In January 1924, the Sawyer family left Australia, returning to New York via Ceylon, India, Egypt, and Europe. Dr. Sawyer
spent several weeks inspecting hookworm and malaria control campaigns in Ceylon, then went on ahead to do similar work in
India. The family, meanwhile stayed in a rented villa in Ceylon to wait for Dr. Sawyer's mother to arrive from Shanghai,
China, and then joined Dr. Sawyer in Bombay on April 12th. In this letter, he describes visits to hookworm campaign offices
and traveling on the Calcutta mail train.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (163,344 Bytes)
1924-04-01 (April 1, 1924)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
From Hookworm to Yellow Fever: Rockefeller Foundation, 1919-1927
On the Calcutta Mail Train, approaching Calcutta, April 1, 1924.
Perhaps at this very moment you are arguing over broken dishes and scratches in furniture with Mr. Hill, the agent, or bossing
the servants as they load the baggage on a bullock cart. I wish you complete success and hope you will be comfortably settled
in the G.O.H. when Mother's boat arrives. I am very glad that you will all have the benefit of a week at Nuwara Eliya
before traveling in North India. It is very hot here and remarkably dusty. Fortunately the railway company gives lots of
room to its first class passengers. When I started from Madras, two of us had a compartment about 9 X 11 feet with one room
opening off it for the closet and another for lavatory and shower bath. There was even a needle spray for ladies who do not
wish to wet their hair, although I do not think they needed to be so particular when hair would dry in this air almost immediately.
Give Mother my love and tell here I wish that I could have met her at the ship. I shall try to do so at Bombay. I would
like it if you would write all the plans that you make regarding the Indian trip to me in care of the American Consul at Bombay.
Let me know what plans I should make before you arrive and what reservations or arrangements you are making in advance. Aren't
you lucky to have Freda with you on this crowded day of moving and meeting boats?
Last Saturday I attended a luncheon at Government House in Madras. It was a sort of luncheon party and the American Consul
and a large number of other guests were there. On arrival one found the steps ornamented with Indians in gaudy uniforms and
carrying lances with tiny flags on them.
In the evening I left with our local Director for Coconada, which is nearly half way to Calcutta. We were met at the station
by our local staff and presented with nosegays, and when we left the station to take a motor car we behelt a banner inscribed
"Welcome to Dr. Sawyer" and carried between poles by two very dark boys. A Canadian Missionary, Mr. Benson, entertained
me at his house and we spent the early afternoon sleeping under punkahs. It was very hot, and Mr. Benson had sent his family
to the hills to stay until the cooler weather.
Toward evening we went by car to a village and heard a lecture in Telugu on the usual subject of hookworm disease. The tom-tom
beater was very much in evidence and a good crowd had gathered. The lecturer used lantern pictures, which are still a drawing
card among these people who see so few pictures of any kind.
On my return to the main line to Calcutta I saw a palanquin borne by six coolies bringing a rich lady to the train. The lady
was completely invisible, and when she transferred herself to the compartment on the train, curtains were held by men with
poles so that there was not the slightest unguarded chink for a bird to see through. When the shy lady reached her destination
a bright red curtain and canopy was similarly held and, in the absence of her palanquin, the whole tight cloth enclosure moved
off, in a circle of bearers with poles, while her ladyship walked inside. How is that for 100% modesty! I am told that the
women are so modest that they usually develop tuberculosis from lack of light and air. I do not know whether they are Mohammedans
or a wealthy class of Hindu merchants.
When you go to Delhi, etc., any clothes that are cream or khaki colored will be very valuable for white clothes do not stay
clean ten minutes on the train. The dirt, however, is all sterilized and looks will not kill. However, it would be very nice
to have a tinted suit. I am wearing white to save at least one silk suit to start my visits in Calcutta with.
Tell Dr. Docherty that the bed-roll is proving very useful and comfortable.
I shall be so glad to see you all at Bombay. I want Billy to leave his spots in Ceylon and come with his nice normal skin.
When Peggy's birthday comes give her my best wishes for a happy birthday. Perhaps I shall be able to find soothing nice
for her before I get to Bombay.