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St George’s News - Waterlooville’s Parish Magazine

The Website for St George’s Church, Waterlooville and its Parish Magazine St George’s News

Christmas 2018 issue

The Osmond Diaries

Continuing the series of diaries and letters of Alfred Thomas Osmond, relating to his sea voyage from Southampton to Calcutta and his early months in Calcutta, 1852-1853. Alfred Osmond was the son of Rosemary Monk’s Great great great Grandfather William, who was a stonemason at Salisbury Cathedral

The Indian mode of living is so very different to the European, that it requires some time to become accustomed to it. The first thing I had to do was procure a servant whose sole office is to wait upon me at table and dress me and keep my chamber in order. I shall have to pay this fellow 5 or 6 rupees per month. Every member of the family has at least one personal attendant of this description. The house servants will attend to one thing only – the fellow who runs errands will do nothing else. The man who cleans plate, will not cook. There are no women servants of course in our bachelor establishment – women are employed only as nurses. Although we number but 5 we have 20 or 25 house servants, including our respective valets. Besides these, there are the coachmen and grooms. We have 5 or 6 buggys and garus (a four wheel vehicle something like a cab) & 9 or 10 horses – each horse has a groom to himself, so that altogether it is a considerable establishment. The servants will not eat food that has been partaken of by Christians, so they provide themselves with food from their wages & most of them live in huts of their own. So that the only expense they are is their wages barring what they steal & this I am sorry to say they do whenever they have the opportunity. I have to provide myself with sundry articles for my bedroom such as sheets, blankets, mosquito nets etc. Everybody is supposed to have sufficient stock of such things and take charge of them himself, or they will be stolen by some of the numerous servants. An Indian house consists of a number of large and lofty rooms opening one into another on all sides, the whole surrounded by an open Arcade or verandah from 10 to 20 feet wide according to the size of the building. In consequence of this arrangement & the number of servants hanging about, there is no such thing as privacy. The rooms on the principal floor of Mr. Mackintosh’s house are about 15 feet high – the Drawing room is about 35 feet long – this is quite a moderate size compared with some I have been into. I have been introduced to a few families – one very musical family where I was made very welcome. The principal difficulty I feel is my ignorance of the language. The house servants speak hindustani & the workmen speak Bengalee. The latter I must aquire as soon as possible for until I know something of it I shall not be of much service in the business.

Everything is so strange that I scarcely know what to tell you first. The native part of Calcutta is very shabby looking and dirty, yet some of the rich Hindus have built themselves palaces. You see the extremes of great wealth & the most abject poverty next door to each other. The English part is much better – some of the houses are quite palaces, fine noble looking buildings, but built of brick and plaster only. The details are not as well finished as in England.

I was glad to find letters from yourself, Henry, & cousins Susan & George – I saw some English newspapers at Galle, giving accounts of the Duke’s funeral etc. I received William’s letter on Thursday Feb. 15th & was much surprised to hear that Arthur had so quickly followed my example. I suppose he will arrive about the middle of March. You may imagine how anxiously I shall be expecting the steamer next month.