BLTC Press Titles

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Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner

Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller

In India

by George Warrington Steevens


they are common bullocks—yet with humps !—common crows—yet blue!—their fascination is enthralling. The white ducks you wear all day are like a girl's first court dress, and you sit down to breakfast at eleven off a fish called pomphlet with the sensations of a Gulliver.

When things begin to come sorted and sifted, Bombay reveals itself as a city of monstrous contrasts. Along the sea-front one splendid public building follows another—variegated stone facades with arch and colonnade, cupola and pinnacle and statuary. At their feet huddle flimsy huts of matting, thatched with leaves, which a day's rain would reduce to mud and pulp. You sit in a marble-paved club, vast and airy as a Eoman atrium, and look out over gardens of heavy red and violet flowers towards choking alleys where half-naked idolaters herd by families together in open-fronted rooms, and filth runs down gullies to fester in the sunken street. In this quarter you may see the weaver twirling his green and amber wool on a hand-loom—a skeleton so simple and fragile that a kick would make sticks of it; go to the street corner, and you see black smoke belch from a hundred roaring mills, whose competition cuts the throat of all the world. In the large open spaces Parsis bowl each other under-hand full-pitches and cry, "Tank you, tank you," after the ball; by the rail squats a Hindu, who would like, if only the law would let him, to marry babies and burn widows.

Yet, for all its incongruities, Bombay never will have you forget that it is a great city. If it had no mills it would be renowned for its port; if it had neither it would be famous for its beauty. Its physical configuration is something like that of New York. Bombay lies at the southern end of a long narrow island; its oldest part, the Fort, is toward the southernmost extremity. Here are the landingpiers, the public buildings, the newspapers, the principal business centres. Next comes the native city; and the fashionable quarter for residence once lay northward where the Byculla Club, the best in Bombay, still marks its site. But flowing business, as in New York, has risen and surged over the city; it has washed the native quarter northward, and the Club now stands an almost solitary landmark among cotton-mill chimneys and teeming native tenements. The Europeans, with the ever-multiplying class of rich natives, now live further westward on the Eidge or on Malabar Hill, which, turning south to face the old town, forms the western horn of Back Bay. From the narrowness of the original city, and the four-miles' drive between it and the Eidge, it follows that rents are high and land continually more valuable; and from that follows that the native town is not one- or two-storeyed as elsewhere in India, but laid out in great tenement blocks, which lend themselves to picturesqueness and to plague.

So that in the drive from the Apollo Bunder to

Malabar Point, all India is unfolded in one panorama. First the business houses and the great buildings— those the richest, these the stateliest in India, and challenging comparison with almost any city in the world. Every variation of design is theirs, but they find a link of uniformity in the red-brown colours common to most, and in the oriental profusion of ornament. First comes the Venetian Secretariat, then the Gothic University Library and the French University Hall; between them the great Clock Tower, which peals forth hymn-tunes on Sunday, and on week - days "God Save the Queen!" and "Home, Sweet Home." The white-pinnacled Law Courts follow in Early English, then the Post and Telegraph Offices in Miscellaneous Gothic. But the jewel of Bombay is the Victoria Eailway Station, a vast domed mass of stone fretted with point and column and statuary. Between them all you catch vistas of green mead and shrubbery, purple-belled creepers, scarlet-starred shrubs. The whole has its feet in bowers of succulent green and its elbows on shining-leaved banyan-trees. A proud and comely city, you say, the Briton feels himself a greater man for his first sight of Bombay.

Then suddenly the magician turns his ring and new has become old, plain is coloured, solid is tumbled down, the West has been swallowed up utterly by the East. Cross but one street and you are plunged in the native town. Tn your nostrils is the smell of the East, dear and never to be forgotten: rapturously you snuff that blending of incense and spices and garlic, and sugar and goats and dung. The jutting houses close in over you. The decoration of Bombay henceforth is its people. The windows are frames for women, the streets become wedges of men. Under the quaint wooden sun-hoods that push out over the serried windows of the lodging-houses, along the rickety paintless balconies and verandahs, all over the tottering roofs—only the shabbiness of the dust and dirty plaster relieves the gorgeousness of one of the most astounding collections of human animals in the world. Forty languages, it is said, are habitually spoken in its bazaars. That, to him who understands no word of any of them, is more curious than interesting. But then every race has its own costume; so that the streets of Bombay are a tulip-garden of vermilion turbans and crimson, orange and flame colour, of men in blue and brown and emerald waistcoats, women in cherry-coloured satin drawers, or mantles, drawn from the head across the bosom to the hip, of blazing purple or green that shines like a grasshopper. You must go to India to see such dyes. They are the very children of the sun, and seem to shine with an unreflected radiance of their own. If you check your eye and ask your mind for the master-colour in the crowd, it is white —white bordered with brown or fawn or amber legs. But when you forget that and let the eye go again, FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE NATIVE.


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