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(35) R,hut, g'horry-waun, fine breed of oxen, their speed, hackery [[179-183]]

[[179]] Many gentlemen have r'hunts, or r'huts, for the conveyance of their native ladies, either on a march, or to take an airing occasionally: in such case a man must be employed to drive, and to take care of the bullocks. He is designated the g'horry-waun, or carriage servant. His dress generally resembles that of the khidmutgar; his pay being ordinarily from four to six rupees monthly.

Williamson 1810 vol. 1: ((325)) The generality of persons following this avocation are rather elderly, and possess the outward shew of great decency and respectability; but I believe they are, with few exceptions, by no means of a character such as would be supposed from their venerable and sanctified appearance. I have seen so much, and the instances are so common, of the intrigues carried on, or connived at, by g'horry-wauns, as to satisfy ((326)) me of their being as great hypocrites as are to be found on earth.

The construction of a r'hut is so very curious as almost to defy description. The g'horry-waun sits astride that part of the fore-frame which may be compared with the pole and traverse of one of our four-wheeled carriages, under a seiwaun, or semiaun, made of the same stuff as the covering, supported in nearly a horizontal position by two slight poles fixed into iron ferules at the body of the frame, and proceeding at an angle of about 45° to the foremost edge of the seiwaun. The bullocks are managed by means of a strong cord passed through the septums, or divisions between their nostrils, and tied over the crowns of their heads, where the rein, made also of rope, attaches: this effectually curbs the cattle.

Such a device may appear to partake of cruelty; but experience has proved that no other mode is adequate to keep this fiery, restless, and vicious breed of cattle in tolerable subordination. The g'horry-waun, by the application of a severe goad to the hind-quarters of the bullocks, keeps them on a smart trot. When they are tolerably quiet, the driver's feet generally suffice to keep them to their pace; but when all other [[180]] methods fail, he twists their tails, and thus urges them to their best speed. The reins should serve both to stop and to guide; but as the bullocks are not always prompt in turning when only so acted upon, the tail is often resorted to, as a never-failing rudder.

A true home-bred Englishman can have little idea how swiftly a pair of oxen can draw one of these r'huts. He cannot readily imagine them travelling from four to six miles within the hour; and even in places where the g'horry-ka-leek, or track of a wheel, is scarcely to be found. A pair of Nagore, or of Guzzerat, bullocks standing full sixteen hands at the withers (making allowance for the humps on the shoulders of all cattle bred in that quarter), have been known to convey a r'hut with ease at the rate of eight miles within the hour. But such instances are uncommon, and perhaps five miles may be the truest average. Nor do bullocks keep up an even pace like horses; on the contrary, they either proceed on their quickest trot, or walk; there is seldom a medium; for not being trained to move in one set pace, but urged by starts, at the will of the driver, they want [=lack] the habit which would improve their wind.

That breed of oxen said to be raised chiefly in the Guzzerat and Nagore districts, is very fine. They are milk-white, handsomely formed, with fine eyes, and horns generally no more than a foot long, but gracefully turned, partly forward and partly upward. The natives invariably paint or gild the horns, and sometimes mark the sides, necks, hams, and shoulders of their favorites with mindy, the plant generally known among botanists under the name of hinna.

A conveyance on two wheels, in other respects similar to the r'hut, is commonly used in India, both by men and women. The body is generally square, and the roof less [[181]] elevated. With few exceptions, these have red covers, in the sides of which, as in those of the r'huts, are small slits, serving for peep-holes. In these ghorries (i.e. carriages) such are more necessary than in the r'huts; the former being almost invariably fitted up with cheeks, or screens; one of which is ever appended to the fore-part, between the interior and the driver.

The common g'horry now described is rarely, if ever, kept by any European; but may be seen plying for hire in various parts of Calcutta. Some of these have shafts, in which a tattoo (pony) is fixed, with a very slight harness, barely sufficient to keep the crook-saddle in its place. This is a recent improvement; as is also the application of tattoos to r'huts. They are found to be more manageable, and far cheaper, than bullocks; besides, their pace is much quicker; and in case of failure, they are most easily converted into cash; an object of great moment to the parsimonious Hindoo.

Williamson 1810 vol. 1: ((329))  Neither the dress, nor the emoluments, of the persons driving such carriages, can he estimated with precision, but in regard to the latter, we may safely conjecture that something handsome is made; knowing them to be employed more in the conveyance of prostitutes than in any other kind of fare. The usual hire of a four-wheel r'hut drawn by tattoos, is, I believe, about three rupees per diem; while those with two wheels and only one tattoo, at the utmost earn only two rupees: I never could ascertain any fixed rate; the g'horry-waun always endeavoring to make his bargain for the trip to the best advantage.

Judging from the rapid strides made in various parts of the country, especially at the several ((330)) presidencies, to bring all matters to that kind of system without which nothing could he done in Europe, we may expect, in a few years, to see regular fares and rates established, as in use among us, for the prevention of misconduct, and over-charges, on the parts of hackney-coachmen and watermen.

The g'horry-waun is also employed in a subordinate capacity, driving a common cart, usually called a chuckrah, but named a hackery by Europeans. This vehicle carries, on an average, eighteen or twenty maunds, equal to about thirteen or fourteen hundred-weight. It is drawn by two oxen; though in the northern parts of the country, four are often attached to those which convey cotton or other gruff merchandize. Those retained by gentlemen for the carrying on of works, or for the transportation of baggage, if hired by the day, usually cost half, or at times three quarters, of a rupee, when employed on the spot; but if required to proceed many stages, a whole rupee is demanded.

When the g'horry-waun is the menial of any officer, &c., his usual pay is from four to five rupees monthly; or four when stationary, and five when marching. His dress is little better than that of a [[182]] common cooly. Like all other servants to whose care the feeding of cattle is entrusted, he contrives to extract some perquisite from whatever he either receives or purchases. What with dustooree, short weight, over-charges, repairs, and medicines, the g'horry-waun has been fully a match for his British compeers in deriving emoluments from whatever money, &c. passed through his hands.

The duty of a g'horry-waun is confined to the charge of his cattle; to see them properly rubbed down, and supplied with provender. This usually consists of small chaff from various kinds of pulse, or of the stems of badjra, jewar, &c. (various kinds of millet), or of the bootah (or Indian corn), which being purchased in bundles, he chops with a common bill, on a log of wood. When bullocks are allowed gram (already mentioned), the usual portion for each is about two, or at the utmost three, seers; the seer weighing about two pounds avoir-dupois.

It is indispensable that this servant should understand how to load his carriage to advantage, and to repair such parts as may not require the aid of an artisan. Thus he must be competent to sew a saleetah, or large sacking cloth spread at the bottom of the hackery, and lapping up over every part, so as to prevent the loss of articles, or their injury by the weather. He must be able also to take off a wheel; and above all things, he must be a careful, steady driver.

This is the more necessary from the very small distance between the wheels in all Hindoostanee carriages; the whole load is generally placed above the level of their upper fellies, causing the gravity to be thrown very high in a hackery laden with bulky articles, which is thus very liable to be overturned. Yet fewer accidents of this kind happen than might be expected, considering how much night-travelling prevails in India. Perhaps the deep ruts on roads frequented by [[183]] carriages preserve the wheels in their course, so as to prevent the bullocks from deviating.

The distance to which a hackery can travel in a day, depends entirely on the state of the roads, the strength and condition of the cattle, the heat of the weather, and the weight to be drawn. Under fair circumstances, it may extend from fourteen to sixteen miles; but the latter distance is considered a forced march. To the weight of the carriage and its load, that of the driver must be added, he usually sitting immediately behind the bullocks. When the load is rather too heavy behind, so as to cause a tendency to tilting, he sits forward, between the cattle, and even occasionally upon the yoke itself. The latter position must be extremely oppressive to the cattle; but in hackeries laden with cotton, where the burden necessarily occupies a great space, hanging over the rumps of the beasts, such a position is nearly inevitable.

The hackeries used in that branch of trade are very strong, and invariably drawn by at least three, or rather four, bullocks. Sometimes buffaloes are used, for their immense strength, where heavy commodities are to be carried; though their pace is very slow, and they are extremely addicted to lying down in every puddle. It is found eligible [=suitable], when buffaloes are yoked, to travel entirely by night, those animals being greatly oppressed by the solar heat. The native merchants commonly mix one or two among their teams, and not unfrequently cause full thirty-five maunds, equal to about twenty-four cwt., to be laid on one hackery; but the daily distance with such a load seldom amounts to twelve miles.


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