Fettes Falconer Family

 JULY15 2011

This is a fascinating story about the family of

Fettes Falconer and his visit to India in 2010 to

find out more about his family and where they

served in Assam and

please click below the various chapters as required and use the "return to top" as necessary

 Chapter 1 My India Connections

 Chapter 2 Into Assam

 Chapter 3 - Luckwah Luck

 Chapter 4 - Jorhat in the Dark

 Chapter 5 - Jorhat in the Light

 Chapter 6 - Mariani and Honwal

 Chapter 7 - Cinnamara

 Chapter 8 -Mari Ram Dewan

 Chapter 9 - To Darjeeling

 Chapter 10 - Searching through Darjeeling

 Chapter 11- Nawang Gombu

 Chapter 12 - The Last Chapter


Chapter 1 --My India Connections

Our father, Peter Falconer, hardly ever spoke to us children about India. But for a few snippets at table, especially when he sweated over a hot curry he made for himself while the rest of the family dined on a much milder form concocted by our African cook there in Rhodesia, we knew little of his history.

I knew from a young age that my father was born in Shillong, Assam; that his father, Fettes Falconer, a Scot, was a tea planter in India. I knew that I was named Fettes after my grandfather, and that it was one of my father's middle names. I also knew that my father, the young Peter Alexander Fettes Falconer , at the tender age of six was packed off to an English boarding school first in Taunton and then as a teenager to Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen.

My father and mother would sometimes remind me that my name is connected through an ancestor who founded a famous school in Scotland; Fettes College in Edinburgh.

I do remember the jubilation of my father and mother over the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and the conquest of Everest at the same time. I remember the pride that my father showed when he heard that his side of the family played a small part in the conquest of Everest. His Aunt Jill (my great Aunt, his mother's sister), he proudly announced to all who would listen, was the one who, as Secretary of the Himalayan Mountain Club, selected Sherpa Tensing for the British ascent of Everest. Some of that pride washed on to me as a six year old.

My father had a photograph album in which was a few photos of his family's time in India.

My mother was a second generation Rhodesian. I was more proud of the fact that her grandfather was a Rhodesian pioneer. Alexander ‘Sandy' Tulloch was a member of the famed Rhodes Column that occupied what became known as Rhodesia.

My father spent most of the Second World War as a flying instructor in Rhodesia. It was in Rhodesia where my father met and married my mother, Nancy Tatham, and decided to stay. I was born in 1947 some two weeks before the granting of Independence to India ... the beginning of the end of the British Empire.

I later learned more about my father and India from my paternal grandmother, Hilda Falconer (nee Newman), whom in the early 1970s I visited there in northern Scotland.

I also learned a bit more from my great aunt Jill, Hilda's sister, when I visited her there in East Meon, Hampshire. I learned that she was christened Enid Newman. However, upon marrying a tea planter, Jack Henderson, whom she met whilst visiting British India after the First World War, decided to change her name to Jill. Jack and Jill went up the hill to Darjeeling.

It was Jill who persuaded her sister Hilda to come out to India and ‘fish' for another husband. Hilda had lost her first husband in the First World War. Hilda met and married a Scot, Fettes Falconer.

These things I knew and took with me, plus my English wife and two born - in - England boys, to Perth, Western Australia.

As happens to most in later life I became more interested in my family's history, especially my father's, once I surpassed him in age.

With our two boys off our hands we were able to save and do some travelling.

We visited my father's younger brother Paul Falconer living in Queensland. We visited the youngest brother Pat (now known as Loft) on Vancouver Island, Canada.

From both the brothers I gleaned a few more stories and photos of the Falconer family in India.

Thus it was that I was packed and ready to go on my own to India to look up the places where the Falconers and Hendersons had put down roots ... tea tree roots. This was the long Australian Christmas school holidays of 2008-9. On the Boxing day, two days before my take off for India, the horribly sad news came of my sister's unexpected death at home there south of Durban, South Africa.

I was able to change my itinerary so that I could farewell her on behalf of the Rhodesian Falconers now flung far and wide.

After the funeral I decided to visit long lost relatives and friends.

I had been invited northern Kwa-Zulu Natal to friends keen to show me the African wildlife/game I sorely missed back in Australia. This meant I would be passing through Stanger. I knew my great Aunt Jill was buried there. She had decided England was not for her and wanted to be closer to her younger daughter, Jane, who had married a South African sugar planter there near Stanger.

I had never met Doctor Jane, though my father had suggested I look her up if ever I got to Stanger when I was down at Rhodes University there in the south east of South Africa.

Through the power of the internet and a determined friend I managed to contact Jane who was now semi-retired there with her husband on the coast east of Stanger.

I called in for a few hours and learned much more about the Indian side of our families. I was shown photos of the Hendersons in Darjeeling. I told Jane that I was still intending to visit Assam and West Bengal; to look up places in our family's history.

Through email Jane eventually furnished me with copies of her Darjeeling photos and the address of her elder sister Ann, now retired to the Dominican Republic.

Ann was busy writing her memoirs and a history of her family. She supplied me with stories and suggested I find the Henderson's haunts there in Darjeeling.

And so it came to pass that the next Christmas holidays saw me winging my way to India via Malaysia.

I had a number of aims:

  • Visit the World Heritage Taj Mahal and nearby Moghul architectural wonders.
  • Set eyes on the mighty Himalayas and the great Brahmaputra River.
  • Locate Tea Estates, Homes and Polo Grounds of my paternal grandfather and mother.
  • Spend time at Kaziranga National Park to study its biodiversity and its Rhino success story.
  • Find my Great Aunt Jill's and her daughter's hang outs in Darjeeling and hopefully get in touch with Tenzing Norgay's family.
  • Stay at Makaibari Organic Tea Estate near Darjeeling where there is a strong push to run the whole enterprise on sustainability lines.
  • Visit the New Delhi sister school with whom I have connected in order for the Geography students of both schools to discuss, via the Internet, sustainability solutions.
  • Follow the beginning of the end of the British Empire story there in Delhi. The end story starts a few weeks after I was born.
  • Visit Chennai (known as Madras under the British) where the British Empire started (in the reign of Elizabeth the First.)

     •  Do all this without getting Delhi Belli and ensuring I do not   die in my sleep (I have sleep apnoea and carry around an air pump to pump air into me while I sleep. My family thinks I look like Darth Vader lying there in bed with my mask on!)

I was able to accomplish all of the above and more, mainly as a result of getting Trip Planners India to get me through the first four on the list. Vini did an excellent job of ensuring guides, drivers, hotels etc were all organised. Through Flamingo Travels in Guwahati he organised a driver and guide for the Assam leg.    

I do not know whether his organisational powers extended to ensuring the planes took off and landed on time, but they did, despite the fog and smog.

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The plane touched down at Dibrugarh airport spot on the published arrival time. I was first out the airport and easily saw my name printed large on a placard.

Jayanta, my guide, was the standard bearer.

‘This is a good omen', he said, ‘on time and first out. I have a good journey for you, if everything goes to plan'.

Jayanta and Deepok, the driver of our very new and most comfortable vehicle, whisked me off towards Dibrugarh and my hotel.

Jayanta suggested, if I so desired, we stop at a Tea Estate on the way to town where the sub - manager was expecting me for dinner with his family. I indeed desired it. So we turned into Muttuck Tea Estate.

At the sub-manager's house two young kids and the wife welcomed us. I jumped out of the vehicle and shook hands with the young wife and the kids. Then the real wife opened the door. I realised I had just introduced myself to the kids' ayah (nanny) who spoke not a word of English. The kids did.

The real wife introduced herself as Sweetie. And what a sweetie she was. She later told me a bit about her history. Her parents named her Sweetie because she was an adorable baby. Sweetie was studying Law at Guwahati University where she met her husband, Sajjad, who was studying agriculture. They married, to the consternation of both their parents for she is Brahmin Hindu and he Muslim. It was a love marriage as opposed to the traditional arranged marriage. It took nine years to convince their parents they were serious about getting married.

To escape the local prejudice Sajjad found a job as far away as possible, in tea in far northeast Assam. Sweetie followed and so did the kids. Sweetie never really got to practice her law.

Sajjad Khanikar arrived at the house as I was drinking his estate tea. He suggested we get in his 4-wheel drive for a drive around before it got dark.

We toured the tea factory and the gardens. It was the off season. Cleaning up and getting ready for the next picking season was in progress. The tea bushes were being severely pruned by gangs of men and women.

Then Sajjad had a surprise in store. ‘I will now take you to where your grandfather, no doubt, played Polo'. ‘

And so we found ourselves at the Dibrugarh Gymkhana Planter's Club, now called the Dibrugarh District Country Club. The old clubhouse had been knocked down and replaced in the mid 1950s. It was all very reminiscent of old Rhodesian country clubs we Falconer kids used to frequent whilst our father played his golf. The Polo ground was no longer. There was a swimming pool, grass tennis courts, a golf course, a big bar, a snooker room and more . . . even a church. It was this church to which the British went on a Sunday before the big polo game.

*Photo of Sajjad and Jayanta at the Dibrugarh District Country Club bar

Cousin Andrew Falconer has the Dibrugarh Cup which grandfather John Fettes Falconer's team from Sonari Gymkhana Club won.

We returned to Muttuck via famous Tea Estates.

Back at the sub-manager's house there was a warm fire and a whisky waiting for me. We discussed much whilst the servants prepared dinner. There was much surprise when I explained we do not have servants in Australia.

It began to dawn on me that this was all part of 'the plan' I had paid for, but I never expected to have this sort of excellent treatment.  The tour company, Flamingo Travels, based in Guwahati, is owned by Sweetie's brother in-law. Jayanta, my guide, and his boss in Guwahati (Sweetie's brother in - law) had obviously planned a great start to 'my Assam Tea Estate/ John Fettes Falconer tour'.

Jayanta was excited to see that I was excited, and told me there was much more in store.

I was most impressed with Jayanta. He spoke excellent English. His knowledge of Assam's history was formidable. His desire to please was most touching.

The manager's house at Muttuck Tea Estate was obviously built in British colonial times. The house could have been any number of old Rhodesian farmhouses I have known: a big front of house verandah with louvre windows and fly wire; polished cement floors, cracked in places; a carpet in front of the fireplace around which comfortable chairs and a sofa are placed.

*Photo of the Khanikar family before the evening meal

The evening was very reminiscent of an evening at a homestead on a Rhodesian tobacco farm.

The delicious dinner Sweetie and her cook dished up could not have been more Indian. I had the milder versions on offer.

I did draw the line at what Sajjad boasted to be the hottest chilli in the world. Vicious looking purply black chillies in a jar of oil. I was warned one tiny drop of oil on my tongue would probably be too much for me. I declined a tip taste but did have a smell. My nostrils momentarily burned. Sajjad bravely sprinkled the poisonous stuff on his rice.

He did appear to be perspiring as he devoured his meal.

*Photo of self, Sweetie and Sajjad at the dinner table.

The after-dinner drinks around the roaring fire and the stories that flowed from the whisky-loosened tongues could have been straight out of colonial Africa.

*Photo of my guide, Jayanta, in front of the fire.

I questioned Sweetie and Sajjad about their lives and hopes.

I was questioned about my family back in Australia and my history as to how I got to there from Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.

Sweetie and Sajjad were keen to hear about my grandfather, his wife, my father and his brothers when they lived in Assam. Both were intrigued with the story I unfolded about the Assam Falconers.

Sajjad doubted the house I was going to search for in the morning would be still standing, and if it was would not be recognisable. I had shown him the photo of a two story thatched bungalow that I presumed to be my grandfather's house when he managed Lukwah Tea Estate not too long after the First World War. I was sure it was the same house to which my grandmother returned with her baby, Peter, my father.

Our driver Deepok was summonsed.

My delightful hosts wished me all the best in my journey of family discovery.

Natraj Hotel in Dibrugarh was where I was dropped off.

An early breakfast was consumed in order to accommodate my desire to view the Brahmaputra River, and to get well down the road before the traffic build-up.

*Photo: on the road to Sivsagar 

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 Chapter 3 Luckwah Luck

‘I am not too sure exactly where Lukwah Tea Estate is. Some say that it has now been taken over by Assam Oil. There is much oil and gas drilling in this area. We will stop and ask here in Sivsagar,' announced Jayanta.  Consultations were conducted with a uniformed man.

‘Aaah yes, we have to go to Simaluguri and turn left.'

Another stop and further consultations.

‘We are lucky. Lukwah is still operating as a tea estate. We have to turn left again and over a railway line.' Jayanta gave Deepok instructions.

Not twenty minutes later there was the blue and white Lukwah Tea Estate sign standing above a green sea of tea bushes.

*Photo of Lukwah sign

‘Yoohooo!' I yelled. ‘You little beauty! Jayanta, you are a marvel.'

Jayanta nodded his head from side to side.

We came to a large guarded gate. This is where I noted a change in Jayanta's demeanour. He became more edgy. He obviously was following protocol and had severe respect for authority. He alone would go in and get permission for me to speak to the Tea Estate manager, if he was in.

‘This is not the busy season for tea and he may not be here. He may be on holiday. He is the only person that I can get permission for us to look at the house, if it is still there.'

The guard allowed Jayanta in through a side gate. Deepok and I remained in the car, and remained, and remained.

‘I do not think we are in luck here in Lukwah, Deepok.'

Deepok gave the Indian nod, and smiled. He did not understand a word of English.

I got out of the car and surveyed the scene through the large wire gates.

I could see two long two storey steel pole buildings, mainly open to the elements. Both were partly clad in flat iron painted white. I recognised similar from the Muttuck Tea Estate.

‘They must be the drying rooms. This whole set up is not unlike tobacco barns in Zimbabwe,' I mused once more.

I took out of my carry bag a sheet of paper. An excerpt from an email from Uncle Loft:

Luckwa is (was?), a Tea Estate (size of probably a large Canadian Farm). With large factory for grinding the tea leaves after they have been dried in two(?) massive wall-less buildings of layers of netted wire trays. Also the head - quarters office complex, facing a field near a huge Mango tree. Then there is a stream, then the tennis court  and the house (Borrah Bungalow) which is two storied, built on 3 foot high concrete, with steel girders to the roof. This faces a huge lawn .                  

What looked like mango trees could be seen in the distance shading a long low blue and white building.

‘Could that be the office complex? The blue and white colour scheme must be a tradition from colonial times? The Boh Tea Estate in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia and Muttuck Tea Estate had the same colour scheme.'

Eventually Jayanta returned with the news we could drive in and park near the far building.

The security guard opened the gates. We drove through, between the large drying rooms and parked in a designated parking area.

Jayanta led me into an office and introduced me to the accountant.

The accountant seemed disinterested. His English appeared to be satisfactory. We were informed that the Manager was busy, but a message had been sent that we were here.

We stood around waiting while the accountant pretended to busy himself behind his near empty desk.

I decided to show the nodding accountant the black and white picture of the house that I had printed out on A4. The house, I was sure, was where my grandfather and grandmother lived after they married and stayed for maybe 16 years. The accountant sadly assured me, with his head still doing 'the Indian nod' that:

‘This bungalow is finished. It has been knocked. It has gone.'

With some prompting he told us that it must have been on the section that the government had compulsory purchased for oil and gas.

Disappointment rose in me. I knew that oil and gas had been found four kilometres down in this the Sivsagar region. In fact I had read that this was a major reason for a growing number of disgruntled Assamese. They were not getting their fair share of the oil revenues. Some had taken to hijacking oil tankers and blowing up oil trains.

The doorway to the office darkened. A large man strode across to me, hand out stretched. Jayanta attempted to introduce me but had hardly blurted out my name.

‘Yes. I am the manager of Lukwah. Can I be of assistance?'

‘My grandfather was manager of Lukwah back in the 1920s and 30s. I am looking for this house he may have had built.'

The manager scrutinised the photo for less than three seconds.

*Photo; The Bungalow, early 1920s

He shook my hand again, and again.

‘This house! I have just come from morning tea there. It is still here. It is my house. Come. Come. Come for tea. Follow me please. Wonderful. Wonderful. You will be pleased.'

Jayanta and I followed. Over a little brick built bridge with small entrance pillars painted blue and white. The stream was dry.

‘Of course! It is the dry season.'

We strode up a short avenue between tall trees and there was the house!

We inspected the photo again. Mr Pareek pointed out all the similarities.

The thatch had gone, replaced by a corrugated roof. There were other minor changes. The understorey of the wing leading to the lawn had been clad. A car port added. The building was painted white with blue panels here and there. The curved window lintels sealed the fact.

‘It is the same house Jayanta!'

*Photo: The Bungalow January 2010

There was no tennis court but the big lawn was there.

I was quite dumbstruck to think that my father and his two brothers used to toddle around on this lawn.

We had tea on the lawn, delivered by a servant. Mr Pareek did the pouring.

*Photo: self with Mr Pareek on the lawn

‘I cannot get over this Mr Pareek. This is wonderful.'

‘No. I will show you around the house and then I will drive you around the Tea Gardens and take you through the factory. But we will have lunch. It is already cooking.'

‘Jayanta! My heart is singing!'

We finished our cups of tea there on the Lukwah lawn in front of the manager's bungalow.

Mr Pareek ushered Jayanta and myself inside the house.

‘Here is the main dining room where your grandparents had their meals.'

‘And this is the main sitting room'

*Photo: sitting room

Now, please, upstairs to the bedrooms.

Mr Pareek showed the bedrooms and the attached bathrooms.

‘I do not think these bathrooms have changed much except for the plumbing. The hot water used to be brought up the stairs by a wallah. And the dirty bath water used to go down a pipe to the garden. Now we also have flushing toilets.'

Mr Pareek proudly opened a door to display a flushing toilet.

‘These smaller bedrooms were where your father and his brothers slept.

And here is the master bedroom.

And here is the upstairs verandah to catch the cooler breezes where your grandparents would have sat during the wet monsoon.

*Photo: On the verandah.

It was not too difficult to imagine ‘the old days'.

‘It is not hard to picture my grandmother here organising the servants. She was quite, what we used to say in Africa ... the Madam. In 1982, before we left to migrate to Australia, myself, my wife, Marie, and our first-born flew up to Scotland from London to say goodbye to my Grandmother who was in hospital. We took her flowers. To our horror she leaned over and rang the emergency bell. Three nurses immediately came running in.

‘Put these in a vase!'

She must have thought she was back in India. I later apologised to one of the nurses.

‘No, no. We understand her and are used to her ways.'

‘So she must have been one of the P.O.S.H. people? People who could afford to pay for the cabins on the cooler side of the ship. Port out, starboard home?' asked Jayanta- the- historian.

‘Oh yes. She had kept a boat ticket with the initials P.O.S.H. on it. The snob!'

We were ushered downstairs and back into the dining room.

‘To think that here my dad spent his toddling years! Amazing! It gives me a funny feeling. And then at the age of six was packed off to England for his primary education! He must have been very homesick. I could not have even contemplated the thought of sending our two boys back to Britain from Australia to start their education at such a young age.

And then in his teens my father was moved up to Scotland and Robert Gordon's College to complete his secondary education. I think he only saw his father twice in all those years.

Different times, different attitudes, I suppose.

It is no wonder my father wanted a big family. He never really belonged to a family.'

‘Yes, but in those days I have read that that was what the British did, for many reasons. The schools here were not as good as back in Britain, and there was malaria and cholera here. It was safer for the children back in England.'

‘I have read that too Jayanta. But there were good schools in the hill stations. After Assam I am going up to Darjeeling to trace my grandmother's sister's roots. I have read that there were a number of good schools there.'

‘Maybe later? Maybe not at the time your father was at school age?'

‘It was mostly a snobbish thing Jayanta. Those who could afford sent their children back home to England to acquire the correct accent. The upper class English accent was what was wanted. My grandmother admitted that they did not want their children to acquire what was known as a ‘chi-chi' accent. That is, an Indian accent. My father did acquire a ‘posh' accent. He would forever try to correct me and tried to stop me saying ‘Ya' instead of yes there in colonial southern Africa. He was appalled when we would return home from school and take off our shoes and run into the bush to play. He eventually gave up. He said we had gone native!'

‘How did your father get to Africa?' asked Mr Pareek

‘When his mother and father returned for good from India my father was finishing off his secondary education in Aberdeen. He was then sent down south to England, near Oxford to train as an aircraft engineer at Holton. Then the war came and the Air Force sent him to Egypt to repair planes. But they were short of Flying Instructors. He was fast tracked through a special flying instructors course and sent to one of the colonies of the British Empire; Rhodesia. And there he met my mother.'

‘When did you say your grandfather left here to return to Scotland?' asked Mr Pareek.

‘It must have been 1937.'

‘Well your grandfather's efforts are still here. If he were here with you he would certainly recognise many things. The rollers we have to roll the tea leaves were made in Scotland in the early 1900s. Maybe your grandfather had them installed. And we have an old tea garden, the oldest. Maybe your grandfather was here when they were planted. Certainly there are some old tea trees we allow to grow to full size to provide shade for the younger tea bushes. I will show you them. But first we must have lunch.

Come. Please sit down.'

Mr Pareek sounded a gong, and soon a servant delivered trays of food.

We ate lunch in the dining room where the John Fettes Falconer family would have eaten. It was a full-on delicious Assam lunch, served by a very softly spoken servant.

It occurred to the manager that the cook's family had been on the estate for generations. The cook was summonsed.

'This man's grandfather was manager here at Lukwah over 80 years ago. Was your grandfather a cook here?'

'Yes boss!' (I am sure he did not say 'Yes Sahib' nor ‘Rajah Sahib)

'Well then, your grandfather cooked for this man's grandfather!'

Surreal indeed.

Maybe the cook mashed up my father's carrots to make it easier for the toddler to digest?

After lunch we went on a tour of the Tea Estate.

Lukwah is slowly being eaten away as a result of compulsory purchased land for oil and gas. 4 kilometres below Lukwah is a large oil and gas field.

Despite protestations from the Manager, Mr Pareek, the drilling continues at a furious pace. Environmental degradation appears not to be a concern despite further protestations. Mr Pareek feels that soon Lukwah and nearby Tea Estates will be no longer.

We stopped at a drilling operation, but the army guarding the site refused us permission to take a photo.

We drove around and took photos of the gas pipes and the many ‘nodding donkeys'.

*Photo: Nodding donkey amongst the tea bushes.

The tea factory/ processing plant was next.

Mr Pareek knew I would be intrigued with two of the oldest rollers. I was.

They were manufactured in Glasgow in 1901 and would have definitely been operating under the watchful eye of grandfather, Fettes. (He was known in Assam as Fettes, his middle name... a not uncommon north -east Scotland surname.

Apparently, according to Gran, there was another polo playing John Falconer in Assam, so to distinguish the two grandfather became Fettes).

‘We will now go back to the house for afternoon tea before you leave for Jorhat. You say your grandfather played polo? Let me look at that photo of your father on the pony at Sonari club again.'

*Photo of Grandad Fettes, my father on the pony with a tray of Poppies, and Paul in clown suit. Written on the back of the photo: ‘Poppy Day'(I presume near or on the 11th November 1926/7)

‘Sonari Gymkhana club still functions. I often go there. It is about ten kilometres from here.

You say your grandfather was captain of a polo team in 1930 that won the Polo Challenge Cup presented by the Jorhat Tea Company. He would have been Captain of the local Sonari polo team. That polo game was probably played at the Jorhat Gymkhana Club.

The people in Jorhat are trying to get World Heritage status for the Jorhat Gymkhana Club. It has the third oldest golf course in the world and the oldest outside of Scotland. Did you know?'

‘I know. Jayanta has done much research and has contacted the present President of the Gymkhana club, and hopefully we will meet him tonight at the club. We wish to get there before it gets dark. Jayanta tells me it is about two and a half hours drive away.'

‘Tea is coming. But, come. I want to show you something'.

‘This piece of furniture has been here for many, many years. Your Grandparents may have left it. Maybe they stored your father's clothes here before he was sent back to Britain at the age of six for his education?'

*Photo of the dressing table (Note the reflection of servant bringing the tea out to the lawn ... accidently caught on camera.)

‘And I have this for you as a present from Lukwah.'

Mr Pareek handed over 3 parcels of top quality Lukwah tea.

‘This best quality Lukwah tea goes straight to Harrods'.

He also gave me a hat made of thin woven strips of bamboo.

Thankyou Mr Pareek.

‘Don't forget to look for the road grader out the front of the offices on the right as you leave Lukwah. That grader was probably pulled by the same elephant that pulled your grandfather's car out of the mud. I am talking about that elephant in the photograph you showed me. That elephant probably pulled that same old grader to smooth out the road the next dry season.'

‘I will do. The camera is at the ready.'

‘And good luck with tracking down your past family in Jorhat'.

‘Thanks Mr. Pareek. I will keep in contact. And thanks for being such a good host. Every Lukwah cup of tea I drink will remind me of you and your home.'

And so we left Lukwah and its memories.

*Photo: Elephant pulling grandad and his car out of the monsoon mire.

*Photo: The old road grader that was once pulled by elephants.

It is heartwarming to see a few of the old traditions are still maintained. All the tea estates buildings I visited in Malaysia, Assam and West Bengal continue to be painted in blue and white ... a custom left by the British.

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 We arrived in Jorhat in the last light of the day.

‘I suggest you refresh, then we will go and find the Jorhat Gymkhana Club where your grandfather played polo and golf. The President of the club is expecting us'

‘Maybe we can eat there Jayanta?'

‘Maybe. Maybe not. I will collect you at 7.30. Drinks at the club start at 8'

I had just emerged from the shower when there was a nervous tapping on my hotel door.

‘Hello Jayanta! You are 15 minutes early. Come in.'

‘Sir! I am concerned. I have received a phone call from the Jorhat Gymkhana Club President's secretary. She phoned to remind me that tie and jacket is the club's eveningwear.'

‘But, Jayanta, I am travelling light! I neither have a tie nor a jacket with me. My best is jeans and a jumper. They are the only clean clothes I have at the moment'.

‘This too is my best I have on'.

‘Yes, but Jayanta, at least you are wearing a type of jacket. Maybe we should go out and buy ties?'

But, where? I think you will have to go to Kolkota.'

‘Do not stress Jayanta. I think we should just go with the best we have. I am sure the people at the club will understand. Surely?'

‘I think I will have to phone the secretary and explain.'

‘I do not think that is necessary.'

‘No, sir! These are rich planters, and businessmen and high-ranking officers from the nearby Indian Air Force. We will look poorly in front of them. Maybe we should go early in the morning when only the groundsmen will be there?'

‘Jayanta! They are just people like you and me. I will explain when we get there. This is not the British Raj. I wish to meet the President. He may have some information on my grandfather.'

‘I think I must phone'.

While I pulled on my jeans and jumper Jayanta could be heard in his singsong Assamese quietly explaining our predicament over the phone.

 Chapter Three.

The headlights picked out the sign on one of the gate pillars.

‘Stop Deepok! Please put on high beam.'

Jayanta interpreted my instructions.

The car lights brightened. There in bold letters we read Jorhat Gymkhana Club.

‘Yep, this is what we are looking for Jayanta, but the British spelt it J O R H A U T. Well done. You are a very good navigator.'

We crept in expecting to find the club buzzing. There were no other cars.

‘Are we too early?'

‘No' replied Jayanta. ‘It is nearly eight o'clock. Look, there is a security man at the front door. I will speak with him.'

*Sign at the door to the Club

The conversation, presumably in Assamese, went to and fro.

‘Wednesday nights used to be full of people, but now with television and internet very few come to the club in the middle of the week.'

‘Thanks Jayanta. Did you tell him about my grandfather being a member here back even before the First World War and that all I really would like to do is have a look around and maybe find his name printed on an honours board?'

‘Honours board?'

‘You know. Like those boards hanging on the walls at the Dibrugarh Club we saw yesterday evening. The ones with names of past Presidents and Honorary Secretaries and past Champions? My grandfather's team, he was the captain, won the Polo Challenge Cup in 1930. It was presented by the Jorhaut Tea Company, so maybe they have his name on a board.'

‘I will ask.'

Some conferring took place.

‘He says there are many boards and that we may go in to look.'

‘Without the President being here, and without tie and jacket?'

‘No real problem.'

Lights were switched on for us. We soon found the main bar. An elderly barman entered. Jayanta conducted a conversation.

‘This man says very few now come to the Club on Wednesday nights. We are welcome to look around. This young man has keys and will show us around, even upstairs where there is a Dance Room and Theatre. There are boards up there as well.'

We scoured the boards. Some of the dates went back nearly to the club's inception in 1876. But nowhere could we find a Falconer or even a Polo Board. Interestingly, though Indians (and presumably only high caste) were eventually allowed to join the Jorhat Gymkhana Club in 1929, Indian names only started appearing on the boards toward the end of World War Two. The British names finally petered out in the early1970s.

Photo-- Honour Boards

Whilst we were looking Jayanta whispered to me; ‘You know that barman, he is a Naga.'

‘How could you tell Jayanta?'

‘By his accent and some of the words he uses. We are not far from Nagaland here.'

‘Do you remember me telling you Jayanta that my grandfather went on an army expedition a few years after he arrived here from Scotland?

I told you he was involved in the Abor Expedition. I think it was in 1910. I think it was to teach those damn Nagas a thing or two after Nagas murdered a white doctor and another white man. The Nagas escaped back towards the Naga Hills. They taught the Nagas a lesson according to my grandfather's memoirs. But, according to my uncle, he spent most of the time on a stretcher because of malaria. I have my grandfather's Abor medal.

I just hope he was not involved in a slaughter.

My grandmother told me that because of the thorns and the heat and wet their long army pants were soon tattered and torn running through the forest after Nagas. According to my grandmother it was my grandfather who cut off his long pants just above the knees to make them shorts. Soon the others did the same. On their return they were reprimanded for doing this. However, it was considered to be a sensible idea and soon the British Indian Army was also issued short pants. I do not know how true that is Jayanta about my grandfather's trousers.'

‘It is a good story.'

‘It is. I think he was a bit of a rebel my grandfather. He was only 21 at the time and still learning the tea trade. He was told by the managers of Honwal Tea Estate that he was not to go on the expedition. He disobeyed them. They sacked him on his return from hunting the Nagas. He soon got another job on another tea estate.'

‘Tomorrow I have my plan to take you to Mariani and Honwal Tea Gardens as you asked. Honwal is very close to the border of Nagaland.'

‘It will be interesting to explore Nagaland. I know they have stopped head hunting and collecting about 50 years ago.'

‘Ah, but maybe you would not like. They eat everything those people. Spiders, beetles, everything.'

‘Jayanta, even though you are a Hindu and mostly vegetarian, maybe you should taste a bit of beetle or snake. Only joking! And, you know what Jayanta? It has just occurred to me; I wonder if Abor is a shortened version of Aboriginal?'

‘Maybe. I am sure so. The Nagas have been here long before the Ahom people arrived here. The Nagas want their own homeland. If you want to visit Nagaland you have to get special permission, a visa, and you cannot enter on your own; you have to be with your wife.'

‘Maybe next time I come, I will bring my wife so that we can visit Nagaland.'

‘You joke too much Fettes.'

‘I am not joking this time Jayanta. I would really like to. If my wife refuses then ... then ... I will have to find another wife!'

‘Too much joking. Let us go back to the main bar, maybe the President, Mr Brahma, has arrived.'

‘Hey, Jayanta! Do you think I should tell Mr Naga Barman that my grandfather probably hunted his grandfather?'

‘Please? No! Please. Do not ask that!'

*Mr Naga Barman

To take the chill off the surrounds a fire in the main bar room fireplace had been lit. Standing near the fire were two youngish Indian gentlemen very neatly dressed in tie and jacket. Each was clasping a glass of whisky.

They spoke perfect English with very little trace of an Indian accent. One was the owner - director of his family's tea estate, Muktabari Tea Estate. The other was a Wing Commander in the India Airforce.

I explained my presence and my mission, and also excused my attire.

‘The President of the club is usually here at this time. This is unusual. The President, Mr Brahma, will surely have records of your grandfather. He has kept all the historical records. Polo is no longer played here. We have only one match here each year between the Army and the Airforce. To make room the polo honour boards have been removed. Mr Brahma will undoubtedly have those boards stored in his garage. Maybe your grandfather's name is on one of those boards?

The President has been very busy trying to persuade UNESCO to declare this club World Heritage. The golf course is the third oldest in the world'.

‘I know, I read it in ‘The Lonely Planet'. I also read that nearly eighty percent of the British tea planters here in Assam were Scots and nearly every one of them came from just north and west of Aberdeen.'

‘Those Scots were the lackeys of the English. The English ruled, but the Scots worked. That is what we say here in India. And many of the Scots were in the Indian Army as officers. They even did the Englishman's fighting!'

‘Yes. My grandfather joined the Indian Army and became a Major and commanded a troop of Rajputs I think. He was awarded the MC and the DSO twice. He and his Indian troops fought the Germans in France and then the Turks in Palestine.

Here is a picture of my grandfather and his polo team. It is not the photo taken after they won the Challenge Cup, because only two names are the same as on the ‘take - home' trophy I have back in Australia. But, I like to think this photo was taken here, with them standing on the polo ground here at this club. They won it in 1930 when my grandfather was at Lukwah Tea Estate near Sivsagar. He must have been over 40 years old when that photo was taken.'

‘Let me please look'.

Both gentlemen carefully scrutinised the photo.

*Photo: Grandfather Fettes Falconer with 2 other members of his Polo Team probably taken Jorhaut Polo Club.

‘I think this photo was taken here. The line of the trees in the background. There is still that same line of trees. You will have to come tomorrow in the light to have a look and you can also have a good look around. I will warn the head groundsman and the manager that you will be coming tomorrow. What time?'

‘It will have to be early morning. Jayanta is planning to take me to Honwal Tea Estate where my grandfather first worked.'

‘That will be no problem. I will organise it for you.'

Small talk continued until Jayanta tapped me on the back. He had been busy on his cell phone.

‘I have just spoken to Mr Brahma. He says he was called to a family dinner.'

‘Oh that is disappointing. Oh well, we best be going Jayanta ... to find a place to eat. These gentlemen have kindly said they will organise for us to look around the club early tomorrow. It is on the way to Mariani.'

We said our farewells.

As I climbed back into the car, which Deepok had been zealously guarding, I murmured out loud; ‘Maybe Mr Brahma did not turn up because he learned we were not suitably dressed?'

‘Maybe. The barman told me that the President is a very formal Indian.'

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  Chapter  5  Jorhat in the Light

Having visited Jorhat Gymkhana Club in the dark we were back at the club before the sun could erase the early morning mist which lay in the hollows of the number 9 and 18 fairways.

‘Aah, you are nice and early', quipped the manager with a slight Indian head wobble.

‘Yes. Thanks for getting here early for us. After looking around the club we want to get to Hunwal Tea Estate where my grandfather started his tea career. We then need to get to Kaziranga National Park before dark.'

‘Oh yes, you have much to do.' Wobble, wobble.

‘Last night we saw much of the inside, but now, please, I wish to see in the day light where my grandfather, my grandmother and my father and his two brothers walked, played and sat.'

We were once more taken on a tour of the inside of the clubhouse:

  • the offices, the bar rooms,
  • the billiard room, and then
  • upstairs to the ballroom and
  • the cinema and theatre..

It was not hard to imagine my grandmother sitting and watching the silent movies, probably while the toddlers ran and played on the veranda outside ... under the watchful eye of the ayah?


My grandfather would surely have played a few games of billiards here?

Jayanta was keen to experience a quick game of billiards. He had read about this British game but had never had the opportunity to play. The balls were locked away, so Jayanta's wish was not realised.

 *Photo: Jayanta and self ‘playing'snooker.

‘Jayanta, I am getting goose bumps thinking about my father running around here on the lawn as a toddler.

Here surely, after his game of polo, or maybe a game of golf, my grandfather, no doubt, would sit and drink his whisky and soda whilst my grandmother sipped on her gin and tonic? And maybe they sat here on the lawn watching the sun go down?'

‘Please sir. Let me have a look at that polo photo again. That one when you think he was captain and won the Jorhat Cup.'

‘Jayanta! Please call me Fettes, not sir. The Raj ended over 60 years ago!'

‘Here Jayanta. You see the line of trees there in the distance. It looks very similar to that line of trees way over there. I am nearly positive this photo was taken here when his team won the cup in 1930'.

‘Yes. I think so.'

‘But, I must tell you Jayanta, I was only reminded recently, when re-reading my grandfather's memoirs, that my grandmother was Fettes's second wife. His first wife died in labour. I think she had malaria at the time.

I have about fifty small pages of my grandfather's handwritten memoirs back home. He only wrote a few lines on his first wife. The memoirs must have been written at Lukwah Tea Estate, and it ends there.'

‘That is interesting. But you said he returned to this part of Assam.'

‘He returned to this Jorhat region. From Dibrugarh to Jorhat you have been taking me backwards in the story of my grandfather. In fact after World War One he returned to Hunwal Tea Estate, the same estate that sacked him for joining the 1910 Abor Expedition when he was told not to. John Fettes Falconer married soon after the war. I cannot remember where he met his first wife.'

‘Was it back in Scotland?'

‘I think he must have met her in Scotland? He was demobilised and he returned to visit his mother near Aberdeen. He must have met his first wife there. I vaguely remember reading that they came out together, and that she was already pregnant. I wish I knew more about this. In fact I wish I had brought his memoirs with me. I cannot remember what he wrote about his first wife. I do not think he even mentioned her name. I do remember reading that he was not really in love with her. '

‘There were not many British women in Assam. Your grandfather probably wanted to return with a wife?'

‘He must have proudly shown off his new wife here at the club. And, I am sure he would have been considered some sort of hero. He returned with 3 bravery medals; the Distinguished Service Order, twice, and the Military Cross.'

‘Military Cross! Do you know why he was given that?'

‘I cannot really remember exactly, but he was in France at the beginning of the war. He was in the Battle of the Seine. He was wounded, but he stuck to his machine gun post and was able to repel the German counter attack'.

‘What Regiment was he in?'

‘I am not too sure. I think it was The Deccan Chargers, or was it the Rajputhana Rifles? No. That was his youngest son, my uncle Loft, in the Second World War.'

‘The Deccan Chargers is a cricket team! Maybe you mean the Deccan Horse?'

‘I think you are right Jayanta. Your knowledge is good. Fancy you knowing about the Deccan Chargers when you told me last night you do not like cricket, and the obscene amounts of money the professional cricketers like Tendulkar make?'

‘Aaagh cricket! Do not remind me.'

‘When you get to New Delhi you might be able to find out which regiment your grandfather was in. Go to the Army Headquarters. They have kept all the records. Last night you said you would bring the photos of your grandfather in the Indian Army.'

I fished photos out of my sling bag.

Jayanta, the Manager, the keeper of the keys, a cleaner or three crowded around. There was much discussion and a few questions.

*Photo: Grandad leading his troops on horseback into Aleppo

‘That is my grandfather, riding in front of his troops. They fought the Turks. They were with Allenby. Do you know much about the war against the Turks in the Middle East?'

‘Not much.'

‘You may have heard of Lawrence of Arabia?'

‘A little bit'

‘My grandmother told me my grandfather  met Lawrence. Fettes had to let him and his Arabs pass through their lines one night'.

‘That is my grandfather riding into Aleppo.'

‘This photo shows him with his officers in Aleppo. Look at this soldier. Look !  He has swivelled his shoulder forward to proudly show his sergeant stripes.'

*Photo: Grandfather posing with his troops

‘What rank was your grandfather?'

‘Major, certainly by then I think.'

And this photo was taken after Aleppo. I am not too sure about this photo. They were sweeping the Turks out of Syria. I think. Or maybe this was taken during an exercise in Northern France'.

*Photo: Grandfather directing the machine gunners.

Aaagh, yes! Here is a photo of my father and his brother, Paul and the servants, no doubt, employed to look after the children.

*Photo: Ayah holding Paul. Peter, my father, the toddler toddling.

Look at this photo. I forgot that I also brought this with me. Look they are having a picnic. That is my grandmother on the right holding her knee. That is my grandfather in the middle. That could be my father on his lap, or it could be grandfather's youngest son, Pat'.

*photo: Grandfather with my father/Pat on his lap. My grandmother, Hilda Falconer, is second on his left.

  'You know, my uncle, my grandfather's youngest son, Pat, returned to the Jorhat region after the Second World War. He went into tea planting not far from here. He told me that he frequented this club as a young man.

‘So your uncle came back to Assam even though there were many British murdered here? There were many people then angry that the British were coming back. Even today there are many people in Assam that want more independence from India. We are Ahom people!'

‘I know. I read on the internet just before leaving on this journey that a group had blown up a train between Guwahati and Kaziranga.

Uncle Pat wanted to get back to India after attending school in damp grey Scotland. At least he lived with his parents for his last two years of school, unlike my father who never really knew his parents. I think Pat was much longer here with his parents here in Assam than his two elder brothers. 

I feel guilty now. When I left Rhodesia in early 1971 I eventually got to Scotland to visit my grandmother. I told her off for sending my father back to England at such a young age. She cried.'

‘Yes. I have read about how the British sent their children back to Britain to be educated. Some were only six or seven. I have taken a few British tourists around who want to see where their parents lived while they were in school in Britain.'

‘Fettes and Hilda eventually left Assam in 1937 and settled back in north-eastern Scotland.

 Fettes chose the town of Forres. My grandfather purchased an agricultural implements business.

When it came time for my Uncle Pat to go and fight in the Second World War he decided to follow in his father's footsteps and join the Indian Army; the Rajputana Rifles. So, as a very young man he returned to India.

Uncle Pat's section of the Rajputana Rifles was sent up further north east of here to fight the Japanese'

‘Yes, the Japanese got nearly to Digboi. There was very bad fighting north of there. Your Uncle he would know Digboi. Do you know why it is called Digboi?'

‘No. Why?'

‘The British found oil there, tar sands, and they used to shout at the workers, Dig Boy!'

‘I can well imagine that Jayanta. I hope that my grandfather was kind to his labour? But, back then it was not the done thing to show too much kindness for fear of being considered weak, which could then lead to supposed advantage taking. So I suppose my grandfather was no different. My father certainly took this attitude to Africa.

But I do know that in the last paragraph of my grandfather's memoirs he was going to go to Calcutta to persuade the Indian Tea Association to donate a trophy for the winner of the Garden Labour Football League that he had started up. He was proud of his Lukwah Labourer's soccer team. He insisted that only the labourers were to play in this league. Not the Babus. What is a Babu Jayanta?'

‘Indian bosses. Bosses of teams of labourers. When did your Uncle leave Assam?'

‘I am not too sure. I think after independence. It must have been. He married a Dutch lady and settled in Canada. He is retired and lives on Vancouver Island.

We visited him about 5 years ago. Uncle Pat, now Uncle Loft, is a sensitive man. He became very emotional when he told me of his war in northeast India. He must have seen some nightmarish sights when he fought against the Japanese. He told me he must have suffered post - traumatic stress. He was sent up into Sikkim for rest and recuperation after a very bloody battle, and there in Sikkim he immersed himself in eastern religions. He eventually became involved in Theosophy, which is a combination of all the major religions.

After studying numerology he changed his name to Loft Houghton; to bring him luck. I do not believe in luck, but there is such a thing as traveller's serendipity. Pleasurable coincidences. And I am so pleased I have met you Jayanta. Not many tour guides would be as keen to please as you, and so interested in my family history.'

The Jorhat Gymkhana clubhouse had seen better days, but I am sure not too much had changed since the first half of last century. The two billiard tables each had new green baize. However, the score indicators looked old enough to have been there on the wall before my grandfather arrived in India. The numbers were just legible.

The main bar would not have been covered in melamine.

The polo pony stables were in semi ruins. But, it was not hard to imagine the ponies whinnying in their stables, the murmurings of the syces as they groomed the ponies and the shouted commands of the tea planters before another chukka.

Visions of polo at Salisbury South Golf Club came flooding back. Whilst a ten or eleven year old I would watch the polo while my father played his golf, sometimes for Rhodesia Country Districts.

I did not enjoy the drunken drive back to Park Meadowlands.

Jorhat Gymkhana Club's 18th hole is on the far side of the clubhouse near the gated entrance. The odd holy cow contentedly grazed on the fairway.

*Photo: Self on the top verandah overlooking the golf course and what was once the polo ground.

‘Jayanta, I am sure much work will have to be done here before UNESCO will grant this club World Heritage status.'

‘I think so. I also think we must go to Hunwal. It is not too far from Mariani station but we have to find the road to Mariani. I am sure we will have to stop some times to ask the way.'  

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 Chapter 6  Mariani and Honwal

We did make a few stops to ask the way to Mariani.

My uncle remembered Mariani as a small railway station.

Well, uncle Loft; Mariani has probably grown fifty fold since your last use of the train station. I tried hard to imagine you as a young man alighting from the train on your arrival, and too John Fettes Falconer arriving there way back in 1909. A station with maybe a few shops?

We were held up in a series of traffic jams. The first Mariani holdup was the result of a train at the station, but parked across the main road! The second was caused by a truck breakdown, and the third because the narrowing main road was never built to carry such traffic. Trucks, cars, motorbikes, bicycles, the ubiquitous rickshaw, all mixed with holy cows, mangy dogs and pedestrians competed for the same narrow strip of bitumen and even narrower strips of off - bitumen between shops and road.

However, with Deepok's near constant beeping amidst all the other beeps, and his sheer bravado, we pushed through.to the plains on the other side.

‘Good driving Deepok! You are a Champion'.

Deepok acknowledged with a rictus grin and then returned to deep concentration.

‘That sign there reminds people a permit is needed for Nagaland' pointed out Jayanta.

‘Not far from Hunwal is Nagaland.' 

‘You know Jayanta, I always thought Nagaland was confined to the Naga hills. I did not know that it comes right down on to the plains. I would like to get into the Naga hills.'

‘Aah. Remember? You will have to bring your wife.'

‘My wife would never last on these roads. That drive through  Mariani would have finished her. I think I would have to blindfold her.'

And there we were at the gates of Hunwal Tea Estate. We could see it was a huge enterprise. Jayanta started to display an uncharacteristic nervousness. I think the size of the Tea Factory complex threw him.

*Photo: Hunwal entrance sign

Ever mindful of protocol Jayanta quietly and politely enquired as to the whereabouts of the manager's office.

‘The people in the office say the manager has been called away to a meeting. They are not sure when he will be back. We did write to him to expect a visit from you. What shall we do?'

‘We can wait for a while Jayanta. I would like to take a photo of that monument there. There look. The big one - tine ripper. An elephant must have pulled it.

And a photo of the manager's office. That little old building is the only one old enough to have been here when my grandfather was here a hundred years ago.'

‘No! No! You cannot take a picture. We have not got permission.'

We waited.

Jayanta enquired again.

‘They said come back at 12 o'clock.

I think we will go for a drive towards the Nagaland border, but we cannot enter.'

‘Jayanta, they trained you well as a guide. One thing you have to be when guiding is flexible. I trained as a City of London guide, then later as a Rottnest Island guide and not too many years back as a Perth guide and the message was always ... flexibility. If what is planned does not happen then show your clients anything local, even if it is the simplest of things. I am interested in everything. I am a geographer. Let us go towards Nagaland'

We stopped at a school. Jayanta hoped I might be able to look around. Closed. School holidays. Of course!

We stopped at a roadside store made of bamboo. I purchased some sweets for us and to hand out to kids.

Jayanta suggested a walk.

Thankyou Jayanta. You pointed out the Betel Nut palm, the pepper vine and much, much more. You enquired at a family compound and we were invited in so that I could inspect, and photograph their self-sufficient life-style: their spinning wheel and hand loom. You asked if I could take a photo of the family. I did. Maybe, if you ever pass that way again, you could give them a copy of this photo.

Family near Nagaland border

We returned to Hunwal.

Still no manager to show us the old cottages where grandfather might have stayed when he first arrived at Hunwal.

Jayanta started to fret.

‘Jayanta! No problem. We can wait a bit more. It is not that important to me if we are not shown around.'

Teenagers were playing cricket on a large patch of lawn. I presumed they were sons of ‘The Managers'.

I enquired, ‘ Are they playing against the sons of the workers?

‘No! No! That would never be allowed. Managers' children would never be allowed to play with the workers' children.'

 Caste and Class thrive in India

‘Those houses over there beyond those kids? They look too good to be workers' cottages.'

‘They are not workers' cottages. Those would be the houses of the Babus and sub managers. For the clerks and sub managers and their families'.

‘This Hunwal Tea Estate is a small town. I see there is a sign pointing to a clinic, another to the school and another to shops. It must have grown so much since my grandfather left.'

A cricket ball was driven through the hedge with a well-placed cover drive.

I picked up the ball, but rather than throwing it back I challenged the batsman to face my Glenn McGrath bowling.

He accepted the challenge. Three wides down the leg followed by one ball well wide of the off stump had the Bishen Bedi look - alike sniggering. The fifth ball was on the stumps, but this was dispatched into the nearby tree plantation for a six.

Eventually the ball was found, but in the interim I had taken a few team photos.

*Photo: The Assam cricket team

I returned to the car and the fretting Jayanta.

‘I have another plan. Maybe you will agree?'

‘Go ahead Jayanta. Flexibility is my middle name, though my wife would not agree.'

‘Well, you mentioned your grandfather's first wife. She died. Maybe she is buried here?'

‘Here at Hunwal?'


‘Where? I don't think my grandfather mentioned it in his memoirs. There is more chance she was buried up in Shillong. My father was born in Shillong. The British sent their pregnant wives up to cooler Shillong to have their babies. Probably the first wife was sent there as well. And if so she would be buried there.

I would like to visit Shillong one day. They built a little Scotland up there in the Meghalayas. I would also like to visit Cherapunjee, one of the wettest places on the planet. My father's birth certificate says he was born in Shillong, Assam. But I see that India has made it into a new state called Meghalaya. What does Meghalaya mean?

‘The Home of Clouds. Megha is cloud. Laya is home. Himalaya is home of snow.'

‘Thankyou Jayanta. I never knew that.

‘If she did die here maybe she is buried here. They would have buried her in a church yard. There must be Christian churches here in Jorhat. So many Scots were here. There might even be a Presbyterian church and her grave could be there. What do you think Jayanta?'

‘There are about three churches in Jorhat.

And, well, I wish to tell you. I phoned my guide teacher while you were playing cricket. The professor told me that there is a British cemetery somewhere in Jorhat, but he does not know where. He suggested, if you wanted to, we should ask at a Christian seminary back in Jorhat. Someone there might know where the cemetery is or where the Presbyterian Church is.'

‘I think we should go Jayanta. The manager we are waiting for could take another hour or more, and we need to leave Jorhat in 2 hours to get to Kaziranga before dark. If I come back here I will book one or their tourist cottages and stay overnight. I saw one on the internet, and it looked very nice. Expensive. I will treat my wife. We will also visit Shillong. But, let's go back to Jorhat. Better than just sitting in the car here.'

‘We could visit Toklai Tea Research Station. It is not far from Jorhat Gymkhana Club. Your grandfather would have visited Toklai when he was a manager. They experiment with different types of tea bushes there.'

‘Sounds interesting.'

So we drove back through mad Mariani and into madder Jorhat.

: A quieter section of the Mariani main road.

‘Not as mad as New Delhi Jayanta. New Delhi has serious traffic.'

‘Here is Toklai. Do you want to visit?'

‘Deepok. Stop please!'

‘I will just take a photo of the entrance. I do not think we should go in. I think we should try and find this Christian place and ask there where the churches are or if there is a Christian cemetery.'

 Toklai entrance

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 Chapter 7 --Cinnamara

Going on the recent Hunwal Tea Estate experience, the Tocklai Tea Research Station looked too busy and even more officious to warrant even asking at the main gate whether we could look around.

A photo was good enough. I took the photo for Uncle Loft. He would know the place.

We maybe had two hours at the maximum before departing for Kaziranga National Park, to ensure we arrived there before dark.

Deepok drove us slowly in towards the centre of Jorhat.

There was much conferring between Deepok - the - driver and Jayanta - the - guide.

We turned right into a well-manicured establishment.

‘This is a Baptist Bible College. There is a man here who may know where there could be a cemetery for Christians'

We stopped to ask an elderly man walking alongside the road the whereabouts of the main office.

Much discussion ensued, presumably in Assamese.

‘Amazing!' Exclaimed Jayanta. ‘ That was the man we were to ask for. He said there is an old Christian cemetery on the Cinnamara tea estate about 6 to 10 kilometres back the way we came.'

‘I saw the sign to it on the same side as Tocklai about 2 kilometres before it, when we were driving in to Jorhat.'

‘Do you want to go there?'

‘May as well. Do we have time?'

‘Yes. If that is not the one then there is a church in Jorhat that may have a small cemetery. After that we must get to Kaziranga.'

‘It will be good if we can find my grandfather's first wife's grave, but I do not know her first name. It is as good as any way to spend the time we have left here.'

We turned around and headed back the way we came.

‘Please stop! I just want to take a photo of this cricket match. They were setting up when we passed earlier on. Maybe it is a twenty20 match?'

 Cricket match in Jorhat

‘Thankyou Deepok.

Jayanta, the Cinnamara sign I saw was old and faded so we must be careful not to miss it.

Cinnamara? Is that anything to do with cinnamon?'

‘No! Cinna in Assamese means Chinese and Mara means tea making. An Assamese man was the first man to bring the tea bush into Assam from China, from up there in the northeast, in the Himalayas. The local people did not know how to process tea so this man, Maniram Dewan, he imported Chinese people who knew how to grow the tea bush. In those days the bush was allowed to grow into a tree. The Chinese used to climb ladders to get the new leaves. The Chinese worked in the garden and in the tea factory. So the first tea garden was called Cinnamara.'

‘Here is the Cinnamara sign!'

We turned left and drove up an avenue of trees to the main gate.

Jayanta extricated himself from the vehicle. A discussion ensued with the head security man at the gate.

Jayanta jumped back in. ‘We must follow that man on the bicycle. He will show us the way to the Christian cemetery. It is around there behind the tea factory.'

We followed the man on the bicycle. He soon tired of pedalling through thick sand, so jumped off and ran ahead directing us through the tea bushes.

Behind a low rise we came to an old gated cemetery. It was locked. There was a low wall around the graveyard.

I found the lowest part of the wall at one end of the graveyard and leapt over.

The gravestones were old and many vandalised.

I scanned the ground and around as I slowly walked toward the far end.

Jayanta and Deepok were outside looking in.

A yelp leapt out of my throat, then a scream.

There jumping out at me was my name!


‘Yeeoow! It is here!' I screamed again.

Both Jayanta and Deepok scrambled over the highest part of the wall and came running.

My heart was pounding.

There on a slab of granite was inscribed my name.

‘You gave me such a big fright. Maybe you had seen a snake!' exclaimed Jayanta.

‘This is so good Jayanta. This is very good. Look, we have found it. I never thought we would. Look there is my name!'

We made a close inspection of the slab of granite lying on the ground.









‘Look, you can see there must have been brass in the inscription. You can see the drill holes where the brass must have been secured. The brass must have been stolen.'

‘I think so,' sighed Jayanta.

This Nagadiiolie. Is that here?

‘No. I think it is a place back there with the border or even inside of Nagaland. We spell it Nagadjulie.'

‘She was only twenty four when she died.'

A sudden sadness enveloped me.

‘Jayanta. To think she has been lying here all this time and maybe we are the first to visit her grave in maybe eighty years.'

 Janet's gravestone

You know Jayanta, when I taught history, history of the First World War, I would shock my students by saying ‘thank goodness for the First World War because had it not happened I would not be born'.

My grandmother, who eventually married my grandfather, this man, John Fettes Falconer, was first married to a Mr Wood. This Mr Wood, his father was a famous conductor and musician back in London who started the London Proms.'


‘It is a name given to a series of music, classical we say, and prom is short for promenade, I think. Promenade means to walk. I think the audience was allowed to walk around while the orchestra played the classical music. The music is played in a famous building in London, the Royal Albert Hall.

Anyway, the son of this man married my grandmother, Hilda Newman, and so she became Hilda Wood. Her husband went off to fight in the war. They had only been married three weeks. My grandmother received a telegram not three months later. Her  husband was missing in action. They presumed him to be dead'.

Jayanta translated for Deepok.

‘My grandmother was one of the first female chauffeur drivers in London. She decided to become an ambulance driver. She was one of the first women who drove ambulances in the First World War.

She hoped she might find her husband. There was much chaos at the beginning of the war and many soldiers were not at first issued with identification tags. Dog tags, they became known as.

She thought, ‘Maybe he was lying wounded in a hospital and had lost his memory,'

She never found him.

Hilda returned to England at the end of the war. There were not enough marriageable men left in England after the war. My grandmother decided to sail to India where she heard there were many men of her social class looking for wives.

The women who did this were known as ‘The Fishing Fleet'.

‘Aah, yes, I have read about the fishing fleet women. So your grandmother must have fished for and caught your grandfather here in Jorhat?'

‘Exactly, Jayanta. And that is why I thank The War, and now I must thank this lonely young woman lying here in this grave  ... for giving up her life so that my father and, then later, I could be born.'

We stood there in silence looking at the granite slab.

I thought of fate, and chance, and genetics.

‘And, you see this name here Jayanta? Fettes. That name I am very proud of. I do not think there is another person on this planet with this as a first name. Westerners call their first name a Christian name. I have never thought of changing that name even though a few ignorant people have hurt me badly by knowingly corrupting it.'

‘Like what?'

‘Fetus or foetus or fatarse or fartarse or even faeces. The clever people at university did this more than most others. It was one of the main reasons why I took up boxing at University. I wanted to defend my name. I wanted to learn how to punch their lights out!'

‘Anyway, we must leave your name lying here in this granite. We must move on to Kaziranga.'

‘It will eventually disappear as this granite weathers. It will probably disappear in another 200 years.'

‘I will tell you in the car on the way to the rhino in Kaziranga what has also excited me about finding this place. It is to do with the man who brought tea to Assam. The name I mentioned before, Maniram Dewan. He is famous in our history. That sign at the gates, that one in Assamese writing mentions him'.

‘Jayanta you are a very good guide. Thankyou for finding for me this grave. I leave sad but happy.'

‘Let us go.'

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 Chapter 8 - Mari Ram Dewan

 ‘Jayanta ! You are a magician! Finding the gravestone under which are the remains of my grandfather's first wife...! So unexpected!

Finding my name carved in that granite head stone. There, deep in Assam. That was magic!'

Silence, except for the hum of engine and tyre noise, and the oncoming whoosh of vehicles.

‘It is sad to leave Janet's bones there under that granite slab. She was only 24 when she died. She will probably never again be visited. My head is still buzzing with it all. I cannot wait to tell my family.'

‘I too am excited for you and for me' retorted my guide, Jayanta.

‘We are all excited. Deepok is very! Please tell him to drive carefully. It would be good to get to Wild Grass Inn in one piece, even if we are late. I thank you for having accomplished more than we planned. I am looking forward to those safari drives you have planned for me in Kaziranga National Park.

Jayanta, if we do as much in the next 3 days as we have done in the past 3 days I will be very, very happy.

But Jayanta, there is much more road traffic today. Why?'

‘There is a long weekend. A Puja. It is holy day time. Many people return to their families in their home - towns. Those buses full of people we have seen and with the music we have heard. It is party time.'

Indeed. It was nerve wracking hearing the booming loud Indian music blaring from loud speakers attached to the roof rack front, back and sides well before the bus came into sight.

Jayanta murmured something in Asomese to Deepok. The vehicle slowed a fraction.

‘There is another reason why I am excited.'

‘What is that Jayanta?'

‘That place where the cemetery is at Cinnamara; you saw the sign there in Asomese.

 The sign outside the Cinnamara Christian cemetery

 It said: that farm land, we call it Bari, around there was the place where tea was first grown in Assam. There by the cemetery was the house of the man who was the first tea planter in Assam. You remember his name?'

‘Sorry. No. I do remember you telling me.'

‘His name is Maniram Dewan. He was the one who visited up there in the Himalayas, up there in the north - east on the China side. He saw the Chinese people climbing up ladders to pluck the fresh shoots of the tea tree. It was Dewan who brought back small tea trees and planted them there at Cinnamara. Since the local people did not know how to grow and to process tea he imported Chinese people to work in the garden. Assamese for Chinese is Cinna. Assamese for tea processing is Mara. So this is the name for the land around the cemetery - Cinnamara.

This is why I am also excited. I have learned about this in my history studies, but this is the first time I have seen the place. The Bari.

This man, Dewan, is a hero to us Assam people. He was one of the first to organise resistance against the British.

Dewan's Cinnamara tea garden was doing well and exporting tea. He even started another tea garden. This garden he called Chenglung.

But the British were also starting up tea gardens. It was Mari Ram Dewan who taught the British how to plant and process the tea. In that first time when Dewan went to the north - east a British person went with him.

The British saw that this was good tea growing land and they too brought tea seedlings from China.

Then the British conspired against Dewan. They put a high tax on tea from his gardens.

The nearest British Governor was at Rangpur city, which today is in Bangladesh. All this part of India was called Bengal.

Dewan had connections with the Royal Ahom family. The king sent Dewan to ask the British Governor to reduce the tax, to make it tax free, the same as the British tea growers.

This was at the time of the Sepoy Indian Mutiny. 1857.

The Governor refused to reduce the tea tax. Dewan wrote a letter to the Ahom King telling the King of the refusal and it was now time to fight back, now that fighting was breaking out in most of India against the British.

In the letter Dewan explained how to organise guerrilla fighting. But the British intercepted the letter.

The British captured Mani Ram Dewan, and others. They were jailed. There was a trial and they were found guilty and hanged there in Jorhat. This made Mari Ram Dewan a hero for the freedom fighters and now the people of Assam.'

‘As they say, Jayanta: one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.'

‘Oh yes, sir. You know, that Christian cemetery there at Cinnamara where your grandfather's first wife is buried? That sign in Asomese said that that the Commissioner of the Jorhat District has declared this cemetery a heritage place for the reason that here was the house of Mari Ram Dewan. We Assam people call it Mari Ramor Bari. The house was destroyed by the British.'

‘Really? Why did you not tell me there and then?'


‘Maybe the British destroyed Dewan's house as punishment and to show who was boss?'


‘Jayanta! I think you are embarrassed to tell me these things for fear of upsetting me. You must not be. I am interested in everything. You are my guide and teacher. When I teach History I tell my students there are two sides, or more, to a story. I tell them that they must be taught the two sides. It is not good to look at the past with ‘one eye'. And talking about eyes: was not it Gandhi, one of my heroes, who said that if we live by the adage ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' we would all end up blind and toothless?'

‘Yes. I think so.'

‘But, Jayanta, I also tell my students that if there is an injustice then that injustice must be resisted and rectified.

So, Indians fought against British injustice. Cruelty is not carried out by just one group of people. All of us are capable of cruelty and injustice. There is terrible cruelty and injustice going on right now in many parts of the world. None more so than in the country of my birth.'


‘No. Zimbabwe. It was once part of the British Empire. It was then called Southern Rhodesia. The indigenous eventually gained independence in 1980. But the main party there in government has been ruling by the bullet and the fist. The opposition leader there is using ideas that Ghandi used in India.

Ghandi led the way in the fight against the British for independence in the first half of last century. But, he taught the Indian people to fight back without striking with the bullet or the fist. He taught them to strike ... to withdraw their labour and not to pay taxes. He called it passive resistance. I remember from my university days this passive resistance he called ‘Satyagraha'. Not so?'

‘Yes. You are correct'.

"I know there were small groups in India also fighting back with the bullet and the fist. Gandhi preached non-violence. Jayanta, you will not know this: Independence was granted India a week after I was born in 1947. That was the real start of the dismantling of the British Empire.

The rise and fall of the British Empire has been one of my big interests. Resistance to injustice is another.

Jayanta, when I return to New Delhi it is my aim to visit Mahatma Ghandi's Raj Ghat where his body was cremated.

I will also visit Chennai on my way back to Singapore. The British knew Chennai as Madras. The building of a British fort at Madras back in Queen Elizabeth the First's reign is considered to be the beginning of the British Empire'.

‘Oh. You are a lucky man.'

‘I suppose I am. I will feel even luckier if tomorrow I see your wild rhinos and maybe a tiger?

‘Oh. You will definitely see rhino, but you will be extremely lucky to see a tiger.'

‘Well. I have been very lucky so far, thanks to you.

Do you think we will get to Wild Grass Inn before it gets dark?'

Jayanta consulted Deepok.

‘About as the sun is disappearing behind the Himalayas.'

Photo: Wild Grass Inn at sunset.
The building in which I had a clean and tidy room.

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 Chapter 9 --To Darjeeling 

After all the amazing traveller's luck in Assam and after viewing the successes of Kaziranga National Park Jayanta and Deepok dropped me at Guwahati Airport.

From there I flew to Bagdogra, near Siliguri, and took a taxi up to Darjeeling.

The old main road that follows the railway line, on which the famous Toy steam train (now declared World Heritage by UNESCO) still runs, has been neglected by the Bengal State Govt. However, there is a new one-way system up and down to and from Kurseong. We shot up that one-way system as if the driver had a death wish. I think Marie would have screamed at every hairpin bend and then hit me at the top for being so stupid as to take her on such a wild ride. There appear to be no road rules in India, and yet I saw few road deaths. The odd dog and one holy cow in all my travels in India. Admittedly, the majority of my India travel was done in the air. I could not fault the various airlines I flew on in India.

Not far from Kurseong we were stopped by well-dressed late teenage boys and girls who had erected a bamboo barrier across the road decked in colourful bunting. The Taxi driver reached into his wallet and gave the youths a handful of rupees. The barrier was lifted and we passed through.

I asked the driver what that was all about. In halting English it transpired that: ‘Today ... holy day. Puja. We pay puja. We pay temple.'

Around the next bend we were stopped by another barricade. This time; a rope held by ill - kempt young teenage boys. The taxi driver shouted at them. The rope was dropped and they scampered off into the long grass up the steep slope.

'Boys. Naughty. No use rupees for temple!'

After Kurseong we followed the old Hill Cart Road and the Toy Train railway track.

Nearly every rock was daubed with graffiti. HOME RULE FOR GORKHA LAND!

Rather than disturb the concentration of my taxi driver and him having to spend minutes searching for the right English words I decided not to ask him to explain. I had a good idea.

He had already explained that he was Gorkha.

The road from Kurseong to Darjeeling was packed with home rush hour traffic and pot holes.

I arrived in Darjeeling as the light was fading. After depositing my luggage at my 3 star hotel, The Shangri La, of which the stair well smelled strongly of cat's pee, I went in search of a bite to eat. As I was passing a taxi rank a pleasant young man asked in a quiet voice if I needed a taxi for tomorrow. His English being excellent I suggested he take me to find where the Hendersons lived, and where Ann and Jane went to school during the Second World War. I also said I would like to meet the Norgay family (Tenzing Norgay's son and grandson who both have climbed Everest). Niraj, the taxi driver, said the Norgays lived in his street and he would not only take me there but also chauffeur me around for both the days I was in Darjeeling. He said he knew much about Darjeeling and would even do some research for me. We negotiated a price.

I had asked the Shangri La for a room with a view. And what a view I received upon waking up. I looked out to see Kanchendzonga (the 3rd highest mountain in the world). I forgot about the cat pee smell on the stairs. There above the smoke haze creeping up from the plains was very much visible... the snows of Kanchendzonga/Kachenjunga. Despite the cold morning air I opened the window to get a better view.

 the view from my bedroom window

True to his word Niraj was at the hotel at 8 am to meet me. We drove to the Norgays's house despite the fact that he had found out that the son was busy in America with his tourist business. And what a house.

But, it was closed up.

Photo of the Norgays's house

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Chapter 10--Searching through Darjeeling

Never mind, he said, I know another way to make contact, but first I suggest we go and find your second cousins's school and then Rungneet, or as the Gorkhas now call the Tea Estate... Rungit. May I have those photos you said you have of Rungneet Tea Estate?

And so started my Darjeeling tour that had so many pleasant surprises for me. Traveller's serendipity indeed.
Searching through Darjeeling

‘OK. No problem. We go to find the Rungit house, but just before Rungit we look for your cousin's school. Then after the school we go Rungit where the Manager's house maybe there. Then we go to HMI, Himalaya Mountain Institute. The manager there sure will give contact for Tenzing Norgay's family' explained Niraj, the taxi driver come tour guide'.

My driver for the day, and the next, was as keen as me to find Ann Henderson's wartime school, Rungneet any other connections. Niraj was intrigued and excited as I was. He said this ‘journey of discovery' would make him a better taxi driver/tour guide, for he did not know too much about British Darjeeling, and helping me would help him to succeed in the tourist industry.

Niraj's new car was the first one I had ridden in that did not have a Hindu statuette of Shiva or Ganesh, nor of a Buddha glued to the dashboard to bring luck and good fortune. No, Niraj had a bust of Jesus. On the back was a big sticker ‘Edwin's car'.

‘Who is Edwin?'

‘My son. He is nine months.'

The previous night Niraj had done some research after I left him with copies of two photos Jane had given me by email from South Africa:

Ann and Jane's school, attended during WW2

Rungneet Tea Estate's Manager's house in the snow

Niraj's research on Ann and Jane's school revealed little. Nobody appeared to know about the school and Singamari hill. Singamari road...yes. But, judging from the road configuration in the photo he thought he had a good idea of where it should be.

We spent about 2 hours searching. Was it now part of the Mount Hermon School's boarding establishment? One wing looked as if it had been added on to the turreted section of your school. One section had a date: 1920. People seemed to think not.

We looked at other possible sites. All were doubtful.

‘No, let us not waste time, we can search later on. Let us go find Rungit. People tell me the Tea Garden has gone bust. Possible, there may be a new owner in 9 months. Some say the old house is no longer standing, but others say it is. We look. Let us go.'

We parked the car on the narrow road to Lebong. ‘Here is Rungit Tea Gardens, and look way down... there is Rungit river through the smoke. On the other side of the clouds and smoke is Kanchaandzonga.'

We walked down a short distance threading our way through tea bushes. We arrived at a contour road. Across it was a locked gate, but there was a smaller side gate we could squeeze through. And lo and behold there was Rungneet' manager's house where Jack and Jill Henderson lived after Independence. I recognised it straight away from the photograph; ‘Rungneet in the Snow'.

Rungit: The manager's house. January 2010.

There were some changes to the eastern side, and it looked sad, sagging and dilapidated, but, most definitely... the house. In fact a sign stuck in the lawn near the locked gate proclaimed the Tea Gardens to be:

Kanchaan View Tea Estate  (formerly Rungneet Tea Estate)

‘Niraj! You clever man, you have found the house. To think, my Aunt and Uncle and their daughters stayed here nearly 60 years ago. I am sure Ann and Jane will be more excited than me when I email them the photos I have taken.

It was from here Niraj that Ann and her father and mother watched the first successful climb of Kachaanjunga. They sat here on the lawn and followed the climb through powerful binoculars. It was known as the Evans expedition. My aunt helped select the sherpas for that expedition. And she selected the sherpas for the successful Everest climb. Look at this photo here of people meeting the hero Tensing after the climb. Look, it is taken outside Rungneet! T is for Tensing.

This is very exciting for me Niraj. I am glad my cousin sent me these photos. I do not know these people.

Phew, fantastic! You read and hear the stories and suddenly you are here at the place.'

‘Now, Niraj, look here at this photo I have of  Mrs Henderson and  my second cousin being served breakfast on the lawn. There, you can see Kanjenjunga sticking up way above their heads. Sadly, today there is too much smoke and cloud. This terrace must have been where they were having breakfast.'

'Yes, Mr Fettes, look, there are the same posts as in the photo.'

The same view today

My gentle guide, Niraj, helped me work out where the breakfast table was placed when the photo was taken ... that wonderful shot of ‘The British in India'.

I handed over other photos I had with me. Niraj marvelled at how clear the air was in the black and white photo of Kachaanjunga taken the 1950s. He held it up against the view.

Well, that was taken when the world's population was 3 times less. India's population is now over a billion. When that photo was taken the world's population was probably getting closer to 2 billion.

As the air warmed so did the smoke haze creep up the Himalayas from the Indo-Gangetic-Bengal plains way below. The ‘Kanchaan View' was obliterated by the time we found Rungneet house at about 11 in the morning.

Niraj had the breakfast photo in his hand whilst we walked back up to the car. Niraj was well ahead of me. I was busy taking photos and dreaming of views.

I later worked out what then occurred.

Niraj had a brain wave. Those people with stalls along the Lebong road could well be the out of work Rungit (Kanchaan View) tea workers.

He showed the breakfast photo to the first stall holder. He was selling traditional Gorkha  clothing.

Niraj showed the stall holder the ‘breakfast' photo. Pointing to the servant in the turban, ‘Do you recognise this man?'

He looked closely. ‘I think it is my uncle. Wait I will ask my mother at the next stall"

I arrived puffing and panting at the road - side stalls about five minutes after .

Niraj excitedly exclaimed; ‘This man says the servant in this photo was your aunt and uncle's cook, and it is his uncle! His mother says it is her husband's elder brother. Come have tea with them and we talk.'

So we had a cup of stall tea in celebration. Tea from Rungneet? Of course!

The name of the servant is KALU PAKHRIN.

Photo: Kalu's nephew, the stall holder, and Niraj. Niraj is holding photos of Gorkha boys and female tea pluckers modelling traditional Gorkha clothing.

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* Chapter 11--Nawang Gombu


After the euphoria of finding Rungneet nearly intact, and discovering the servant-in the-photo's nephew, Niraj drove me to Lebong at my request. We could see Lebong from Rungneet. This was where the Brits once had a horse racecourse. In one of Anne's emails she described the racecourse as the smallest, highest, and the crookedest, as in corrupt, in India, if not the British Empire.

Well, the Lebong racecourse is no longer. Instead, it is a military parade ground. The Indian Army is there in strength ... maybe just to remind the Gorkhas not to get too belligerent!

Below the parade ground is a rifle range. We watched the army at target practice. Any bad misses could have hit Rungneet, or, as it is now called; Kanchaan View.

From there we visited the Tibetan Refugee self-help centre above Rungneet overlooking Lebong.

‘Now we go to the Himalayan Zoo where there is also the HMI' instructed Niraj.

‘The HM what?'

‘The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. There they will help you to get in contact with the Norgay family and maybe Tenzing's first wife, or maybe his grandson. Tenzing son is in America on business. He has tourist business. I think his first wife is still alive. She will be very interested in your photos I am sure and may remember your Great Aunt'.

‘Good planning Niraj. Do you mean that the HMI is part of the Zoo? Yes?'

‘Yes. All one price. And you can see the Snow Leopard there that you want to see. The Zoo make good breeding project.'

Indeed! There appeared to be breeding in process as I arrived at the Snow Leopard or Ounce section. There was much loud caterwauling and hissing emanating from the bowels of a man-made cavern. In the next-door caged area was a lone male Snow Leopard. This prowling leopard was obviously intensely jealous. Each wail would make it frantically race up and down and leap at the wire fencing. I told him not to be silly. His turn would come and to calm down and think of the future of his species.

What a magnificently beautiful animal he was. His tail was the length of his body ... necessary to maintain a good balance whilst leaping from icy rock to icy boulder.

The Zoo has successfully bred a few Snow Leopards.

I eventually arrived at the H.M.I.

I remembered Niraj's instructions: Ask for the manager and tell him about your Great Aunt and how she recruited Tenzing for the Hunt Expedition in 1953. And tell him that Tenzing and Mrs Henderson became friends and that Tenzing gave your Aunt a dog, a Tibetan Apso. I am sure he will then get in contact with the Norgays for you'.

The HMI has a museum dedicated to Tenzing. I rushed in to have a quick look around before going to find the manager. Maybe there might be mention of my Great Aunt?

There on the wall was a huge painting of Tenzing on Everest's summit. He is obviously a big hero of Darjeeling, the Gorkhas and India. I had to take a photo.

As the camera flashed a man yelled behind me. ‘No fotografi! You no read? You not see sign?'

‘Oh! I am so sorry. I did not see the sign. I just quickly come in before I see manager to tell him Tenzing and my Aunt friends, and ask to see Mr Norgay's family.'

‘Follow me!'

‘Jeez. I am in for it now. He is going to confiscate my camera. Maybe I should get some money out for a bribe? I will tell him I will delete the photo.'

I quickly placed the camera in my shoulder bag and searched for my wallet. I then remembered the photo I had planned to show to the Norgays. The photo was of  a postcard sent by Tenzing Norgay to my great aunt, Jill Henderson.

‘I will show it to the manager. This might convince him of my intentions.'


I followed the security bloke down the steps to the Himalayan Mountaineer Institute manager's office. I was desperately thinking of ploys as to how to keep my Tenzing photo in my camera, and even my camera. No ways will they take my camera! I had two photos in my hand ready as decoys.

We bumped into men coming up.

‘Here is the manager' informed security.

To prevent Mr Security blabbing on me I held out the enlarged photo of Rungneet and informed the leading man that my Aunt lived there at the time she was Secretary of the Himalayan Mountain Club. I explained that Jill Henderson had insisted Tenzing Norgay go with the Hunt Expedition rather than another Sherpa Mr Hunt wanted; that the Sherpa Hunt wanted had just returned from another expedition and would not be as fit as Tenzing.

I kept talking as I realised one of the group was acting as interpreter. The manager was obviously not English proficient. As soon as the interpreter finished I immediately started talking again to prevent Mr Security getting a word in edgeways.

‘And when Tenzing returned to Darjeeling he thanked my Great Aunt for making him world famous. He later gave my Aunt a Tibetan Golden Apso. He called him Tashi.'

‘I have today learned from my taxi driver - guide that Tashi is a Gorkha -Tibetan shortened version of Tashi Delu which means Good Luck. Tashi can mean thankyou.'

‘My Great Aunt was back in England when Tenzing Norgay visited the Queen. He then visited Mrs Henderson. He gave Tashi as a thankyou present for selecting him to climb Everest on the Hunt Expedition. Tashi became famous. He won his section of the famous British dog show, Crufts. My Aunt made money breeding from him. She must have written to Tenzing Norgay to ask if he could please find another pure bred Tibetan Apso'.

‘I would like to meet the Norgay family to tell them this story. And to thank them on behalf of the Henderson family. I know Tenzing Norgay is no longer alive, and I have heard his son is in America. But maybe I can meet his grandson? I would also like to show him this postcard written to my Aunt Jill when she was staying with her daughter in South Africa. Are you able to put me in contact with the Norgays?'

There was much consultation, in Gorkha I presume. I heard the word Gombu mentioned a number of times.

‘Follow this young man down the steps,' instructed the interpreter. ‘He will lead you to Mr Gombu's house. Mr Gombu will be able to make contact for you'.

I hastily said thank you, bowed and rushed after the young man already bounding down a long flight of steps down through a forest of huge pine trees.

‘Phew! I have still got my camera'.

The steps went down and down to a road. On the other side was a gate.

‘This is Mr Gombu's house. You may go in and ask for him.'

‘Thankyou very much.'

My young guide left with a few extra rupees.

I could hear talking and sawing coming from around the corner of the house. There on the front lawn were people sawing a door - frame.

There was obviously a magnificent view across to Kanchaandzonga were it not for the smoke haze.

‘I am looking for Mr Gumbo.'

One of them pointed to an out building and shouted at someone in there. There was a muffled reply.

‘He say go inside. He not long time'.

Whoever Mr Gombu was, he was probably partaking of ablutions.

I tentatively entered. Not knowing what to do I began inspecting the photos and plaques and scrolls hanging on the wall and placed in bookcase recesses. Framed documents shouted out to me that, who's - ever house this was must be one of the most revered persons in India and elsewhere. There were many photos. Two immediately caught my sticky - beaking eye. One was of a youngish small stocky Gorkha looking person shaking John F Kennedy's hand. Dangling from the President's neck was a white scarf. The other was of the same man handing to the Queen a similar scarf.

‘Hello. I am Nawang Gombu. Yes. That is me with President Kennedy and that one you are looking at is me with the Queen. I gave them Gorkha white silk scarves. A Gorkha tradition. You know, I was not allowed to put the scarf around the Queen's neck and shoulders as I was with the President of the United States. Protocol and security reasons. No one may touch the Queen'.

I nearly told him an ex Australian Prime Minister did just that and offended many English!

There in front of me was a stocky fit looking elderly man with a cheerful face and bright eyes. He gave me a bone-crushing handshake.

‘Mr Gombu! I am very pleased to meet you. I am ....'

I proceeded to tell Mr Gombu about my desire to meet the Norgays.

‘Whoa. Whoa. Stop! Before you continue. Please sit down. I will make tea. The best tea in the world. Organic tea. It is from Makaibari Organic Tea Estate.'

‘Oh. Makaibari. How interesting. I am going to stay there for a few days the day after next. I am very interested in sustainability and wish to interview Rajah Bannerjee for a Geography textbook I plan to write.'

‘How interesting indeed. When you see Rajah tell him that you were with me, and that we drank Makaibari tea. Please give him my best wishes. I know him well. And please inform him that I am running out of his tea and wish for more. His tea is getting too expensive. Ha ha ha. No! You had better not tell him that'.

Mr Gombu poured the tea and added hot milk, as they all appear to do in Assam and West Bengal.

We sipped our tea.

‘Mr Gombu. Please excuse me for not knowing you. But you must  have done something famous to meet the Queen and the President?'

‘No apologies. Please. I was the first person to climb Everest twice... without oxygen. I led the first American team to climb Everest in 1963. It was soon after that photo was taken that the President was assassinated. The next year I led the first Indian team to climb Everest.

I still lead expeditions. I do not go above 16,00 feet.' There was much pride in Mr Gombu's intelligent eyes. ‘ But, please enough about me. You were talking about Tenzing Norgay.'

 I proceeded to explain.

‘A Great Aunt of mine, Jill Henderson, lived here in Darjeeling and helped to assemble Sherpas for Himalayan expeditions. She selected Tenzing Norgay for the 1953 Everest expedition. I wish to meet the Norgay family'.

‘I will try for you, but it is not possible for the next week. There is no one home. They are all away'.

‘What a pity! Maybe I could come back next year! I would love to tell them.'

‘Well. You know Tenzing Norgay is my uncle. Maybe I will tell the Norgay family what you want to say. Please tell me everything. But, first I will make another cup of tea for us.'

‘Mr Gumbo, please may I take a photo of your photo meeting the President Kennedy and the other of you with the Queen?'

Yes. Please take one of the Mr Kennedy photo. He is no longer alive. You know that photo was taken only a few months before he was assassinated? But you better not take a photo of the Queen, she is still alive,' joked Mr Gumbo from his kitchen behind a curtain.

‘No, you can take photos of the Queen. I will not tell her. You can take other photos as well.'

I once more told the story about Sherpa Tenzing and My Great Aunt. I got to the part where Tenzing gave an Apso or two to Aunt Jill as a thank you.

‘Oh. My Uncle was always giving away those dogs. He bred them. I told Uncle, ‘Please no more dogs!'

He was always giving me one from a new litter. I had already five or six. I sent one back. I think he got the message.'

‘I wonder when he gave that Golden Apso, Tashi, as a thankyou present to my Aunt Jill Henderson? Would you know? Was it when he arrived back after Everest or when he visited her in England when he went to meet the Queen?'

At that Mr Gombu jumped up and shook my hand most rigorously.

Miss Henderson? Miss Henderson! Miss Henderson, your Aunt? I know her. Your Aunt? I did not realise!'

At that he reached over and pulled out a small book from a nearby shelf full of books.

‘If it was not for Miss Henderson my life would be very different.'

‘Here, look.'

At that he opened the little book and showed me the first page.

He shouted excitedly, ‘There. Look! There is Miss Henderson's signature'

‘Look! She signed me up for Sherpa work.'

Indeed. There at the bottom of the page was Aunt Jill's name, obviously written by her. I stared in amazement. Traveller's serendipity all over again!

At the top of the page was hand written in neat fountain pen ink that was beginning to fade:

Nawang Gombu         

H.C.  No 191

Nearby stamped in indelible ink was: GOMBU

At the bottom underlined with a ruler:

Issued  9 . 1. 53

Mrs J.C. Henderson Hony. Secy.

‘I must tell you the story. Oh my goodness! I did not realise who you were talking about Miss Henderson.

I went to my Uncle Tenzing and asked my uncle. ‘Uncle please! I want to go with you on the expedition.'

My Uncle, he said, ‘You are only seventeen. Maybe next time.'

‘No Uncle! Please! I want to go with you. I will carry your luggage. I will look after you. I will cook for you'

‘Well. I think that is a good idea. Best you go to the Himalayan Club and see Miss Henderson. Say to her I am your Uncle and you want to carry my luggage. Maybe she will give you the work.'

I saw Miss Henderson. Very kind lady. She said, ‘OK, so if Tenzing is your Uncle and he sent you I will sign you up for Mr Hunt. Your uncle is one of the best Sherpas on my books. I hope you will be as good as him. Your job will be to carry and cook for your uncle. Your job is to look after your uncle, and to have other carrying duties.'

‘So I went with my Uncle and Mr Hunt. At seventeen I climbed right up to near the last stop, the Col, before my Uncle and Mr Hillary made the last climb by themselves. I climbed to 26,000 feet.'

‘Look! Please read what Mr Hunt wrote for me afterwards. Miss Henderson asked Mr Hunt to write it about me.'

Mr Gombu turned over the page and gave me the little book to read.

I read the glowing testimonial written by the expedition leader John Hunt.

‘Mr Gombu! This is amazing. Please may I take a photo of these three pages? I wish to send these pages to My Aunt Jill's daughters. Aunt Jill died nearly twenty years ago. Her two daughters will be most interested and I am sure very pleased at this piece of history. Please could you hold the book open while I take the photo?'

‘Yes. Of course. And please thank Miss Henderson's daughters for me. You see, this book got me many expeditions after Everest. Because of what Mr Hunt wrote I was asked to go on many expeditions. I reached the top of Everest with the Americans in 1963 and the next year with the Indians. I got to the top both times without oxygen.'

‘Mr Gombu. I have just realised something as well. Early this morning on our way to find Rungneet, where my Aunt Jill and Jack Henderson lived in 1953, my taxi driver stopped at Tenzing Rock where people can practise their roping skills. It is actually just above Rungneet. I took a photo. Then I noticed a bigger rock on the other side of the road. There were young people practising climbing that rock. I saw painted on it: Gombu Rock. How amazing! It all fits in. I cannot wait to tell my second cousins and the rest of the family. '

‘Oh yes. I am famous because of your Aunt. I have been invited to many countries on climbing expeditions. I have met many world leaders. I have stayed with at least 5 Prime Ministers of India. Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi. Yes, Rajiv Gandhi flew me to one expedition.'

‘Oh my goodness! Sorry Mr Gombu. I have just remembered my taxi driver. I have forgotten about Niraj. I said I would be about an hour and a half. Look at the time. I have left him at the Zoo entrance well over 2 hours ago! I best get going.'

‘No, no. He will wait. That is his job. I want to show you something. Here, please have another cup of tea. I want to show you something. Please sit while I go find it. Please take more photos.'

With that he disappeared behind the curtained section. I could hear Mr Gombu desperately rummaging around.


Mr Gombu emerged looking a bit flustered.

‘As you can see we are in the middle of renovations and I have moved much stuff out of the way to give the builders room.

I was looking for a photo I have. It is of Miss Henderson pinning the Everest medal and the Coronation medal to my chest. I am sorry I cannot find it. I will send a copy of the photo to you by email when I find it'

We exchanged email addresses.

‘Please wait a minute.'

With that Mr Gombu dived back behind the curtain. He soon emerged clutching a book in his hands. It was still wrapped in its cellophane.

‘Please, I would like you to have this book. It is a book my daughter had made up of the press clippings she kept of my expeditions.'

‘Please, no you mustn't.'

‘No, I must. Why not? I would like you to have it. My daughter, who lives in New Delhi, she organised and had a number of books printed for me. I am sure she would also like you to have a copy. I will tell her that I gave a book to a relative of Miss Henderson. When I find the photo of your Aunt I will send you a copy. You must take this book back with you to Australia. I hope you have room in your suitcase and it will not make your luggage too heavy?'

‘No, no. I am very honoured to have this book. Thank you very much. I will treasure it. I will tell my Great Aunt Jill Henderson's daughters that I have this book.'

With that Mr Gombu tore off the cellophane, found a ball point pen and proceeded to write a message inside the front cover.

To Fettes Falconer

With best wishes



In his excitement he had added an extra 2 in the year.

‘Please. Have another cup of tea. You can look through it.'

I sat down, again.

Under Mr Gombu's handwriting I read the print:

For Papa ...

As you wished, something for your grandchildren to read

and remember - this is a fantastic story about an extraordinary

life you have led.

For Nikhil;, Vrinda, Kunzes, Riggyal, Tashi, Sachen, Tara, Kaya -

So you know what a wonderful man your grandfather is. Be proud and brave like him but at the same time always remain as humble as him. Read through his struggles, his trials, his tribulations.

Read about him through the eyes of the world but most of all read

of his association with the mountains. Mountains that have meant so much to him ... given so much to us ... brought us to where we are. Cherish these moments ... understand him ... love and

respect him for the man he is ...

A small gift for you

With love

Ongmu and Lokesh

I became quite emotional.

I looked at the cover again and read the book's title:

Nawang Gombu: His Life and Times Through Media Clippings

I eventually blurted out, ‘What a wonderful present your daughter, Ongmu, gave you. She is very proud of you'.

'I am very proud of her. She is a lawyer in New Delhi. I do not see enough of her.'

Mr Gombu handed me another cup of tea.

‘Before you go. Please drink'

As I quickly flicked through the clippings in the book we talked about his family, his world travels and climbs in other mountain ranges. He proudly pointed out photos of his family.

‘Here is a picture of my other daughter, Rita, and look here ... an article about her. At the time she was an Air India Air Hostess. She climbed to the south summit of Mount Everest. Just short of the actual summit by 200 metres!'

‘Wow! Your daughters are very beautiful'

Nawang  Gombu's face broke into a proud smile.

‘Mr Gombu. Please may I take a few photos of you before I leave? I am so pleased I have met you. What a day this has turned out to be. It has exceeded my wildest imaginations.'

Mr Gombu posed for a photo proudly holding one of his prized possessions ... a framed certificate signed by the queen and presented to him at the same time my great aunt pinned the medals to his chest. I manoeuvred him gently so that in the background was a picture of the Queen and his two daughters. He knew what I was doing and gladly obliged. He was beaming with pride. He pointed out that he was presenting the Tashi scarf to the Queen. He informed he was not allowed to drape it around her neck as he had with President Kennedy

‘What about a photo of me holding Miss Henderson's book?'

'Yes. Please!

‘Maybe here in front of this wall with your Tashi scarf drapped over the picture of Mount Everest?'

‘Of course!'

  • The certificate reads:

Buckingham Palace

By Command of


The accompanying Medal is forwarded to


To be worn on commemoration of

Her Majesty's Coronation

3rd June 1953

‘And now a photo of me holding your new book?'

‘Of course. Please. Maybe by the window?'


I walked fast, and sometimes even trotted back up the road that skirted the top of the ridge on which the Zoo and The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute sat. I was full of excitement and energy.

There, near the entrance to the Zoo was Niraj, my taxi driver and guide for the day. He was washing his son's, Edwin's, car, his taxi.

‘Niraj! I am so excited! I must tell you what happened to me, but first.... I am sorry I kept you waiting so long.'

‘Please sir. You are very red. Please sit in the car and rest and you can tell me. Then we can drive to find your cousin's school. We still have some light to look for the school.'

‘Niraj! We have already done so much in one day. You are a star! Yes. Let us go and do some more searching.'

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 Chapter 12 --The Last Chapter

‘I am sure this is not the school Anne and Jane attended, Niraj. But, you are right about the road configuration. It does look very similar.'

Niraj was holding the photo and pointing out the similarities.

‘Look there, sir. Those fence posts, they are the same as here in the photo.'

‘But this school used to be Loreto. That sign there says Loreto has moved.

Maybe Mr Gombu has got mixed up? I showed Mr Gombu Jane's school photo and he says that it could now be Loreto. Maybe this building replaced Ann and Jane's school? Maybe that school in the old photo was knocked down? But it is next door to St Andrew's Church. And the address there on the Saint Andrew's sign says ‘The Mall'. I am sure my second cousin would have mentioned it being close to a church and would have known it was on ‘The Mall'.

This is like little Scotland Niraj, except for those monkeys there! Cheeky buggers, they are grunting at me!

Do you know that Loreto is a famous girl's school in Edinburgh, Scotland, and it is next door to Fettes College? Fettes is my name. Call me Fettes.'

‘Yes sir. I am learning from you so I can be a better guide.'

‘Those huge pine trees blocking the view? What species are they?'

‘I do not know. The British planted them.'

‘Niraj! A good guide must know a little about a lot. History, Geography,Biology, Architecture and pine tree species!'

‘Ha, ha. I will study'.

‘Ha, ha. Good Niraj. You will make a good guide. Then you can make big guiding business here in Gorkhaland.

Do you think they were the small trees here in the photo Niraj?'

‘Could be.'

‘My cousin Ann mentioned it was on Singamari road. But you say this is not the Singamari road.'

‘Sir, I have asked about Singamari road. There is no Singamari road. But Singamari is there past Rungit.'

‘Well Niraj, I will take a photo of this building and send it to my cousins.'

‘I can take you to Loreto. It is a big school.'

‘Where is it Niraj?'

‘Further away.'

‘You mentioned Windamere Hotel is not far from here. I think we should go there. I have read that it is still very colonial and hardly changed. It is still visited by the old expatriate British who used to live around here.

The Windamere still puts on plays. Actors come out from England at this time of the year because January is the off -season and they use The Windamere as a working holiday. That is what I have read on the internet. Maybe someone

there will know. Anyway I would like to see it before it gets dark. Do you mind Niraj?'



‘We go now to Windamere, Fettes'.

‘Good Niraj!'

Niraj's taxi moved carefully up the steep but short winding entrance to Windamere. The elderly security man guided us in to an empty car park.

‘Would you like to come in with me Niraj?'

‘No. I will stay here.'

‘I will not be long Niraj.'

‘I can wait.'

The old hotel immediately reminded me of the old colonial hotels in the southern part of Africa. Rambling, added - on buildings. Timber doors and frames. Some attempt at Tudor architecture. But all the walls white, white, white whitewash. Nostalgia.

Out on the lawn in front looking into the setting sun I shaded my eyes with my hands.

'The view here must be wonderful on a clear day', I murmured to myself.

‘Bloody smoke. It is blocking the view of Kachaanjunga. And no doubt down there, way down there is Rungneet. What a day it has been.'

‘Excuse me sir. May I help you?'

I spun around to meet an elderly gentleman. He looked anglo-chinese.

‘Oh. Yes. Do you live here?'

‘My dear boy. I am the Managing Director. I am the owner and my mother was the owner before me. I have lived here all my life!' This all pronounced in impeccable Oxford English vowels with a very slight overlay of an Indian accent. Very British indeed.

I explained my mission, my successful searches and all about the Hendersons.

‘Oh. I remember Jack Henderson, and Jill Henderson when I was a small boy.

Especially at The Planter's Club. How very interesting this all is.'

I showed him the photo of Jane and Ann's school.

‘Oh. That was old Mrs Webb's school. It was knocked down long ago. St Joseph's has extended their buildings there.'

‘Oh, that is interesting. We stopped at St Joseph's because the road configuration near there looked similar to the pattern here in this old photo. I must admit St Joseph's looks very posh and very well looked after.'

‘Please have a cup of tea here. I will not be able to take tea with you. I have other matters to attend to.'

Mr Sheraf Tendufla led me into a drawing room and instructed the maid to bring me late afternoon tea.

‘Please, do come and have dinner here this evening. I would like to talk more.  Where are you staying?'

‘At the Shangri-la.'

‘Aah. That is just below here. Please come early. Seven o'clock. I would like to show you a video I have had made about the history of my hotel.'

A maid in traditional English maid uniform served tea and scones.

A woman from Ireland, who had been reading, sat and chatted with me whilst I partook of late - afternoon tea. She sat there gobsmacked at my Assam and my day - old Darjeeling traveller's tales of serendipity.

‘I am sorry Niraj for keeping you away from your family and your young son Edwin. It is quite dark. My apologies,once again. Please take me back to the Shangri-La.'

I then proceeded to tell Niraj what had occurred as he drove me down the zig zag roads to my hotel.

‘Aah. Very good. But, I have also had interesting talks. That security old man for the Windamere cars ... he told me about Rungit. He remembers Mr Jack and Miss Jill Henderson.

Very nice people he says. Very clean house. He especially remember the verandah floors. They were very shiny. He was a small boy at Rungit. His mother and father worked in the tea gardens.

Every Independence day the workers' children went to the big house. Mr Jack Henderson and Miss Jill Henderson were very kind. They gave hot milk, biscuits and sweets to the children. All the children liked Mr and Miss Henderson.

For Divali Miss Henderson had the crackers. She controlled the explosions. And the children had sparklers. They all loved Divali at Rungnit. And he also said that on Independence Day Miss Henderson gave all the children at Rungit milk and some sweets, and they would dance for Miss Henderson and sing the National Anthem.'

‘Thankyou  Niraj. That is very interesting. I bet my cousins will be pleased to hear that.

In fact the whole day has been exceptionally interesting. You have made my day Niraj. Thanks for being such a good guide and taxi driver.'

‘Thank you sir. You can walk straight up those steps to Windamere after your bath. I think you will have good food.'

‘I am sure to have a good meal. It is very kind of Mr Tendufla to invite me. What an amazing day, and it is not over yet!

And, Niraj, please take me early tomorrow to Tiger Hill. If there is going to be a good view I will phone you at four in the morning so that you can take me to see the sunrise and sun lighting up the snows on the Himalayas.'

‘How will you know it is going to be good view?'

'Aah Niraj. I am a Geographer. I will set the alarm for four and look out the window. If I can see the stars it will be good to go. We can leave at five o'clock?'

‘Yes. Tiger Hill is about 30 minutes by car. So we can arrive at sunrise. Sometimes many people go.'

‘Then after that Niraj we can have breakfast and then can you please maybe drive me to Kalimpong or even Gangtok in Sikkim or maybe we can find Glenburn Tea Estate?'

Glenburn? That maybe too far'. I think it is near Nepal. That is nearly fifty kilometres away.'

‘I do not think so. I think it is near where the Rungnit River and the Teesa River join. I saw on the map Niraj, on the internet. On the Koi Hai website. It looks as if it is on the way to Sikkim. Glenburn is another estate that was managed by my great uncle Jack Henderson and which my cousin Ann has mentioned in her memoirs. It cannot be that far. Jack Henderson managed five tea estates when he lived at Rungneet. I am sure the tea estates would not be that far apart.'

And then maybe I will go to the Darjeeling Planter's Club in the evening.'

‘And the next day?'

‘On Wednesday I have organised to visit Makaibari Tea Estate and stay there for 2 days. I will take the Toy train to Kurseong.

So I will see you early tomorrow morning. Good night Niraj.'

‘Good night Mister Fettes.'

*Photo: The dinner servants at Windamere