An amusing extract from Peeps at Great Steamship Lines - The Peninsular and Oriental
by G.E. Mitton
published by Adam and Charles Black, London 1913
from pages 57 and 58.

'The crew are all Lascars with the exception of the quartermasters, who heave the lead, and have other responsible duties. The Lascars are a race of sailors, and take kindly to seafaring ways. They are drawn from the Gulf of Kutch and from the Indian fishing villages north and south of Bombay, and are trained from childhood to handle boats under all conditions of wind and weather, and the whole ship's crew comes as a rule from one village or community, and are all known to eachother.
They are in charge of a serang, or headman, who is responsible for them, and this system ensures the obedience and good conduct of the men, who are known and can be traced if they desert or misbehave. Not only would a deserter lose his accumulated pay, but he would be unable to return to his wife and family without being caught and punished. The crew sign on for two years, and are docile and easy to handle. Though it is little known, Lascars bear cold better than Europeans, provided they are not kept in it too long. This is due to the amount of caloric absorbed into their systems under their own tropical sun. they certainly add to the picturesqueness of the steamer, with their red sashes and turbans, and the quaint adornments that they love.' HomePage