by no means recommends it for private studs. Yet that practice has advantages; for where our cavalry horses would starve for want of green or succulent fodder, the less delicate Muharutta charger readily plucks at any old thatch, and even on such diet will perform wonders.
The horses of our army appear, indeed, to be too highly pampered; at least, by such a mode of feeding, they are ill prepared for coarse foraging, such as may become, necessary under the most ordinary circumstances of a campaign. The practice too of soaking gram for cavalry horses is peculiarly objectionable, for they not only require it at all times, even when water (much less soaking-pots) cannot be had in any quantity, but most horses swallow the grains whole, without mastication. The grain supplied to cavalry horses ought rather to be reduced to a coarse meal, mixed with hay and straw in equal quantities, cut very fine in a chaff-trough.
When a camp has been settled only for a few days on even the most luxuriant verdure, the whole will disappear. It is, however, speedily renewed after the first rain, presenting a beautiful light-coloured blade, very small, and of rapid growth. The proper grass for horses is the doob, or sun-grass, not unlike our fine creeping-bent. This, when well beat with a stick and washed, should be kept for a day or two in an airy place, and is thus more wholesome, than when used, as it commonly is, immediately [] after being cut.
The doob is not to be found everywhere; but in the low countries about Dacca, Mahomedpoor, &c., where the inundation is general during nearly three months in the year, it abounds, and attains to a prodigious luxuriance. It is often seen full two feet and a half high, and absolutely matting the ground. Cattle are turned into it promiscuously, and never fail to thrive. It is remarkable that in a district where during the rains the soil is never visible -- the little villages built on eminences, and the tops of large trees staring out of the water, being the only discernible objects -- there should be no provision for the maintenance of cattle, except what can be drawn up by means of forked poles from perhaps a depth of twenty feet.
This green food, highly impregnated with moisture, is scarcely wholesome at such a season for the poor animals, then cooped up in the hundreds of boats that surround every village. Whereas, if the doob were to be cut and stacked in February, when it is in high perfection, and the atmosphere moderately warm, it would be a more appropriate and less hazardous species of fodder. But the truth is that cattle in every part of India are left as long as possible to shift for themselves: though a load of the finest hay in the world may be made in the low countries for about half-a-crown.
In the Gentleman's Magazine for February 1809, there is a description of a grass discovered in Ireland called the fiorin, which perfectly corresponds with the doob of Hindostan. This invaluable plant equally endures the severest cold of Ireland, and the scorching heats of tropical summers. During these, indeed, the verdure disappears; but the root is unimpaired, and abounds with succulence.
The doob is rarely sown in India; but after being cut below the surface by the koorpah, a tool in common use among grass-cutters, and chopped into pieces about two [] or three inches long, it is mixed with mud, and plastered on the soil, which is previously saturated with water. In a very few days it will vegetate, especially if care be taken to moisten the mud. This grass is also well suited for transplanting, and thus very large plots are sometimes turfed. The stems throw out roots at every joint that is suffered to touch the ground; but when very thick and abundant it will tower and spindle, not unlike our pink and carnation plants. If set in small tufts, a foot asunder, they will soon cover the surface.
The malee, or gardener, next claims attention. His dress, unless at the head of a large establishment, scarcely exceeds that of a common labourer, nor are his wages much higher; four rupees being a very common rate, though sometimes six or seven are given to men of superior ability, and acquainted with some particular culture important to their employer. Those who serve under the malee are generally bildars, hired by the day, probably at five or six pice, equal to about two rupees and a half monthly.
These bildars use a kind of mattock called a phourah, which consists of a blade about the size of a common garden-spade, with a very strong eye at the top, riveted to the blade, and so fixed as to give the handle a direction of about 70° from the plane of the blade, which is slightly curved inwards. The handle is about thirty inches long, and driven nearly through the eye, where it is occasionally wedged, to keep the blade from turning upon it. While working with a phourah, the bildar stands in. the same position as if using a pick-axe, throwing up at each stroke whatever soil may accumulate. When the tool is new, much may thus be lifted; but when worn down nearly to the eye, the most active labourer cannot do much more than may be done by an ordinary bean-hoe.
Those malees [] who serve gentlemen are usually provided with rakes and hoes; but otherwise, they use only short iron spuds, set into wooden handles, the stem being cranked, and the whole length rarely exceeding eighteen inches. With these they beat to pieces the clods, and admirably level the surface; but of course not so quickly as our gardeners. With the same tool, of a smaller size, they dig up weeds; keeping the garden remarkably clean and, under proper observation, raising an immense quantity of vegetables.
It should surprise an European to see with what precision malees sow and cover their seeds; the seasons for which they perfectly understand, even though the greater portion of their horticultural produce consists of exotics. This is the more remarkable, as there is no book of gardening extant in the Hindee language; and if there were, the chances would be at least a thousand to one that the malee could not read it.
The greater part of manure used in gardens is known by the name of kallah-mutty (black-earth), collected from places set apart for the reception of filth of all sorts; except horse and cow-dung, &c., which are generally too much valued to be so appropriated. These are formed into cakes, between the hands, about the size of a plate. These cakes, while moist, are stuck up against a wall exposed to the sun, where in a day or two they become thoroughly dry and make excellent fuel, burning like good peats. These guttees, as they are called, are generally prepared by the malee's wife, and stacked for culinary purposes.
The gardens of Europeans in India are, with few exceptions, laid out like our kitchen-gardens; having one main walk, with a few ramifications and parallels. These walks are all covered with soorkee, or brick-dust; though [] where gravel, or rather shingle, can be found, it is generally preferred. The whole area is intersected by little earthen channels, sometimes lined with semicircular tiles, whereby water is easily conveyed to every part. The peculiar gratification to the eye, and indeed to the feelings, from the proximity of perpetual verdure, in a country where for months together a green spot is scarcely seen, induces most persons, when laying down a garden, to appropriate a piece of ground in view from the house for a grass-plot.
This is refreshed, every third or fourth day, by laying on water from the well, which is always made on some more elevated spot, to command every part to which the irrigation extends. The doob is the grass invariably selected; though its numerous seeds, as well as the cool shelter it affords, attract ants in great numbers, and of various colours and sizes, which are a perfect nuisance throughout the East. Gentlemen who rear turkeys find, from experience, that few can be brought up except where such grass-plots exist, and where shade and water are at hand.
Most of our garden esculents thrive in India; cabbages, cauliflowers, lettuces, celery, beets, carrots, turnips, peas, cucumbers, French beans, radishes, potatoes, &c. are cultivated in abundance; together with capsicums, love-apples, egg-plants, gourds of various kinds, calavanses, yams, sweet potatoes, and hundreds of the indigenous tribe. The common fruits are guavas, peaches, nectarines, grapes, a few apples (but no pears), melons of various sorts, pine-apples, mangoes, oranges, citrons, limes, pomegranates, byres of a very large kind, comrin-gahs (or winged apples), currindahs, and in general most of the tropical fruits.
Within the last twenty years, very considerable additions have been made by the introduction of various trees, and also of gardeners, from [] China. The former have thriven admirably; while to the latter we are indebted for many valuable practices common to that industrious people, and which promise to contribute greatly to the perfection of Asiatic horticulture.
The best of malees cannot be ranked with the least capable of the Chinese gardeners, though it is not to be denied that they possess many strong recommendations, and are not a little proud of any improvements or novelties committed to their management. In the art of irrigation they cannot be surpassed. That indispensable operation is performed, in most instances, by drawing water from a narrow well into a cistern, or hollow, at its edge; whence, by means of the channels before described, each bed receives the necessary supply of moisture. A pair of very small oxen, worth about twelve or fifteen shillings each, suffice to draw up a moot, or leather bag, containing from twenty-five to thirty gallons,
In general, a small hut is erected in the garden for the accommodation of the malee, most of whose operations are performed after sunset: especially that of laying on water, and the setting of plants. Rat-catching is also an object of importance, and most successfully followed by moonlight; when those large black rats called bandycoots, equalling most cats in bulk, are often speared, as they ramble among the cucumber and melon beds, wherein they make prodigious havoc. Nor is there any deficiency of rats of other sorts or sizes; they are to be found both in immense numbers, and in every variety; but the large Norway rat is most abundant. Moles are unknown in this country: most probably the soil does not suit; as it becomes so hard and dry during the hot season.