The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 7 (November 1, 1929)
Railway Life in India
Railway Life in India.
The Railway towns of India are mostly situated adjacent to the cities. Howrah, the largest of these, may be considered almost as a suburb of Calcutta. Tundla a few hours run by rail from Agra; Mogul Serai near to the Holy City of Benares, and so on.
Amongst these, Mogul Serai may perhaps be considered the most picturesque as to environment and situation. Here, about 100 families are domiciled by the East Indian Railway. The town is built conveniently close to the railway station, locomotive sheds, workshops and offices. It consists of one long street lined upon either side by “Goolar” (a common and non-commercial native fig) trees, very umbrageous and completely arching over a cindered surface. Along this are erected spacious brick bungalows with deep frontages for the use of the married men and their families. Fronting the station is the school-house, children's playing ground and the gardens. Along to the right is the Institute (library and reading rooms) and dance hall. Near to this is “the barracks” for the single men, with a café and sleeping rooms attached for the use of employees visiting on duty. Midway and fronting the Institute are the Railway Co-operative Stores.page 36 page 37
The railway schools are really for younger children and are of a preparatory nature. From these railway schools the children are sent away to boarding schools and colleges to complete their education. These schools are under the control of school-mistresses who, whenever possible, are the widows of employees who have died in the discharging of their duties.
The staff of the stores is chiefly composed of Baboos (the colloquial name given to Bengalese) who are under the direct supervision and control of a visiting European comptroller to whom all supply requirements are submitted and disposal accounted for. Here all general supplies, such as rice, flour, tinned goods, drapery, furniture etc., may be purchased at special and reasonable prices.
About two miles distant is the original and native village whence most fresh food supplies are obtained. Great rivalry pertains amongst the vendors for custom, and competition is very keen as a consequence. To us, in New Zealand, the process of supply would appear strange and ridiculous. Everything is brought to one's doors regularly. The dood-wallah (milkman) makhan-wallah (butterman) toti-wallah (baker), kasai (butcher) and others all call round with their wares. Amongst all these the dood-wallah may be deserving of a special mention. He calls twice daily; between 5 and 7 a.m. and 3 and 5 p.m. are his regular visiting hours. He does not bring his milk round in cans as do our milkmen. To do so would be too great a temptation, for “watering,” to resist. He brings along the “source of supply.” You can see him coming along leading a cow—or she buffalo if you prefer that animal's milk—at the end of a rope passed through the nostrils. Under one arm he carries the last calf, stuffed with dried grass. Tying the animal to a post he places the “calf” alongside its dam and is ready for business. If you are in search of information and want to know the “why and wherefore” he is only too ready to gratify your wish.
“Sahib,” he will say, “all females are full of whims which a wise man humours, even so it has been from the very beginning! This female infliction of my life will withhold her milk unless given her calf to lick; and being femaler therefore a fool, she does not recognise the calf is dead! It is the will of Allah.”
He will then milk the animal into a “daikchee” (vessel) handed him by the khitmatgar (butler) collect his payment and depart on his round.