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(52) Great heats, modes of refrigeration, general plan of building, various kinds of lime and cement, tarras floors, cutcha houses, ancient buildings, white ants, sleeping in the open air, floors on pots, north-westers, bungalows and out-offices [[239-260]]

[[239]] For some months, generally during the latter part of the rainy season, the weather is so close and sultry, that universal exudation takes place, even while a person is sitting still. The natives, as already remarked, guided by experience, have adopted precautions very different from what might have been expected under such a latitude, where Europeans have been prepared to see airy habitations, through which the wind could pass freely in every direction. But even these have at length become convinced that the most insupportable heats are derived from the glare of light objects; or, in other words, from the reflection of surfaces intensely acted upon by a vertical sun.

Some notion may be formed of that intensity from the fact of meat having been broiled on the cannon mounted upon the ramparts of Fort William. Europeans, therefore, must conform to the habits of the natives to a certain extent, if they would retain health or comfort.

Williamson 1810 vol. 2: ((2)) Such, indeed, should in every country, be held in view: for,however absurd many practices may at first appear, it will ordinarily result that necessity was their parent. I do not mean to say that we should imitate, much less adopt, without discrimination, all we see; but it may be considered an axiom that by taking the general outline of indigenous customs for our guide, if we err, it will be on the safe side. Nothing can be more preposterous than the significant sneers of gentlemen on their first arrival in India; meaning thereby to ridicule, or to despise, what they consider effeminacy, or luxury.

Yet too many walk about without chattahs (umbrellas) during the greatest heats, endeavouring by such a display of indifference, to show their great reliance on strength of constitution. This unhappy infatuation rarely exceeds a few days; perhaps at the end of a week (nay, the period has been much shorter) is seen the funeral of the self-deluded victim. The first attack is generally by cold shiverings and bilious vomiting; delirium and death speedily ensue, when putrefaction advances with such hasty strides, as often to require immediate interment.

The glare is certainly far more distressing at some seasons than exposure to the sun: but nothing can equal the [[240]] effects of both glare and sunshine acting upon the human frame during a Midsummer's day, when perhaps there is not a breath of air, when every leaf seems to repose, and every bird, saving [=except] the vulture, the adjutant (or argeelah), and the kite, seeks some shady spot, as a shelter from the solar ray. At such times the peaceful Hindoo confines himself to an apartment from which light is generally excluded. There he sits among his family, enjoying his pipe, refreshing himself occasionally by bathing, drinking the pure beverage from some adjacent spring or well, and in general avoiding to eat, except of ripe fruits, especially the turbooz, or water-melon, till the cool of the evening. In the meanwhile, however, he perspires copiously, even though in a state of inactivity, unless when refreshed by a punkah, or fan, moved either by his own or some menial's hand.

The birds just named, the argeelah, the vulture, and the kite, all of which are numerous throughout India, greatly promote the salubrity of the air, by devouring astonishing quantities of putrefactive offal, &c. Their instinct is wonderful. About mid-day, when the sun's beams strike with incredible force upon the earth's surface, these feathered scavengers ascend to the height of perhaps seven or eight hundred yards, so that the largest of them (the argeelah) is scarcely discernible. There they soar beyond the reach of reflection from the heated soil, enjoying the freshness of a cooler atmosphere, and descending only when allured by the scent of prey. Their sense of smelling must indeed be acute, for they are seen, especially the vultures, flying for miles, and from all quarters, towards some carcase, usually that of a Hindoo, floating down the stream, or stranded upon some shelving bank, but so situated as to render it perfectly [[241]] certain, that the visual faculties could have no concern in the discovery.

Few of the natives have tatties applied to their doors or windows; though by no means insensible to the gratification they afford; but penury, or close and parsimonious economy, forbid such a comfort; without which a constitution not inured to the climate would speedily give way. It is really curious to observe what may he effected by habit. While the sun's rays act so fatally upon European frames, even though under the shade of a thick painted umbrella, and with a diet nearly similar to that of the most abstemious Hindoo, it is wonderful that native children, of whatever age, whose rapid circulation and sable colour should, according to the estimates we form of temperament, be highly unfavourable to such exposure, run about at all seasons, bare-headed, and perfectly naked; seeming to set the sun, the wind, and the rain, alike at defiance.

Natives will make long journeys, in the most torrid seasons, under nearly similar circumstances; nay, they even carry bangies containing, on an average, full a maund (82 lb. avoirdupois), sixteen, eighteen, twenty miles or even more, under an oppressive heat which would kill an European outright; and this, too, for a few pence. If hence be urged the benefits of extreme temperance, it must he confessed that many who discover such powers of endurance may be ranked among the most ardent votaries of Bacchus, devouring fish, flesh, and fowl, highly spiced, whenever their purses, or the bounty of others, may supply them.

When the several shopkeepers, in every city and town, are seen serving their customers, or, in their absence, smoking profusely in their little boutiques, exposed to the glare and the burning winds; their skins parched, and their eyes violently [[242]] irritated and clogged, by the clouds of dust which range along the streets; the force of habit may be admired, and the blessings appreciated of a more temperate climate.

In the same situations are found two classes of persons, both natives of the soil, acting in diametric opposition to each other, and exhibiting that powerful resistance capable of being made by long residence, or rather by aboriginal habitude, against that which never fails to consign our countrymen to the grave. The former class confine themselves, whenever their avocations permit, within gloomy but cool, chambers; living most abstemiously, yet at certain times exposing themselves in the most unguarded manner to the severest heats. The other, perfectly inattentive to the dictates of prudence, yet performing what we may fairly term wonders, in opposition to their destructive locality.

When the English first visited India, they adopted a mode of building by no means consistent with common sense, or the most simple laws of nature. Accordingly, all the old buildings, such as laid claim to a duration of from fifty to seventy years, were, like the celebrated Black Hole, constructed more like ovens than like the habitations of reasonable beings. The doors were very small, the windows still less, in proportion, while the roofs were carried up many feet above both. Those roofs were in themselves calculated to retain heat to an extreme, being built of solid tarras at least a foot thick, lying horizontally upon immense timbers, chiefly of teak, or of saul wood.

Again, when they built bungalows (thatched houses) of one (ground) floor only, the utmost care was taken to close up all the intervals between the thatch and the walls on which it rested: so as to exclude the external air, as well as the dust: a practice still religiously observed. As an obvious [[243]] consequence, the air retained between the thatch (which in the course of the day becomes extremely warm), and the upper lines of the windows, must be highly rarefied.

Thus invariably, towards sunset, the inhabitants are observed to quit the inner hall, &c., either to sit out on chabootahs (large terraces) raised a foot, or two feet, above the level of the area, and abundantly watered: or they remove to the windward veranda (or balcony). On either of these occasions, the interior becomes intolerably hot, the rarefied air being drawn down by that current inevitably attendant upon the removal of all the tatties, and by the throwing open of all the doors and windows.

It has been shown that the French generally acted upon more philosophical principles; making their doors and windows remarkably high: but a very important improvement may yet be made by tin ventilators, inserted near the summits of the thatches. It is a fact that during many months in the year, the houses built by most Europeans, and especially their bungalows, are so extremely heated, as to render it absolutely impossible to sleep in their interior, without some artificial means for keeping the air around the bed at a proper temperature.

However faulty were the first European builders in India, the moderns have by no means made such improvements as experience might have led them to adopt. Whether from economy, or from more attention to exterior appearance than to internal comfort, scarcely a house is now built with such spacious, lofty, and substantial verandas, as are to be seen on the south side of almost every old mansion. Some of these antiquated edifices had verandas on several sides, and a few might be named which had them all around; as in the officers' quarters at Berhampore, and Dinapore. It can scarcely be doubted that such verandas are, in every respect, admirably suited [[244]] to the climate; since they prevent the sun from striking on the main wall; which, in exposed situations, has been known to give from 8° to 10° difference on the thermometer, under circumstances in every other respect similar.

It is remarkable that, till within the last forty years, the ground-floors, that is, the whole of the basements, of those fine large houses to be seen in all quarters of Calcutta, and in various parts of the interior, were consigned to the reception of palanquins, gigs, water-stores, or to be wine-godowns (or cellars), butler-connahs (or pantries), and even, in some instances, stables. In those days, the family confined themselves to the first floor, which was then the summit of the habitation; leaving to their luggage, cattle, and menials, that part which has lately been discovered to be, in every respect, most suitable to the accommodation of the European population. 

In houses of agency, &c., we now see the basement converted partly into offices, and but rarely any portion of it appropriated as formerly, while the generality of the new houses are built upon a scale to favour this salutary change, by giving sufficient height to the lower apartments. Thus they adapt them to every purpose; and in consequence of the accommodations thus gained, there is a considerable reduction of the ground plan.

The practice of building houses without verandas cannot be approved; whereas the old mode of building them on pillars was highly ornamental, and at some seasons not less appropriate. The keeping a house cool during the prevalence of the hot winds depends, however, entirely on shutting them out, except at some few apertures supplied with tatties. These being kept constantly moist, or, indeed, dripping wet, produce such an immense evaporation, as completely to cool the interior.

[[245]] Of course, a suitable draught must be preserved, by opening some window, &c., on the lee-side. This is commonly effected by means of Venetians, which allow the air to pass, but debar the access of glare. Without adverting to the expense, it should seem that a close [sic] veranda is far preferable to an open one; and, were it not for the immense additional charges, the European inhabitants of Calcutta would doubtless, in imitation of the generality of bungalow-residents, have their apartments surrounded by a veranda, of full fourteen feet in width; with apertures of a good size in the exterior wall, corresponding with those of the interior.

This arrangement renders the generality of bungalows remarkably pleasant; but it must be noticed that there is a very wide difference in the expense incurred in rendering them so. Their roofs being of thatch, and their walls of sun-burnt bricks, plastered with mud and chaff, form a great contrast as to expense, both in labour and materials, to a house constructed of burnt bricks and good lime, whose roof is of masonry, and in which timbers of great price are everywhere used. Accordingly, in almost every part of India, an excellent bungalow may be built for about five thousand rupees, completely fitted with glass doors and windows, and with all the necessary out-offices duly tiled, or thatched, according to their purposes; while a house suited to the accommodation of the same family in Calcutta, could not be finished for less than ten times that sum.

The bricks form a very small portion of the disbursements incident to building in India; being so cheap that most of the made-roads about Calcutta, and in other parts, are formed by laying broken, or even whole, bricks regularly, giving the centre two or three layers, gradually tapered off to the sides, and then covering them with a coat of rubbish, or, which is far better, of coarse sand. Such [[246]] roads are extremely firm, and far more durable than those made in England with gravel, flint, lime-stone, &c.

But there must be great allowance for heavy machines and very heavy burdens; whereas an Indian hackery can rarely weigh five cwt., nor can its load be averaged at more than fifteen cwt., being altogether only a ton. Now in England, common narrow-wheeled waggons weigh from fifteen to twenty-five cwt.; and except where weigh-bridges limit their burdens, it is not uncommon to see them carrying from two and a half, up to four, tons. Three chaldrons of coals will be found to average about seventy cwt.; yet are often drawn by three horses through the streets of London.

The lime used in Calcutta is brought down from the Morungs, and their vicinity, in large boats. It is generally slaked; though sometimes imported in its quick state, or as nearly so as accident will permit. It may readily be concluded that after a passage of from three to four hundred miles, this article is deteriorated; especially as the voyage occupies three weeks or a month. The prices of this sort of lime, made from a very firm stone called gutty, abundant in some parts, vary much according to the season, and the demand. It has been sold as low as six or seven rupees per hundred maunds, but at other times, has reached to twenty and twenty-five.

At Madras, and all along the coast of Coromandel, as well as on some parts of the Malabar border, an excellent lime is made from sea shells. This nearly equals that made in Italy from the refuse of marble, and receives a very fine surface, competing even with that of polished glass; at the same time that it is incomparably firm and durable. When laid upon a wall, which is done only as a finish, it is carefully freed from grit, and kept working, [[247]] and rubbing, till nearly dry, to prevent the surface from cracking when acted upon by the hot air at mid-day.

When nearly dry, it is rubbed with coarse calico cloths, till it receive a beautiful lustre, which causes it to appear semi-diaphanous. A few houses at Calcutta have been finished with this lime, conveyed by sea from Madras; but the great expense has occasioned the common Morung lime to be generally employed, both for cement and white-washing. In the ordinary buildings constructed in the upper parts of the country, a weaker kind of lime is obtained by burning a substance called kunkur, which at first might be mistaken for small rugged flints, slightly coated with soil.

In all parts of India, the lime-burners adopt the most expensive plan. Their kilns, rarely more than four feet in diameter, nor much exceeding that height, have not sufficient accumulation, concentration, or reverberation of heat, to burn the stones properly; neither do they, in general, break them sufficiently small, but throw them in, with very little attention to regularity or to economy. It is the same with the brick and tile-kilns, which are for the most part of a pyramidal form; the raw bricks being laid intermediately with the fuel, and: the exterior being plastered over with mud, perhaps to the thickness of half a foot.

The best bricks probably ever seen in India were made by an engineer officer, who was carrying on some extensive public works. He first built the whole of the walls of his bungalow with sun-burnt bricks, properly cemented with mud well filled in; taking care to arch over the door and window openings in such a way that the frames could be afterwards introduced. The whole interior was then laid with bricks and fuel, while the exterior of the veranda walls were also closed in with sufficient to heat them thoroughly, and a complete coating was given, in the ordinary [[248]] way. The bricks baked uncommonly well, while the walls became a solid mass, capable of resisting all the elements, should they unite for its destruction. The bungalow proved remarkably dry, and the plaster was found to adhere in a surprizing manner, while rats, snakes, &c., were all set at defiance; it being impossible for them to burrow in so hard a substance: the greater part of the cement, which happened to contain siliceous particles, was nearly vitrified.

Forty years ago the generality of houses were coated with the same kind of tarras as is employed for laying the floors and the roofs. It was made of chunam (white-lime), one third; soorky (brickdust), one third; and sand, one third. These mixed duly with a large portion of cut hemp (wool being very scarce, and short hair not to be procured on any terms), together with some jaggery, or refuse molasses, made a tolerably strong cement. The surface, after a house had been duly plastered, was washed, while the plaster was yet moist, with a strong solution of lime in water. This would have been enough to render every man, woman, or child in the place, blind, but for a partial remedy, by the admixture of some colouring matter with the finishing wash: but whether red, yellow, or blue, which were the prevailing colours, it was found that the alkali generally destroyed their appearance, and left a motley kind of work.

The good taste of a few individuals, chiefly gentlemen in the corps of Engineers, gradually overcame this vile imitation of Dutch and Portuguese finery; for they substituted in their public works a plaster composed of river sand, saturated with a solution of white-lime, of the consistency of cream. The addition of the usual allowance of cut hemp gave this simple compound (so to blend terms) not only much additional durability, but a remarkably [[249]] neat appearance; especially when the body of the building was of that fine grey thus obtained, and the cornices, &c., were finished of a pure white. Houses thus exteriorly finished became yet further neat, by the contrast of their Venetian windows, invariably painted green. Some prefer all verdigris; others, a deep clear green, for the framework, with verdigris for the several leaves, or valves.

Almost every house has to each window, or outward door, folding Venetians, sustained by very strong hinges, which allow each fold, or shutter, to open outwards, and to lie back flat upon the exterior wall. They are thus kept from blowing about by means of hooks, in the same manner as shutters in England. There are no sash-windows on the European construction, but they move invariably in two folds, one to the right, the other to the left; each opening inwardly, and lying within the thickness of the wall.

There is nowhere more attention paid or required to the foundation of a house than in India; the rains being so heavy as to sap all weak buildings exposed to their action, either above, below, or laterally. When houses are built with cutcha (sun-dried bricks cemented with mud), and either plastered with the same, or with mortar, the least crack in the roof, or the smallest hollow near the foundation, will be dangerous. The rain, which often for a whole day descends in streams, soon soaking into the walls, is incalculably mischievous. Many houses whose substance and general appearance indicate a better fate, may annually be seen in ruins, after a continued fall of heavy, or of drizzling but oblique, rain. The latter is peculiarly unfavourable to buildings insecurely coated, drifting in under the plaster, damping the mud cement, and bringing down the heavy roofs with a most sonorous crash.

Few cutcha houses are now to be seen [[250]] with tarras roofs; such as are so built for the sake of cheapness, being generally intended for thatches, and thus becoming bungalows. The natives build sometimes on that kind of half and half plan, which commonly, in the end, cheats the contriver. Thus hovels of a small description have been built with cutcha for the interior, while the exterior of the wall was made of pucka (burnt bricks), from whose interstices the mortar was carefully picked out, as though to be pointed, for the purpose of causing the exterior plastering to penetrate the joints, and thus firmly to retain its position.

There formerly existed a mode of mixing the ingredients in better proportions, or with better materials, which after a time formed a very capital cement. Of this, many very well known edifices furnish ample proof, such as the old fort situated within the town of Calcutta. The impressions made by shots of twenty-four and thirty-two pounds, fired by Admiral Watson against its western face when his fleet lay within three hundred yards of it in 1755, were quite insignificant; the brave admiral might have battered for a century, without bringing down the wall. In 1779, when the Company's cloth godown took fire, the third regiment of European infantry, then in garrison at Fort William, marched out with engines, &c. to assist in its extinction; yet were they utterly unable to loosen the iron bars from the masonry, though provided with tackles, crows, axes, &c.

This godown, which occupied a large part of the northerly face of the old fort, was afterwards converted into offices, but with incredible labour. The masonry was as hard as a rock. When this occurrence took place, the old fort had been built about forty years; whereas all the Company's, or any other buildings which now claim that age, are of a very different [[251]] complexion. The greater part of them, though not in a state of absolute ruin, are kept up at an inordinate expense, while such of them as have fallen down, display a crude mass of loose, friable, and mouldering rubbish.

Nor are the ancient terraces less obdurate than the walls. Many of these may be seen among the ruins of cities and towns of which we have scarcely any information, absolutely retaining their places, though the beams on which they formerly rested have been removed time out of mind. If these roofs had possessed any convexity, or been constructed according to the Syrian principle, we should have had less cause to admire their solidity and toughness; but such has not been the case even with those which, though certainly of no considerable dimensions, appeared firm enough to sustain cannon of small calibre.

As to the manner in which these roofs are constructed in India, the beams are about two feet apart, and generally have a scantling, ten or eleven inches deep, by five or six wide. Sometimes they are cambered to the extent of three or four inches, according to the length of the timber. These joists are laid on the bare wall, with their ends well charred. They are sometimes smeared with petroleum (called by the natives, earth-oil), to deter the white ants from attacking the wood; which they would certainly do, but for this precaution. The ends of the timbers are cased with masonry, so as to leave about four inches all round, and at their bases, that the timber may be removed in case of decay, without damaging the wall. The interval is then filled up with cutcha work, which, not adhering firmly to the pucka wall, may be easily removed when the joist is to be changed. If plastered over, the whole will appear uniform.

[[252]] In some parts of the country, especially in the upper provinces, the natives cover their houses with flat roofs of clay, beaten very firm, and about a foot thick. This mode of construction requires care, but is very efficient. The walls and the joists ought to be substantial, and the surface of the clay rather convex, to direct the water into proper gutters or drains, and so to prevent the building from being damped.

Without this precaution, the heavy rains, constantly to be expected during three months in the year, would very speedily dissolve such tenements. But when due care is taken to prevent and to stop leaks, clay roofs are the most eligible, especially in the vicinity of bazars, markets, and lines, in which fires are frequent. Many gentlemen have adopted them--some wholly, others partially, for bungalows--and find little or no cause to regret their preference.

It is, however, expedient to send up a man now and then, to lute any cracks occasioned by excessive heat; but after a season or two, the clay becomes nearly as firm as mortar-tarras, and thus resists the various changes of temperature. Its greatest inconvenience is the harbour it affords to that inconceivably obnoxious insect, the white ant.

These little depredators rarely fail to take advantage of every opportunity for the exercise of their destructive powers. Assembling by ten thousands, they will in a few hours eat out the bottom of a deal box perhaps an inch thick, or render it a mere honeycomb. Of fir and mango-wood they are remarkably fond.

It is remarkable that they should be partial to woods abounding in turpentine, while only a few drops of petroleum, which is imported from Pegu, Ava, and the Arvean coast, under the name of mutty ke tale (earth-oil), [[253]] proves a perfect preventive. Few things come amiss to these obnoxious visitants, which everywhere abound, and destroy wood, leather, cottons, woollens, &c. Nay, a story is current, that they were once accused of having devoured some thousands of dollars. Fortunately, on deeper research, it was discovered that they had only eaten away the bottom of the treasure-chest, and, like misers, had buried the hard cash some feet under ground.

As there are no ceilings in India, each joist is neatly finished, having its lower edges rounded: off with a beading-plane. At right angles with the joists, smaller battens called burgahs are laid; three or four inches wide by about two or three deep, or vice versa. These are nailed upon the joists at such parallel distances, generally about seven or eight inches, as may allow a large kind of tile to be laid on them. Over the tiles, rubbish, rather dry and about four or five inches deep, is patted down gently, by some dozens of men, women, and children, who, squatting like monkeys on their haunches, and having batons about a cubit long, and of a trowel shape, though not so obtuse, continually beat the materials till they become perfectly compact.

The better method, and in more general use, is, instead of rubbish, to put on a coarser kind of mortar, well worked up, but not very moist; which is beaten in the same mode. After this has been duly compacted, though not quite dry, another coating of two or three inches, and of finer materials, is put on, and beaten in like manner; then a third, perhaps only an inch deep, of still finer materials; and, ultimately, the whole is coated for about half an inch in depth with the finest ingredients mixed, after being sifted through a coarse cloth, with jaggree (molasses, or coarse sugar) and by some with peas-meal, called besun, which the natives consider to be peculiarly valuable in cement. This [[254]] last coat is laid on with a trowel, very firmly pressed, in order to compact it the more, and to prevent cracking; which will, however, always take place, more or less, according to the degree of pressure and beating; or as the great body of the tarras may be made of good or bad materials.

All partition-walls dividing the several apartments are necessarily of masonry, on account of the enormous pressure from above; and because the white ants would reduce the interior of wood to the state of a honeycomb, before their depredations were much, if at all, noticed on the surface. These partition-walls are carried up about six inches above the tarras roof; which thus appears to be divided into chequers, corresponding with the several apartments. Small channels are cut to carry the water into the spouts or drains; from which jars, to contain about a hogshead, are filled with water for table use. Some spouts are made to extend a yard from the wall, and in some instances canvass hoses are attached to them for leading the water into the jars; but it is now more common to build pipes of pottery within the wall, or to clamp them to it with iron, till their lower ends, which are crooked for the purpose, form a proper debouchure. From the latter mode, however, in heavy rains, the walls become damped, because the fall of water is greater than the pipes can instantly carry off. This may account for those deluges which, at times, almost instantaneously take place.

The tops of houses are invariably inclosed with breast-parapets, or balustrades, which give a very finished appearance to these superb buildings. With the exception of ridges formed by the continuation of the partition-walls, the roofs afford a pleasant promenade at certain seasons, and some of them command interesting views.

[[255]] During the very hot weather, probably from the end of April to the setting in of the rains in the first or second week of June, many gentlemen have their cots (as the bed, with all its apparatus, is usually called) carried to the tops of their houses, and pass the night there. This appears a very hazardous proceeding; till it is considered that there is scarcely any dew at that season, and that the cots have generally curtains, which receive and absorb what may happen to fall. More to the southward, indeed, near the mouth of the Hoogly, where the immense marshes, the ooze left by the returning tides, and the jungles which every where abound, produce the most deleterious exhalations, the practice appears hazardous; yet there have been very few instances of any serious consequences; while on the other hand, the greatest refreshment has been experienced by all who have adopted it, as they thus could rise early, divested of that most distressing lassitude attendant upon sleeping in an apartment communicating a febrile sensation, and peculiarly oppressive to the lungs.

The injurious, if not fatal, effects so often adduced as cautions to persons impatient of heat, have, however, been produced not by sleeping in an open exposure, but in a current of air. This cannot be recommended. On the contrary, such a custom must be censured, as proved to be highly dangerous by several most melancholy cases.

It has been already observed, that boarded floors are almost unknown in India. Various causes have combined to explode them: the depredations of the white ant; the perpetual danger of their warping; and the difficulty of rendering the sounds of footsteps less audible. This last may appear trivial; but where so many menials, &c., are ever moving about in various parts of a house, and that, too, with little ceremony; though it is [[256]] true they are all bare-footed, it must prove extremely inconvenient at those times when the family retire to rest during the heat of the day.

About forty years ago, all stairs were of masonry; but of late years they are of wood. These, resting on strong beams, obvious in every part except where they enter the walls, may he considered as tolerably safe from white ants; while they are much neater, and more easily kept in order. All joists are either painted or tarred; the latter has a very unpleasant, indeed a mean, appearance, and is not often practised: for the most part, white paint is adopted, with a very slight cast of blue to preserve it from fading.

Some paint the beaded or moulded edges of the door panels, also the rounded corners of the joists, with some delicate colour such as light sky-blue, light verdigris-green, or lilac; and, for conformity, thus ornament the mouldings of the wall panels. In the upper provinces it is common to colour the pannels with native ochres of beautiful hues, leaving the mouldings, cornices, &c. white. These mouldings, &c., are all made by trowels shaped for the purpose, and not by moulds or stamps. In their execution the native will display great ingenuity, consummate patience, and often great delicacy: but in design, taste, composition, perspective, consistency, and harmony he will prove himself to be completely ignorant.

As an apology it may again be justly pleaded, that in every branch the Indian mechanic is called upon, after perhaps only a few days of observation, or at least with so little practice as would among us be considered rather an objection than a qualification, to perform that which we judge to be unattainable, except by the application of several years closely attached to one individual object. Instead, therefore, of condemning, we should rather admire their operations.

Williamson 1810 vol. 2: ((31)) Therefore, in lieu of condemning their operations, we should rather regard them with admiration; for, I will venture to assert, that we should not fail to wonder at one of our own countrymen who, perhaps at rather an advanced age, without previous education, without the possibility of reference to books or to public institutions, should undertake to do that with a hatchet, or any other gross implement, which persons regularly brought up in the respective profession should assert to be impracticable, unless duly provided with benches, vices, and tools, of exquisite formation, out of number. The Asiatic has the bare soil for his bench, his toes are his vice, and his implements usually amount to no more than a small adze, a saw, with perhaps a chisel, and a pair of uncouth pincers!

[[257]]  The operations necessary to construct a tarras roof are required for the floors in every part of the house; but unless the basement stand very high, so as to allow of water-houses, &c. underneath, it is usual to have the ground-floor flued, by means of narrow channels or air-conduits of about four inches deep and as many wide, so as to be covered with bricks of an ordinary size. These flues are made in parallel lines, at perhaps a foot or more asunder, and pass entirely under the house, in both directions, having their several apertures covered by small iron grates to keep out rats, snakes, &c., which would else find an admirable asylum within these intersecting channels.

The lower tarrases are thus kept thoroughly dry by the flues, which of course give ventilation to every part under the floor. As bricks are often scarce, because never made for general sale, except at public stations and great cities, and then of a very small size, it is common to build the ground tarras upon inverted pots, each being capable of containing about three pecks or a bushel. These pots may be had in any quantity all over the country, generally at the low rate of a farthing, or at the utmost a halfpenny, each.

The pots are ranged upon the ground, within the area formed by the walls, side by side, but not quite in contact, each resting on its mouth, which consists generally of a rim projecting about three or four inches from the body of the vessel, which is nearly spherical. The loosest sand that can be procured, or in its absence any dry rubbish, is then thrown in, so as to fill up all the intervals, and to cover the pots about four inches in depth. This surface being levelled, another stratum of pots is added if necessary; the whole process of filling up being similar in both, and the tarras laid in the usual manner on the levelled surface.

[[258]] Throughout Bengal, at least in that wide expanse reaching from Gogra to Dacca on the north-east, and from the Soane, along the plains at the foot of the hills, to the debouchure of the Hoogly (which, together, form the limits of our richest and most populous purgunnahs, or districts), by far the greater portion of the subsoil is a loose, gritty sand, very like what farmers term a lush. This in a few places receives a strong red tint from the ferruginous mountains everywhere to be seen along either boundary. From the extreme looseness of the subsoil, it is absolutely necessary to secure the foundations of weighty buildings by every possible means; and in the sinking of wells, this quality of the soil often presents the most formidable obstacles.

Under such circumstances, it is self-evident that a very firm foundation is required for those large mansions raised and inhabited by Europeans, and forming the bulk of Calcutta; together with the several garden-houses, and the numerous edifices on a large scale erected by the natives, especially their places of worship, which are most ponderously constructed. Nor can too much attention be paid to carrying off the water, which pours down from the tops of the houses, lest the bases should be sapped, and very serious injuries ensue.

With this intention, almost every compound or inclosed area is either laid with pantiles, or is well coated with soorky, like the roads; while in many instances, the junction of the wall with the level of the area is concealed and secured by a talus, blending with the building at about a foot or more above that level.

With respect to bungalows, or any other temporary buildings, their foundations are usually very shallow, raised generally a foot or two from the surrounding level; and as their inner walls, that often run from sixteen to [[259]] twenty feet in height, are well secured by the verandas which likewise preserve the precinct, for full twelve or fourteen feet, from being softened by the rains, very shallow foundations are deemed sufficient. The surrounding parapet, which limits, while it raises, the veranda, is usually of burnt-brick, cemented and plastered over with good mortar; but the whole of the residue of bricklayers' work is as already explained.

The verandas of bungalows are sustained either by strong wooden posts, or by pillars of masonry. Their intervals are filled up with jaumps, before described, which may be raised at pleasure to any angle, including about 10° or 15°, above the horizontal; or they may be suffered to hang perpendicularly against the exterior faces of the pillars. In tempestuous weather, and especially during those violent squalls called north-westers, in consequence of their usually either commencing on, or veering round to, that quarter, it will be found necessary to place the bamboo props, whereby the jaumps are usually elevated, against their exterior sides. Thus the jaump is pressed to the pillar, and becomes greatly exempted from the danger of being blown away; which, nevertheless, frequently happens, though its weight may be full a cwt. and a half, or even two cwt.

The force of these north-westers is next to incredible. One in particular, in November 1787, tore up an immense tree, called the Barrackpore Beacon, on account of its being situated at a point where it could be seen from Duckansore, along a beautiful reach of the Hoogly river. This fine piece of timber measured nearly twenty feet in girth, and branched out in the most luxuriant manner, reaching to full seventy or eighty feet in height: it was torn up by its roots, though some of the ramifications were much thicker than a man's body, leaving an excavation of not less than 15,000 cubic feet.

Williamson 1810 vol. 2: ((36))  When stationed at Hazary-Baug, in the Ramghur district, my bungalow was, I firmly believe, saved from falling by mere accident. It had become fashionable to construct fire places in our halls, running up the chimnies, so as to pierce the thatches immediately below the summit of that wall in which the fire-place was made, and which served as the front face of the chimney. Cutting through the wall, to make a proper opening wherein to set the grate, I found that, in lieu of being firm, as it should have been, the whole cut like so much butter. In consequence of this discovery, I hastened the finishing of the stove, which in a short time aired the room, and completely dried the walls; but not before they began to display very unequivocal tokens of what would have taken place, but for my very fortunate adoption of the whim then in vogue.

It, is remarkable, that the bungalow stood on ((37)) a gentle declivity, from which the superficial water was well drained; but the soil was proverbially spongy, and retained every shower, much the same as chalk, but without its good qualities: thus, notwithstanding the floors (or tarrases) were full two feet above the surrounding level, my habitation would, I am well convinced, have subsided; burying every inhabitant under its ruins! Probably that fatal moment would have accorded with the height of some north-wester; to whose fury the catastrophe would, though erroneously, have been imputed.

[[260]] The verandas of bungalows are generally allotted to the accommodation of servants of all descriptions; and except where, as in Calcutta, a separate lodging-room is provided, they serve for the home of the cahars, or bearers. These have each their mat, on which they sleep, forming a pillow of any g'hettry, or bundle of clothes, and covering themselves with their quilts, &c.: blankets being yery little used by domestics of any description. When a gentleman has company, the side-board is usually set out in the veranda, where also the several guests' hookuhs are prepared; and, in rainy weather, their water cooled.

All servants come upon being called; there being no bells hung in any part of the country, and very few handbells are to be seen. The common call, Qui hi? (meaning, who is there?) often rouses a dozen of the slumbering crew, though it is occasionally repeated, with some vociferation too, before one will stir. Though to many bungalows there are abundance of out-offices, some of which may have been built for the reception of palanquins, and especially of a gig (there called a buggy), few persons allow either their mahanahs, or their bochahs, to be kept in such places.

Williamson 1810 vol. 2: ((38)) ... as they would be subject to various unpleasant purposes, whereby their interior especially would often be soiled: this objection acts likewise in some measure towards the common practice of retaining the gig, as well as the palanquin, within the veranda; the latter is easily lifted in and out by the bearers, but the former requires that a ramp, or slope, should be made, up and down which the syce (or groom) draws it with facility. All conveyances, when housed, are covered with a double cloth, usually made of karwuh.


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