CHAPTER IV - MANNERS AND CUSTOMS

Joldan, the Tibetan British postmaster in Leh, is a Christian of spotless reputation. Every one places unlimited confidence in his integrity and truthfulness, and his religious sincerity has been attested by many sacrifices. He is a Ladaki, and the family property was at Stok, a few miles from Leh. He was baptized in Lahul at twenty-three, his father having been a Christian. He learned Urdu, and was for ten years mission schoolmaster in Kylang, but returned to Leh a few years ago as postmaster. His 'ancestral dwelling' at Stok was destroyed by order of the wazir, and his property confiscated, after many unsuccessful efforts had been made to win him back to Buddhism. Afterwards he was detained by the wazir, and compelled to serve as a sepoy, till Mr. Heyde went to the council and obtained his release. His house in Leh has been more than once burned by incendiaries. But he pursues a quiet, even course, brings up his family after the best Christian traditions, refuses Buddhist suitors for his daughters, unobtrusively but capably helps the Moravian missionaries, supports his family by steady industry, although of noble birth, and asks nothing of any one. His 'good morning' and 'good night,' as he daily passed my tent with clockwork regularity, were full of cheery friendliness; he gave much useful information about Tibetan customs, and his ready helpfulness greatly facilitated the difficult arrangements for my farther journey.

The Leh, which I had left so dull and quiet, was full of strangers, traffic, and noise. The neat little Moravian church was filled by a motley crowd each Sunday, in which the few Christians were distinguishable by their clean faces and clothes and their devout air; and the Medical Mission Hospital and Dispensary, which in winter have an average attendance of only a hundred patients a month, were daily thronged with natives of India and Kashmir, Baltis, Yarkandis, Dards, and Tibetans. In my visits with Dr. Marx I observed, what was confirmed by four months' experience of the Tibetan villagers, that rheumatism, inflamed eyes and eyelids, and old age are the chief Tibetan maladies. Some of the Dards and Baltis were lepers, and the natives of India brought malarial fever, dysentery, and other serious diseases. The hospital, which is supported by the Indian Government, is most comfortable, a haven of rest for those who fall sick by the way. The hospital assistants are intelligent, thoroughly kind- hearted young Tibetans, who, by dint of careful drilling and an affectionate desire to please 'the teacher with the medicine box,' have become fairly trustworthy. They are not Christians.

In the neat dispensary at 9 a.m. a gong summons the patients to the operating room for a short religious service. Usually about fifty were present, and a number more, who had some curiosity about 'the way,' but did not care to be seen at Christian worship, hung about the doorways. Dr. Marx read a few verses from the Gospels, explaining them in a homely manner, and concluded with the Lord's Prayer. Then the out-patients were carefully and gently treated, leprous limbs were bathed and anointed, the wards were visited at noon and again at sunset, and in the afternoons operations were performed with the most careful antiseptic precautions, which are supposed to be used for the purpose of keeping away evil spirits from the wounds! The Tibetans, in practice, are very simple in their applications of medical remedies. Rubbing with butter is their great panacea. They have a dread of small-pox, and instead of burning its victims they throw them into their rapid torrents. If an isolated case occur, the sufferer is carried to a mountain-top, where he is left to recover or die. If a small-pox epidemic is in the province, the people of the villages in which it has not yet appeared place thorns on their bridges and boundaries, to scare away the evil spirits which are supposed to carry the disease. In ordinary illnesses, if butter taken internally as well as rubbed into the skin does not cure the patient, the lamas are summoned to the rescue. They make a mitsap, a half life-size figure of the sick person, dress it in his or her clothes and ornaments, and place it in the courtyard, where they sit round it, reading passages from the sacred classics fitted for the occasion. After a time, all rise except the superior lama, who continues reading, and taking small drums in their left hands, they recite incantations, and dance wildly round the mitsap, believing, or at least leading the people to believe, that by this ceremony the malady, supposed to be the work of a demon, will be transferred to the image. Afterwards the clothes and ornaments are presented to them, and the figure is carried in procession out of the yard and village and is burned. If the patient becomes worse, the friends are apt to resort to the medical skill of the missionaries. If he dies they are blamed, and if he recovers the lamas take the credit.