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Your Memories of the Raj
"But that is not all.
"The reason for this our first visit to Darjeeling is to follow in the footsteps of our forbears. I am travelling with my wife, Christine, my sister, Susan, and a first cousin, Rosanagh. Three of us are grandchildren of Victor, 2nd Earl of Lytton, and his wife, Pamela. Victor was born in Simla in 1877, when his father, Robert, Ist Earl of Lytton, was Viceroy. Before he left India in 1880, Robert inaugurated the as yet uncompleted Darjeeling Himalayan Mountain Railway.
"In 1922 Victor, with his family, returned to India as Governor of Bengal. During his five years of service, Darjeeling was home for six months of the year. All the family loved the mountains and they made frequent expeditions from here into the surrounding country and to Sikkim and Tibet. Of their four children, Antony, Hermione, Davina and John, only Hermione, my mother, survives aged 96. Reading her memoirs and diaries and looking at the albums of photographs of those years, I noted that a regular companion on their holiday expeditions was Mr. Laden La.
"Imagine therefore the amazement and joy when we discovered that this unique and magnificent hotel is owned by his daughter, aged 98, and managed by his grandson and great grandson. It was pure magic to meet with Mrs. Tenduf La and all the family. She remembers my mother, Hermione, and I am sure that my mother will remember her when we tell her of our adventures.
"The ride on the Toy Train up to Darjeeling was an unforgettable experience but our stay at the Windamere has been as from a dream.
"On behalf of my wife, Christine, and my sister, Susan Blount, and of my cousin, RosanaghRaben, daughter of Davina, I thank you all most heartily."
On one particular holiday from Calcutta to Dibrugarh in Assam by river steamer, we stayed in a tea garden owned by my father's firm, MacNeill&Co.. The planter had recently shot a rogue elephant and had had the tusks removed. On our departure, our bearer led the way to the boat with our luggage and in his hands were these magnificent tusks. My father brought him to tasks but was told "they must belong to you, Sahib, as you are the 'Burra Sahib'. Our bearer was bitterly disappointed to have to leave the tusks behind."
Margaret Moore (Née Gordon)
We rode ponies wherever we wished, picnicked on the khud-side and roller-skated at the Gymkhana Club. The latter sold the most delicious cake called 'white lady'. I think we all knew when we left that we had been particularly lucky to have had three wonderful years."
Judy Morris (Née King)
" Living in Calcutta during the holidays with my parents showed another side to the 'Raj'.
"We seemed to have innumerable servants who had their own strict hierarchy: cook, kitmagar, bearer, ayah, masaalchi and the sweeper. The sweepers' duties always included looking after the family dogs! Father was driven to the office every morning, his driver, 'a Pathan', incredibly smart in white drills and a magnificent dark blue 'pugri'.
"The cook was a 'Mugh' from what is now Pakistan – he produced food that could rival many a French chef which he prepared in the most primitive conditions.
" I can remember my father's shout of 'Koi Hai' which brought the bearer running to take off his shoes to replace them with slippers when he got back from the office; or alternatively, a request for a 'chotta-peg' (not something perhaps to be proud of – but that is how it was!). I don't think there was any lasting ill will and we all wept when we left.
"The European society had its own very strict social hierarchy – led by the I.C.S. – you knew your place and you kept it.
"India has ways of binding you to it and I am happy to say my husband feels the same – we will continue to return while we can."
Elizabeth Barrie (Née Ordesh)
"In Darjeeling I remember living in the Windamere for the summer of 1941, having chickenpox in room no. 11 and later, with my brother, having measles in room no.1. And (when I was fit!) going to school every morning on a pony from the Chowrasta – a piebald name Black Beauty. I remember the mountains with the pink of the sun; the incredible steepness of the khudside never worried us – and walking along the pipeline with the sheer drop below.
"I was just nine when I left Darjeeling and being here again has brought back memories of a happy life."
Jane Barclay (Née Fleming)
"My father, Humphrey Gilbert – Carter, came to Calcutta Botanic Garden to work on the Botanical Survey of India before the First World War. I can't remember his impression of the work, but I do know that when things got unbearable in Calcutta they made the tortuous journey to Darjeeling. His greatest love was wild flowers and trees and he and my mother would have been blissfully happy wandering the hills. After the war he was given the Directorship of the Cambridge Botanic Garden and they never returned to India. His name in the Botanical world became very well known.
"Their love of India and Indian people never left them. For a long time now I have been intrigued to find out just what this lovely place was like. Now, at last at the age of 71, I am here, and there really is a magic about it, and now there is the Windamere.
Radegund Mason (Née Gilbert-Carter)
My great grandfather was Henry Haversham Godwin-Austin who, as part of the Great Survey of India, was the first person to survey in the Karokaram Range near Kashmir. The second highest mountain in the world was named after him – Mt. Godwin-Austin. Today it also known as K2 (K for Karokaram and 2 for the order in which it was surveyed). He married my great grandmother, Kudiji, the daughter of a wealthy landowner and she was with him on his surveying treks. She died in her second childbirth while in the mountains.
"It was 1857 and the Indian Mutiny had just taken place and a mixed blood offspring would not have been well-received amongst the English gentry in England who had lost so many of their sons in the Mutiny. So he gave his first son, Edward, to be adopted by a family, the Milners, who decided to remain in India (when Kudiji died, the 2nd baby also died). However he paid for Edward's schooling right through Engineering College in Roorkee.
"Godwin-Austin was also a very notable watercolour artist and is listed among the ten best of this genre in England. His grandfather Henry Godwin was commander-in-chief of the Burma Expeditionary Force and fought in the battle of Pegu which resulted in Burma being annexed to India and becoming part of the British Empire.
"Leaving India in 1947 was a terrible wrench for our family. We went to England and then to Canada but always our dearest friends have been those who have shared our Indian background and memories. With them we can still use our Hindi (as best we remember it!) and there is so much to talk about and even more that is just simply understood.
"Coming back after nearly 50 years, I feel the pain of our departure is finally being healed."
Rita Grey (Née Milner)
"The only memory I have of my childhood in India was of the 1934 earthquake. My father, who was then Deputy Commissioner of the Darjeeling District, was in camp at Bagdogra – there was no airport then, just a large open space in which had been pitched a dozen tents which provided living accommodation and offices for my father, mother, brother and me, and also for the English family – Mr. English of the Indian Police, his wife and children.
"One fine day my brother and I were out in the open near the camp, playing with a toy gramophone,when suddenly the needle shot across my favourite record "The March of the Toy Tin Soldiers" scratching it and causing me deep distress. In a tented camp, there was little else to be damaged by the earthquake: but at our home in Darjeeling, called 'Little Chevremont', a chimney had fallen into the bedroom, which my brother and I used, and much damage was done to Government House and other buildings.
"As was the habit in those days, my brother and I were 'sent home to school' in 1935. My brother, 3 years older than me, had had a governess who taught him for several years, and as I used to listen to many of the lessons, I could read and write well by the time I was 6, and I can remember reading aloud to a posse of children on the ship going home.
"In the summer of 1940, I was put on the 'City of London' at Liverpool, and sailed to Calcutta to be with my parents. They had enrolled my brother and me in the 'New School' which was set up in Alipore to cater for the many British children evacuated from UK. The school later settled in Darjeeling.
"One of my first recollections of returning to Darjeeling as a boy of 11 was that the first time that I went to the Capital cinema, I was not allowed to pay for a ticket, but shown to the best seat at the back. I told my mother when I got home, and she was cross, and told me to go back to the cinema at once and pay the full amount for the seat I had used. I learned that it was almost a sacred rule of the I.C.S. that its officers must not accept gifts or favours of any kind: the manager of the cinema had possibly heard that a son of a former Deputy Commissioner had arrived in Darjeeling – but anyhow I ran back to the cinema to pay for that seat. I live now in Western Australia, where one state premier and a couple of well-known business tycoons are in prison for corruption, a second state premier only just avoided a prison sentence, and a third state premier is awaiting trial. It is for me a fond memory that there was a time and place when there was integrity in government.
"The New School in Darjeeling leaves me full of happy memories. Its staff had been recruited from whoever was not involved in the War – Harold Loukes, a Quaker and a conscientious objector, had brave 'new' theories of education, including a reliance on self-discipline rather than iron rule, and co-education –both of them new ideas in the English tradition. Mary Loukes, his wife, taught biology. G.C. Woods, an elderly but brilliant mathematician (and Cambridge Wrangler) taught maths. MlleBossenec, who had been at Santiniketan translating Rabindranath Tagore's works into French, taught French. Tony Lamaro, a former wrestling champion of Australia, taught P.T.
"The school had been lent a small playing field which I think belonged to St. Paul's, and after I took a cricket ball in the mouth and broke a tooth, I was told I didn't have to play any sport if I didn't want to – so I spent my time doing other things. I was secretary of the school debating society and of the school photographic club. I remember that after the photographic darkroom at Eden Falls was closed and the room given over to some other use, ( I was I think the only person who had made frequent use of the darkroom), I stood up at a school meeting and addressed the headmaster 'Sir, the Photographic Club has been deprived of its premises'. It was my first political speech.
"All in all, my teenage years in Darjeeling were a happy time. It is a time in one's life when one has many different lessons to learn, and those three years in Calcutta and Darjeeling certainly broadened my life.
"After doing my School Certificate at the New School, I was sent to South Africa
for sixth form work, and after the War I went to Oxford. I worked for IBM for most
of my working life, and I now live with my wife and 3 daughters plus grandchildren
in Perth W.A.
"A few years ago, maybe 1992, 'The Australian' newspaper printed a letter in its correspondence page from someone seeking to denigrate Britain, and the letter contained words similar to 'In 1942 the British deliberately killed half the population of Bengal by commandeering the rice stocks in the province and starving the people". At home, I happen to have my father's copy of the Commission of Enquiry report on the Bengal famine, as well as other papers of that time, so I wrote to 'The Australian' reciting the facts as established by the Commission. At first, they did not print my letter, but after I spoke to their WA state manager, they agreed to print a fairly brief letter from me. But many people will have read and believed that first wickedly untrue statement!"
"My father was born in 1890. After Cambridge, he was invited with his two younger sisters to visit India. The visit took place shortly before the 1914-18 War. The invitation was extended to them by the Beagley family who had close links with the Indian Army. Connie, my father's elder sister, had become engaged to Charlie Beagley and the Beagley family were keen to meet other members of her family. The visit was a huge success. My father was a shy man, but the two girls were not shy! They were young and pretty and revelled in the attention they received. They moved from parties to balls, to dinners, loving every moment of it. They had, however, one defect which became notorious. The never arrived on time, and on one notable occasion turned up an hour late for a dinner party at which the other guests were fuming at being made to await their arrival. My father, wisely, distanced himself from their activities and made a series of expeditions. The one which he recalled with the greatest satisfaction was the trip to Darjeeling.
"Alec Sandys had been encouraged to lead the party to India by his father, Francis Sandys, who had served in the Indian Army for many years. In a strange coincidence, Francis had, as a boy, been brought up in Ireland with a Beresford and a Roberts. Later, Beresford was to become an admiral with a distinguished naval war record. Roberts became Lord Roberts, leading the British in the Indian Mutiny and other campaigns. Affectionately known to the British public as 'Bobs', he was to end his career as C.I.G.S. of the British army. Francis Sandys served with him throughout his military career and they remained great friends all their lives. They were cousins and there was a close family bond.
"Another coincidence – 'Bobs' won a VC for his work in the Indian Mutiny. His son was to receive a posthumous VC in the 1914–18 War. The Congreve family, who were also related to the Roberts and the Sandys, also won Victoria Crosses. General Congreve won his for valorous work in the Boer War, and his son Billy Congreve was awarded the decoration after he was killed in action in 1916. Thus, both the Roberts and Congreve fathers and sons had secured Victoria Crosses, and they are the only two pairs to have done so.
"My cousin, Peter Sandys-Clark, was killed in action in North Africa in 1943 and also won a Victoria Cross. The press, who badly needed good news at that time, made a great thing about the fact that all five of these military men were members of the same family. Photographs were published in the leading newspapers of all five.
"So there are many reasons why India has been a country of great fascination to me and also to Linda. On this trip we were determined to come to Darjeeling, which has greatly exceeded our expectations.
"The Windamere is a great hotel. We have also had the great good fortune to meet Tenki and Sherab and a number of their friends. Their company has been the high point of our visit. They will be remembered with great affection and with the hope that at some time soon we will meet again."
Robert Congreve Sandys
"We put the car on the train from Calcutta to New Jalpaiguri and motored up to Darjeeling to our first house The Limes. It was like entering Paradise after the heat of the North West Frontier.
"We had a very social life with dances at the Everest Hotel, Rockville Hotel, visits to St. Joseph and St. Paul schools, riding or motoring to Ghoom and Tiger Hill or down to Rangeet. We played tennis, watched clay pigeon shooting or went down to the races at Lebong. Somehow our two horses Tommy and StinkaKarez arrived from Rawalpindi but we often rode the tat ponies from Chowraster down the steep hills or had coffee at Valdos or the Rendezvous. We used the Gymkhana Club a lot as there was skating, bridge, amateur dramatics, children's parties, dinners and dances. When the General came up there was all the more formal functions held at the Maharaja's palace then called Government House. We often had friends to stay for holidays in the hills, and we enjoyed the company of resident friends like the Mazundars and their daughter Tara.
"This social life was only made possible by the help of our Nepalese and Tibetan servants. The cook came for his orders every day as he did the shopping. I had to give him at least three days' notice if we wanted coffee. There were certain customs to observe to make life run smoothly. For instance turning a blind eye to certain amounts of food disappearing. Some wives gave themselves a lot of trouble by counting the eggs or measuring the tea. My husband's personal servant Bhudrahdin was always with us. He used to be on the station at Karachi in some miraculous manner to meet us after we returned from leave in England. Nima, a red hat Tibetan, pushed the pram for Nanny; once he was delighted to collect up the locusts that had swarmed all over it.
"Our elder daughter was born at The Limes on the 2nd of April, just a month after our arrival. My mother-in-law stayed with us and grew vegetables in the garden there. She came with us on a riding/walking trip to Sikkim being carried in a 'dandy' chair, often demanding 'Put me down' as she observed some rare plant. An entry in my diary for 8.9.1930 blandly announces the arrival of our second daughter. 'Put petrol on my hair' must have been a craze then; had tea with James; did not feel very well; took rickshaw to Eden Sanatorium, baby born 11 pm. We were living at Catherine Villa No. 1. Later on we had No.2 Mounteagle.
"We had several gooming expeditions from Darjeeling, leaving at 5 am, motoring to Chiliparivia Siliguri and into the jungle to a dak bungalow near Madan Hat where nine elephants would be waiting for us. The elephants each with its mahout would proceed further in to the machans, a platform in a tree, where we would sit in silence from 8 pm till 1 am, with a dead goat below us waiting for the tigers.
"We left India for England in October 1931 and often though of our wonderful life in Darjeeling".
Mrs. J. Packard
"The original idea was that the school should spend two terms in Calcutta and one in Darjeeling, but after the first year this proved so expensive that it had to be abandoned. So in March 1942 the school settled permanently in Darjeeling, in several rented houses – The Dingle, Terpsithia, Manor Lodge, Gleneden, Ashantully and Eden Falls, where the classrooms were. A headmaster was found in the person of Harold Loukes, who later became Reader in Education at Oxford University. He kept discipline to a minimum and my principal recollection of the school is of the wonderful freedom we had, to roam to Khudside, to walk to Ghoom and beyond, to bathe in the mountain streams below Darjeeling and Tiger Hill. The sheer beauty of the place left its mark on us all, certainly on me, and I can never be sufficiently grateful to Darjeeling simply for being there, welcoming us, absorbing us and giving us a stability which many of our generation were never to achieve. In return I believe that we absorbed much of it into ourselves, the colour, the music, and the feeling of being watched over by a benevolent mountain, rarely though we ever saw Kanchenjunga.
"The school disbanded at the end of 1944, after the School Certificate exams. As I obtained entrance to Cambridge University on my results in these exams, the teaching must also have been quite good, though the difficulty of finding qualified staff must have been enormous. To come back now, fifty years later, to find the town still here and prospering, to find the wonderful Windamerewhere our mother always stayed on her rare visits to us – offering us the fantastic welcome that it did gave me at least more pleasure than I can very well express. Old memories revived, all of them happy, and an old friendship with the town was renewed, strengthening a feeling for it that was already strong. So, thank you, Windamere, past and present, for many wonderful kindnesses."
Many of you who come to India are keenly interested in the past and some of you have Raj connections. There are incidents in your life, or in the lives of your relations in the India of old, that give you pleasure to recall. And it is to you that we address this message: please share your memory of the Raj with those who did not have the luck to be there. A paragraph or two, or a longer account, with photos if any, would do nicely thank you. Send us your Raj memories and we shall be glad to include your recollections in our Memory Book.