地评线】金羊网评:打好“三张牌”绘就共享小康美好图景

Fields of betel pepper, broad-leaved and fleshy, carefully enclosed with matting, were watched over by two or even three men, armed with heavy cudgels. While I was talking to the postmaster the fakir smoked a hookah, burning amber powder and rose-leaves. The air was full of the narcotic fragrance; a piercing perfume that mounted to the brain.

"You know it is pashmina?"

Then, from a bridge across the Ganges, for a moment we had a last glimpse of the sacred citythe gold-coloured umbrellas, the throng of bathers on the steps to the riverand then Abibulla gravely remarked, "If only India had three cities like Benares it would be impossible ever to leave it." One of the largest buildings once slid into the river during an earthquake, and stands there complete and unbroken, its magnificence surviving under water. Some minarets only rise above the surface like kiosks, and form a landing-stage, invaded by[Pg 159] the bathers, who wash themselves with much gesticulation, flourishing their long sarongs and white loin-cloths, which they spread out to dry on the steps.

Next came a long file of carts, conveying cases of goods "made in Manchester," or loaded, in unstable equilibrium, with dry yellow fodder like couch grass, eaten by the horses here; and they struggled along the road which, crossing the limitless plain, appeared to lead nowhere. Bakaoli bewails her lover's departure, for which no one, not even her mother, can comfort her.

The Rajah being absent we were allowed to see everything. On the upper floor is the Ranee's dressing-room. All round the large room were glass wardrobes, in which could be seen bodices in the latest Paris fashion, and ugly enough; and then a perfect rainbow of tender opaline hues: light silks as fine as cobwebs, shawls of every dye in Cashmere wool with woven patterns, and[Pg 53] gauze of that delicate rose-colour and of the yellow that looks like gold with the light shining through, which are only to be seen in Indiaroyal fabrics, dream-colours, carefully laid up in sandal-wood and stored behind glass and thick curtains, which were dropped over them as soon as we had looked. And crowding every table and bracket were the most childish thingsscreens, cups and boxes in imitation bronze, set with false stonesthe playthings of a little barbarian. A coloured photograph stood on the toilet-table between brushes and pomatum-pots; it represented the mistress of this abode, a slender doll without brains, her eyes fixed on vacancy. As soon as he had bid us welcome, bunches of chrysanthemums were presented to us tied round a little stick. The Rajah hung garlands of jasmine round our neck, and a servant sprinkled us with otto of roses. The conversation turned on Europe, which Rawl Shri regards as a land of marvels, where fairy-like manufactures are produced and extraordinary forces have subjugated nature. He, like his cousin of Palitana, has a passion for horses, and he took me to visit his stud. In the bazaar I sought in vain for the petticoats embroidered with rosettes, flowers, and elephants pursued by tigers, such as the women wear here; these robes are made only to order and are not to be found. Then Abibulla simply asked a beggar-woman to sell me hers. The poor creature, hooted at by some old gossips, retired into a corner to undress, and, wrapped in the packing-cloth in which she had been carrying some rags, brought me the petticoat.

More temples, each more stupendous than the[Pg 41] last, and more halls hewn in the rifts of the hills, and over them monks' cells perched on little columns, which at such a height look no thicker than threads.

In front of these stolid-looking sepoys, their black heads and hands conspicuous in their yellow uniforms, are drilled to beat of drum, marking every step and movement.

An aggressive capital! Palaces of concrete and stucco washed with yellow stand cheek by jowl with commission agencies and hovels, and all without a suspicion of style, not even giving one the impression of a southern city. In the streets, thick with dust, an all-prevailing turmoil as of a fair is prolonged to the latest hours of night. Red uniforms and "young England" tourist suits ending their career in rags on half-breed cooliesa wearisome staleness and total effacement of local colour, worse than commonplace; and then, above all, a very strong and nauseating smell of lotus and tallow, with an after-gust of something peppery and acrid.

The two chairs are now placed side by side, and the priest goes on chanting his prayers to a slow measure, in a nasal voice that is soon lost again in the chatter of the bystanders. Rice is once more shed over the couple, and incense is burnt in a large bronze vessel, the perfume mingling with that of the jasmine wreaths on the walls.