Samuel van de Putte 3

Back to part 2

- From India to Bengal


Before dawn Samuel leaves the port of Gamron again. He has no idea what his short visit to the VOC office has brought about, his mind is elsewhere. He needs to join his caravan as soon as possible, as it has already left for the Persian desert, on to India.

Toni Holsbergen

At every crossroads on the sand plains, the composition of the horde of people and animals changes. It is 1723, for three years already the mobile village has been his daily existence – and protection.

No one in the caravan ever needs any incentive to keep up the pace. Each member experiences first-hand the ancient Persian proverb:

Whoever enters the dessert, is lost. Whoever is able to leave it again, is reborn.

Tekening: Toni Holsbergen

Gujarath camel text

Long stretches of the route are only sparsely populated. There is war, hunger and drought. Everywhere the region seems to be in turmoil.

In the Persian empire behind him, the centuries-old Safavid dynasty is crumbling. On the Indian sub-continent before him the mighty Mughal empire is collapsing. Regularly the caravan encounters small plundering armies.

map india z w kopie

With each week the desert changes into a tropical area. In the ever greener landscape, the villages and towns lie scattered. Invariably surrounded by walls. Occasionally lush houses of merchants, landowners and officials stand out.

Once the caravan camps somewhere for a little longer, Samuel orders himself the lighter garb of the local Jain population. Their style is simple, far from striking and exactly what he needs. It suits him well, he is thirty-three after all.

But with the many changes of power all around, he keeps his Muhammadan desert clothing in reserve, for the time being.

Jain yogis


Simultaneously with all the changes in climate and nature, a completely different culture is taking shape along the route.

Jain witmarmer beeld

Scattered throughout the landscape white marble temples with amazing images and symbols light up. Some are covered with sparkling gold leaf.

Samuel is amazed. The one god of the quran he could recognize – his one from the bible is, after all, a similar kind of desert god.


Jain giga image

But the godless principle of the Jain is a mystery to him. Not that he originated in Zeeland from an orthodox ‘black stockings church’, but a world without alpha and omega? Godless?

Yoga pose

On the way he did become familiar with scantily clad pilgrims, mendicants and other ascetic world renouncers. But here, among the Jain, the unvarnished image of man is central – even more naked than they walk around themselves.


Jain yoga

For quite a while already, Samuel is surviving on too little food. Sometimes in view of his shrinking budget, at other times in order not to get sick, or simply because food is hardly available.


In virtually every culture along the route, the rules in kitchen and temple appear to be equally numerous. Here in Gujarat, the population does not eat anything that received life.

 

This, however, goes beyond meat nor fish. Even carrots and turnips should be given every opportunity to come to fruition before harvesting.

Premature gathering may also cause the meaningless death of worms and insects.

jain broom

With bewilderment Samuel watches some passing ascetics who  – bent over while sweeping with a broom – try to keep their path clear from any ants or insects. Some of them even string a piece of cloth in front of their mouth to prevent a fly from finding its death in it.


Jain uitsnede


Nonviolence is one of the oldest and most important Jain principles. Due to bad harvests and poverty, however, there is so much violence that the caravan has to employ more armed men than during the past desert trip.

As a result, even more farmers, cattle-breeders and traders join the flanks to benefit from the extra protection.


Mogol oorlog

Along the road Samuel notices the charred remains of villages unwilling or unable to pay for ‘protection against sneaky thieves that cheat and kill travellers’ (as merchants keep each other informed).

Samuel’s caravan tries to get past the fighting zones fast – as fast as ox-charts and herds of cattle allow. Even major ports as Surat and Goa, are only passed at a safe distance. Whoever needs to be there, just has to drop out.



Mughal empire

To escape all the tumult of war, Samuel's provisional destination has to become Cochin, in the deep south of the subcontinent. Half a century earlier the port was captured from the Portuguese by the VOC. At least, he might cash in a letter of credit there.

But it will probably take another year before he will reach the fortress. However, his condition has got worse over time. More and more tiny insects inhabit his bowels. Through his leathery skin the bones can be counted.


Nabobs

During the same year, some compagnie branches exchange letters about him. By boat mail, the Gamron office reports 'the singular visit of a land-traveller' to the Central Office in Batavia, which forwards the report by boat mail to the VOC office in Amsterdam, which in turn schedules the Van de Putte case for the semi-annual meeting of the Heren XVII as a perhaps amusing though not to be overlooked agenda item.

^ A nabob is an Anglo-Indian term for a conspicuously wealthy man who made his fortune in the Orient, especially in India with the privately held and corrupt East India Company. - wikipedia


Octrooi

How is it that a land-traveller who claims to have left Vlissingen five years earlier, comes knocking, without any prior notice, on the door of the Gamron office? Dressed like muhammadan, mind you. Can this not be one more crafty way to undermine the VOC patent - the exclusive right negotiated with the States-General?

- Who may the freebooter actually be?

‘My brother,’ someone answers from the audience.


After twenty years of privateering, Samuel's father at last remained ashore in 1685. Part of his amassed plunder he invested in the Zeeuwse Voor-compagnie (lit: pre-company).

Later, under pressure from Land’s Advocate Van Oldenbarnevelt, the competing, if not outright fighting companies – Zeeland, Delft, Enkhuizen, Hoorn and Rotterdam – were united in the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (United East Indian Company).

During this merger, more than two thousand rich families were more than willing to make deposits. They assumed that the new 'trading company' would simply collect more loot. Unity is strength.

Not unlike pirates or vikings, only more sophisticated.


VOC aandeel

During the open tender, anyone could buy a share, from doctor to farmer to household staff.

Behind the scenes, however, big money was already developing its own agenda. Almost immediately, for example, the put option was plotted.

VOC-share

Father Carel, grown rich thanks to privateering and naval battles, consequently belonged to the first generation of VOC investors. He joined the fellowship of rich pirates and corsairs who started an alliance with equally rich merchants and regents.

The VOC was the first in the world to design a system that separated money and accountability: the public limited liability company.

No longer could an owner (of public, transferable shares) be personally held liable for what an administrator did with the money.

Certainly in Samuel's era, this practice strongly contrasted with the prevailing Islamic ethos in which the mere raising of interest on capital was rejected.

In order to generate confidence in the unfamiliar company form, the VOC handed out remarkable dividends over the first four, five years; money that had not so much been amassed with merchant shipping (trade) but with privateering (robbery) - no one had expected otherwise.


Gamron

Despite Samuel's illustrious credentials, the secunde at the Gamron office continued to be difficult. The passing land-traveller could very well be the son of the former deputy admiral, but he could still be a fiscal: one of the low profile investigators, sent by the Heren XVII to detect corruption.

In fact, every fiscal was an authorized examining magistrate tasked to prosecute any form of spill trade. Even worse, however, if he should demand part of it for himself.

After a fourth or fifth guest meal, the fiscal could all of a sudden suffer from severe fever, endless bowel movements or some other very regrettable ailment.


Perziche golf

Nevertheless, the Gamron office keeps doubting. Should they have been of any help to the young man or not? Who knows what relationships the admiral family maintains ... and up to what level…?

In their report to the High Government in Batavia, the office tries to hedge against criticism. By moaning that the young man had visited the rival English Lodge. Moreover, he spent the night there. Please note, at the director’s home.

‘And that we could not approve of!’


Abbas king of persia

In any case, the office was not to blame. The young man turned up unexpectedly at a very inconvenient time. The past two years had been dire and miserable. After the chief merchant died, the fortress was attacked from the sea. By robbers from Muscat (Oman) at the other side of the Persian Gulf.

To make matters worse, ‘wild Afghans’ unexpectedly overthrew the ancient Persian royal house of Isfahan – ‘which still owed our office a lot of money’.

Hotoki

(In fact, the Afghan leader Mahmoud Hotak got the most tribes on his side because he was able to control his soldiers and prevent looting, rape and other excesses.)


The VOC deliberately selected Cochin as their main station on the Malabar seaside, which they called Voor-Indië (lit: Before-Indonesia). Several fights with the Portuguese had been needed to obtain it. The landscape charmed them: empty, flat, watery – Holland with palm trees.

The fishing village of Mumbai, though much more centrally located, was left to the English – who before long expanded it to the port city of Bombay.


Heeren XVII


On October 16, 1724, the Heren XVII in Amsterdam issued a worldwide circular. Worldwide, because you never know what other places will take the young man’s fancy. The letter contains the request to offer ‘Mister Samuel van de Putte all convenience and respect.’

This turnaround in reception Samuel owes to the intercession of his younger brother. Constantijn is employed in Amsterdam at the offices of the convoys (merchant fleets).

At the meeting he informs the Heren XVII that while on grand tour through Italy, his brother conceived the plan to travel on alone. As far as Peking. More or less in the footsteps of the famed Gemelli Careri. His traveling companions of those days can confirm the tale, they have returned by now.

Unfortunately, due to the violent political developments there, his brother was forced to head for the VOC branch in India: Cochin.

Of course, Constantine knows that he only has to try to convince the Heren XVII that his brother may indeed be quirky but certainly not a spill trader. Surely, as a VOC- shareholder, would he not be a thief of his own wallet?!

He assures them that his brother, once he has arrived in Cochin, will take one of the return boats home as a regular passenger.


Scheeps en timmerwerf


The Heren XVII are willing to consent to Constantijn's request in so far that Samuel, at his appearance in Company’s territory, may be proven all convenience and courtesy to facilitate his further journey.

However, in their global circular, the Heren XVII emphatically add the condition that Samuel must refrain from any form of trade and that each branch must closely watch this, because the gentleman in question is solely ‘considered' to be a passenger.


spiegelschip

In due time, each monopolist falls victim to paranoia. As a maritime force, the VOC is able to compete at sea and along the coast. For example, by blocking a port with ships or bombarding it with gunshots.

But the deeper into the country, the smaller their ability to control things.

By the way, significantly less ‘company servants’ lose their lives in fights than by short trips to the interior.

One of the most dreaded diseases on the Malabar coast is nodal leprosy, recognizable by swollen legs. It is yet unknown that this so-called elephantiasis is transmitted by mosquitoes.


map traderoutes asia


Thanks to patents and monopolies, the Company succeeds in creating scarcity and keeping the price of spices extremely high for decades. As a consequence, smuggling pepper, nutmeg and clove is not less profitable.

When Samuel arrives in Cochin, however, the golden days are over. Partly because the East Indian Company does allow its servants to conduct some private business.

As soon the fur loses its hairs, the lice get cold as well. The local spill                             traders in the fortress watch Samuel’s arrival with Argus’ eyes. Not because the spindly Zeeuw is dressed in native clothes – weirdies are a common sight – but because they expect him to pick from their already shrunken rack.

A Dutch guy who emerges from the bush-bush and claims to have boarded a camel somewhere in Syria, must be carrying on some lucrative business of sorts. Perhaps in collaboration with the English or the French.


Map India 1760

In addition to commercial goods, the Company also transports passengers. The fort has a city inn where Europeans may stay overnight while their ship waits in the port to load, unload and refresh (food, water, firewood).

They book a cabin to one of the surrounding areas or they are on their way from Batavia to Amsterdam with one of the return ships.

Samuel moves in and – being exhausted – barely leaves his bed. After three years it does take a little time to adjust: no longer does each day start with breaking up tent and camp before sunrise.

At all times a slave is lying in front of his door. To serve and to keep away the curious. Sahib is sleeping.

Sleeping and sleeping.

At his request, the surgeon drops by a few times. Of medicines he has had some knowledge since his early years. Part of his family was member of the pharmacy guild for generations.  He had always remained interested in the subject. Much rather than law he would have studied medicine, but his guardian decided otherwise.

His long journey of many years traversed deserts and swamps, by now he has more practical experience than the surgeon acquired aboard ship or in the fort. Politely he listens to the diagnosis and gently guides the man to the medicines he wants to have with him during the trip.

The rest he will continue to figure out by himself.


Cochin couchijn kleur


A month later, he has sufficiently recuperated to take a stroll around the hotel. The small fishing village of Cochin had been invaded by the Portuguese in 1503. Almost immediately they applied their fortaleza e feitoria formula. No factory without fort, no trade without war.

Thomas priest

One and half centuries later, the VOC captured the port from the Portuguese. From then on Cochin had grown into the size of a city like Leiden (Holland) in Samuel’s time.

Immediately after the conquest, the company dramatically diminished the fortress. Officially for the sake of better security, in reality to have a better control on all spill trade.

 Former Portuguese as well as the indigenous, Syrian catholic churches of st. Thomas were demolished or reduced to warehouses.


Franciscuskerk

The Franciscus church from 1503 – at the time the oldest European church on the subcontinent – was allowed to remain, but its interior had to be stripped to become a Dutch reformed church.


Cochin aankomst hogehoeden

Only the street pattern remained the same, though with new name plates (lit. translated): Gentlemen’s street, Parsleystreet, Calfstreet, Commonerstreet..

All popish parishioners, free burghers, mestizos and catholic natives had to go and live elsewhere. 'Together with their wrathful statues.'

In short, segregation based on race and religion. With the exception of indispensable crafts and professions, though. No different from the forts in Colombo, Bengal or Batavia.

At the time Samuel is strolling around, about two hundred households live inside the fort, equal to two thousand inhabitants – of whom more than half as slaves.


Cochin plattegrond


The lingua franca between fort and city is the mengelmoessisch (lit: mixmash) that had developed during the past one and a half centuries from a mixture of Portuguese, Arabic and Hindi.

Inside the fort only hat wearers speak Dutch among themselves. Like the Commander, Jacob de Jong, with his Board of Eight and the Supreme-merchant, or with his Tax collector and Secunde, with the First and Second Warehouse Managers, the First and Second Cashiers or the First and Second Soldier’s pay Accountants.

But also with the Council of Justice, the Council of Small and Marital Affairs and with the Board of the Orphanage.

Among themselves soldiers speak any mixture – body language in particular. Like the one hundred guards who come from everywhere and nowhere.

intocht Rijckloff Cochin

Nevertheless, also among the military there is a Dutch core consisting of the Lieutenant, his First and Second Ensign-bearers, seven Sergeants, a Garrison Writer, sixteen Corporals, three Drummers, a Constable, twenty Fuseliers and a Gunpowder Maker.


And then, of course, the fortress has a Minister, Main and Lower Surgeon, Interpreter and Subordinate, and so-called 'lower servants' like the carpenter, sail maker, smith or cooper.

High ranking voc servants carry their gun or sword within the fortress as well. Supreme hats usually have armed slaves accompany them. The danger may indeed come from many directions: from newly docked boats, from the neighbouring town, from the mysterious hinterland or from the infinitely deep ocean.


Zee gevaren kopie


Samuel used to see the fort drawn on maps as a clean and proper place; how different it is in reality. The occupants seem to simply dump their garbage onto the streets. Helped by tropical rains, the squares and yards are rather smelly and slimy.

Hogehoeden slavin

The formerly Portuguese houses nowadays differ very little from the local ones.

The outer walls had been built from the stronger laterite, but that was hardly still visible anymore. 

During the preceding centuries handfuls of cow dung had been slammed against it on a daily basis. To let it dry for use as fuel.

Indoors the floors are of loam, a mixture of sand and clay that ‘breathes’ somewhat. During the rainy season, it helps against moisture along the walls, in the wardrobe, under the mattress.

However, it does frequently need a wet mop to prevent the floor from cracking and crumbling. But with the dirty streets at the doorstep, that’s daily work anyhow for the two, three slaves that every home keeps.


Vorstenhuis Maharaj

They had been bought in Batavia or traded on the opposite coasts of Madagascar and Mozambique. 

Sometimes the indigenous serfs were part of the yield from negotiations with domestic princes.

Cochin does not have much in the way of community spirit. One year before Samuel's arrival, the Frisian minister Jacob Canter Visscher wrote to a lover of nature friend:


Kiekendief

‘On this occasion, a laughable event comes to mind, though it was a painful incident for the one who underwent it, when a soldier stood peeing and was attacked from the sky by a harrier that dangerously injured his member, which this bird of prey had taken for a good piece of bait.

Although rather predatory, these birds actually do much good for the city, keeping it clean from a lot of smelly dirt, which serves them as bait, since the inhabitants are not that neat.’

Not only men but also the women walk here bare-chested, the vicar informs his friend.

‘Initially, the bare bosom seems a little strange, but the custom gradually takes away the wonder. The Malabarese do not cut the fabric of their clothes, they do not make it fit the bottom of their lower body, but just drape it and laugh at the Europeans for cutting such beautiful fabrics to pieces.

The company's servants - in local linguae franca called bebidos (drunkards) - are ridiculed on a regular basis anyhow.

Anyone signing up with the VOC knows that he is in for at least eight months of stench, misery and sickness. Unless he belongs to the thirty per cent already facing death on the way out.

Europe is neither rich nor educated. In most areas it has a backlog rather than a head start compared to Asian countries. In trading terms: few European products can compete with similar ones in Asia.


wereldbevolking kopie

For the months of life between decks, the company prefers to recruit among desperate, lonely, fatalistic young men. Bribed courts present prisoners the choice between sitting or signing up.

Amsterdam whores frame them more unequivocally. Without any feelings of guilt, they sell the stacked debt notes to the cops for cash. Most young men, often from distant regions, sort of suspected it. Or they did not want to know. They simply didn’t see another way out.

Wordpopulation in millions

It doesn’t make much difference where the young men are coming from – Holland, Germany, France or farther afield – poverty had long before deprived them of most of their self-esteem.

With the accompanying soldiers, it was more of the same.

For the crew below deck, daily sea life barely differs from life at home as a farm labourer in a turf hut – if his parents owned one.


Schip interieur doorsnee


In recent centuries, the land-owning families had only become more numerous and more demanding. For example, on rural grounds in Munster and Lower Saxony (Germany), the third or fourth of a farmer’s sons simply had to abandon his family’s land.

They took the peddler’s path to wealthier coastal areas with more activity, in order to survive with trading, setting up market stalls, street entertainment, theft or privateering.

In order to safeguard their unrestrained covetousness against riots and resistance, the ruling classes responded by having all ‘men without master’ picked up and made to work in unhealthy workplaces, in the army, or in prison. And in the end there still is the VOC.

If the youngsters had not already been criminal and violent, they became so on the ship – to save their lives.


Schip nacht

Once aboard, usually sleeping in hammocks, sometimes between the guns, above brackish water, without proper food or sex, they are subject to systemic cruel authority.

From the ornate front of the ship, captains and officers try – often by cruel means –to keep control over the riffraff.

Meanwhile, in the more luxurious cabins on the front deck passengers keep themselves occupied with eating, bible reading, card games or writing their journals.

Hamborgers Noor-luyde kopie

Most of the crew is young, around twenty-five years. Ten years earlier they may have belonged to the many Wanderburschen in search of a future.

By now, they are labelled as:

Most of the crew 2

hoerewaarden, gauwdieven, dronken guiten, deugnieten fielten and vechters 

– name calling with touches of prostitution, theft, alcohol and fight.



Schip spiegel 4

Occasionally a wanton bankrupt, a student dropout, a corrupt cashier, a dubious bailiff or another libertine is among them as well.

Together with greedy merchants and commanders, this medley of rejects determines the first impression inhabitants of other continents get of Europeans when their mirror-ship looms up out of the blue and docks.

Usually physical poverty recognizes and understands itself anywhere; mental poverty does not even bother.

Once ashore in the new, warm continent, the lower VOC staff’s choice is quickly made up. Why, or rather for whom or what, would they ever go back? Manning the return boats remains a persistent problem for the company. From the lower staff that left the Patria – and survived the journey, fighting, malaria and other misery - only one third ever returns home.

Quite different from the higher ranks, that left behind so much more in terms of home and hearth. Of the educated and well-‘earning’ class, about seventy per cent eventually returns home.

wereldbol boot

To belong to this topi wala, one must at least be able to read and write. In addition, a hat carrier often had to buy his high position from a predecessor – in VOC-terms:

'The cost comes before the profit .'

With money you make money.

In itself, the appointment does not provide much salary. The VOC blindly assumes the upper class will somehow ‘earn’ its own cost.

A former Cochin commander even managed to make some money from the local orphanage and the leprosy cottage.

Formally, the VOC combats that which informally everyone is expected to participate in. The Heren XVII themselves set the example by mostly appointing friends and favourites – or rather: letting them buy themselves in.

If the VOC has any slogan, it is: don’t trust but bribe.

'The cost comes before the profiteering.'


Cochin couchyn painting


To explore more of the area Samuel walks around fort and town one morning, it takes him a little more than half an hour. Cochin reminds him of home, of Vlissingen, but it could just as well be the salty air.

He notices how its inhabitants focus on each other. As if there is no world beyond the surrounding walls. As if he is the only one with some idea of the infinite hinterland with its countless peoples and tribes.

Inside the fort, strict dress codes are mandatory. Thanks to the assigned hotel-slave, Samuel walks in the correct cottons. VOC servants are not allowed to wear local clothing, however more pleasant and practical they may be in the tropical heat.

The ‘slothful, sluggish and effeminate Muhammadan garment’ is altogether forbidden.

Bewoners zuid-India kopie

The distinction with the mestizas, natives and slaves has to be clear at a glance from afar - for the Dutch bebidos.

The closer to the harbour, the busier things are. He watches the broad river flow into the sea, where, according to local legend, a sunken city falls dry on the rare days that the Arabian Sea draws back ominously.

He watches the boats with their strikingly high, curved nets that, after years of sheep meat, at last provided fresh fish again. After the first bite a wave of melancholy welled up in him, he had to put his plate aside for a while.

Schip Aziatisch 2

Before the Portuguese crackers (Spanish: carraca) navigated around the Cape at the end of the sixteenth century, numerous boat types had already been sailing across the Pacific and Indian Oceans for the best part of a millennium: the ball, tree, bagel, samba, show, logia, ganja, gallivant, grab, pattamar – to mention here but the Indian variants.

They handled all sea trade within the triangle India, Japan and Indonesia. When these big and small boats now enter the port of Cochin, the company demands toll fees.

Peper

At the dock there is loading and unloading of nutmeg, clove, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, tin, copper or sisal rope.

The sea route to India may have been a great discovery for Europeans, Arab geographers and historians realized already before the tenth century that they were living between two continents.

Around the year one thousand, Muqaddasi noted that ‘the land of Islam’ was located between the Chinese Sea and the Roman Sea. The historian al-Mas'udi, author of The Meadows of Gold, wrote in 947 about merchants from Oman, Basram and Baghdad who were married to inhabitants of Indian coastlines.


zilveren staven

However, the European market has hardly anything to offer Asia, its products are not popular or too expensive.

 Therefore, in order to pay the first purchases, each VOC ship departs from Amsterdam with heavily sealed boxes full of ingot and minted silver.

zending

On average, thirty to forty of these have been piled up in the captains’ and officers’ cabins, fitted with heavy locks and wrapped in sailcloth; where the seams meet, red lacquer seals shine.

Between order and receipt is about two and a half years waiting time. Everyone on board signed up for at least five years. Their ship will not sail back the first few years, but will be employed in trading between the Asian coasts of India, Malacca, China, Japan or Indonesia.

For example, at Ceylon they load betel nuts and cinnamon - often used as a dye for rugs and textiles - to trade them on Bengal shores against fine cotton fabrics for the Indonesian Archipelago.


- From the quay

From the quay, Samuel watches the activities that actually pay his many years’ journey. Unfortunately, the Company has not made any profit these past thirty years - at least for the flock of shareholders. Since 1689, there is an official loss of ten million guilders yearly (on an average turnover of sixty million).

Meanwhile, smuggle trade has been paying for years with e.g. opium. At the quay, Samuel does not notice anything of this. Only in the air-humid season does the pain-relieving and addictive substance smell remarkably strongly.

In the harbour the sailors stare at the land traveller. At the gentleman who wanted nothing but to satisfy his wanderlust, as the company reports his visit. The boatmen act indifferently but are bloody curious. They remain remarkably respectful, though. Not because the young man obviously belongs to an exempt upper class, but because they do have an idea of the distance he travelled on his own and the hardships he endured.

vishnu as lord sudarshana he90

In turn, Samuel gets a clearer picture of the difference between travelling over sea and over land. Seafarers sail together in a cocoon following mapped routes.

Only to find themselves after many months on a distant shore with different peoples with a strange culture and a pagan religion.

Or, as the local vicar Jacob Canter Visser, shortly before Samuel’s arrival, writes in a letter to a friend in Holland:

Ganesh color

‘Some sculptures depict people with the muzzle of an elephant, others have four, six or more arms, still others have two or more heads, which proves the folly of these heathens to which they have fallen victim.’




Teachings


Not bothered by any knowledge of zwamkerdamsch (sanskrit), the vicar considers it his duty to save the poor souls from idolatry.

The more members his church comprises, by the way, the sooner the company will have to promote him, deo volente, to Batavia.

Lingam houder

To reform the local image-rich temple culture to the bare void of reformed churches, an iconoclasm would be needed here as well.

More than God, the chief merchant fears the effect on trade that conversion would have. Often domestic power is interwoven with religion; the princes sometimes are regarded as reincarnations of celestial forces.

Thank God, Fisher's church seldom harbours more than fifty souls on Sundays.


Shiva lingam holder

Much of what Samuel takes in at fortress and harbour is coloured with incomprehension, aversion and contempt. He does understand their anguish, though; the populous, mysterious hinterland could suddenly storm forward and chase all of them into the sea or to their deaths.

As long as the VOC does not want to accept that trade is not a war but implies that you grant the other his profit as well, that fear is certainly well founded.

Not for love or money will Samuel go on board. In Vlissingen he got to know all the hoodlums the VOC recruited. To be stuck on a ship where the passengers have to be equally obedient to the captain and his officers, is simply not for him.

Along the route

Along the route he regularly inquires whether Jesuit, Franciscan or Benedictine branches are located anywhere nearby. He likes to visit them. Not so much because it enables him to speak Italian again, his favourite language, but mainly because the monks do explore the hinterlands.


Jezuiet

The brotherhoods maintain a more long-term network than the Dutch, English, French and Danish companies do, for housing, shelters, likeminded locals, moneychangers, surgeons, medicine or paper dealers, etcetera.

The monks take letters as well. A secondary detail is, however, that if their papal assignment first takes them another few thousands kilometres the other way, the arrival of the letter might take a few years.


Zandloper bewind 2

Samuel decides to track from the west coast, straight through the interior, to the east coast. He succeeds, but he does not get beyond Madras.

There is still too much fighting and violence in the northern part of India.







Van Cochin naar Bengalen

He travels via the French town of Pondicherry and the Danish Tranquebar to the English Nagapattinam. To board at last – what has to be done, has to be done – a ship to Bengal, on June 19, 1724; a private ship, though.



Voeten


-      To be continued in due time –


Samuel van de Putte Part 1: From Zeeland to Persia.

Samuel van de Putte Part 2: From Persia to India.


Home 

Index blog


Main sources:

Boeken
Voornaamste bronnen






All photographs and texts © Kashba, Ais Loupatty & Ton Lankreijer. Webdesign: William Loupatty.