CALCUTTA, THE CAPITAL OF INDIA
Calcutta has frequently been called "the city of statues." I think Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, the poet-viceroy, gave it that title, and it was well applied. Whichever way you look on the Maidan, bronze figures of former viceroys, statesmen and soldiers appear. Queen Victoria sits in the center, a perfect reproduction in bronze, and around her, with their faces turned toward the government house, are several of her ablest and most eminent servants. In the center of the Maidan rises a lofty column that looks like a lighthouse. Its awkwardness is in striking contrast to the graceful shafts which Hindu architects have erected in various parts of the empire. It is dedicated to David Ochterlony, a former citizen of Calcutta and for fifty years a soldier, and is a token of appreciation from the people of the empire. The latest monument is a bronze statue of Lord Roberts.
Facing the Maidan for a couple of miles is the Chowringhee, one of the famous streets of the world, once a row of palatial residences, but now given up almost entirely to hotels, clubs and shops. Upon this street lived Warren Hastings in a stone palace, and a little further along, in what is now the Bengal Club, was the home of Thomas Babbington Macaulay during his long residence in India.
The governor of the province of Bengal lives in a beautiful mansion in the center of a park called "Belvedere," just outside the city. There are few finer country homes in England, and associated with it are many historical events. Upon a grassy knoll shaded by stately trees occurred the historic duel between Warren Hastings, then governor general of India, and Mr. Francis, president of the council of state. They quarreled over an offensive remark which Mr. Francis entered in the minutes of the council. Hastings offered a challenge and wounded his antagonist, but the ball was extracted and the affair fortunately ended as a comedy rather than a tragedy.
There are many fine shops in Calcutta, for people throughout all eastern India go there to buy goods just as those in the northwestern part of the United States go to Chicago, and in the eastern states to Boston, Philadelphia or New York. Of course, the Calcutta shops are not so large and do not carry such extensive stocks as some dealers in our large cities, because they are almost entirely dependent upon the foreign population for patronage, and that is comparatively small. The natives patronize merchants of their own race, and do their buying in the bazaars, where the same articles are sold at prices much lower than those asked by the merchants in the foreign section of the city. This is perfectly natural, for the native dealer has comparatively little rent to pay, the wages of his employes are ridiculously small and it does not cost him very much to live. If a foreigner tries to trade in the native shops he has to pay big prices. Foreigners who live in Calcutta usually send their servants to make purchases, and, although it is customary for the servant to take a little commission or "squeeze" from the seller for himself, the price is much lower than would be paid for the same articles at one of the European shops.
Occasionally you see American goods, but not often. We sell India comparatively little merchandise except iron and steel, machinery, agricultural implements, sewing machines, typewriters, phonographs and other patented articles. One afternoon four naked Hindus went staggering along the main street in Calcutta carrying an organ made by the Farrand Company of Detroit, which has considerable trade there. American pianos are widely advertised by one of the music dealers. The beef packing houses of Chicago send considerable tinned meat to India, and it is quite popular and useful. Indeed, it would be difficult for the English to get along without it, because native beef is very scarce. It is only served at the hotels one or twice a week. That is due to the fact that cows are sacred and oxen are so valuable for draught purposes. Fresh beef comes all the way from Australia in refrigerator ships and is sold at the fancy markets.
The native bazaars are like those in other Indian cities, although not so interesting. Calcutta has comparatively a small native trade, although it has a million of population. The shops of Delhi, Lahore, Jeypore, Lucknow, Benares and other cities are much more attractive. In the European quarter are some curio dealers, who stop there for the winter and go to Delhi and Simla for the summer, selling brocades, embroideries, shawls, wood and ivory carvings and other native art work which are very tempting to tourists. Several dealers in jewels from Delhi and other cities spend the holidays in order to catch the native princes, who are the greatest purchasers of precious stones in the world. Several of them have collections more valuable and extensive than any of the imperial families of Europe. Prices of all curios, embroideries and objects of art are much higher in Calcutta than in the cities of northern India, and everybody told us it was the poorest place to buy such things.