Burton’s Personal Narrative of the Pilgrimage to Meccah online
Comment on Sindhus…
11.11.09 at 9:51 am ·
Yo, Nemo, Googlebooks put Burton’s Personal Narrative of the Pilgrimage Journey to Medina and Meccah online.
And..take a look at the footnote reference to caste on page 36
Here is the quote. To get the full context read from pages 35 to 38.
Burton was in disguise as an Afghan en route to Meccah. He was on a boat
in Egypt and was offered lodgings in Cairo by a rich merchant from Lahore
who, not aware that Burton was British, proceeded to trash talk the Brits.
Burton describes all this happening in 1853.
Here is the quote. And lest you think it too harsh, remember that even today in India, if you speak English, and display an imperious tone and (best of all) have a light complexion, you will, whether you are western or Indian, get immediate and preferential treatment.
(lengthy quote follows)
‘Long conversations in Persian and Hindustani abridged the tediousness of the voyage, and when we arrived at Bulak, the polite Khudabakhsh (a shawl merchant from Lahore) insisted upon my making his house my home.
‘I was unwilling to accept the man’s civility, disliking his looks; but he advanced cogent reasons for changing my mind. His servant cleared my luggage through the custom-house, and a few minutes after our arrival I found myself in his abode near the Azbakiyah Gardens, sitting in a cool Mashrabiyah that gracefully projected over a garden, and sipping the favourite glass of pomegranate syrup.
‘As the Wakalahs or Caravanserais were at that time full of pilgrims, I remained with Khudabakhsh ten days or a fortnight. But at the end of that time my patience was thoroughly exhausted.
‘…..(some text omitted for brevity)
‘… we English have a peculiar national quality, which the Indians, with their characteristic acuteness, soon perceived, and described by an opprobrious name. Observing our solitary habits, that we could not, and would not, sit and talk and sip sherbet and smoke with them, they called us “Jangli” — wild men, fresh caught in the jungle and sent to rule over the land of Hind.
‘Certainly nothing suits us less than perpetual society, an utter want of solitude, when one cannot retire into oneself an instant without being asked some puerile question by a companion, or look into a book without a servant peering over one’s shoulder; when from the hour you rise to the time you rest, you must ever be talking or listening, you must converse yourself to sleep in a public dormitory, and give ear to your companions’ snores and mutterings at midnight.
‘The very essence of Oriental hospitality, however, is this family style of reception, which costs your host neither coin nor trouble. I speak of the rare tracts in which the old barbarous hospitality still lingers. You make one more at his eating tray, and an additional mattress appears in the sleeping-room. When you depart, you leave if you like a little present, merely for a memorial, with your entertainer; he would be offended if you offered it him openly as a remuneration, and you give some trifling sums to the servants.
‘Thus you will be welcome wherever you go.
‘If perchance you are detained perforce in such a situation, — which may easily happen to you, medical man, — you have only to make yourself as disagreeable as possible, by calling for all manner of impossible things. Shame is a passion with Eastern nations.
‘ Your host would blush to point out to you the indecorum of your conduct; and the laws of hospitality oblige him to supply the every want of a guest, even though he be a detenu.
‘But of all Orientals, the most antipathetical companion to an Englishman is, I believe, an East-Indian. Like the fox in the fable, fulsomely flattering at first, he gradually becomes easily friendly, disagreeably familiar,
offensively rude, which ends by rousing the “spirit of the British lion.”
‘Nothing delights the Hindi (Indian Muslim) so much as an opportunity of safely venting the spleen with which he regards his victors (At this time, the British East India Company).
‘ He will sit in the presence of a magistrate, or an officer, the very picture of cringing submissiveness. But after leaving the room, he is as different from his former self as a counsel in court from a counsel at a concert, a sea captain at a club dinner from a sea captain on his quarter-deck. Then he will discover (Burton uses the word ‘discover’ in a manner now considered old fashioned. By his use of the word, Burton means that one’s Indian host will grovel in the presence of the conquerer and then candidly speak of his actual hatred for the conquerer when safely in private.) that the English are not brave, nor clever, nor generous, nor civilised, nor anything but surpassing rogues; that every official takes bribes, that their manners are utterly offensive, and that they are rank infidels.
‘Then he will descant complacently upon the probability of a general Bartholomew’s Day i(alluding to the french massacre of the Protestants in 1572) in the East, and look forward to the hour when enlightened Young India will arise and drive the “foul invader” from the land.
(Burton wrote this 3 years before the 1857 Delhi Uprising)
” Then he will submit his political opinions nakedly, that India should be wrested from the Company and given to the Queen, or taken from the Queen and given to the French. If the Indian has been a European traveller, so much the worse for you. He has blushed to own, — explaining, however , conquest by bribery, — that 50,000 Englishmen hold 150,000,000 of his compatriots in thrall, and for aught you know, republicanism may have become his idol. He has lost all fear of the white face, and having been accustomed to unburden his mind in
“The land where, girt by friend or foe,
A man may say the thing he will,” —
he pursues the same course in other lands where it is exceedingly misplaced. His doctrines of liberty and equality he applies to you personally and practically, by not rising when you enter or leave the room, — at first you could scarcely induce him to sit down, — by not offering you his pipe, by turning away when you address him; in fact, by a variety of similar small affronts which none knows better to manage skilfully and with almost impalpable gradations. If — and how he prays for it! — an opportunity of refusing you anything presents itself, he does it with an
“In rice strength,
In an Indian manliness,”
say the Arabs. And the Persians apply the following pithy tale to their neighbours. “Brother,” said the leopard to the jackal, “I crave a few of thy cast-off hairs; I want them for medicine; where can I find them?” “Wa’llahi!” replied the jackal, “I don’t exactly know — I seldom change my coat — I wander about the hills. Allah is bounteous, brother! hairs are not so easily shed.”
‘Woe to the unhappy Englishman, Pasha, or private soldier, who must serve an Eastern lord! Worst of all, if the master be an Indian, who, hating all Europeans,adds an especial spite to Oriental coarseness, treachery, and tyranny. Even the experiment of associating with them is almost too hard to bear.
‘But a useful deduction may be drawn from such observations; and as few have had greater experience than myself, I venture to express my opinion with confidence, however unpopular or unfashionable it may be.
‘I am convinced that the natives of India cannot respect a European who mixes with them familiarly, or especially who imitates their customs, manners, and dress.
(This is what happened when many naive young westerners reached India via the Hippie Trial. By dressing sloppily, the youngsters, and especially the girls, lost respect in the eyes of the Indians. In poor parts of the world, you are expected to dress as well as you can MBFM)
‘The tight pantaloons, the authoritative voice, the pococurante manner, and the broken Hindustani impose upon them — have a weight which learning and honesty, which wit and courage, have not.
‘This is to them the master’s attitude: they bend to it like those Scythian slaves that faced the sword but fled from the horsewhip. Such would never be the case amongst a brave people, the Afghan for instance…..(omitted for brevity)
(end of quote)
Oh, a description of alchemy
11.11.09 at 9:54 am · For fun, here is Burton’s descriptin of ‘alchemy’ as practiced in Sindh. He even described the method used to tell the future by reading a sheeps shoulder blade.
All this and in his Sufi studies and library research in Sindh, in India, in Cairo at Al Azhar, and Medina and Mecca, Burton never said a thing about the enneagram, yet he was keen to learn all he could about magic and Sufi pratices. And..he could speak and read classical Arabic, Persian, Sindhi, Gujrati and Hindi. So there.
Here is Burtons report on alchemy–it sounds a lot like the Fourth Way pursuit of a will of the wisp.’