India

It was quite evident that something was seriously wrong with Abdulla the Dhobi. His features had lost their former placidity and wore an aspect of troubled wonder; the clothes which he erstwhiles washed and returned to their owners with such regularity were now brought back long after the proper date and occasionally were not returned at all; and the easy good temper which once characterized his conversation had yielded place to sudden outbursts of anger or protracted spells of sulkiness.

Wander down one of the greatest arteries of the city and you will perhaps notice on the east side of the street a double-storied house bearing all the appearance of prolonged neglect and decay. Enter the low door and take a sharp turn to the right and you will find yourself at length on an ill- smelling landing with a creaking ladder-like staircase in one corner, enveloped from top to bottom in darkness so profound that one can almost conjure up visions of sudden death from the assassin's dagger.

Fifty-six miles to the north of Poona lies the old town of Junner, which owing to its proximity to the historic Nana Ghat was in the earliest times an important centre of trade. As early as 100 years before the birth of Christ, the Nana Pass was one of the chief highways of trade between Aparantaka or the Northern Konkan and the Deccan; and although the steep and slippery nature of the ascent must have prevented cart-traffic, the number of pack-bullocks and ponies that were annually driven upwards towards the cooler atmosphere and richer soil of Junner must have been considerable.

Nearly all the Mahomedan inhabitants of Bombay observe as a general picnic day the last Wednesday of the month of 'Safar' which is known as 'Akhiri Char Shamba' or 'Chela Budh'; for on this day the Prophet, convalescent after a severe illness, hied him to a pleasance on the outskirts of Mecca.

Legend and tradition have rendered many a spot in India sacrosanct for all time; and to no tract perhaps have such traditions clung with greater tenacity than to the western littoral which in the dawn of the centuries watched the traders of the ancient world sail down from the horizon to barter in its ports. As with Gujarat and the Coast of Kathiawar, so with the Konkan it is a broken tale of strange arrivals, strange building, strange trafficking in human and inanimate freight that greets the student of ancient history and bewilders the ethnologist.

  "The singer only sang the Joy of Life,
    For all too well, alas! the singer knew,
  How hard the daily toil, how keen the strife,
    How salt the falling tear, the joys how few."

A FISHERMAN'S LEGEND.

A friend has supplied me with the following quaint history of a well-known Marathi ballad, which is widely chanted by the lower classes in and around Bombay. Composed originally as a song of seed-time, it has now lost its primary significance and is sung by men at their work or by mothers hushing their children in the dark alleys of the city. The verse runs thus: -

  "Nakhwa Koli jat bholi,
  Ghara madhye dravya mahamar,
  Topiwalyane hukum kela,
  Batliwalyachya barabar."

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