(37) Portuguese Ayas, ridiculously vain of their genealogies [[185-187]]
[] The female who attends a lady while dressing, &c.,
called an aya, [and is] nearly such as the lady's maid among
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,
of European fathers and native mothers, and brought up in families from
their infancy. To these, good treatment and kindness well compensate
the smallness of wages; and some among them will remain for years
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
higher pay, or large perquisites.
Yet, however much tarnished their ancient splendor, it cannot
that in religious matters, the sable Portuguese of Bengal have outdone
the British. They had churches long ago, and [have] one in Calcutta,
at a great expense by an opulent individual, and while only one English
steeple could be seen under the presidency of Fort-William.
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 [] 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.