CALCUTTA, THE CAPITAL OF INDIA
Calcutta is a fine city. The government buildings, the courthouses, the business blocks and residences, the churches and clubs are nearly all of pretentious architecture and imposing appearance. Most of the buildings are up to date. The banks of the river are lined for a long distance with mammoth warehouses and the anchorage is crowded with steamers from all parts of the world. There is a regular line between Calcutta and New York, which, I was told, is doing a good business. Beyond the warehouses, the business section and the government buildings, along the bank of the river for several miles, is an open space or common, called the Maidan, the amusement and recreation ground of the public, who show their appreciation by putting it to good use. There are several thousand acres, including the military reservation, bisected with drives and ornamented with monuments and groves of trees. It belongs to the public, is intended for their benefit, and thousands of natives may be found enjoying this privilege night and day. An American circus has its tent pitched in the center opposite a group of hotels; a little further along is a roller skating rink, which seems to be popular, and scattered here and there, usually beside clumps of shade trees, are cottages erected for the accommodation of golf, tennis, croquet and cricket clubs. On Saturday afternoons and holidays these clubhouses are surrounded by gayly dressed people enjoying an outing, and at all times groups of natives may be seen scattered from one end of the Maidan to the other, sleeping, visiting, and usually resting in the full glare of the fierce sun. Late in the afternoon, when the heat has moderated, everybody who owns a carriage or a horse or can hire one, comes out for a drive, and along the river bank the roadway is crowded with all kinds of vehicles filled with all sorts of people dressed in every variety of costume worn by the many races that make up the Indian Empire, with a large sprinkling of Europeans.
The viceroy and Lady Curzon, with their two little girls, come in an old-fashioned barouche, drawn by handsome English hackneys, with coachman, footman and two postilions, clad in gorgeous red livery, gold sashes and girdles and turbans of white and red. Their carriage is followed by a squad of mounted Sikhs, bronzed faced, bearded giants in scarlet uniforms and big turbans, carrying long, old-fashioned spears. Lord Kitchener, the hero of Khartoum and the Boer war, appears in a landau driven by the only white coachman in Calcutta. Lord Kitchener is a bachelor, and his friends say that he has never even thought of love, although he is a handsome man, of many graces, and has contributed to the pleasure of society in both England and India. The diplomatic corps, as the consuls of foreign governments residing in India are called by courtesy - for all of India's relations with other countries must be conducted through the foreign department at London - are usually in evidence, riding in smart equipages, and they are very hospitable and agreeable people. The United States is represented by General Robert F. Patterson, who went to the civil war from Iowa, but has since been a citizen of Memphis. Mrs. Patterson, who belongs to a distinguished southern family, is one of the recognized leaders of society, and is famous for her hospitality and her fine dinners.
The native princes and other rich Hindus who reside in Calcutta are quite apt in imitating foreign ways, but, fortunately, most of them adhere to their national costume, which is much more becoming and graceful than the awkward garments we wear. The women of their families are seldom seen. The men wear silks and brocades and jewels, and bring out their children to see the world, but always leave their wives at home.
There are several sets and castes in the social life - the official set, the military set, the professional people, the mercantile set, and so on - and it is not often that the lines that divide them are broken. During the winter season social life is very gay. The city is filled with visitors from all parts of India, and they spend their money freely, having a good time. Official cares rest lightly upon the members of the government, with a few exceptions, including Lord Curzon, who is always at work and never takes a holiday. Dinners, balls, garden parties, races, polo games, teas, picnics and excursions follow one another so rapidly that those who indulge in social pleasures have only time enough to keep a record of their engagements and to dress. The presence of a large military force is a great advantage, particularly as many of the officers are bachelors, and it is whispered that some of the lovely girls who come out from England to spend a winter in India hope to go home to arrange for a wedding. Occasionally matrimonial affairs are conducted with dispatch. A young woman who came out on the steamer with us, heart whole and fancy free, with the expectation of spending the entire winter in India, started back to London with a big engagement ring upon her finger within four weeks after she landed, and several other young women were quite as fortunate during the same winter, although not so sudden. India is regarded as the most favorable marriage market in the world.