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(39) Da,ee, high rate of interest, shroffs [[188-189]]

[[188]] The Da,ee is more generally an attendant upon native ladies. Their dress, in most points, corresponds with that of the Hindoostanee aya, but their pay is much less; few receiving more than five rupees, and the majority serving for four. But from a number of domestic perquisites, especially the remains of victuals, cast-off wearing apparel, donations on certain festivals, overcharges in purchases, dustoree on all articles bought by the lady, &c. &c., they manage to pick up a very good income, and not unfrequently lend money to their mistresses at the moderate rate of one anna (i.e. a sixteenth) per month, [[189]] for every rupee advanced. This is never done without a pledge, generally of silver or gold ornaments.

Such a rate of interest may appear very high, but is general on loans for short date; and then under good security. The money-lending business, especially that on bunduck, or pledge, is confined entirely to the Hindoos. Moossulmans are prohibited by their institutes from receiving, though not so strictly from paying, interest. Indeed, owing to the less frugal habits of this sect, and their greater indulgence in ostentatious display, few individuals are totally exempt from that heavy fine collected by the Hindoo shroffs and mahajans, from such inconsiderate persons as have occasion for them.

It is nevertheless remarkable, that the generality of such money-lenders as reside at our several cantonments are very liberal in their advances to officers; who, when much in arrears, are often extremely pressed for cash to defray their immediate table expenses, and that too even on the most economical plan. An officer has been repeatedly kept from starving by the accommodation which the shroffs afforded, whose civility and forbearance form a striking contrast to the punctual and greedy claims of both the Christian and the Jewish Shylocks of Britain.

When practicable, they will indeed obtain some kind of security for their loans. This is only reasonable; but they have been known to furnish many hundreds of rupees simply on an acknowledgment upon a scrap of paper, barely specifying the sum and date, without any form such as could have validated the claim in case of demise, or refusal of repayment. The truth is, that where they see no danger, they feel no reluctance.

Williamson 1810 vol. 1: ((344)) The generality of dhyes attendant upon native ladies, hold a regular intercourse with some one of the above class, by whom all difficulties resulting from irregular receipts of pay are removed. This is wonderfully facilitated by the circumstance of being related to some young khedmutgar in master's service. Of this kind of family compact I have already spoken; therefore it is not necessary to enter into details at this moment: my readers will form a just opinion of the situation in which a gentleman is placed, when parties are formed, both before and behind the purdah (curtain), to watch his motions, and to carry on the great work of deception.

In this, I speak feelingly, having, like hundreds of others, many of whom appeared studious to perpetuate their misfortune, been the dupe of such coalitions; from which it is, indeed, very difficult to escape. The attachment of many European gentlemen to their native mistresses, is not to be described! An infatuation, beyond all comparison, often prevails, causing every confidence of whatever description to be reposed in the sable queen of the haram! I do not mean to say that the above deceptions are universal; for I could adduce instances wherein native women have ((345)) conducted themselves invariably in the most decorous manner, and evinced the utmost fidelity in every particular, to their keepers; some have absolutely sacrificed property to no inconsiderable amount, and given up every pretension to cast; that is, to admission among those of the same sect, or faith, braving the most bitter taunts, and the reproaches of their friends and relatives.

Here it may not be out of the way to notice that strange medley of religion, and of interest, some may say of love, which is observable in the conduct of the native women, either residing under the protection of Europeans, or coming under the ordinary description of kusbeen (i.e. prostitutes). Their rigid adherence to, or at least their superficial observance of, whatever relates to the purification of their persons, after contact, is admirable! It is not uncommon, among those professing immense purity both of body and of soul, to get up several times during the night, for the purpose of ablution.

However ridiculous such a practice may appear, yet we cannot refuse to bestow some commendation on so strict an etiquette: lamenting, at the same time, that so much perseverance should be thrown away. Must it not strike every person as being highly curious, that a woman should make no scruple of cohabiting with a man, whose very touch, indeed, his entrance ((346)) within a certain area, or even treading on that carpet whereon she were eating, should pollute the whole of the viands; and occasion their being thrown to the dogs, or given to some matranny, or other equally debased character? It really becomes a very serious question, I believe hitherto overlooked, under what plea a woman can allow her child, born under such a connection, to participate in her meals?

But reason is one thing, and maternal affection another! Still, though it may require no great sophistry for a woman to find an apology for such a decided inconsistency, it seems unaccountable how she is suffered to escape that vigilance with which the priesthood, and others of her sect, watch her every act. I can ascribe it only to a certain deference, which has habitually sprung up in favor of all relating to Europeans and regarding their domestic concerns. This, doubtless, saves many from those punishments ordinarily attendant upon the most trifling dereliction of religious or civil ordinances.


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