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(38) Hindoostanee Aya [[187-188]]

[[187]] The Hindoostanee aya (a woman born either of Moossulman or of Hindoo parents) is rather rare, unless in cases where young women have lost their casts, and thus become aliens to their own sects. These are said to be the most valuable servants; much superior to such as come under the designation of baundy (slave) and which have, for the most part, been purchased in their infancy from those miserable beings who, during times of scarcity, have been compelled to sell their offspring; thereby preserving the lives of both. The obligation, however, does not hold good, according to the existing regulations under the British government, to which slavery is totally repugnant; though the Mahomedan law authorizes the purchaser of a child thus obtained, to retain it, and to command its services, upon the condition of proper food and raiment, till its liberation at a certain age. There is, nevertheless, in the operation of this law a wide latitude; it being extremely difficult for the slave [188]] to substantiate his age, which can only be computed from what the purchaser asserts it to have been when the sale took place.

Though very few Hindoostanee women, except such as come under the above description, serve in the capacity of ayas attendant upon ladies, many are employed as nurses to weaned children; of which, an aya rarely attends more than one. Hence in some families, this class of domestics would be very numerous, were it not that few children born of European parents remain in India beyond their third or fourth year. The generality of those remaining, even for that term, under the care of ayas, become crafty, proud, and unmannerly; which has occasioned several ladies to engage as few as possible of those attendants, and to give their children in charge to bearers, or other male servants, under whose care they are found to be less vitiated, and, in general, far more healthy.

Unless great attention be paid, ayas will initiate their young charges in many practices, and especially in language, such as will require great assiduity to correct; and, after all, this may not be completely effected. Besides, they are usually very slovenly and offensive in their persons.


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