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(37) Portuguese Ayas, ridiculously vain of their genealogies [[185-187]]

[[185]] The female who attends a lady while dressing, &c., is [[186]] called an aya, [and is] nearly such as the lady's maid among us. The wages of this servant are by no means uniform, but may be averaged at from eight to twelve rupees monthly. Some are half-cast children, born of European fathers and native mothers, and brought up in families from their infancy. To these, good treatment and kindness well compensate for the smallness of wages; and some among them will remain for years faithful and affectionate; but such are by no means numerous, when compared with the thousands who, at a certain age, either quit in search of places affording higher pay, or large perquisites.

Williamson 1810 vol. 1: ((337)) ... or who, if handsome, engage as 'house-keepers to single gentlemen!'

The majority of ayas are of Portuguese extraction, being descended from those heroes who, in times of yore, "laid bleeding Asia prostrate at their feet;" but who now compose the most contemptible race to be found on earth. They are all "good Christians," and in several parts of the country have small church-establishments, where they support missionaries; but in a humble style which strongly represents the abject condition of Christianity when under persecution.

Yet, however much tarnished their ancient splendor, it cannot be denied that in religious matters, the sable Portuguese of Bengal have outdone the British. They had churches long ago, and [have] one in Calcutta, built at a great expense by an opulent individual, and while only one English steeple could be seen under the presidency of Fort-William. 

Williamson 1810 vol. 1: ((338 )) ...which may at least compete with the only English steeple to be seen under the presidency of Fort-William. This solitary type of English devotion was built some twenty years ago, in an old burying ground, where the bones of many worthy men, among whom I reckon my own grand-father, had lain in peace for scores of years; but which, in marking arrangements for the new edifice, were torn up and exposed, without in much regard to decency.

It would be difficult to pourtray the honor expressed in the countenances of many natives, who were witnesses of the disgusting scene: as ((339)) to their observations, they were indeed pointe ; and conveyed their decided detestation of so sacrilegious an act. I say sacrilegious, because no Mussulman would allow even the remains of his most bitter enemy, to be ejected from their last asylum! .

Great alterations, however, in these respects are in daily progression.

Many Portuguese ayas affect to be in possession of genealogies whereby they prove their lineal descent from most illustrious characters; most of whom would, no doubt, be indeed abashed by a sight of their ill-fated and degenerate posterity. It can scarcely be conceived what pride is retained by these women, who are fond of [[187]] adulation, and love even to adoration the dear word Signora. To see them full-dressed on Christmas Day is truly diverting; their costume being, as nearly as circumstances will admit, that of the days of royalty in France, with a dash of the antique Vera-Cruz: to remind them, probably, of that eclipse which a gradual intermixture with the natives has cast upon their once tawny but now sable countenances.

The humiliating reflections attendant upon such a comparison should rather prompt them to burn their pedigrees, and to avoid whatever could induce retrospection. But the aya prides herself on that remote affinity claimed from her records; she retains all the offensive hauteur of her progenitors; which, being grafted upon the most obnoxious qualities of the Hindoo or Moossulman characters, makes a tout ensemble as ridiculous as it is despicable.


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