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Cousins, Margaret Elizabeth (1878–1954), social reformer and women's activist
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Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

S.S. ‘Ranchi’.—Outlines the intended programme of his and his wife’s tour of India.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)

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Transcript

P & O. S. N. Co.
S. S. Ranchi.
November 3rd, 1926

An exceedingly comfortable journey is behind us. We are now only two days out from Bombay. So far all has been leisure, to-morrow will be pay, pack, and preparations, & Friday we shall be plunged into the vortex of our activities in India.

The voyage itself has however been far from wasted, for on this boat are congregated men holding important positions all over India—mostly English but a few Indians as well—and they have been eager to give us information upon all and every subject connected with the country.

There is not very much to tell about the voyage and it would be foolish of me to give you any impressions with regard to conditions in India until I have seen something of them first hand. But I have gathered enough to realise that there will be more than ample to fill up our allotted ten weeks to the brim. We do not propose to stay very long in Bombay on arrival, and as soon as possible we shall take the mail train through to Madras where we shall stay with an old College friend of mine, A.Y.G. Campbell. Mr. & Mrs. James Cousins are also there and they have received an invitation for us to go with them into the Native State of Mysore and stay there a few days as guests of the State.

After returning to madras† we are going towards the end of November up to Calcutta where we have a large circle of friends including the Governor, Bose the Scientist, Lord Lytton, and Tagore the poet. I expect to pay a visit to the jute mills and coal mines and we also hope to get away to Darjeeling to see the Himalayas.

After leaving Calcutta we are going to see the sacred city of Benares where I want to meet some of the professors of the Hindu University. Of course the famous Taj Mahal at Agra will claim a visit and from about December 15 to 20 we have promised to Mrs. Cruichshank† (née Joan Dugdale) at Sitapur near Lucknow. After that we have to see Delhi, Amritsar, Lahore and Ahmedabad, the home of Gandhi, before returning to Bombay.

We are due to sail from there in the Kaisar-i-Hind on January 15, and had intended to come straight home; but at Port Said on our way out we received a fascinating invitation to visit one of the Egyptian ministers at his home at Alexandria on our way back. We have decided to accept this, and accordingly our return will be delayed a few days, but not later than the first week in February.

Letters may be posted to us in India up to Wednesday night, December 22nd in London (and a day earlier in the provinces) to c/o Thos. Cook and Son, Bombay, who will forward all correspondence during our stay in India.

F. W. PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

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† Sic.

Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Gambiers Gardens, Adyar, Madras.—Describes Campbell’s house and the Theosophical College. Refers to their visits to Hindu temples at Madras and a meeting with the Maharaja at Mysore.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)
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Transcript

Gambiers Gardens, | Adyar, | Madras.
November 17, 1926.

It is six a.m. The sun is just rising. I am seated on a spacious balcony in Campbell’s house overlooking this Adyar river. The clouded sky is tinted with pale pink. The temperature is about 82º, but as the air is heavily charged with moisture it seems much hotter. At 6.15 E.P.L. will join me and our “Boy”, Amir, who is a grave old Mohamedan servant whom we engaged at Bombay to look after us all the time we are in India, will bring us out “chota hazri” consisting of bananas tea and toast and butter. After chota we shall dress and drive off to Mr. Cousins’ bungalow getting back here at 8 o’clock to receive some visitors. At 9 o’clock we shall breakfast with Campbell and his friend, Col. Worgan who lives with him in the house and after that I am going to drive to the secretariat to have a short talk with the Governor of Madras.

We are very fortunate in having the use of a motor car during our stay in Madras, as another of Campbell’s friends, Mr. Boag, has gone to Delhi and has kindly allowed us full control of his car during his absence. The driver understands enough English to take our instructions. According to Indian ways he always shakes his head which means “yes” when I tell him anything, and at first one thinks he means “no” as it would do in England.

Campbell’s bungalow is pretty much what one would call a palace in England. Our rooms occupy about a quarter of the first floor and are about the size of the whole of Fourways including the billiard room. In addition our balcony alone is 100 ft by 40 ft with 15 tall Corinthian columns.

Madras is absolutely a garden city, Campbell’s compound I should think must be 25 acres in extent and some compounds are even larger. The Theosophical Society have a compound which is probably 50 to 100 acres and is lower down the river. In it are situated headquarters, library, several other buildings and bungalows one of which is occupied by the Cousins. From the balcony of the Library a view can be got of the mouth of the Adyar, and the ocean itself. A little north of the mouth of the Adyar commences the marine parade of Madras which stretches for seven gorgeous miles of sea front.

One day a prominent Hindu, Mr. Rangacharya, took us to see two Indian temples one to Shiva and the other to Vishnu {1}. By special privilege we were allowed to enter, first taking off our shoes. We were allowed to look right through to the holy of holies, and were also shown the silver and gold pedestals made in the form of animals on which the images of the god are carried each by thirty or forty men on the days of the great festivals. On one side of each temple is a great artificial lake (known as a tank in India) with steps down on all sides on which the people sit. On the other three sides of the tank are houses in which large numbers of people live. We were not allowed to leave either of the temples until the usual Indian honour had been conferred upon us of hanging round our necks great garlands of fragrant flowers.

In the middle of our stay in Madras we paid a visit to the Indian State of Mysore. The ruler, the Maharajah is a very enlightened man who has won praises on all sides for the progressive and sympathetic way he has run his State. We stayed in the city of Mysore in the guest house as the guests of the State, and were taken several interesting drives by the chief secretary and his assistant. One motor trip was to the famous island fort of Seringapatam. Another to the great dam of which they are justly proud. It is the second largest dam in the world, it locks in 40 square miles of water, is 130 ft high and 1¾ miles in length. It was constructed throughout by Indian labourers working under Indian engineers without any help from Europeans. During our stay we had a short interview with the Maharajah and if I had been able to stay a day or two longer he would, the secretary said, have probably invited me to play tennis with him as he is a very keen and good player. Mysore is about 2000 ft above sea level, and the climate in November is dry and invigorating like a perfect July day in England.

To-night we are off to spend a couple of days in Madura close to the southernmost point of India. I must leave the rest of the account of our stay in Madras until next mail. I will only say that Campbell has proved as ever a most kind & excellent host, and there is scarcely a public man of importance here whom I have not seen and talked to.

F. W. PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

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{1} The Kapaleeswarar temple and tank, and the Parthasarathy temple, in front of which is the tank known as Paravei.