South India, January 1890 — Major Moore, now Colin Moore Esquire, sat stretched out in a comfortable colombo chair [verandah chair] on the verandah of a pleasant dak bungalow [traveller’s house] just outside Bodinaikanoor, a village in Madras State, in the shadow of the Western Ghats.
He had reached Bodi from the city of Madras by various means of transport. By far the most comfortable part of the trip was by train, but he also crossed rivers on completely overloaded ramshackle boats. On other stretches he walked while his luggage followed in a farmer’s bandicart [oxen cart]. When there was no dak bungalow he slept in various huts and sheds that someone vacated for him. He found out later that, in one of these places, he had picked up bedbugs and to get rid of them all his clothes had to be boiled before he stopped scratching. On the last stretch he had rented a horse to take him into Bodi.
Now the bungalow compound shimmered in the heat, and he welcomed the cool shade of the wide verandah and the slight breeze. The view was attractive, with a bright red flowering bougainvillea draped over a wall and a large tulip tree in full bloom. In a corner, two papaya plants struggled against the heat. Some random pineapples looked to be faring better, and a few scrawny chickens stepped and pecked their way among frequent tiny dust devils. The land beyond the compound was a dry grey-green brown.
Moore was waiting for a man—a maistry, sent to him by District Collector John Waugh, who had had turned out to be an old friend from Moore’s school days. Together they had sorted out the paperwork needed to register his land claim. However, because Moore’s acreage was claimed by both Madras and Travancore-Cochin it would likely take decades to resolve. John suggested that it would be wise to register in both states, and Moore agreed that he would do so.
He had now been waiting for two days and had no knowledge of when the maistry would turn up. According to the district collector Nakkan Maistry was very reliable and worth waiting a few days for. This gave him some time to think and ask himself why he was going into the dangerous mountains. He did not need to, he had money enough to live very comfortably in England. Then he realized that he loved the life in India; he loved the Anglo social scene, the climate, the fishing, the shikkar, and the native people. And he’d always had a dream of owning his own estate. By comparison, life in England seemed very tame.
Moore had hired a cook/butler who would be his translator, cook and houseboy. Thomas was a Syrian Christian, a Malayalee from Travancore-Cochin who had worked in big houses, cooked English-style and spoke Tamil, Malayalam and English. He was about forty years old and was also a little plump. Plump was unusual in India where it seems everyone was thin and wiry, and Moore reckoned that he had done well in his big houses. Thomas raised the question of how Moore should be addressed; European gentlemen in India were called either sahib or master and they settled on master. In the south, house servants like Thomas were called boy—short for houseboy. It seemed a bit odd to Moore that he should shout boy for a plump forty-year-old, but if Thomas was comfortable with it, then it was all right with him.................