Miri Ahmednagar Districts
January 30th, 1917
MY DEAR MISS DOUGLAS AND GODOLPHIN
Before me a great stretch of brown plain, broken only by an occasional tree. Just in the compound there is a straggling tree or two as some attempt at a garden, but there is no hedge or anything else to divide us off from the plain. There is an ugly little brown School on the right; and a few small children in red byadis are sitting outside, and from the back comes a good deal of noise where I fancy, a meal is going on.
I am only here temporarily: St. Monica’s School at Nagar is by way of being my “sphere of work,” but it was thought good that I should conic here for a month to see something of life in the districts. and visit the villages, that I might know the kind of homes the children come from. So, I have had a busy month “sight-seeing,” and it certainly has been very interesting.
I can’t say the villages are beautiful-just a collection of grey buildings, looking rather desolate and forsaken. There is generally a big grey archway that is quite imposing, though there’s no wall. The Christians are all from the Outcastes and live outside the villages, some just in low mud huts, with only one room; but some seem quite well oft. and have quite fair-sized houses. They are all just dumped down anyhow, and among them are open sheds for bullocks, and goats: these latter, and thin, disagreeable dogs, wander about among the hovels: and there are plump and naked children who conic up to stare, and little girls rather more dressed and a bit shy at first; and women in dark byadis, red or green very often, who walk with a swinging tread, carrying bright brass pots on their heads; end men, in dirty white with crimson turbans in the morning they are enveloped in blankets, and they generally seem free to give information when we want it and to stand about and watch the women being taught, whether we want or not. These people are almost all entirely uneducated, and it is slow work teaching them. One longs to be able to get hold of all the children. There is very often a small Christian School under a Master, but the Indian men don’t seem very good at teaching, and the children come irregularly; so, it isn’t always entirely satisfactory.
As many children as possible are taken as boarders in the district schools. There one of the English Missionaries supervises, and the teaching is done by Indian girls, most of whom have been trained at St. Monica’s.
From Miri I suppose about a dozen villages are visited regularly by women Missionaries. I will tell you of one I went to with Miss Broomfield and the Bible-woman. Started at 6.30 (we have to go early or the women will probably be out) Miss Broomfield entertained me with the story of how the wheel came off as she went by that road before, and one was rather loose this time! However, in spite of much jolting, we arrived safely, and then went round to find the women; went into one low mud hut, where was a woman with a tiny baby a few days old; talked outside a second to two or three people at once, and so on to others; and then sat down outside one of the houses and waited for the women to collect. There were a number of children there-very friendly ones, too-so I took them off, that the women might be taught undisturbed. The Bible-woman took that class, and Miss Broomfield went on to teach in another part. Afterwards, we went on into the village, where the Caste people are quite friendly, and will even listen to a certain amount of teaching when there is time to give it them. That day there wasn’t! for there was such a demand for medicine. First, a small boy, whose broken head had been plastered up by some disagreeable black stuff. He sat on his mother’s lap and Miss Broomfield doctored him, while a crowd rapidly gathered, all very anxious to be attended to and talking very loudly, some trying (without much avail) to make them understand what they wanted; babies crying, and mothers discussing their ailments; and all the time Miss Broomfield, in the midst, went serenely on, quite deliberately dealing with one after another, till all were satisfied (except perhaps a man who brought up a pony to be doctored, but was told that that was beyond our knowledge!) Then there was a child with plague to be seen, and a certain amount of “small talk” before we finally got off, and so back to Miri about 12 (but we were not usually as late as that).
Besides the near villages, there are many others that are too far for us to go to, except camping; so there the women have to be left to the Catechists, except, perhaps, for a week’s visit or so once a year. If only the staff were larger it should be possible to camp four months in the year, and much more could be done. I suppose it is the same in every Mission Station: it does seem as though so much might be accomplished if only there were more workers. Won’t some of the Old Girls who are now doing war work come out after the war? Perhaps some might come on a six-months’ visit, just to see what things were like. I’m sure they’d enjoy it, and might be most useful too.
A certain amount of village work is done from Nagar too, but the Schools are the centre in St. Monica’s, where I shall be, are about 90 children and a Normal Class. The training of teachers is, perhaps, the most important part of the work, and we want to develop it, having a hostel where the Normal Students can live with their own staff of Indian teachers, and that, we hope, will be the beginning of great things.
I can’t tell how intensely interesting it is to be a Visionary, I wish some of you would come and try for yourselves!