Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 2:33 pm
Ambala - a city in QuestersHomes and people
Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 2:33 pm
Homes and People
Ambala is a city in the centre of the Charnadaland in Questers, which straddles the banks of the river Mogami. With a population of 750,000, and a surrounding metro area of nearly 1 million souls, it is a large city. Although hardly a sprawling metropolis, the city often serves as a model for, and an example of, the parts of Questers that are stable, prosperous, and functional.
Their religion notwithstanding, Ambalans have tremendous civic pride in their city, even if in a parochial sense. To an Ambalan, there are two cities in the world: Ambala, and Lahore, its much larger and much more important neighbour. Of these two cities, Ambala is much better, naturally; its sports teams win the derby every time, Ambalans raise much more money for building temples, and Ambala’s regiments have a much bigger stack of battle honours than Lahore’s. These are the really important things.
Of Ambala’s 750,000 souls, around a quarter are burghers; whereas in Praetonia distinctions may be drawn between land-owning persons who draw an income from labour and land-owning persons who draw an income from capital, no such differences exist meaningfully in Ambala. The burghers of Ambala own their own homes and other property.
However, the three quarters of the city who live in villeinry are in an altogether different situation. Although they may have white collar jobs, they rent their homes and must live under regulations set by the numerous resident’s associations, some of which can be perhaps punitively strict.
For instance, the rules for a block of low-cost flats called Cloudpeak Buildings include:
51. There is to be no music played so loudly as to cause disturbance to a neighbour what-so-ever;
52. There is to be no noise that might indicate any form of carrying-on or going about an immoral business during extraordinary hours;
53. There is to be no rubbish or any other form of waste left unattended or undisposed for a period which would cause neighbours to apprehend a foul stench;
54. There is to be no consumption of mind altering or elsewise noxious substances upon these premises what-so-ever except upon public holidays, in which consumption of such substances is limited to ordinary hours.
Villeins have their lives heavily controlled in these ways. For what end, a person needs only look at the beginnings of most rental leases:
It is the intention of the owner to keep this property in Honourable Condition in order to preserve and gain its value and in order to keep its surrounding area in Godful and Valuable Reputation.
Burghers are significantly less controlled, but as expected, residents associations can impose some rules. A resident’s association in the more affluent north-eastern part of the city enforces a strict rule on the height of hedgerows, so that “they may never fall below the Disgraceful Altitude of five feet and four inches, in order that the other residents are not assaulted by the goings on of other homes,” and, “that they may not exceed the Fine height of seven feet, in order that residents do not go about the Unmeritable practice of competing their hedges and other garden furnitures.” Other obscure rules set a limit on “how many gnomes a resident may keep in their garden” and even “whether such gnomes may present themselves as being cynical or otherwise ugly.”
Of course, a variety of people live in Ambala, but many associations and landowners prevent “Persons going about the Offensive Practices of the Oswinist ideology or any other Oriental Obscenity besides” from entering property or being invited onto common land. According to the City Librarian, an unofficial historian of sorts, a troupe of Oswinist missionaries were caught trespassing and trying to convert persons to their religion in a public park. The Dukesardar’s Gurkhas led them out of the city through the main roads, during which time “a very meritable number” of the city’s burghers and residents turned out to jeer and laugh and throw water and vegetables.
Three quarters of Ambala are Sikh. There are substantial minorities of Congregationalists and Dharmats as well, but fewer religions from outside Questers; there is no big Pantheonist minority in Ambala, for instance, as there is in Jesselton. Whenever there is a refugee crisis, Ambala doubles down on its security. It has a squat, but a small one, and outside even the suburbs that surround the city. Some of the migrants go to the squat, if they’re unlucky, but few of them make it to the residences of this well-established town.
Ambalans know each other well, mainly from their religion; the city is dotted with temples, built usually by well-meaning persons of means, and a good way of identifying a person is by asking which temple they go to. If they are not Sikhs, they will still have their religious ceremonies to identify them by. The city is densely packed; 14,500 people per square mile as of the last guess of a census. Ambalans live close together. It is said “that which brings the most anxiety to an Ambalan father is that his son might move away as far as the other side of the city; and to a grandfather, that his grandson might move to such incommunicable lengths as to the adjacent street, where he would be safe from a grandfather’s aggrandising behaviour, and independent of his well-meant charity.”
But family is still very important to Ambalans, even if increasing numbers of youth are spreading their wings. In the Visitors Guide to Ambala, compiled every year by the City Library, it is said that “If a Burgher or even a Villein of Ambala has any problem with any person, he may seek that person out by informal channels, such as by questioning his family or by public advertisement of the event in question, and demand their attention, or the attention of their father. If such person continues to cause trouble and refuses to behave in a Meritful manner, it is likely that a crowd will quite irresistibly take that person from his place of work to a public place and berate him until he duly apologises. Only after a person has been publicly berated and his poor record made known will a case go to a court.” There is also a notice that “If you have such problems during your stay, your Hotelier will be happy to help you in finding restitution.”
As everywhere in the Commonwealth, Ambalans sort out their problems without the apparatus of a police force, an organ which Ambalans, as members of the Commonwealth, would view as being an appalling violation of the state of natural affairs and an utterly intolerable tyranny. There is, still, however, need for a martial authority: the Dukesardar.