As we were leaving the Kutb after a late afternoon visit, my host and I were hailed excitedly by an elderly man whose speech was incomprehensible, but whose gestures indicated plainly enough that there was something important up the hill. The line of least resistance being the natural one in India, we allowed him to guide us, and came after a few minutes, among the ruins of the citadel of Lal Kot, to one of those deep wells gained by long flights of steps whither the ladies of the palaces used to resort in the hottest weather. Evening was drawing on and the profundities of this cavern were forbiddingly gloomy; nor was the scene rendered more alluring by the presence of three white-bearded old men, almost stark naked and leaner than greyhounds, who shivered and grimaced, and suggested nothing so much as fugitives from the grave. They were, however, not only alive, but athletically so, being professional divers who earned an exceedingly uncomfortable living by dropping, feet first, from the highest point of the building into the water eighty feet below.
One of them indicating his willingness - more than willingness, eagerness - to perform this manoeuvre for two rupees, we agreed, and placing us on a step from which the best view could be had, he fled along the gallery to the top of the shaft, and after certain preliminary movements, to indicate how perilous was the adventure, and how chilly the evening, and how more than worth two rupees it was, he committed his body to the operations of the law of gravity. We saw it through the apertures in the shaft on its downward way and then heard the splash as it reached the distant water, while a crowd of pigeons who had retired to roost among the masonry dashed out and away. The diver emerged from the well and came running up the steps towards us, while his companion scarecrows fled also to the top of the shaft and one after the other dropped down, too; so that in a minute or so we were surrounded by three old, dripping men, each demanding two rupees. Useless to protest that we had desired but one of them to perform: they pursued us into the open, and even clung to our knees, and of course we paid - afterwards to learn that one rupee for the lot was a lavish guerdon.
One meets with these divers continually, wherever there is a pool sacred or otherwise; but some actually leap into the water and do not merely drop. At the shrine of the Saint Nizam-ud-din, near Humayun's Tomb, I found them - but there they were healthy-looking youths - and again at Fatehpur-Sikri. But for this sporadic diving, the wrestling bouts which are common everywhere, the Nautch and the jugglers, India seems to have no pastimes.