7 Jan 1896

Translation work from 9-11 a.m. correcting M.S. with Suaka.

All afternoon Fred & I busy ourselves at M.S. Times between are occupied with making fair copy of corrected sheets & keeping dictionary entered up – for we even now getting new words daily.

Sorrowing without Hope for the dead. One day in the village we heard heart rending sobs, & the sound of a woman calling in a voice of half choked with tears the name of a girl. Asked a bystander if someone had just died. He shook his head & pointed to a mound of red clay by the side of the house & said that the poor woman had lost her daughter some months back & had buried her there & that she was crying now because her “heart had gone strolling” (using a Lushai expression – lung a leng) – sorrow which produces such bitter sobs is of no common order – it is the sorrow which has no hope; & when the heart tries to follow the dear one who has gone from earth forever it is overwhelmed with despair & dreadful fear. I felt then as I listened to the agonized groans of that poor solitary mother, that compared with the work of speaking comfort to such souls & pointing them to the Saviour all earthly riches, praise, honour & power are as nought.

The Havoc of Death. At home you can have no idea what havoc death works in these rude hill tribes. They die like flies. Today a man is well & hearty, tomorrow he is in his grave. Their poor food & filthy habits deprive them of all stamina, & the least illness, such as a European would scarcely notice, cuts them down like grass before the scythe & they are gone. We have often pulled a man through a slight illness & then had him die for want of energy to rouse himself.

When a Lushai gets ill he makes up his mind that he is going to die & his friends come round & ask him if he does not feel the evil spirit gnawing at his heart. So great is the influence of imagination that they actually believe that they feel their heart being eaten away. If we say “where is the pain?” they invariably point to their chest & say “Here in my heart.”

Beer Drinking. After harvest house full of beer drinkers up to the door. Their doleful chanting rocking to & fro – sipping liquor.

Drunken Lushais are generally very affectionate. Put their arms round ones neck & try to lead one to the house where drinking is going on just to have “One little drop.” When in this condition they call us all sorts of endearing names.

Over the beer poots pot however plots are hatched. Christians are maligned. The beer often leads to quarrelling ( & even murders).

Milk – we begin to get cows milk after 2 years without it. Our Lushai boy runs for it every morning early.

Some we have with porridge; part is made into butter; the rest for tea. Butter milk is used for making pudding.

How our cooking is done. You wd. be surprised to see the bonnet box like arrangement (Tipal) which is all the over our cook boy possesses. He piles burning faggots on top, & pokes them underneath & low & behold, he brings forth a batch of loaves. He makes his own yeast of hops which we buy in Calcutta in sealed tins.

When he makes a custard or milk pudding he sets the enamelled pie dish in the ashes & covering it with a piece of old Kerosine tin sprinkles fire thereon until the contents are cooked & the top nicely browned


How our cooking is done (continued). He can serve it up in a duck or fowl or even a joint of meat (when we get one) nicely roasted with gravy; though how he does it with only a large saucepan for an over is a mystery wh. I have not solved.

Butter Making. The butter he makes out of the unskimmed milk by shaking it in a bottle for a considerable time, & when it appears on the table in a glass dish prettily decorated in the form of a rose, it looks as if it might have come from a London dairy.

The Kitchener & Fuel. He possesses no kitchener. His only stove is a raised altar-like block of stones, uncemented, with two places for fire, & his only fuel consists of chunks sticks of wood which the Lushai women supply for 4 annas per basketful.

Lushais learning to steal because of their contact with foreigners. Quick to learn evil, slow to learn good. A year ago we could leave our house for a month at a time without fear of anything being taken. Now – the following have been stolen:-

Two boots (not a pair – one of Freds & one of mine)

A new night suit from under counterpane.

Two shirts from steel trunk.

Lushais also complain that thieves are increasing.

3 Jun (Feb?) 1896

Re Preparation of Sermons -also reading sermons versus preaching without writing sermons &c. Re services at Finks.

20 Feb 1896

Translation. Began to read easy part of our translation to the children in S.S. So glad to find that they understand it well.

There is no “book” language in Lushai as in Bengali, all is colloquial

Foreign Words are used very rarely in our translation.

Hour = as long as it takes rice to cook

2 hours = as long as it takes arum bulbs to cook. We have these to eat, but are glad we do not have to cook them ourselves.

1/2 Hour = time it takes for the flavour to go our of a sip of nicotine water

10 miles = as far as a man can walk before the midday meal.

a furlong = distance across a jhoom.

Near = 2, 3 miles, frequently stretched to 10, 15 or more miles

14 Mch 1896

Lieu & Play fair left Aijal 13.3.96

Lushais’ idea of Happiness. No work – plenty of beer. Often drink 20, 30 hours on end. Drunken rows not frequent. Women don’t drink much. Neither do young men as a rule. Begin in middle life. (One of chief attractions of heaven is the idea that there they will live on ready cleaned rice – without trouble of husking it.) Fai sha

30 Mch 1896

Early Enthusiasm Revived for mission work by reading missionary biographies &c.

Bible Study. At home had Bible teaching. Were fed by others. Knew not how to draw living water & obtain life giving bread for myself when I got out here & found myself without any to help me (see letter.)

P.B. Literature said to be “deep”. I find it incomprehensible. The same with letter written to me by P.B. (The writer’s thoughts instead of being conveyed to the reader by his words are obscured by his phraseology & the reader finds himself at a loss to know what idea the words are supposed to convey.

Began Preaching regularly in Ngana’s & in Thanphunga’s village

X   First Converts. Two poor fellows in hospital were the first to accept Jesus. I asked one of these, when he was apparently sinking, “Are you trusting in Jesus

He replied, “Yes, I am always thinking of him & even if I die I will keep on trusting Him.”

Hill Tribes v. Plains Peoples.

Re Missionaries leaving Hindoos & Mohammedans where so few respond & going to tribes where people are willing to learn. “Since ye put these things from you, & judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn [illegible, crossed out] to the outcasts, the wild tribes who you in your spiritual pride despise. Ye shall see them going into the Kingdom of God & you yourselves shut out.”

Believing too Easily. There is a great danger of the Lushais believing too easily & being like seed on rocky ground – soon springing up – soon withering.

Growth of Banana Tree. We cut down a banana tree which a bison had partially eaten & measured its growth.

It grew 3/4 of an inch in first 3 hours

”      ”      1 1/2 inches   ”      ”    6 hours

In a day or two it had a leaf ready to unfold.

16 Apr 1896

“We don’t want to make fools of ourselves” This is what some of our S.S. boys said when we tried to get them to accompany us to Ngana’s village & help us with the singing. We told how Jesus was willing to be “made a fool” for our sakes in order to save us. They were ashamed to come & stand by us. Others however did come to help us.

28 Apr 1896

Rats out here are far too wise to let us get at them. They do not care for us a bit. When we go to see what larks they are playing them do not even run away but hide behind something or other until we retire & then they come out again & make an extra commotion to let us know that they are still there. (Could see one behind a box one night & kept on trying to spear him but missed him by a fraction of an inch for several times. He did not move at all but kept quite still until I at last pinned him down with the end of the stick & caught him)

The noise they make all night is sometimes enough to scare one out of ones wits. A burglar might come into the house any night & walk off with all the furniture & make as much noise about it as he pleased & we should merely turn over in bed & mentally say, “Bother those rats!”

Fred went to put on his coat one mng, & found a nest in his sleeve & one little baby rat left at home to look after the house while mother was out.

The Lushai children love baby rats – nice pink ones you know without any fur on them – They nurse them until they are tired & then alas poor little mousie is devoured – not by the pussy but by the little boy or girl. So when they grow up they love big full grown rats & go to much trouble in catching them. ⊗

Lushais eat rats see ⊗ above

3 Jun 1896, Ledo

Reaction after Vegetarian Diet. Mr. B placed C. & C. at Ledo. He himself lived entirely on vegetables, no milk, sugar, tea, salt or flesh ever passed his lips, & besides this he only partook of one meal daily at 5 p.m. He persuaded C. & C. to follow his example & the consequence was that after a month they were like skeletons, & were seized with strong fever wh. was the beginning of all their sickness. Then a reaction set in & the 2 fellows disparted with vegetarian diet purchased a lot of fowls & between them ate 64 in 16 days which made them still worse.

Ledo Bungalow cost 3000/- or 4000/-. Our house at Aijal cost us many hundreds as this did thousands. Singphos are 4 days journey off. Only pundit a coolie with smattering of Singpho. Supposed also to speak Bengali, but speaks very badly.

16 Jun 1896

Intense Heat in Brahmapootra Valley perspiring day & night. Least exertion makes us as wet as though we had just come out of a bath. Mop my streaming brow every 2 or 3 minutes while I write?

10 Jul 1896

Spectacles – gold frames – bought new ones at Calcutta.

6 Oct 1896

X   First Church in Lushailand (a good black & white sketch of the Church enclosed

Took nearly 2 days to erect & cost about £1-10-0. Opened free from all debt.  

When we had services in our house verandah the adults never came inside. They would walk about in the garden – specially fond of standing on the soft flower beds. Would snip off a blossom here & sprig there.

Knowing from this experience of the Lushais love of a promenade service we put up the chapel so that they could indulge in this taste. Children only inside. Substantial bar of wood on top of low wall which will not give way, like our verandah railings, used to when leaned lent upon

The Congregation. Semicircle of boys, Pellet bows and sticks in hand. We do not make them leave them at home as we should not see their owner again if we so much as hinted at it. Even washing is not compulsory. Hope that they will gradually get better. Some seem to be doing so. Some however are getting dirtier for they don’t seem to have washed since our arrival. Hobnailed boots 12 sizes too large. Woolen stockings without feet worn as gaiters. Coats look as though built for their fathers. Native clothes – originally white – thrown over shoulder like Scotch plaid, or tied round the waist for a loincloth. Rest clad in simple daylight; a cool & non destructive dress, though, judging by the slaps which the wearers give themselves from time to time, a garment not impervious to mosquito bites.

Only 3 hymns up to date. These are sung by the boys inside – the rest stand round outside with open mouths. Concertina.

Rewards of old Xmas cards for knowing the verse for the day. Four Xmas cards can be exchanged for 1 string of beads. Catechism.

People from distant villages stay after the children have gone to listen to more.

Picture of Church (in letter dated 6 Oct 96)

28 Oct 1896

Settled Weather – can always make arrangement in the dry season without adding “weather permitting.”

Plague broken out in Bombay.

Dirty Lushais. Numbers would rather die than have a bath. The dear little children are left in a state of revolting filth. It is impossible for anyone in England to imagine the state of these hill people. The dirt literally comes off in cakes. The most many mothers do for their infants is to pick off little projecting pieces of filth with their finger nails, & then because the little ones, who are covered from head to foot with dirt, object to this painful process & set up a scream, they excuse themselves for from washing their children by saying, “Oh, they wont let me!” I don’t think English children are over fond of the bath; but if a mother instead of bathing the youngster in nice warm water with soap & sponge were to leave him to his own sweet will for six months & then commence to pick off the dirt with the fingernails, or at the most to wet her hand with her tongue & apply it to the coating which by that time would have formed, I think they wd. object still more to the cleansing process & become as little fond of a wash as are the Lushais.

Lushai children & their dislike for being washed. See above para:

Liana’s visit to Calcutta & Darjeeling Liana went with Capt Loch to Calcutta & Darjeeling. When at Darjeeling he was asked shown the grand panorama of the Eternal snows on the Kanchinjunga [Kanchenjunga] Range. All he said was “Oh, I have seen that sort of thing before in my own country.” He was referring to the miserable little display of hoarfrost seen occasionally in Lushai (Lushais are most disappointing to take to see things. They often exhibit no interest whatever in what we think they would be struck by).

Liana’s return from Calcutta. He came swaggering up to our house to relate his experiences with a navy blue suit on for which he had paid 5/- in Calcutta. All open at the neck. Big boots unlaced – striped sock – smoking a cigarette.

Lushai jumps overboard. When Loch went to Calcutta (via Lungleh & Chittagong I think) his waterman got so giddy on the train (Chittagong to Chadpur?) that Loch sent them hi & other servants back to Aijal via Silchar by Steamer. He thought he was being spirited away. Lost his bearings – took off coat & beads told them to whom they were to be given. then when no one was looking disappeared overboard. (The swift motion no doubt made him “sea-sick” or very miserable. The tragedy took place not long before the vessel reached Silchar.

Khuma’s cheerfulness & bright ways. When we come in from evening walk runs down & opens slip rail to let us in; takes away our dirty boots & goes away to the cookhouse singing an improvised anthem to the effect that the Sahibs have returned & want their dinner.

Superstitious Bengali. Educated English speaking Bengali – the Aijal Postmaster – has a box of valuable stolen from his house. The thief being unknown he set about detecting the culprit (or finding his valuables) in the following curious fashion. He called in another Bengali noted for his wisdom in such matters, who by sorceries discovered that the box had been thrown away in the jungle. Jungle being on every side it was necessary to get some more definite information than this so the following method was adopted – A bowl was partially filled with oil, over which the wise one muttered certain incantations. Then he caught hold of the edge of the bowl with both hands, one hand on either side, as ‘it stood’ on the ground floor.


Discovering Stolen Property (Continued from over page [above entry])

A silence ensued. Presently the vessel began moving round slowly, the man still hanging on to the rim until his arms were crossed & he could keep his hold no longer. Then someone else (an accomplice?) seized it in his stead. Thus the bowl in a most mysterious manner continued to rotate slowly (& irresistibly) gradually working its way to the door, then across the compound, then down the hill side & finally into the jungle, one or more of the men keeping tight hold of the rim all the time & relieving one another in turn. Men cut a path through the jungle for the revolving bowl wherever it went & at last the men were all completely exhausted. They were far into the jungle but no box put in as appearance & at last the search had to be given up.

The Pmr: had implicit faith in this jugglery & no doubt paid the wise man well for lending his aid. The Lushais laughed well over the Postmaster’s experiment.

Medicine made from entrails. A postmortem examination was held on a sweeper found dead in his hut, as foul play was expected. The Rumour has gone all over Lushai that the doctor opened the man’s body to make medicine out of his entrails. We sent some quinine to a chief the other day & his wife tried to dissuade him from taking it as she knew it was made out of the intestines of the above mentioned sweeper.

Quiet (Xmas)(?) Aijal. Not in a literal sense shall we have a quiet Xmas. If we want life & noise we have only to go 1/4 mile on the way to Aijal & there we can have a group of buglers practicing on our right, a band of bagpipes on our left trying to drown the buglers; behind us a groups of drummers trying to out noise both the buglers and the bagpipes; in front a regiment of sepoys firing volley after volley of blank cartridges. Add to this indescribably din the shouts of native officers drilling their squad and of the Lushai youngsters imitating them & you have the picture complete. Fort Aijal is not the quietest place in the world when all the men are practicing their various parts.

16 Dec 1896

Boots have a wonderful fascination for Lushais. When we walk to Aijal we often hear a few youngsters behind us discussing the respective merits of our great hobnail boots. (often stroke mine in Lungleh). Boys fond of walking along proudly in a pair of cast off sepoys ammunition boots 6 or 7 sizes to [sic. too] large & the more clatter they make the happier the wearer seems to be.

Lushais’ Personal Remarks. We get used to hearing the people make remarks about our personal appearance. My smooth face in my young days used to call forth many remarks of admiration. Sometimes they would ask permission to touch my hands & show signs of going into raptures if they happened to see me with my coat sleeves turned up.

Sap Buanga. “The Fair sahib.” Only fair in contrast with them. Look upon one with same interest as we regard a [racist slur].[1] Contrast heightens effect.

Cruelty. The Lushais are very cruel

(1) Last evening heard our 2 boys shouting with delight in our back yard. They had caught a rat, dipped it in Kerosine & set light to it & were roaring with laughter at the antics of the poor thing as it rushed about in agony. Were surprised when I remonstrated with them & did not appreciate their so called “fun.”

Pulling off wings & legs of locusts & beetles & giving them to children to play with.

Catching cicada with bird line on end of long bamboo & them pulling of legs & wings & filling bag with the writing and shrieking mass.

Birds, insects, crabs after being maimed are usual children’s playthings.

Shial [sic. sial] chaih before sacrificing the poor creature.

Sewing up mouths of some animals to keep them from biting.

Boots again (see next page)

  1. For an overview of the racism in and of the British Empire, as well as useful analysis of the concept of “race”, see part II (chapters 10-13) of Peter Fryer’s Black People in the British Empire (London: Pluto Press, 2021), which also features an excellent foreword by historian and activist Stella Dadzie. For a broad and purposefully Africa-centered perspective on global and contemporary history, see Dorothy Hodgson and Judith Byfield, eds., Global Africa: Into the Twenty-First Century (Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2017). On recent cases of racism in India against Black migrants from a range of African states, see R. Modi and R. D’Silva, “Racism against Africans in India”, Economic and Political Weekly, 51.41 (2016), 18-20.


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