SERVANTS, HOTELS AND CAVE TEMPLES
Everybody who comes to India must have a personal servant, a native who performs the duty of valet, waiter and errand boy and does other things that he is told. It is said to be impossible to do without one and I am inclined to think that is true, for it is a fixed custom of the country, and when a stranger attempts to resist, or avoid or reform the customs of a country his trouble begins. Many of the Indian hotels expect guests to bring their own servants - to furnish their own chambermaids and waiters - hence are short-handed, and the traveler who hasn't provided himself with that indispensable piece of baggage has to look after himself. On the railways a native servant is even more important, for travelers are required to carry their own bedding, make their own beds and furnish their own towels. The company provides a bench for them to sleep on, similar to those we have in freight cabooses at home, a wash room and sometimes water. But if you want to wash your face and hands in the morning it is always better to send your servant to the station master before the trains starts to see that the tank is filled. Then a naked Hindu with a goat-skin of water comes along, fills the tank and stands around touching his forehead respectfully every time you look his way until you give him a penny. The eating houses along the railway lines also expect travelers to bring their own servants, who raid their shelves and tables for food and drink and take it out to the cars. That is another of the customs of the country.
For these reasons a special occupation has been created, peculiar to India - that of travelers' servants, or "bearers" as they are called. I have never been able to satisfy myself as to the derivation of the name. Some wise men say that formerly, before the days of railroads, people were carried about in sedan chairs, as they are still in China, and the men who carried them were called "bearers;" others contend that the name is due to the circumstance that these servants bear the white man's burden, which is not at all likely. They certainly do not bear his baggage. They hire coolies to do it. A self-respecting "bearer" will employ somebody at your expense to do everything he can avoid doing and will never demean himself by carrying a trunk, or a bag, or even a parcel. You give him money to pay incidental expenses, for you don't want him bothering you all the time, and he hires other natives to do the work. But his wages are small. A first-class bearer, who can talk English and cook, pack trunks, look after tickets, luggage and other business of travel, serve as guide at all places of interest and compel merchants to pay him a commission upon everything his employer purchases, can be obtained for forty-five rupees, which is $15 a month, and keep himself. He gets his board for nothing at the hotels for waiting on his master, and on the pretext that he induced him to come there. But you have to pay his railway fare, third class, and give him $3 to buy warm clothing. He never buys it, because he does not need it, but that's another custom of the country. Then again, at the end of the engagement he expects a present - a little backsheesh - two or three dollars, and a certificate that you are pleased with his services.
That is the cost of the highest priced man, who can be guide as well as servant, but you can get "bearers" with lesser accomplishments for almost any wages, down as low as $2 a month. But they are not only worthless; they actually imperil your soul because of their exasperating ways and general cussedness. You often hear that servants are cheap in India, that families pay their cooks $3 a month and their housemen $2, which is true; but they do not earn any more. One Swede girl will do as much work as a dozen Hindus, and do it much better than they, and, what is even more important to the housewife, can be relied upon. In India women never go out to service except as nurses, but in every household you will find not less than seven or eight men servants, and sometimes twenty, who receive from $1 to $5 a month each in wages, but the total amounts up, and they have to be fed, and they will steal, every one of them, and lie and loaf, and cause an infinite amount of trouble and confusion, simply because they are cheap. High-priced servants usually are an economy - good things always cost money, but give better satisfaction.
Another common mistake is that Indian hotel prices are low. They are just as high as anywhere else in the world for the accommodations. I have noticed that wherever you go the same amount of luxury and comfort costs about the same amount of money. You pay for all you get in an Indian hotel. The service is bad because travelers are expected to bring their own servants to answer their calls, to look after their rooms and make their beds, and in some places to wait on them in the dining-room. There are no women about the houses. Men do everything, and if they have been well trained as cleaners the hotel is neat. If they have been badly trained the contrary may be expected. The same may be said of the cooking. The landlord and his guest are entirely at the mercy of the cook, and the food is prepared according to his ability and education. You get very little beef because cows are sacred and steers are too valuable to kill. The mutton is excellent, and there is plenty of it. You cannot get better anywhere, and at places near the sea they serve an abundance of fish. Vegetables are plenty and are usually well cooked. The coffee is poor and almost everybody drinks tea. You seldom sit down to a hotel table in India without finding chickens cooked in a palatable way for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and eggs are equally good and plenty. The bread is usually bad, and everybody calls for toast. The deserts are usually quite good.