Windsong
Spring/Summer Issue 2011

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Welcome once more to our ‘Windsong’ Newsletter. It is a distinct pleasure to be writing to you again!
Just in case you have forgotten what we really look like……?

Early Morning at the Windamere….Housekeeper on patrol!

First of all, as editor, allow me to apologise for the delay in producing this “missive”. We have had a very busy Winter and Spring Season and have just recently completed a highly successful ‘Well- Being Retreat in the Himalayas’. This event was a partnership between the “India famous” ‘Rujuta Diwekar’ & the Windamere. Rujuta is: a Nutritional Consultant/ Yogic & Ayurvedic Philosopher/ Sport Sciences Expert…..serving the Bollywood stars of Mumbai & the professional working women and homemakers across India. She has put out two books and the latest – ‘Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha’, has risen to the top of the bestsellers list in India. http://www.rujutadiwekar.com

This photograph aptly tells the story of how the mostly female participants ended up on the final day!

We are planning to repeat the Well-Being Retreat in the Himalayas this coming October/November!

QUICK UPDATE ON WINDAMERE…..

   

We have extended our precious library in The Lowell Thomas Room (DHR Club). We find many guests having a quiet read in there - over a cup of tea or something stronger….! Do you remember this Afternoon Tea Maid?

We had an hilariously funny duo from the London Stage District this past Christmas. They are officially known as ‘Opera Tottie’, but don’t let that fool you. The lyrics are quite different! Humour, marvellous acting, gorgeous singing and playing and a real sense of how to entertain an audience!


 

Our flowers and shrubs are positively blooming (if you will forgive the pun), with English ivy climbing even further up the walls and wisteria crowding around the door of ‘A Room Called Alice’



As I am writing this, the sun is shining; Mt. Kanchenjunga is sitting prettily in the horizon …a good omen for the day!


 

We have just got past Easter and were absolutely packed out. I noticed that a lot of European ‘ex-pats’ visited us with their families. The place was really hopping, with guests overflowing into ‘Daisy’s Music Room’; The Windamere Bar; ‘Bearpark’sParlour’ and of course, in our Dining Room. Our chefs had wide smiles on their faces, as they turned out some wonderful dishes. They just love to be busy….

NOW, AT LONG LAST…A CHANCE FOR OUR GUESTS TO HAVE THEIR SAY!

A wonderful gentleman, called Ken Miln has written extensively to me and delivered some absolutely priceless pictures from the old Raj days. With your permission, dear reader, I am going to attempt to cover some of his writings. Here he is:

Ken as a boy, with his Ayah, waiting for “starters” On his pony, with Dad, at The Chowrasta Fountain
somewhere near The Chowrasta

 
Ken Miln writes: “I am now a retired “Jute Wallah”, with visits to the Windamere in 1941, 1943,1944, 1947/49 and 2002. My earliest recollection of the Windamere Hotel was in 1941 as a young boy with my Jute Wallah parents (John & Elizabeth Miln…..most probably getting away from the hot steamy plains of Bengal). In 1943/44, I attended Mrs.Samsonways Junior School, Darjeeling. During the period of 1947/49, I was a pupil at St. Paul’s School, Jalapahar(ed: the famous public school for boys), at which time (and to my great delight), I visited Windamere on numerous occasions. I came on my pony from Jalapahar, along the Chowrasta, past the stables and fountain and on up to Observatory Hill, to that most salubrious of hotels – The Windamere! I can still see, albeit in the mind’s eye, the towering silver and white crags of mighty Kanchenjunga; smell the scent of pine, wood smoke and seating ponies. On The Chowrasta there always seemed to be a group of heavily clad Tibetans playing a game which necessitated a loud shout of “IIUP” every few minutes……a gambling game without doubt! All of this was thrilling indeed and lent a most mysterious atmosphere which, to me, was always present in Darjeeling and even more so in that ‘Sanctum of Sheer Delight’, The Windamere Hotel.”

Ken.1948.Jalapahar Road His parents.1935 The“Jute Wallah’s” family living room.1940’s.Megna Mills
     
     
Medicine House in Tibet.copied and then painted by Ken Miln
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Editor: Ken is quite a writer and has sent two stories to me which unfortunately, cannot fit into this edition. They are: ‘Darjeeling Dreams’ and ‘Doctor Babu and the Catla-Fish(Megna Jute Mills, West Bengal, India)”. If anyone is interested, Ken has given his email id: mailto:kp.miln@tiscali.co.uk
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Martin & Judith Pinnell

…….have written to us from Australia. Martin’s father was a famous man – Mr. L.G. Pinnell, I.C.S (means ‘Indian Civil Service’) - was very much part of The British Raj from 1919 to 1947 (Independence in 1947 ended the Raj era). Mr. Pinnell, Snr. was the Private Secretary to the Viceroy of India during the Raj period. Some of you may recall that we have named one of our board rooms in the Observatory House Conference Centre after him . It is called the ‘L.G. Pinnell Room’

Martin & Judith write:

“During our many visits to the Windamere, when we have family members with us, we take them to a site near Ghoom, where we have a photograph taken to show our family connections with Darjeeling 80 years ago. In the photograph (below), we have a daughter and two grandchildren with us.”

John and Fiona York

A few months ago, I was talking to a delightful couple from England – John and Fiona York. It was only on their last night here that they confessed to being very well-known concert pianists (one piano with four hands) and had longed to “tickle the ivories” of our Yamaha piano in Bearparks’ Parlour, but it had a strict notice on it saying “Please do not play the piano.!.”. I immediately begged them to play for me…..it was absolutely stunning!

He would have played on this piano….

John writes:

“Those days of peace, old-world comfort and excellent food were precious, coming in the middle of our crazy Indian trip. We arrived in the rain but, within hours, that was gone and the sky cleared, revealing the most fabulous views. The hotel sits impressively high above the mayhem of Darjeeling, only a few minutes’ walk from the main street – the perfect post-prandial stroll to do a bit of late-night shopping. Everything is handy – shops, tea plantations, the wonderful Zoo, the fascinating and important Tibetan Refugee Centre – even the legendary Train Station. Comfort and friendly service are incomparable at the Windamere. My own serious dietary needs were more than met. Fiona and I will certainly return one day….

Taken from the Windamere Terrace…by John York

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Jean Setrakian (his name is “John” in English)

Jean writes from Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. I do not have a photograph from him, but this is what he had to say:

“I stayed at the Windamere for 12 nights back around Diwali in 1985 and I still look at my slide show now with my children aged 9, 7 and 5. Somehow, I have never been back to India, but plan to make the journey again when my kids are slightly older. It is one of those memories forever to be cherished for me. Mrs.Tenduf-la, who was a superb hostess, has died, I gather? You know, it never occurred to me that I could look into the hotel’s website until today! For me it has remained one of those mythical places and I never thought that I would make a realistic link with it again!”

Joan Gibb writes from British Columbia, Canada
 

 DARJEELING IN THE SPRING

“It felt like coming home! Though the journey was completely different from last year when I travelled from Bagdogra to Darjeeling during the day with a driver, guide and just me. This time it was a night odyssey in an old bus with fellow travellers up the back way because of landslides on the main road to the area.

However, pulling into the parking lot of the Windamere Hotel knowing there was a wonderful dinner waiting to be experienced for the first timers in the group, made up for the drive. And they were impressed!

The talk at the table was about the rooms with their chintz and Raj era furniture. But most of all about the welcoming fire. Later we also found the hot water bottles at the foot of the bed. Not expecting same, I jumped back as though bitten until I realized what my feet had found. Most of us experienced that shock but soon found it very comforting.

The next day the group was off to explore the area but I headed for the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park (not just a Zoo but breeding and re-introduction program) to re-visit favourite animals. It was a thrilling afternoon with the big cats and wolves.

Two regular leopards, one of which pranced and growled at me, the Snow Leopard took turns glaring at me or the black Leopard in the next enclosure but best of all was the Clouded Leopard who sat meowing at me just like a house cat wanting attention. You really do want to cuddle these magnificent animals!

The four wolves were next and they played among themselves, racing and hiding and then settling down with a wary eye to the lone human in sight. However, walking a few feet down, there were almost a dozen younger wolves napping or just watching. Three did something I had not seen before by cuddling into each other with the middle wolf keeping an eye out, the other two sleeping without a care. Eventually the middle one dug his nose into the other’s side and slept. Obviously I was not a threat.

Even more thrilling was the encounter with the tiger. She had come down from her habitat into a small area near the food outlet. She paced, yowled, growled, paced some more as though she was showing just how powerful she really was. Seeing these creatures up close and personal (from 5’) makes you realize just how extraordinarily beautiful but potentially dangerous they can be. However, perhaps I was too close as she turned and to mark her territory, she squirted a stream of urine a good 8 feet. So I become the proud owner of tiger piss on my shoes.

And to top off a great afternoon, the Himalayan Bear was being fed its dinner – pumpkin, apple and cucumber – eaten while standing upright holding its meal with the front paws.

Darjeeling isn’t all “Zoo” but a thriving city. A walk down the hill, not only to the Mall, with its many great shops, but beyond to the everyday living of its citizens - viewed up close and personal. One has to remember though when you walk down, you also have to walk up! And it is straight up in some cases which makes the 4pm Tea in the Drawing Room especially welcome….

Another first was the Buddhist celebration at the top of the hill from Windamere. I’ve never seen anything like it. Thousands of coloured flags strung every which way, locals in their best bib and tucker making offerings. There was a small musical group of Monks in an enclosure with plank seats and many elders. One of whom offered me a seat and a hot drink. Now, I know better, but I did accept and tasted it. Oddly “delicious but suspect” and I was right. A large caldron constantly being added to, did give me a clue. It was some sort of alcohol concoction - best left under the seat. It was a marvellous experience to be accepted as the only foreigner in a sea of Buddhists celebrating their special day.

Another very special event this year was the mountains. On our last morning they appeared in all their glory from a lookout point near the hotel. It was a thrill. Even though I’m surrounded by mountains at home there is something very special about the Himalayas – especially when combined with the landscape of Darjeeling.

 Darjeeling is a place once visited never forgotten…..”


HER MARVELLOUS PHOTOGRAPHS….


"Are you looking at me?"


“I’d rather go to sleep..”


Tibetan Prayer Flags. Temple, Observatory Hill

Well, that’s that, as they say somewhere? Thank you very much for reading this “blurb”. I do hope that you enjoyed the stories?

Please send any feedback to:
mailto:windsong@windamerehotel.net

May you all go on from strength to strength!
Come back to see us…your hot water bottles are waiting for you!

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Goodbye for now Dear Guests.
Tashi Delay (Tibetan for: “I honour the greatness in you”)
Namaste (Hindi for: “I honour the God in you”)
Cheerio for now! (English greeting!)

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Windsong


The Windamere Hotelill
Darjeeling - 734101, India.
Tel:  +91- (0)354-2254041/2254042 | Fax: +91- (0)354-2254043/2254211
www.windamerehotel.com | email: windsong@windamerehotel.net
A Colonial Heritage Hotel of India - in the Himalayas