MUTTRA, ALIGARH, LUCKNOW, CAWNPORE
On the way back from the frontier are plenty of delightful places at which the journey may be broken. You can have another glimpse of the most beautiful building in the world at Agra, and can take a day's excursion to Muttra, one of the seven sacred cities of India, the birthplace of Krishna, second in rank and popularity of the Hindu gods. The trains are conveniently arranged; they take you over from Agra in the morning and bring you back at night, which is well, because there is no hotel at Muttra, only what they call a dak bungalow, or lodging-house, provided by the municipal authorities for the shelter of travelers who have no friends to put them up. These dak bungalows are quite common in India, for comparatively few of the towns have hotels that a European or American would care to patronize. In Japan the native hotels are miracles of neatness and sweetness. In India, and the rest of Asia, they are, as far as possible, the reverse. I suppose it would be possible for a white man to survive a day or two in a native hotel, but the experience would not be classified as pleasure. Several of the native princes have provided dak bungalows for public convenience and comfort, and one or two are so hospitable as to furnish strangers food as well as lodging free of cost. The maharajas of Baroda, Jeypore, Bhartpur, Gwalior and several other provinces obey the scriptural injunction and have many times entertained angels unawares.
It is an ancient custom for the head of the state or the municipal authorities or the commercial organizations or the priests to provide free lodgings for pilgrims and strangers; indeed, there are comparatively few hotels at which natives are required to pay bills. When a Hindu arrives in a strange town he goes directly to the temple of his religion and the priest directs him to a place where he can stop. It is the development of ancient patriarchal hospitality, and the dak bungalow, which is provided for European travelers in all hotelless towns and cities, is simply a refinement of the custom. There are usually charges, but they are comparatively small. You are expected to furnish your own bedding, towels, etc., and there are no wire spring mattresses. Sometimes iron cots are provided and often bunks are built in the wall. If there are none all you have to do is to wrap the drapery of your couch around you and select a soft place on the floor. A floor does not fit my bones as well as formerly, but it is an improvement upon standing or sitting up. Usually the dak bungalows are clean. Occasionally they are not. This depends upon the character and industry of the person employed to attend them. The charges are intended to cover the expense of care and maintenance, and are therefore very moderate, and everybody is treated alike.
After a long, dusty drive in the suburbs of Delhi one day I crept into the grateful shade of a dak bungalow, found a comfortable chair and called for some soda to wash down the dust and biscuits to hold my appetite down until dinner time. I was sipping the cool drink, nibbling the biscuits and enjoying the breeze that was blowing through the room, when the attendant handed me a board about as big as a shingle with a hole drilled through the upper end so that it could be hung on a wall. Upon the board was pasted a notice printed in four languages, English, German, French and Hindustani, giving the regulations of the place, and the white-robed khitmatgar pointed his long brown finger to a paragraph that applied to my case. I paid him 10 cents for an hour's rest under the roof. It was a satisfaction to do so. The place was clean and neat and in every way inviting.
At many of the railway stations beds are provided by the firm of caterers who have a contract for running the refreshment-rooms. Most of the stations are neat and comfortable, and you can always find a place to spread your bedding and lie down. There is a big room for women and a big room for men. Sometimes cots are provided, but usually only hard benches around the walls. There are always washrooms and bathrooms adjoining, which, of course, are a great satisfaction in that hot and perspiring land. The restaurants at the railway stations are usually good, and are managed by a famous caterer in Calcutta, but the men who run the trains don't always give you time enough to eat.
On the passenger trains, ice, soda water, ginger ale, beer and other soft drinks are carried by an agent of the eating-house contractor, who furnishes them for 8 cents a bottle, and it pays him to do so, for an enormous quantity is consumed during the hot weather. The dust is almost intolerable and you cannot drink the local water without boiling and filtering it. The germs of all kinds of diseases are floating around in it at the rate of 7,000,000 to a spoonful. A young lady who went over on the ship with us didn't believe in any such nonsense and wasn't afraid of germs. She drank the local water in the tanks on the railway cars and wherever else she found it, and the last we heard of her she was in a hospital at Benares with a serious case of dysentery.