Valerie Duke

Valerie's Page

Valerie ( Duke) Sinclair was in Assam in the late '50's and up to 1960.While
there she wrote of her experiences and she recently came across these notes
which were very faded. She retyped her notes and has agreed to share them
with us. She says "Contrary to what the contents of my dissertations may have
conveyed, my time amongst the gardens of Upper Assam was not all bad.
Good friendships and fabulous memories linger to this day"

Thank you Valerie.

Below are the stories from Valerie--please click below to go to the titles.
That Little Chit
Photos from Shoebox
Forgotten Frontier Book
Chota bungalow Nahorani T E"

No Cows permitted
Sweet Genevieve
Forced Imprisonment or Perfect Timing
Peculiar Fashions
Royal Command
The Invitation
What you thought you saw



December 21 2014


Hallo David
It does seem such an age since there has been any need for   communication. However, quite recently I discovered another shoe box with two interesting photos that are, I believe, worth sharing. Also a little written chit tucked away in an old book, why this ancient fragment of paper should have been saved is beyond me -- although it is quite astonishing that it has survived all these years.
The first photograph is of Ruby Deogun taken at the Powai T.E. factory bungalow in August  1961. The second is the companion to the previous photograph taken with Dr. Baird and his family, also in August 1961, this one though includes Lional Rushton ( accountaant with the Mukam Assam Trading Co.) who was the one responsible for taking the first photograph.
The little chit is self explanatory but is fun to look at, I am sure, we all remember receiving these little peices of paper explaining why some item, on our shopping list was unavailable.
Best regards

Hallo David
It does seem such an age since there has been any need for   communication. However, quite recently I discovered another shoe box with two interesting photos that are, I believe, worth sharing. Also a little written chit tucked away in an old book, why this ancient fragment of paper should have been saved is beyond me -- although it is quite astonishing that it has survived all these years.
The first photograph is of Ruby Deogun taken at the Powai T.E. factory bungalow in August  1961. The second is the companion to the previous photograph taken with Dr. Baird and his family, also in August 1961, this one though includes Lional Rushton ( accountaant with the Mukam Assam Trading Co.) who was the one responsible for taking the first photograph.
The little chit is self explanatory but is fun to look at, I am sure, we all remember receiving these little peices of paper explaining why some item, on our shopping list was unavailable.
Best regards



November 2, 2011

Valerie tells that on turning out an old shoe box
these two photos were uncovered

The Photos are late 50's

 Back Row;  Ranjan Ghosh , and Ruby Deogun
Front Row: Bill Duke, Reena Ghosh, and Mo Barker



Back RowCant remember (if anyone can help please let Editor know

Front Row : Bill Duke, Reena Ghosh, and Ruby Deogun



October 22 2011

Here is another story of interest from Valerie--and we thank her 


Forgotten Frontier

Several weeks ago while grazing through the latest updates on the koi-hai web page I found myself intrigued by the excerpts from the book Forgotten Frontier by Geoffrey Tyson. Having lived in that exact area of Ledo/Margherita in the late 50's early 60's I was stunned when accepting the fact that I knew so very little about the massive rescue mission undertaken in World War 11 in that very locale.. The more I read the more fascinating it became and although it was probably 50 years late I decided to go in search of the book on Much to my surprise a used copy was available, ordered and in my possession within a few days. A used copy indeed but considering that it had been published in Calcutta in 1945 it was in excellent condition.

On opening the cover I was amazed to find myself staring at an inscription which read " With best wishes for 1946 from the Fairfields Assam ." This, of course, sparked my interest, leaving me wondering who the Fairfields and the recipient might be. Just on the off chance a short post was sent to David Air inquiring if anyone might be in possession of that information. David replied immediately informing me that he had known Tom and Margaret Fairfiald who had been in the Thakurbari area of the North Bank. The 1975 Directory showed both Tom and Margaret listed as living in Cupar Fife

Having solved one part of my query I then wrote to the book seller asking if there might be any information on where they had acquired the book, Disappointingly, their response was negative, leaving me wondering how a book, written and published in Calcutta in 1945, given as a gift that same year to an anonymous recipient ended up in a used book store in New York, purchased and dispatched to me in California in 2011 !!

The question -- who had received the gift all those years ago, where has it been for the last 66 years and how in the world did it end up on my coffee table more than half a century later ?

Sadly that question will probably forever remain unanswered.

October 9 2011

Three more old photographs showing   the Chota Sahib's bungalow on
Nahorani T. E. taken in 1954.
The other two taken at the Dirok Mohk in 1961,elephants, mahout and me
the last is with Bill Duke 



Please see the photo bellow taken in 1961and we have to thank Valerie Duke
for finding it and allowing us to share in the memories.

The photograph was taken by Lionel Rushton who, if my memory serves me,
was an accountant for the Assam  Railway and Trading Company.  So our
thanks should go to him.

September 7 2011

 Here we have a photo taken in 1961--those shown are Left to Right
Dr. James Campbell Baird, Valerie Duke, Bill Duke, Anne Baird,
daughter Mary and five year old twins, Penny and Joseph.
Photograph taken on 21st August 1961 in the garden of the
Medical Superintendent's bungalow on the banks of Dehing River,
March 5 2007

No Cows Permitted

Taniswall, our Chowkidar, was a huge image of a Nepali. He was probably the tallest fellow around with feet and girth on par with Goliath! He was a kind man who left you in no doubt, that should the occasion arise, he would be there to defend you. He had two cows that he cared for with great dedication -- walking out to the jungle every morning at sun rise, returning laden down, bent double with silage bulging from a sling that was somehow supported by a strap around his forhead. It was quite an amazing sight, certainly allowing an insight into how very strong this man actually was.

Taniswall was not the only one keeping cows, the Bearer and cook were seen to have several between them, including a very large Brahman bull. This monstrous fellow, in reverence to the Hindu religion, was always given preference to wander about in any locale that just happened to take his fancy. Unfortunately, this more often than not included the tennis court! This in itself was not really a problem but somehow he always seemed to occupy the center line on a Wednesday afternoon and, Wednesday afternoon just happened to be the day for the tennis rumble with our friends from Powai.

Who in their right mind would attempt to shepherd this monstrous creature off the court? Certainly not me. However, Taniswall always seemed to be there when needed. He would appear just before our tennis partners arrived and with a few choice whispered words somehow managed to coax this battleship off the court into greener pastures. How he happened to secure this beast for the duration of the tennis match I have no idea, it was enough that he did and we were grateful.

We purchased milk from Taniswall two or three times a week; the cook in an attempt to pasteurize it would have it on a slow boil on the stove for several hours. This process seemed to be quite successful, although he always forgot to stir the pan frequently enough and as a result we invariably ended up with more cream than actual liquid. However, we were indeed grateful that milk was at least available.

To the satisfaction of both parties this arrangement continued for several months, Taniswall was thankful for the extra cash, little as it was; we were grateful for the fresh milk. Of course sooner or later the milk would probably run dry and in anticipation of this Taniswall suggested that we might like to purchase a very young cow, who he believed, would be giving birth within the next couple of months. We thought about it for a while deciding it was probably a very sensible suggestion and we purchased Mazzie. It was agreed that Taniswall would care for the expectant mother along with his own two cows and we would pay him for this service. All was well --------Until..................................................

"No assistant married, single or otherwise is permitted to keep a cow. Milk must be purchased from the Burra Mem Sahib, no exceptions."

This directive was signed by Sandy Lakin, Manager. Dirok T.E. and delivered to me personally by the Burra Sahib !

It didn't take a rocket scientist to grasp that the delivery of this note had been well timed to find me at the bungalow alone. The Burra Sahib, of all people, would have been well aware that at that particular time of day my husband would have been out somewhere amongst the tea garden labour. Why the Burra Sahib had taken it upon himself to deliver this personally I have no idea, but on reflection it was probably quite easy to fathom. What better way could there be to intimidate a Chota Mem, who was not yet clear as to the rules of the game, than to pick a time when it would be known that the assistant would not be there to offer support. As we all know the Burra Sahib met at the office at least once a day with his assistants -- so why wasn't the note delivered then? -------- Good question!

I was not an assistant, the note clearly stated "no assistant, married, single or otherwise was permitted to keep a cow." I had to presume that I fell under the category of "otherwise," though what that actually implied I had no idea. I accepted the note, read it, not fully understanding the implication. It made absolutely no sense to me at the time and I could think of nothing practical to say in response. I was, in actual fact, stunned. I was told to give it to my husband and to make sure that the instructions were followed! With that the Burra Sahib reversed his Jeep down the drive, leaving me pondering the significance of the paper that I was holding .

Several minutes later Jim and Ann Baird accompanied by their three children arrived for afternoon tea, we all toddled off to the veranda, sat down waiting for Tutt-Tutt to bring tea and sandwiches. During this lapse, Jim, always being very interested in what was going on, enquired as to why that ‘‘silly bugger " was driving out just as they were driving in?

The note was handed to him without my saying a word, on reading it Jim looked back at me with an expression that was as incredulous as mine had been. As it made absolutely no sense to any one of us Jim was sure that it must be a joke. I assured him that there was nothing humorous about the Burra Sahib -- he had been quite serious.

We continued to discuss the implications until my husband arrived. The content of the note was shared with him, at this point he became more than just a little annoyed and to say that I was infuriated would be an understatement. Together with all the other slights that had been endured, this one had to be the last straw, particularly as it followed so quickly on the false imprisonment episode.

What would be next, a directive stating that ducks, dogs, cats and chickens were not permitted either. This was outrageous. It was more than obvious that this was beyond petty, more accurately bordering on the infantile -- who could possible have thought it up in the first place? This was surely taking "power over" to the extreme.

We knew absolutely nothing about buying milk from the Burra Mem, if that was an prerequisite of assistants and all those that fell into the category of "otherwise" then I would have presumed that someone would have informed my husband when he first arrived on the tea garden. He knew nothing and I am not sure that anyone else knew anything about it either.

After tea we all entered into a very lengthy conversation regarding the content of the note. Dr. Baird, in his usual colorful style, wanted to know which paragraph in my husband‘s contract indicated that assistants were not permitted to keep a cow? Of course we all knew there was no such provision, but Jim, as always, was doing his best to inject some humour into this ridiculous situation. And we laughed.

Who, in their right mind, would believe that every servant in the bungalow, from the Bearer down to the sweeper, could keep as many cows as they could afford but the assistant was not allowed the same privilege -- unbelievably bizarre!

It had been my view that we had been under attack from the very day I had arrived at the garden. I can not speak for how my husband felt about what had taken place before my arrival, but I do believe that he was now in full agreement with my interpretation of what had been happening.

The following morning, Tutt-Tutt, inquired if he should send someone to the Burra bungalow to purchase milk! This question took me completely by surprise; on being asked why he would ask such a thing, his reply fell into what I suppose would be the category of " if you want to know anything just ask the Bearer ! " Apparently it was well known amongst the servants that the Burra Mem had an surplus of milk, derived from her ever multiplying herd of cattle. What better way to cash in on a perk or amass a little mad money than to demand that milk must be purchased by assistants and all those, unsuspecting souls, who just happen to fall into the category of "otherwise."

Two days elapsed before the Burra Sahib inquired as to the disposition of our cow. He was happy when we dutifully arranged to purchase milk, twice a week, from the Burra Mem at an incredibly inflated price. However, in spite of this arrangement we continued to purchase milk from Tanniswall, who in turn continued to care for our cow Mazzie!

At long last, I think, I had actually learned how to play the game -- from now on I would be sure to acquiesce to all the Burra Mem's nonsensical whims, no matter how bizarre.

However, on coming to terms with this decision I was left contemplating why in the world it had taken me so long to fathom this out?

Could I really be that dim-witted?

February 20 2007
Sweet Genevieve

When first arriving at the tea garden I was thrilled and happy to discover that we actually had twelve beautiful white ducks waddling about in a small group happily pecking and eating whatever took their fancy. There was one amongst them that, although mature, appeared to be so much smaller than the others, she was a pretty little thing, so she was duly christened Genevieve. In spite of her size or maybe because of it, Genevieve became a very special and comical diminutive companion for me; leaving her group to follow me around, she would waddle off in front constantly checking to see that I was following or making a great deal of noise if she just happened to be lagging behind. On the other hand, should I not be moving fast enough she would franticly flap her wings until I had caught up. Over time this became a ritual, taking place in the early morning and again about an hour before sunset; we always stopped at the end of the malli bari where some kind soul, from the dim and distant past, had very conveniently placed a bench. Genevieve and I would spend a considerable amount of time just sitting there, quite often she would flutter up to sit down beside me. This was certainly one of the few pleasures that I was able to enjoy during the first few months in this god forsaken place.

In an effort to make these feathered friends feel at home in an environment that would certainly be more suited to their comfort, a large pond had been dug just outside the cookhouse. Genevieve and her buddies could be found paddling around there any time they were not pecking away for food around the garden. And, they were a joy to watch.

Walking through the dinning room from the veranda it is necessary to pass in very close proximity to the kitchen. I had never actually ventured into the cook's domain, I had been advised/warned that it was better to just leave the activities in that particular area to those who ruled and perhaps to the imagination! However, on this particular day there was something about the sound of a duck quacking that had drawn me closer to the entrance to this forbidden section of the bungalow. Listening I could hear the rather frenzied quack, quack of a duck in distress. At first I believed it to be one of our white ducks, perhaps even Genevieve, so in a panic I retraced my steps to their paddling pond where to my relief all twelve were still cruising.

Plucking up enough courage to do what I had been advised not to do, I walked into the forbidden domain, startling the Bearer, cook and pani walla; it was quite obvious that they were more than just a little taken aback. On inquiring of Tutt-Tutt where the distress quack, quack was coming from he reluctantly gestured toward a very dark area of the kitchen. It was difficult to see at first but once my eyes had become accustomed to the light or lack of it, a large duck, tied up very tightly with a fine rope, could be seen lying where it had been unceremoniously thrown into the corner. This poor fellow continued his fretful appeals for help and I felt for him.

On picking up this unfortunate creature I inquired of Tutt-Tutt as to why this poor thing was there in the first place. His answer caught me completely off guard. Very stupidly, not having been in Assam long, it had not occurred to me that whatever happened to be on the menu for that day, would usually arrive at the bungalow in a recognizable breathing form and probably still in the land of the living.

Oh god! Duck was on the menu for that evening but certainly, if I had anything to do with it, it was not going to be this duck. I could not, in all good conscience, possibly consume anything that I had been on nodding terms with, let alone one that had been rescued from the hands of the slaughterer!

While speaking to Tutt-Tutt, I started to untie the rope that was slowly strangling the breath out of our dinner. Leaving the confines of the kitchen with this beautiful duck in hand, I headed outside in the direction of the paddling pool and released him. Off he flew in a great fluttering frenzy scattering the twelve white ducks in twelve different directions. Feathers seemed to be separating from bodies at an alarming rate and the boisterous disruption to the tranquility of the garden left me wondering if this fracas would ever subside. But sure enough after several minutes all returned to normal and there were now thirteen ducks happily cruising around in the pond. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of the big count.

While watching this little drama unfold I was quite conscious of Tutt-Tutt glowering down at me from the top of the stairs. Quite obviously this latest escapade of mine was not going to sit well with him; knowing exactly what his comments were likely to be I chose to ignore him. This, however, was not acceptable to our venerable Bearer. He came charging down the stairs, moving much more rapidly than I ever anticipated that he could. For a brief moment the feeling that my father was after me for some minor infraction, found me frozen to the spot, feverishly trying to think up a reasonable excuse for whatever it was that I would be called upon to explain.

On arriving at my side, Tutt-Tutt demanded to know what was to be served for dinner now that the main course no longer existed? I thought for a moment -- then replied that I had absolutely no idea -- but, as he was the Bearer, I was sure that he and the cook would be able to think of something! Exhibiting his complete disgust for what I am sure he considered to be a totally out of control chota mem, without uttering another word, he turned, heading off in the direction of the cook house. Unfortunately, for him, he had totally forgotten the now well established and well filled paddling pool; stumbling up to his ankles in muddy water, dispatching the ducks in another fluttering frenzy he muttered something that, luckily for me, was totally unintelligible.

There was humour to be found in the forgoing scenario but I restrained myself from displaying even a small smile, recognizing full well that it would not be long before dear old Tutt-Tutt would be thinking of ways to exact revenge.

Somehow a little game had developed between us -- over time it had actually become quite entertaining; not for a moment do I believe that the Bearer saw it in the same light, he probably considered me to be a very wayward, disrespectful child; there was, however, no disrespect intended on my part. Allowances could, I suppose, be proffered for finding myself with so much idle time on my hands, combined with spending most of the day alone so for the sake of survival, I had created my own amusement. Poor old Tutt-Tutt, who just happened to be there, unwittingly fell right into the scheme of the distraction.

Over time 175 ducks were rescued from the slaughterer; 175 times the cook and Bearer had to find a substitute for the main course at dinner, 175 times we were deprived the pleasure of a duck entrée!

There was indeed a very messy unpleasant consequence to having so many ducks in residence. Subsequently, to overcome this problem, a boy was found to watch over them. In the morning he could be found driving them down to the stream that very conveniently ran just below the bungalow -- they spent the day there. What the young boy got up to during that time I haven't a inkling, but he was however, responsible for returning the ducks to the bungalow compound every evening -- and this he did.

Very little effort on his part was needed to accomplish this short trip. This enormous horde of birds came rushing up the hill in a frenzy of quacking and flapping in an urgent rush to arrive at the food that had already been set out for them. The sight of this enormous flock of birds was quite a spectacle. It very quickly became a great source of amusement to all those who worked in the bungalow, together with a few other unidentified souls who regularly gathered outside the cook house to cheer the ducks along. With a great deal of quacking and feathers flying this feeding frenzy continued until every last crumb had been consumed. When the great feed was over, squabbling subsided; peace reigned as they all waddled off to settle down, to a very peaceful night, in the completely jackal prove duck house that had been erected, just for them, at the side of the cookhouse.

Our original twelve white ducks never seemed to have any desire to join the mixed variety of feathered friends; for reasons known only unto them they managed somehow to keep themselves totally isolated, joining up only for the feeding frenzy in the evening. They seemed quite content just hanging around the malli bari doing what they had been doing when I first saw them on the day of my arrival. Genevieve continued to join me on our sojourn every morning and every evening right up until the day of our departure.

One of our friends from Powai, when visiting our bungalow shortly after we had left, communicated that Tutt-Tutt had informed him that Genevieve, on the morning after we departed, had been found dead on the bench at the end of the malli bari! Poor Genevieve, she had been there for me through the darkest days of my introduction into life on a tea garden -- I wonder now -- how I would have survived without her?

Poor sweet Genevieve!

Jan 11 2007
Forced Imprisonment


Perfect Timing

Finally, after almost a year in what I used to call "this god forsaken place," I was actually beginning, contrary to my original belief, to enjoy life amongst the tea gardens of Upper Assam. Unfortunately this feeling of pleasure was to be short lived, very short lived. Surprisingly enough, this was not brought about by anything for which I could possibly be held responsible, but rather through something that was so trivial that in any other culture or at any other time would have gone totally unrecorded.

Although my husband was not the mystri sahib we had been assigned to live in the mystri bungalow. The reason for this odd arrangement can be placed squarely in the lap of the powers that be. There was no rational explanation as to why the appointed operating mystri sahib was living in a bungalow several miles away from the domain for which he was responsible, but that was how it was. Trying to figure out the logic behind any, if not most of the arrangements or motivations on any tea garden would indeed scorch the brain. It was better to accept the illogical provisions without question and just get on with life in the best way possible.

However, this living arrangement imposed a certain unnecessary restriction on us and in plain words was, at times, just bloody tiresome. To leave the confines of our bungalow we had first to summons the factory chowkadir to unlock the factory gates, this would in turn allow us to cross the factory compound whereupon we were compelled to stop, await someone unlocking the outer gate which would in turn allow us to continue on our merry unrestricted merry way. This procedure, although annoying, had worked well for a considerable amount of time, we had become quite accustomed to the routine UNTIL..................................................................

One night we were leaving for a dinner engagement in Margherita. Sitting in the car awaiting the chowkidar to release us from the confines of our cage, we were puzzled by the absence of his usual smiling face. Several minutes slipped by, persistent honking of the horn finally brought the chowkidar running. Something was definitely amiss. There were no smiles and certainly no salaams. Making no attempt to unlock the gates he coldly informed us, from where he stood, that the Burra Sahib's instructions were that under no circumstances were we to be allowed to exit the bungalow or the factory compound without his written permission! Well, that was news to us! A very loud argument ensued but no amount of raised voices, including mine, would budge the chowkidar into releasing us. As there was no alternative way of escaping the factory bungalow we were, to all intents and purposes, being held prisoner!

We retraced our movements and parked the car. I was shaking so violently that on climbing the veranda stairs I collapsed into a chair in an desperate effort to control my absolute outrage at what had just taken place. I do not remember ever being as angry as I was right at that moment -- I hope never to be that angry ever again.

The next hour was spent struggling to understand just exactly what had precipitated this outrageous restriction of our liberty; there was a great deal of screaming and uncontrolled hysterics from me. While pondering a logical reason, any reason for the foregoing incident, we were suddenly distracted by a great deal of hollering/yelling emitting from the factory compound. Several minutes later striding up the driveway protesting at full volume at being forced to abandon his car was Dr. James C. Baird, our dinner host -- he had arrived to find out why we had not shown up at the appointed hour, he was to say the least, somewhat more than just a little p'off. We met him at the top of the veranda stairs, he uttered one word, just one ............... WHAT?

On explaining our predicament his face mirrored our own disbelief, without another word he turned with great determination to retrace his steps, quickly disappearing into the confines of the factory compound; a few minutes later his car could be heard murmuring off in the direction of the burra bungalow. Then there was silence, absolute silence. We just sat there staring out into the darkness. My heart was pounding so loudly that I could hardly hear myself think -- what thoughts I could muster were concentrated on the humiliation of realizing yet again, that I had actually surrendered control of my life to others from the very moment I had set foot in India.
And, I resented it!

Time seemed to stand still, I have no idea exactly when Jim reappeared but there he was, standing tall, echoing what he had been able to extract from the Burra Sahib. Apparently, several days before, my husband had found himself in some kind of disagreement with the mystri sahib who just happened to be an Indian. What this was about or what had precipitated it my husband could not even recall. It was probably just one of those rather stupid encounters that occur in a brief moment between two rather immature children doing their best to masquerade as adults, then as with all children, promptly forgotten -- but not so in this case.

Why this should have gone beyond the two individuals involved is anyone's guess. From what little I could determine, each of them had behaved very badly. At some point both threatening to give the other a good old fashioned school boy's bop on the nose. Nothing unusual about that -- similar encounters could be witnessed at the club any night in the week. No one's nose had been close to being bopped so why then had the mystri sahib chosen this particular disagreement to motivate him to file charges of "threats to his life." Ridiculous! This was nothing more than a storm in a tea cup (excuse the pun) that had, for whatever inexplicable reason, been blown out of all proportion to the reality. There certainly had to be an underlining motive, a grudge of some sort? However, that would be known only to the accuser.

The jungle telegraph had apparently been working overtime all night. We on the other hand had heard nothing except confirmation that the orders from the previous evening were still in force -- we continued to be imprisoned. Sometime around three o'clock on the afternoon of the third day the Superintendent's car rolled up the driveway; we were then to be subjected to the most outlandish and bizarre accusations to which anyone could be forced to listen. We were informed that the mystri sahib had brought accusations against both of us of being racially prejudiced, a second and much more serious accusation that my husband had threatened to kill him. We were dumbfounded. I for once was speechless. My recollection of ever having met the mystri sahib was rather vague, how this assistant could possibly take it upon himself to even suggest that he knew what might be in my mind was contemptible. As to the "threats of death" well I personally could recall many such accusations being leveled between assistants at the club, on the tennis courts, and much more frequently on the golf course. Nothing terribly serious there, no one had decided that any of these so called threats were in any way to be taken seriously .... until now.

We were instructed to pack our belongings as we were to be moved to #5 bungalow as quickly as possible thus avoiding any further contact between the mystri sahib and my husband. Well, I for one was ecstatic about this new arrangement and couldn't get to the packing fast enough. However, the Superintendent had not quite finished with us, the verbal lashing continued pertaining mainly to the racial prejudice issue. He droned on for what seemed an eternity. Any time my husband ventured to interrupt he was silenced with a quick wave of the hand. It took me several minutes of listening to this rubbish before realizing that I was no longer a school girl standing before a headmistress being scolded for something for which I was not responsible -- why in heaven's name was I standing there dumb struck? With great intestinal fortitude and with as much courage as I could muster, I took it upon myself to challenge the Superintendent in the hope of silencing this tirade. As all was lost anyway, especially when it dawned on me that we had been tried and convicted without the opportunity of presenting our side of this ridiculous narrative. No one apparently was the least bit interested in what we might have to say. It boiled down to one thing and one thing only -- the mystri sahib had said so, therefore it must be true! 

Enquiring of the Superintendent that if all he was saying was based on fact why then were most of our close friends Indian; what explanation could he proffer for our attendance as the only Europeans, at two all Indian parties over the last two weekends? It was quite obvious that our illustrious Superintendent was not prepared for these questions, he had been caught off guard and was at a loss for words -- if that were possible. Showing his annoyance he repeated once again that we were to move to #5 bungalow immediately -- he would deal with us later -- whatever that meant --- execution? 

Just as he was climbing into his car to leave, two of my husband's long standing golfing partners from his years with James Findlay arrived geared up for our usual Wednesday afternoon tennis rumble. Even if it had been rehearsed their timing could not have been better. I looked first at the Superintendent, then at our Indian friends and with a smile that I had great difficulty suppressing, I simply stated ...............


January 2 2007

Peculiar Fashions
Don't Anticipate

Luck would have it that our Bearer, who appeared to be older than dirt, could speak English reasonably well, to prove this he invariably practiced by reminding me, at least three times a day, that he had traveled to the UK on more than one occasion, in the company of a Burra Sahib in whose employ he had been privileged to be for over 15 years. This Bearer's name was "St. John " or as he preferred to pronounce it "Soup John." He also took great pleasure in reminding me, at least six times a day, that he was a Christian! I was, as I frequently told him, suitably impressed.

However, it was obvious that he did not approve of me. Apparently in his eyes my behavior directed towards the other servants was not acceptable; this was not because I treated them badly but rather that I treated them all equally. He was an expert at displaying his disapproval by tutt-tutting, walking off in the huff, shaking his head muttering mem sahib, mem sahib or by delivering a look that only he knew how to deliver. Then, of course, he would again return to this constant tutt-tutting! As a result I very rarely, if ever, referred to him by his given name but more frequently reverted to calling him just "Tutt-Tutt." Whether he accepted this as a form of acceptance from me, I was never to know, but I found the old man could, at times, be quite endearing and I was fond of him.

On one occasion, when I knew him to be particularly annoyed, initiated by my decision, for whatever reason, to move the more than adequate dinning room table three feet further away from the veranda doors. And, as I was not in the habit of sitting around impersonating a ornamental adornment, I summoned the sweeper, who was hard at work buffing away at the veranda floor. He stopped buffing, waited for me to indicate what it was that I wanted him to do. I simply asked him to pick up the far end of the table while I grabbed the end nearest to me and we moved it; from the corner of my eye I could see Tutt-Tutt just looming there, arms folded with a look that would surely have curdled milk. On enquiring, with tongue in cheek, if he would like to help, he turned, huffed off displaying the most perfect example of the most perfect pouting attack that I had ever seen! I could only smile. We did not see him again that day until dinner time.

On several occasions while visiting various bungalows, albeit more often than not of the non European variety, I observed that all mem sahibs seemed to have one peculiar fashion in common -- they all either carried minute wicker baskets containing innumerable number of keys or they had key chains with apparently the same innumerable number of keys dangling from their waist. This struck me as more than just a little odd. Being a naturally curios person I was always aware of what seemed to be going on around me; it wasn't long before I caught on to the fact that these mems did not trust anyone who worked in their respective bungalows. Everything must be under lock and key, with each and every item counted every single day. On inquiring about the necessity of this practice I was duly informed/warned that I must do the same or I should expect to be robbed blind. Well, that was more than just a little astonishing; having now been in residence for over six months I could not recall having lost a single item -- nothing was protected under lock and key, certainly nothing was ever counted. I could not imagine myself, in my wildest dreams, walking around with keys dangling and jangling about my person somewhat reminiscent of guards prowling the grimy passageways of the Bastille!

However, on inquiring of Tutt-Tutt the necessity of securing everything under lock and key he looked somewhat surprised if not startled. He was anxious to know why in the world I would want to do that after such a long time. I went on to explain my reason, stating that all the other mems seemed to think that it was essential to live in a totally locked down environment--thus preventing items being stolen. Tutt-Tutt's response was illuminating to say the least. Other mem sahibs, he explained, expected to have things stolen from them, so if they left everything unlocked that would be exactly what would happen, I did not expect anything to be stolen -- so nothing was!

Not one single item was ever missed from our bungalow, not a single key was ever to be found dangling / jangling from my waist band, it had never occurred to me to mistrust anyone in the bungalow, that included the bearer down to the lowliest sweeper. They in turn respected this freedom to steal by not stealing. All very simple if looked at from their point of view. Interestingly enough if they wanted/needed something they would ask but this did not happen often. If we could provide, we did.

I made a mental note, that there was a very interesting lesson to be learned from Tutt-Tutt‘s very wise perception -- quite simple really; things will occur exactly the way you predict!

Better to be on guard ................ Do not anticipate.


December 26 2006

Royal Command
How to cook your goose in two easy lessons!

Traveling alone, I found the entire night flight from Bombay to Calcutta aboard a very ancient Skymaster mail plane to be one long unending nightmare. Little did I know, at that time, that this was just the beginning. Unfortunately for me, I just happened to be the only non Indian on board. As the flight chugged it's merry way across the continent into the wee small hours of the morning, it became increasingly colder and colder with each passing second, and my frequent requests for a blanket, to my chagrin, fell upon deaf ears. As much as I tried I could find nothing within my carry on bag that would in any way assist in keeping me warm. In my mind I remembered my mother's invariable instructions for dealing with anything unpleasant "grit your teeth my girl, it will develop your character." With that in mind -- that is exactly what I endeavored to do.

The plane stopped for re-fueling in Nagpur. Everyone on board tumbled out bleary eyed to find themselves being directed to some kind of ramshackle, make shift hut where we were to be served breakfast. Breakfast consisted of two under cooked watery fried eggs swimming around in a plate of gee; a cup of warm water, masquerading as tea, was served in a chipped mug that had obviously been used by the army somewhere on the outer frontier for the entire duration of the war. As if this was not shock enough -- the biggest insect in the entire world just happened to make it's lazy way across my table into, what I know now to have been, a dish of unrefined water soaked grimy sugar. Little did I know, this insect, which appeared to be as large as my fist, was indeed the first of many, many encounters with giant sized cockroaches all being blessed with more lives than the legendary cat.

Yes, there is certainly something to be said about a very sheltered life in the U.K.

Arriving in Calcutta with a thumping headache, combined with a severe soar throat there was no need for anyone to confirm that my temperature was ranging well over the 100 degree mark. My general feeling was that to die would probably be preferable to living another minute. To reinforce the nightmare the first thing to be witnessed was a bus backing up over the rear end of a sleeping dog; poor fellow, screaming in agony, was totally ignored. And, much to my horror, my soon to be husband appeared not to have seen it at all. On begging him to do something I was promptly advised that it was none of my business, interfering in anything local would not be acceptable -- it would be in my best interest to remember that I was in India now, the quicker I accepted that and adjusted the easier it would be. From that day on the suffering of that poor creature, left in the street to die, has haunted me; the memory of the screaming has been in my thoughts more often than I care to remember.

After this incident, I was promptly ordered to put on my sun glasses, close my eyes, get into the taxi and upon threat of death, not to open my eyes again until I was instructed to do so. The taxi ride to the Grand Hotel seemed endless, the smells and noise emanating from the passing road side was overwhelmingly repugnant. Again I tried to follow my mother's instructions but this time with little to no success. On stepping out of the cab we were promptly accosted by a hideous vision of a twisted gnome like creature of a man grabbing my arm demanding money. He bemoaned that he had four wives and twelve children and was a very, very poor man. The response from my typically dour, frugal Scottish husband (to be) was " You are a stupid bastard, only an idiot would have four wives and twelve children, you deserve to be poor -- so bugger off."

With that said we were then ushered into the hotel and thus began three days of what seemed to me to be nothing less than utter incomprehension. My temperature continued to rise; death still seemed preferable to the zombie like daze under which I was trying to function. Sometime during this miasma we acquired a 11 week old

Alsatian puppy! I also vaguely recall a wedding ceremony, conducted by some unknown character, probably attached to the British Consulate. To this day it is not exactly clear to me who the happy couple were, but I have to assume, in all probability, that I was one party to the nuptials!

After a slightly more relaxed flight to Upper Assam we arrived at some isolated air field that I believe to have been Dibrugarh. We climbed into a jeep that had certainly seen better days, driven by a half mad Indian who seemed to have no respect for the road, his passengers or the people milling around in the middle of the streets of MakumJunction and Tinsukia. My frantic appeals to my husband to take over the driving were ignored; apparently the powers that be did not allow assistants to drive company vehicles! It did not seem to matter to anyone but myself that perhaps an occasional relaxing of these rules might, just might save a new arrival from the terrifying experience of contemplating their instant death. I remember thinking that this must be exactly how the lamb feels on the way to the inevitable slaughter. Surely a little courtesy and perhaps, more appropriately, a little consideration would cost the company nothing. However, there was no better way to instill in a new arrival that those in charge were indeed in charge and, from that moment on you would no longer be in command of your own destiny.

On arrival at the Tea Estate a summons to the managers domain for afternoon tea was delivered by the bearer. The furthest thing from my mind, at that time, was to be swept up listening to idle chatter with someone I did not even know. My only focus was my thumping head, now on the point of exploding and a throat that now felt and more clearly resembled a lump of raw meat. There would be no reprieve, the summons from the burra mem apparently meant drop everything, even if you were about to die of the black plague, it would be anticipated that the invitation was not open to debate but rather, must be looked upon and responded to as seriously as a royal command -- after all, your death could simply take place at a later more convenient time!

Unbeknownst to me, at the time, I was about to make my first mistake which would in turn create my first enemy! I felt so terribly ill that my only focus was to find a bed where I could quietly lie down and with luck just fade away. To the utter shock of the bearer and my now other half, I hoarsely announced that I would not be going anywhere for afternoon tea any time soon and that all that was needed was a bed into which I could to crawl. However, before doing that, being a nicely brought up young lady I took the time to author a short note of regret declining the royal command. The note was handed to the bearer who reluctantly accepted it, muttering under his breath while wandering of, I presume, in the direction of the burra bungalow.

Days later, much to my disappointment, I discovered that I had not faded away. The malady from which I had been suffering was still with me and at long last the Medical Superintendent from Margherita was called in for a consultation. Dr. James C. Baird arrived to examine the patient who's only desire at that time was to find some way to escape this god forsaken place. Little did I know that Jim and Anne Baird, who themselves unhappily had only recently joined the forces of the company, would become life long friends and would even to this day be remembered with great affection. Medication was prescribed. Within a week or two, the person who had departed Southampton all those weeks before, slowly began to re-emerge, only to be smitten by malaria in the middle of a tennis game with one of the assistants from Powai. The headache this time was unbearable, to say nothing of the other symptoms that accompanied this dreadful affliction. Dr. Baird‘s recommendation, which he delivered with his usual flamboyant unrestrained humour was to take a bowl, put it on my knee and spend the day sitting on the toilet. This exercise, he assured me, would take care of both ends at the same time, thus avoiding my almost certain demise if I continued to run back and forth to the bathroom.

Unfortunately, while I was lost in this delirium, the now five month old Alsatian puppy was left to her own devices and during this period she was bitten by a line dog. The bungalow was also sprayed with DDT. The bearer informed me that the puppy, now named Sonja, had been drinking from the bucket containing the white liquid. Of course it was not long before she too fell terribly ill and on Dr Baird's insistence we were instructed to drive her to Dibrugarh where we were to find a veterinarian. This was undertaken in our brand new Ambassador car. Another nightmare was about to commence. It was a day that can only be remembered as being hotter than hell, I was still dreadfully sick and the trip was interminable. To increase the trauma we were pulled over not once but twice by road side police checks. They of course were simply hoping to obtain their monetary reward after which they would generously allow us to proceed to our destination. However, on being told that we had a "mad dog" in the car they seemingly forgot the necessity of a reward and couldn't wave us on fast enough!

Arriving in Dibrugarh we located the vet but unfortunately for us everyone there was operating on Indian standard time while we were operating on tea garden time. The veterinarian and his cohorts were out to lunch and no one seemed to have any idea as to when they might return. By this time I had reached an advanced state of hysteria, my beloved puppy seemed to be on the verge of death. Some sympathetic soul in our immediate vicinity, recognizing the seriousness of the situation, thought that summoning the vet from his interminable lunch break might well be in everyone's best interest.

The veterinarian, after listening carefully to our explanation as to why the Medical Superintendent had requested this consultation decided, without examining the puppy, that she was either suffering from DDT poisoning or more probably the first stages of rabies! Bloody hell! had it really been necessary for us to travel this distance, in this heat, in this condition, in order to be told what we already suspected?

We returned to the garden by the route from whence we came. The puppy, at this time, was still alive but barely; she died in the wee small hours of that morning. At sunrise her lifeless body was delivered to Dr. Baird at the Marghertia Hospital where her head would be removed before dispatch to the Pasteur Institute in Shillong. An analysis of her brain would either confirm or deny that she had been rabid.

Dr Baird, in his great wisdom, decided that anti rabies shots should start immediately. Twenty one shots in the stomach, one a day for three weeks was more than my be-muddled brain could process.

When exactly would this initiation into life in India be complete? Was it really only seven weeks or had I already been here forever?

Somewhere into the series of rabies shots, around the eighteenth day, the royal command to surpass all royal commands was delivered to the bungalow. It simply stated that the Superintendent's car would be picking me up at 10 am the following morning, I was to be dressed and equipped to compete in a tennis tournament scheduled to take place at the local club! Keeping in mind that up to this point the company mem-sahibs, without exception, had all been conspicuous by their absence. Not a single inquiry, not a single note had been received. Not surprisingly, with the very efficient jungle telegraph, always operating at high capacity, they were all fully aware, not only of the state of my health, but more curiously the state of what might remain of my mind!

The "bride of Upper Assam", no doubt an intriguing and equally satisfying crumb for gossip, was about to embark on a second monumental error. Competing in a tennis tournament was definitely not as appealing as it might have been if I had fully recovered from all that had befallen me. Lumps and bumps over my entire stomach made even walking painful. The very idea of playing in a tennis tournament was totally beyond my scope of comprehension; again remembering my good manners another note of regret was duly authored to be dispatched, this time, to the Superintendent mem-sahib! --- With that I had truly cooked our goose!

My memories of my time among the tea gardens of Upper Assam left me wondering, for the past 46 years, just exactly who these self-righteous duplicitous mem-sahibs were? They truly believed that they had the god given right to stand in judgment on anyone considered to be of lower standing or who, heaven forbid, did not play by their rules. But that, of course, is another story!
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December 27 2006
The Marines arrived!

Half way through the monsoon season the annual invitation was delivered to attend the gathering at the Superintendent's bungalow; although I had only been in Upper Assam for a few months, I had learned enough in that time to know that this was a pretty big deal. All company managers and assistants with their respective mems were expected to present themselves at the appointed hour. All assistant bachelors would be in attendance and any new arrival, particularly if they just happened to be female, would be the upcoming attraction. In all modesty, I was to be no exception.

Although I had been present at the Tea Estate for approximately three months I had neither seen nor spoken to any of the mem-sahibs that happened to reside in close proximity. In fact they had all been conspicuous by their absence. As a new arrival, this unnecessary exclusion and isolation left a lasting impression as to just how hateful and malicious these invisible mem-sahibs actually were. I remember being extremely apprehensive or to be totally honest I suppose I was frightened witless by the thought of coming face to face with those whom I knew had made a pact to ignore the " new bride ". How do I know this? Well, Dr. James C. Baird's wife Anne had experienced the same reaction to her arrival, but as she had been there for a longer period than I, she was now privileged to the information regularly being transmitted along the jungle telegraph. And, the jungle telegraph, as we all know, was more than efficient at transmitting all items of consequence and much more importantly those of curiosity.

The night of the long awaited function arrived; with meticulous consideration to my wardrobe I choose a new gown that had been purchased in Paris many months before setting sail from Southampton. The shoes had been purchased in Monaco. Shoes? hardly the correct description for these flimsy hand painted sling back toeless pieces of nothing!

Arriving at the Superintendent's bungalow during one of the periodic downpours, the car for some reason had to be parked on the far side of the compound which in turn necessitated a long walk across the wet lawn to the bungalow. With that achieved we were icily introduced to all those who were present and within a few minutes, loosing track of my other half, I found myself surrounded by five very handsome bachelors, the names of whom I can not recall, save for one -- Paul Sherman James! He spent a considerable amount of time staring at my feet, then nonchalantly, removing the cigarette from his mouth he reported with much aplomb " I say, I rather think you have a leech! " On looking down I found him to be quite correct; that was certainly a leech, firmly attached to the top of my right foot. Leeches, attached or unattached had not been, until that very moment, anything that I had ever experienced. My first reaction was to either scream or faint -- neither of which seemed appropriate at the time, especially when taking into consideration that any reaction from me would no doubt be fuel for hilarity at the club the following evening. Remembering my mother with her invariable provisos for any situation, the one that came to mind was "Don't just stand there girl; the Marines are not going to arrive! ". So, on looking up, I responded as calmly as I could " Yes, I rather think you are right."

With that said, all five bachelors dropped to the floor en masse and with a plethora of cigarettes squabbled with each other as to which of them would be the one to burn the leech from my foot. Much to my relief and I must say a very grateful heart the leech was removed, but by whom I simply can not remember.

However, there was one retort for which I had waited a very, very long time and in my thoughts that was for my mother. "Hey! for once, just once, you were wrong."

" the Marines, had indeed, arrived ! "
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December 27 2006

The Invitation
We're not in the habit!

This short story, as far as I know, has never been related before, probably due to the fact that only a few people witnessed the actual happenings on the night of the High Commissioner's annual reception. The only reason for it to be related here now is one aspect of the hidden prejudice witnessed while living in Upper Assam

On the night of the annual reception all those who were actually somebody and all those who deluded themselves into believing that they were actually somebody, were gathered together to meet the High Commissioner who was on his annual pilgrimage, trekking across the country meeting with the last remaining bastion of Brits now struggling to maintain the last semblance of the rapidly waning British Empire.

Dr. James C. Baird was standing chatting with us in very close proximity to the receiving line where the High Commissioner, the Superintendent and his mem sahib were still greeting late arrivals. A forester, who will remain nameless, just happened to be accompanied by his wife, who just happened to be a truly beautiful girl, who's mother just happened to be Burmese, who in turn just happened to be married to a Scottish forester. The beautiful young girl was observed greeting the High Commissioner with obvious affection. On being asked where her parents were the rather guarded response was that, although staying with them, they had not received an invitation! ............... OOPS!

Turning to the Superintendent mem sahib the High Commissioner admonished her in no uncertain terms with "Why were they not invited?" The mem sahib‘s retort accompanied by a rather knowing look was " she did not think it was appropriate for them to be invited." The High Commissioner's look of utter abhorrence was accompanied with " that was very foolish of you *****, this young girl just happens to be my God daughter! Please extend an invitation to her parents NOW! "

The totally humiliated red faced and befuddled mem rushed off to comply with the command. The invitation was duly written, handed to the bearer who scurried off to the forester's bungalow. There was a lapse of probably twenty minutes or so before an equally flustered bearer reappeared with an embossed envelope; handing it to the still flustered mem sahib we could clearly see that the response had done nothing to relieve the mem of the embarrassment of being caught in this calculated omission; it certainly did nothing to rehabilitate her in the eyes of the High Commissioner. What a disaster! Never the less the evening proceeded in a pretty tranquil mood with everyone, thank goodness, appearing to be on their very best behavior.

The next day we were privileged to share dinner with the forester, his beautiful wife, and her delightful parents; the conversation inevitably turned to the events of the previous evening. It is not important that the entire conversation be related here, it does however seem appropriate that the contents of that note should be shared.

One would hope, that there is something to be learned from this scenario, that in spite of our innate prejudice we should learn to embrace everyone when sending out invitations. How else could we be confident enough to know that we would not find ourselves in a similar situation -- standing there with egg dripping down our face!

The note stated simply:

Thank you.
We are not in the habit of accepting belated invitations!"
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December 29 2006

What You Thought You Saw!


Would You Believe?

The rain was coming down in sheets as we made our way back to Dirok through the narrow winding roads of the Margherita TE. It was very, very dark, one of those moonless nights that can only be experienced when traveling along tea garden roads that border on jungle covered mountains. Tea bushes rose up on either side of the road giving the rather eerie impression of driving through a very shadowy unending tunnel. It was late, I was tired, this was my first trip anywhere after the terrifying excursion to Dibrugarh with my beloved dying puppy all those weeks before. Just about everything and anything that a person could be afflicted with had struck during those first couple of months. I would have given anything to return to the UK by any means available had the opportunity presented itself.

However, it wasn't long before I convinced myself to accept the fact that I would be stuck in this god forsaken place for an unspecified period of time. The thoughts passing through my mind, as we continued down this shadowy tunnel, were that I should at least strive to endure. The sun would shine again and I would be there to see it rise.

The rain continued it's pitiless rhapsody on the windshield; we drove on in total silence. We were nipping along at a fair speed with tea bushes looming up on both sides; the beam from the headlights zooming ahead as the car made it's way through the now water soaked tracks. Rounding a particularly sharp curve the image illuminated just ahead was one that I had difficulty processing. Surely a hallucination? People, in this day and age, do not walk about looking like that, do they? The portrait before us was that of a large group of men, trotting along the side of the road in single file, wearing nothing except red sashes wrapped around their middle. These sashes seemed to be there for one purpose and one purpose only -- an ideal place to harness the enormous curved knives that each one had in his possession. That was frightening enough, but what really struck me as being anomalous was the fact that each and everyone was holding a very large black umbrella proudly over his head to protect him from the rain. Now, if your were not wearing any clothes, why would you need to protect yourself from the rain?

We continued driving, not a single word was exchanged -- I wasn't really sure that I had actually seen what I thought I had actually seen. The silence continued for probably another mile or so. Clearing my throat, I turned towards my husband preparing to ask a question; without taking his eyes off the road he just smiled "You did see what you thought you saw. Nagas -- head hunters! " Well, that was all I needed! Would I, in actual fact, be around to ever see the sun rise?

Early the next morning, the rain had stopped, we were off to the Margherita Hospital for the last of the 21 anti rabies shots . This had to be a memorable day.

Sure enough, on arrival at the hospital, before we had even swung off the road to drive through the gates, it was obvious that something other than the norm was taking place. The quadrangle was bulging at the seams with our red sashed Nagas complete with curved knives still safely anchored where we had last seen them. The umbrellas this time were being used as shade from the unrelenting sun. Dr James C. Baird was standing outside his office, leaning rather heavily on the wooden rail, displaying a demeanor more suggestive of the morning after. He looked exhausted.

Dr. Baird, as we knew him, was always in complete control of those around him but this particular morning there didn't seem to be anyone around for him to control; all the usual Indian doctors and nurses were conspicuous by their absence -- the lowly sweepers, usually visible in abundance, were nowhere to be seen either.

Had the Nagas taken over the entire hospital? Most employees, being more concerned for their own self preservation, had taken off in fright. In all good conscience they were certainly not going to hang around to await developments and I for one would have been more then happy to have joined them. However, that was not to be. Dr. Baird waved us up with a smile that would have lit up the sky; we were to hear in humorous detail, what he described as one of the most alarming experiences of his life -- all connected to the events of the previous night.

It seemed that our band of Nagas, witnessed trotting down the road, were not the only ones on the move that night. Apparently around midnight a considerable number of others had arrived in the hospital carrying a bamboo stretcher on which a young girl, a very young, very pregnant girl was lying. She appeared to be in the throws of a very complicated labour. The Indian doctor on duty took one look and immediately sent a runner for Dr. Baird who apparently arrived at the hospital in great haste wearing nothing other than his underwear!

On locating someone in the vicinity who could translate for him it turned out that the young girl was the daughter of a highly esteemed chief. She had been in labour for over 36 hours and in transit through the jungle for over 12! The instructions delivered to Dr. Baird were quite clear, not only did the chief but also the tribesmen in attendance, anticipated that he would deliver a live baby from an equally thriving mother! The tribesmen would wait until both requests had been fulfilled, they would then return from whence they came with the chief's daughter in good health, accompanied by a equally thriving grandchild! Nothing apparently was said about the consequences should these expectations not be fulfilled! That could only be left to the imagination!

Dr Baird with his expertise and much pounding of his heart, reported that contrary to what he believed the prognosis would be, had actually, much to his astonishment, witnessed a live, healthy birth. And, again, much to his surprise and no doubt to the relief of those unlucky enough to be in attendance in the operating theatre, the young mother had, contrary to all predications, survived the ordeal too.

It would seem that the young mother and baby would stay in the hospital for a few days, presumably with the red sashed Nagas standing guard in the quad. Dr. Baird's only concern was how in the world, with them there, would he be able to persuade the rest of the hospital staff to return -- that was a question we were happy enough to leave him to fathom for himself.

The last rabies shot was administered and we were free to leave. As we were driving out I suddenly realized that Dr. Baird hadn't mentioned whether the baby was a boy or a girl. Dr. Baird was again standing with both hands on the wooden rail. I leaned out the window and shouted " Hey! Jim, boy or girl? " He responded "Would you believe one of each?"----" No, I wouldn't! "---- but at this stage, I suppose I should have been ready to believe just about anything!

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