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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper

27.8973944, 78.0880129

Thurs 29. [29 January 1903] Thought we had to change at Delhi and
turned out at 7 to find we went on by the same train. Two charming
officer boys on the platform; they belonged to the Garrison of the Fort
and were going to shoot at Ghaziabad. We were an hour late.
Breakfasted with our little friends at Ghaziabad - dears they were -
and got to Aligarh at 11.30. Mrs Morison sent to meet us and we went
straight up to her. Charming house with a garden full of roses. Waited
for our luggage, talking in the drawing room. Mr Morison came in - the
most charming of men. At 12.30 the luggage came and washed and
changed. House full of books, some of them Cotter Morrisons'. A
charming boy lives with them, a Grandson of Sir Syed Ahmad. His
father was educated in England, became a most brilliant lawyer,
received a govt appointment, fulfilling Sir Syed's predictions as to the
future of Indians, then took to drink and went to the bad. The Ms have
a Baluchi servant with this history: He came to the College with a
young Baluchi, the son of the Khan Jhal ["Jhal" added in pencil] who
was the hereditary enemy of the Khan of Kelat and always raiding him,
who was sent down really as a pledge of the Khan's good behaviour.
He was said Mr M. the most beautiful human being he had ever seen
and a charming manly boy. When he was 16, the govt. deposed his
marauding father and put him in his place. The father came and said
to him "I am head of the house, while I live I command - you must
come out with me against your blood enemy." The boy resisted for 6
months, saying it was useless to oppose the wishes of the English (he
had seen India and his father only Baluchistan) finally was obliged to
give way and they took the road together. There was a wicked uncle
who coveted the throne. He promised to bring them to obedience
and to bring in the boy, at least, alive. He pursued them and at last
drove them to take refuge with a handful of followers, in a cave. From
there they charged down on the uncle's forces. The Khan was killed,
the boy wounded; the uncle came up, say his servants, and gave him
the death stroke. Then he succeeded to the throne. The boy's bride
remains unwedded and every year goes to weep at his grave and his
story - his name was Yusef - is embodied in Baluchi songs which are
sung by the people up and down the country. The old servant - he
was of the Durbar and a swell in his country - came down penniless
and an outcaste to the Ms and took service with them. At the service
at the Mosque during the Durbar, he said, I salaamed to the Khan of
Kelat, but I would not salaam the Khan of [space left blank]. Wrote
letters till 3, then came and talked to Mrs M. She's a bit of a prig (nÈe
Cohen) but I got to like her. She's an intelligent woman. Presently
came in Mr M. with the old Nawab, Mohsin ul Mulk, secretary of the
College and sometime minister to the Nizam - it is through him that
they get a large subscription from the Nizam. I talked with him in
Persian. He said there was no other place in the world where you
saw Islam trying to give itself a modern scientific and learned
education without neglecting it's own faith. Sir Syed's motto had been
self help. There was no fanaticism and no religious opposition to the
English as Kafirs. Mrs M. was like a mother to the boys, nursed them
when they were ill, looked after them. Mr Cordah, head master of the
school, came in and we all had tea. Then the Nawab, delightful old
man, went and Mr C. and Mr M. took us to see the College. Saw the
newest court of the School built on the right principles, a small court
which the master can easily supervise. Then on to the Club, the
Strachey Hall, the College Courts, the Cricket Ground (where the
Captain of the 11, a charming boy was introduced to us.) And the
Mosque. Sir Syed lies buried under one of the Domes. The Mosque
is not yet finished; Sir Syed did not hurry it on so much as the rest, for
he said whatever else his people left undone, they wd finish the
Mosque. Met the Sunni Maulvi, a Muhammadan of the old school
said Mr M., a good deal bigotted and anti English. He had made the
Haj {twice} 4 times and lived in Mecca [Makkah] once for 2 years.
We talked in Arabic which he spoke admirably, with the correct
accent. He sent out a chair for me to sit on while they prayed. The
College prides itself upon making no distinction between Shiah and
Sunni. There are only 60 Shiahs - Lucknow is the great Shiah country.
The prayers are however are separate, there being a Shiah Maulvi
though in the same mosque. The old Sunni used to teach the
younger boys their earliest education in Islam, but he became so
polemical that they had to stop him and they no longer undertake any
part of the religious training. Many of the masters do not know which
of them is which. The greater part of the courts are only temporarily,
money having failed to erect proper buildings, the numbers have
grown faster than the funds. All the sanitary arrangements are
defective - none of the rooms have bathrooms. It is also a great
defect that the School and College should practically be one. Elder
and younger brothers are obliged by their parents' wishes to live
together, which means that the College boy is too much controlled or
the School boy too little. Mr M would like to move the School bodily to
the hills. The educational fees do not pay for the masters and yet
they have only 5 Englishmen and want more - and even the kitchen is
always a trifle out of pocket. We saw the kitchen: a wonderful making
of chuprattis for which it is most difficult to get a skilled man - it is a
work of difficulty. The head of the kitchen is a descendant of the Kings
of Delhi. He was a baby (but he remembers) when his mother
applied to Bahadur Shah {Alam} at the end of the siege to know what
was to become of her and her child. The Emperor replied he could
give no orders. She was then in Humayun's tomb. She escaped into
the neighbouring villages where she and her child lived on the
proceeds of her jewels. The boy took service of a sort with govt after
trying to recover some of his father's property - this was impossible
owing to the act passed after the Mutiny, closing[?] all possibilities of
compensation after a certain date. He receives however 5 rupees a
month from govt. The dining hall is too small, Mr M. has covered in
the small court near it. He wishes to build a library over the entrance
gate and a second story [sic] of college rooms all round the big court.
He says Sir Syed was the most remarkable man he ever met. He
declared for the English before the Mutiny saying that the future of the
country lay with them, not with Delhi. He learnt English which at that
time was a cardinal offence against Islam. He was declared a Kafir
and no good Muslim was allowed to associate with him or to eat with
him. At last a woman, his cousin broke down the ban. She invited him
to dinner. He said Didn't she know she wd become a Kafir? She
replied that she didn't care and while he eat with her she put her hand
into his dish and eat his food. After the Mutiny he made up his mind to
leave the country, things were too terrible, the feeling too bitter. Then
he remembered that he cdn't leave as his poorer country men wd
have to bear the difficulties so he stayed too. He lived to see his son
a judge. When we came in 3 of the native masters came to see me.
They talked English. One was a Shiah - his people came with the first
Muhammadan invasion and settled at Dig where they held lands. He
was a Perian whose people had fled before the oppression of the
Abbassids. The other two Sunnis. They also had come from the
north with invaders. One from the Frontier near Jamrud - his
grandfather I think, anyhow quite recent. The Shiah was a Syed.
They stayed till 7.30. We talked of Arabic pronunciation chiefly. Mr
Brown dined, a very pleasant and most intelligent young man.
Agreeable evening Mrs M. told the tale of a woman who lives in
Aligarh as a Muslim, and calls herself Zorah. She was a girl at the
time of the Mutiny, a Muslim saved her and married her, took her to
Mecca where she lived for some years. An Englishman in disguise
there was boasting of his knowledge of Westerns[?]. "Oh" they said
"there's an Englishwoman here." He saw her several times and she
arranged to escape, but at the last moment her courage failed. Her
husband died and she came to live at Aligarh with I think two people.
Owing to the curiosity of English people she has practically retired
behind the Purdah. She even denies that she is English. Mrs Beck
took Mrs M to see her. She said "She reminds me of someone,
where does she live?" Mrs M said "London". "What street?" "Great
Cumberland Place - do you know it?" Instantly she shrank into her
shell - "Oh no! I know nothing - I don't know London." They think she
was married at the Mutiny and had a child whom she killed - hence
her determination not to tell her name. But Lady Arthur tells me she
heard of her from Sir Louis Mallet; that she was a girl at the time of the
Mutiny. Her family heard that she was at Mecca and tried all they
knew to get her back, but at the last moment she refused.

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