Roving East and Roving West (Paperback)
Although India is a land of walkers, there is no sound of footfalls. Most of the feet arebare and all are silent: dark strangers overtake one like ghosts.Both in the cities and the country some one is always walking. There are carts andmotorcars, and on the roads about Delhi a curious service of camel omnibuses, but most ofthe people walk, and they walk ever. In the bazaars they walk in their thousands; on thelong, dusty roads, miles from anywhere, there are always a few, approaching or receding.It is odd that the only occasion on which Indians break from their walk into a run or atrot is when they are bearers at a funeral, or have an unusually heavy head-load, or carry apiano. Why there is so much piano-carrying in Calcutta I cannot say, but the streets (as Ifeel now) have no commoner spectacle than six or eight merry, half-naked fellows, trottingalong, laughing and jesting under their burden, all with an odd, swinging movement of thearms.One of one's earliest impressions of the Indians is that their hands are inadequate. Theysuggest no power.Not only is there always some one walking, but there is always some one resting. Theyrepose at full length wherever the need for sleep takes them; or they sit with pointed knees.Coming from England one is struck by so much inertness; for though the English labourercan be lazy enough he usually rests on his feet, leaning against walls: if he is a landlabourer, leaning with his back to the support; if he follows the sea, leaning on his stomach.It was interesting to pass on from India and its prostrate philosophers with their infinitecapacity for taking naps, to Japan, where there seems to be neither time nor space foridlers. Whereas in India one has continually to turn aside in order not to step upon asleeping figure-the footpath being a favourite dormitory-in Japan no one is ever doingnothing, and no one appears to be weary or poor.India, save for a few native politicians and agitators, strikes one as a land destitute ofambition. In the cities there are infrequent signs of progress; in the country none. Thepeasants support life on as little as they can, they rest as much as possible and their cartsand implements are prehistoric. They may believe in their gods, but fatalism is their truereligion. How little they can be affected by civilisation I learned from a tiny settlement ofbush-dwellers not twenty miles from Bombay, close to that beautiful lake which has beentransformed into a reservoir, where bows and arrows are still the only weapons and ratsare a staple food.