Category Archives: India

Two Coins: A Few Character Profiles

Last week I shared the places associated with Two Coins: A Biographical Novel. This week I’m introducing some of the people who grace its pages. With one exception, my selection is limited to characters with a visual record.

Two Coins focuses on the libel case Mary Pigot filed against The Reverend William Hastie. Though I searched everywhere I could think of, I found no likeness of Miss Pigot. A contemporary newspaper description of the plaintiff and defendant at the 1883 trial gives some idea of Miss Pigot’s appearance.

“Miss Pigot is a lady-like looking Eurasian, not giving one the impression from her looks of anything but strict propriety; indeed, with the profoundest respect to the lady, it seems difficult to conceive of any man conducting himself towards so respectable and rather interesting a person otherwise than with rigid decorum; Miss Pigot’s appearance would certainly not be denominated attractive by a romance writer.”

William Hastie, on the other hand, presented the newspaper reporter with a very different visage. “The defendant, the Rev. W. Hastie, is a hard-featured, canny-looking north countryman, wearing a close dark beard, moustache, [sic] and whiskers. He and the plaintiff impress one as being of about the same (anything but frivolous) age, say, 40 to 42.”

Monomohini WheelerMrs. Monomohini Wheeler, Inspectress of Girls’ Schools and Zenanas in Bengal, presents an appearance not unlike what I’m sure Miss Pigot adopted. The dress is plain; the hair, severe. Mrs. Wheeler testified on behalf of Reverend Hastie, supporting the defense that Miss Pigot failed in her duties to properly manage the Female

Orphanage. The illustration of a Mrs. Branden, Senior Inspectress of Schools in Madras, gives further insight into the fashion style of women involved in education.

Rev ChuckerbuttyThe Reverend Bipro Churn Chuckerbutty was a prominent convert and minister of the Church of Scotland mission in Kolkata. Records indicate that Rev. Chuckerbutty was born in 1823, and may have been the last Hindu boy to light a funeral pyre for his mother. He received Christian baptism in 1843 and went on to a career in the church. Churckerbutty received ordination in 1872 and raised funds to build the Bengali church in 1875. In the aftermath of the case of Pigot v. Hastie, Reverend Chuckerbutty retired in some disgrace.

Missionaries operated in their own structural context, not that of British Civil Servants. These illustrations give some indication of what Miss Pigot’s students may have looked like.

King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery Lieutenant-Colonel R. Alexander Walker was a member of the Royal Artillery at Dum Dum, near Kolkata. He was a close friend of Rev. Hastie, an enemy of Miss Pigot, and a prominent member of St. Andrew’s Kirk and the Scottish missionary community. His wife, Mrs. Amber Walker, and sister-in-law Miss Georgiana Smail played significant roles in gathering the charges made against Miss Pigot. I don’t have a picture of Lt. Col. Walker, but provide this one to demonstrate the type of culture he upheld. The social gap between a lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Artillery and an unmarried Eurasian professional woman working for the Scottish mission was insurmountable.

Dr. Archibald Scott

 

Dr. Archibald Scott was, among many other posts, the convener of the Foreign Mission Committee of the Church of Scotland. From his position in Edinburgh he greatly influenced the fate of everyone connected to the case of Pigot v. Hastie.

***

 

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, 2012. By Sgt Adrian Harlen.

Image of Dr. Archibald Scott from the Internet Archive Book Image. Flickr.

Other images in public domain.

 

SUMMER READS: TWO NOVELS BY SUJATA MASSEY

Good historical fiction takes the reader into an authentic world where the story is presented against the backdrop of actual customs and material culture, for example, food as it is eaten and prepared or family customs such as purdah, the seclusion of women within the household. When there’s also a mystery involved, it becomes more… Continue Reading

HOLI – THE FESTIVAL OF COLORS

At the beginning of this month, Punxsutawney Phil (America’s official groundhog) assigned us six more weeks of winter. This is approximately the time between Groundhog Day on February 2 and the Spring Equinox on March 20. If you think that’s too long to wait for Spring, you might want to celebrate HOLI – THE FESTIVAL… Continue Reading

Durga Puja 2017

  Durga Puja, the annual festival in honor of Goddess Durga, begins tomorrow, September 26 and continues until Saturday, September 30. It’s a moveable festival with dates coinciding with the sixth through tenth day of the bright lunar fortnight in the Hindu month of Ashvin. For five days revelers in Kolkata engage in pandal hopping,… Continue Reading

RAMA’S LABYRINTH – Free Kindle Edition April 2-6

Wednesday, April 5th is Pandita Mary Ramabai’s saint’s day in the Church of England and Episcopal Church. In commemoration and as a special thank you, the Kindle edition of Rama’s Labyrinth is available at no charge until Thursday, April 6. WHO WAS MARY RAMA? Mary is Rama’s baptismal name. When Rama traveled to the Community… Continue Reading

SIKKIM – LAND OF MONASTERIES

SIKKIM – LAND OF MONASTERIES

The name Himalayas brings up many images. Of course Mount Everest comes immediately to mind. But there’s more to this range of mountains that stretches from Pakistan in the west across India, Bhutan and Nepal before ending in China. Tibetan Buddhism also has an association with the region, although China swallowed Tibet itself in 1950. Within… Continue Reading

CALCUTTA, MARY PIGOT & ME – Where She Was

CALCUTTA, MARY PIGOT & ME – Where She Was

  As you may recall from a previous blog about Kolkata, I went to that historic city in search of clues about Mary Pigot, the protagonist in my current project. Calcutta was the capital of the British Raj until December 1911 when British administrators removed to New Delhi, and buildings in Calcutta’s historic district remain… Continue Reading

KOLKATA, MARY PIGOT, & ME – Where She Wasn’t

KOLKATA, MARY PIGOT, & ME – Where She Wasn’t

My recent visit to Kolkata, like my visit to Edinburgh early last summer, is directly related to my current research project. This book is about Mary Pigot and the lawsuit she filed in 1883 against a prominent male missionary. Mary charged William Hastie with malicious libel. We would call his actions defamation of character. With… Continue Reading

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