Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/62

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thoroughly believe it to be the only desirable life to lead, find the innumerable restrictions imposed upon her not unwelcome, and become contented with her contracted sphere; and, if those about her happen to be kind, be quite as happy as any girl in the world. But the potentialities for misery involved in her surroundings are enormous, and, where such is the case, to argue that misery is not the frequent result would be to argue against human nature. At all events, the purview of her life is limited to a degree which it is difficult for us to realize. It resolves itself daily into this: the strict performance of petty religious ceremonies, feeding, bathing, dressing, cooking, and household drudgery, all so hedged round with minute regulations as to make each a special occupation, and to these must be added visiting and gossip during her afternoon leisure. How petty that gossip must be can be inferred from the facts already laid before you. Remember that the great majority of these ladies are altogether uneducated, that ever since they have been old enough to observe and think they have been shut out from the world, that they have no knowledge of any person or thing beyond those immediately around them except what they can pick up from their menials, and then you will have no difficulty in understanding that their interests are centered in their jewels and ornaments, their food, their personal concerns and troubles, the peculiarities of the members of their households, and, lastly and chiefly, in what social ceremonies and feasts happen to come their way, the widows being shut out from even these. If a marriage, a death, or a birth among their kindred were the only landmarks in English ladies' lives, we should soon have these occasions erected into as lengthy family ceremonies as they are in India. If the observance of Ash-Wednesday, Shrove-Tuesday, Candlemas, Michaelmas, Lady-day, May-day, and what not of our standard religious and secular feasts were the main opportunities for breaking the monotony of an imprisoned life, how carefully they would be kept, and how anxiously looked forward to! This is why all the innumerable shankrdáts, ekádshís, aslithamís, náumís, and other queer fasts and feasts are so regularly attended to in India. Indeed, female ingenuity has there long ago seized upon the many other opportunities for diversion afforded by occurrences incidental to human existence, and there are ceremonies to be gone through on every possible excuse. No phase of life escapes—childhood, puberty, pregnancy, maternity, widowhood, all come in for a share. The first tying of a rag round a boy's loins occasions a family feast, and so does the first time his hair is cut the first time he puts on the janéu, or sign of caste; and so on all through life. Before he is a man he has gone through sixteen sacraments, each a notable occasion in the eyes of his women-folk. Babies are put through all sorts of ceremonies, on the