CHAPTER X. BOMBAY - (Continued).
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Bombay the rising Presidency - Probability of its becoming the Seat of
Government - The Anglo-Indian Society of Bombay - Style of Living - The
Gardens inferior to those of Bengal - Interiors of the Houses more
embellished - Absence of Glass-windows an evil - The Bungalows - The
Encamping-ground - Facility and despatch of a change of
residence - Visit to a tent entertainment - Inconveniences attending a
residence in tents - Want of Hotels and Boarding-houses - Deficiency of
public Amusements in Bombay - Lectures and Conversaziones suggested,
as means of bringing the native community into more frequent
intercourse with Europeans - English spoken by the superior classes
of natives - Natives form a very large portion of the wealth and
intelligence of Bombay - Nothing approaching the idea of a City to be
seen - The climate more salubrious than that of Bengal - Wind blows hot
and cold at the same time - Convenience a stranger finds in so many
domestic servants speaking English - Their peculiar mode of speaking
it - Dress of servants - Their wages - The Cooks - Improved by Lord
Clare - Appointments of the tables - The Ramoosee Watchmen - Their
vociferations during the night - Fidelity of the natives - Controversy
concerning their disregard of truth.
Comparisons are so frequently both unfair and invidious, that I had determined, upon my arrival at Bombay, to abstain from making them, and to judge of it according to its own merits, without reference to those of the rival presidency. It was impossible, however, to adhere to this resolution, and being called upon continually to give an opinion concerning its claims to superiority over Calcutta, I was reluctantly compelled to consider it in a less favourable point of view than I should have done had the City of Palaces been left out of the question.
That Bombay is the rising presidency there can be no doubt, and there seems to be every probability of its becoming the seat of the Supreme Government; nothing short of a rail-road between the two presidencies can avert this catastrophe; the number of days which elapse before important news reaching Bombay can be known and acted upon by the authorities of Calcutta rendering the measure almost imperative. Bengal, too proudly triumphing in her greatness, has now to bear the mortifications to which she delighted to subject Bombay, a place contemptuously designated as "a fishing village," while its inhabitants, in consequence of their isolated situation, were called "the Benighted."
Steam-communication brought the news to Bombay of the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne of England, and this event was celebrated at the same time that the Bengallees were toasting the health of William the Fourth at a dinner given in honour of his birth-day. "Who are the Benighted now?" was the universal cry; and the story is told with great glee to all new arrivals.
Concerning the Anglo-Indian society of Bombay, I do not pretend to know any thing, or to give opinions which must necessarily be premature and presumptuous. A round of dinner parties affords little opportunity of making acquaintance; they are much the same everywhere, and when a large company is assembled, their agreeability must entirely depend upon the persons who occupy the neighbouring chairs.
Bombay is accused, with what degree of justice I cannot determine, of being a place much addicted to scandal and gossip. If this charge be well founded, it is one which it must share in common with all limited circles. The love of detraction is unhappily a thoroughly English vice, flourishing under all circumstances, and quite as prevalent, though not, perhaps, equally hurtful, in great cities as in the smallest village. The same people who in London delight in the perusal of newspapers of the most libellous description, and who read with avidity every publication which attacks private character, will, when removed into a congenial sphere, pick their neighbours to pieces; an amusement which cannot be enjoyed in the metropolis, where happily we do not know the names of the parties who occupy the adjoining houses.