Roderick Chalmers

 Silver memories from Roderick Chalmers

We are delighted to show the interesting memories of Roderick

To read the stories please click on headings

The Girl

Early days  Edward

Early Days Durga
The Voyage
A fine Autumn Morning for an execution
Kalacharan  A Folk Tale
The Last Train
Borosahar a Fable


Childhood Dreams
A day at the Seaside

Last days of Pooja
Father James
The End of an Era

A New Generation
The Father did not come home
Presbyterian Church at Cutlacherra
Cutlacherra Pagla khanna
India and Calcutta
When we left Cutlacherra

Kala Miha
Khasi Cuisine

Cutlacherra Preparing for Christmas
Dogs in Cutlacherra

The Presidency General Hospital in Calcutta
Summertime in Cutlacherra

Phelps & Co
Cutlacherra mornings
The Reception
Concert Parties
Dr Grahams Homes
Christians at Cutlacherra

Journey to Kalimpong
Catties in Cutlacherra Catapults
Food or the lack of it

Wintertime in Cutlacherra
March 13 2016

Again we have to thank Roderick for this story



The midwife had been summoned in the late evening because the baby was due at any time. She was reluctant to come because there had already been two false alarms during the past few days, however neither she nor any of the other people living in the poor district could pass up the chance of earning a few extra rupees. The midwife had no concept of basic hygiene and her crude implements were never ever sterilised. A quick rinse through in the local stream was all the washing that they ever saw. Her clothes were dirty and wrapped around her scrawny body in an half-hearted attempt at decency.

Her hands were unwashed and her fingernails black with the dirt of her usual job as a cleaner.

The baby was born in the early hours of the morning but there had been no rejoicing as it was a baby girl. The mother had a difficult and protracted labour because she was so tiny, her loud cries of pain went unnoticed, and these were expected and was normal in this part of the world.

The only person who was overjoyed at the birth of this precious little baby was the mother.

By local standards this was a fairly rich family because they ran a food shop. The food was slightly different to the usual local fare and tasty by any standards.

The new baby was not given a proper name and was just referred to as the baby.  This would have sufficed had it not been for the constant enquiries from her local community. The community had lived in this part of India for several generations but they were still somewhat apart from the others. They spoke the local language but they also had a language of their own. Much of their food was different and they also held religious celebrations that were alien to the indigenous locals.

During the day, the little girl, stayed around her mother in the restaurant and she was petted and much loved by all the diners. They spoke to her in the local language which was different to the language used by her mother and father and other relatives.

Thus the girl grew up to be bi-lingual and this served her in good stead when she was enrolled in the local kindergarten where the local language was used as the medium of teaching.

She could not continue to be called ‘the girl’ in school so her parents decided to give her a good name. She was called Teresa and she readily answered to this call as she now felt that she was too old to be called ‘girl’  And Teresa lived a happy and carefree life. She was happy in her parent’s love and also the love of the many friends that she had made over the years.

The bright and cheerful Teresa was now coming to the end of her local schooldays and there was talk of sending her away for more studies in the high school in the big city.

But there was the rumbling of war with the giant neighbour in the North of the country. She remembered the history of the Jews in the World War II when they were rounded up by the Nazis and gassed in enormous numbers by an evil regime.

Thankfully the actual fighting never reached her but then her own soldiers came and rounded up Teresa and her parents and close relatives.  They were herded into railway carriages with bare slatted seats and the doors were firmly shut tight. Teresa kept protesting in the only manner she knew how. She kept on repeating ‘but we are not Jews’. Her words fell on deaf ears. As the captives travelled across the harsh and bare countryside the oppressive heat was too much to bear and many elderly people fainted. But there was no medical attention forthcoming.

They were given small amounts of water to drink and the alien food cramped their stomachs and made many others ill.  After many days they arrived in a camp in the middle of their country where they noticed that many others of their race were already encamped. They were all registered and at long last Teresa discovered that her real name was Chuntao Ling Chan. Poor Teresa could not get used to answering to this ‘foreign’ name.

Then she realised that the aggressors to the North of her country were Chinese and she must be of Chinese descent. Her allegiance was to the country of her birth but this made no difference to her guards.  Teresa’s grandmother died in this godforsaken prisoner-of war camp and she and her parents were interred for four long years.  On their release they made the journey back to their home village, only to find that their property had been sold. There were strangers living in their house and the restaurant now served ethnic foods and was owned by a family from another part of the country.  Their old neighbours regarded them with suspicion and they could not find love and comfort in their own country. They therefore asked for permission to live in the Mother Country in which there was no such discrimination in the matter of cast creed and religion.

They eventually settled on the upper reaches of the river Thames in a district known as Lime House but accepted by all Londoners as China Town.  Teresa’s parents established their new eating house. Their food was extremely popular with the locals as it was infused with spices from the East  It was here that Teresa was able to realise her full potential and trained as a pharmacist. She married a local man of Chinese extraction and moved to a more salubrious area of North London.


    February 28 2016

Thanks again to Roderick for his great stories--SIMON here is another winner
                                                     Roderick' says: 
Here is what may be the last chapter of the story that began as Borosahar—A Fable.
It continued with  The Voyage.. Then there were Early Days---Durga and Early days Edward.  This last chapter is simply called Simon. He is the son of Durga and Edward.
 They are now Edward Lord Allandale and Durga Lady Allandale. 
I hope that you enjoy the story of Simon from birth to his becoming master of Allandale, together with his wife the beautiful Lucy.



After the death of his father, it was a very sad time for Edward and the rest of the family.  Edward had travelled overseas soon after he had finished his studies in Eton and Oxford, so he did not have much opportunity to really get to know his father. He was pleased though that his mother and father had come to visit the place where he worked in the last days of the Raj. His father had seen at first hand the high esteem that Edward was held by the staff working for him.

 Young Simon had not experienced death before and he wondered why his grandfather was, suddenly, no longer there to hold his hand and take him for walks in the park and to feed the ducks. His grandmother had taken Simon by the hand and, as they strolled through the local park, she had spoken quietly to Simon and told him that Grandpa was now with God in heaven and would look after Simon for all the days of his life. Simon was not to be sad but he must always remember the good times that he had had with Grandpa.

And she recalled how she had taken Edward by the hand and spoken, quietly to him, long ago. And Edward had become a man in whom any parent would be justly proud. To learn the intricacies of the business, Edward and Durga, went to spend time in their country retreat. This huge stately home had been built by Edward’s forefathers and his great great grandfather had named it Allandale.

 One of their first tasks was to familiarise themselves with the workings of the huge Allandale house and all its lands and villages.  Edward and Durga visited the villages that were on their lands and the population turned out in force to see their new owners. They had seen Edward as a child and many older folk remembered him as he walked into the village shop to buy sweets, for which, incidentally, they never charged him.

The villagers had a great love of Edward’s father, but during the last few years he had left the running of the village affairs in the hands of his stewards who were not so solicitous of their welfare. Their main aim was to make as much money as they could for themselves.    Edward vowed, with Durga’s help, to apply the same principles as he had done in the foreign land, in the running of his newly acquired lands.

Their first step was to dismiss the stewards and appoint new overseers. All the village roads and public spaces were renewed and the libraries and village halls were refurbished and comfortable new furnishings were installed. Smart new tea shops and snack bars and toilets for the use of the whole village were installed. All the villages in their lands and ownership had this same make-over.  For the first time, in many years, it was not possible for the rich to buy favours from the Estate. All occupants got the same fair treatment without the recourse to bribes.

All these reforms did not make Edward popular with other landowners but it did bring him to the attention of the Government. Edward was given many civilian honours in both the Monarch’s New Year and Birthday lists.  While all this was going on, the son, Simon, was left in the care of his grandmother, in London. With the help of nurses and maids, Simon was spoiled and his every whim was indulged. He thus grew up to become a petulant child, he realised that if he screamed and shouted loud enough, he would get anything he wanted. Money seemed to be no object.

Simon was registered into Eton as soon as he was born and he was booked in and his fees were paid before he was six years old. This was to ensure that he would be actually allowed into Eton when he became thirteen years old.  The registration and boarding and tuition fees for Eton, per child, were more than three times the annual earnings of the public at large. But the parents and guardians of these boys considered that this money was well spent, when gauged against the future earnings of Eton educated boys.

In the years leading up to his thirteenth birthday, Simon was educated at local private schools in London. Edward and Durga were dismayed to find that he always had bad reports from his tutors. His academic skills were abysmal and his unruly behaviour would have incurred instant disqualification. Simon’s expulsion would have had severe implications for his future, so Durga and Edward made generous donations to the schools in order to avoid this.

Edward’s mother could not see that it was her actions and lack of discipline that was making Simon into a bully and a cheat. When Simon was thirteen years old he was accepted into Eton. He found the rigid discipline and his own lack of knowledge hard to bear. To ease the pain he started drinking and taking drugs.

Eventually things got so bad that he was expelled. Such was the shame that his friends began to shun his company.

 Edward had him admitted to a rehabilitation clinic but Simon did not have the will to turn his life around.  Most frustratingly Simon’s grandmother could not see that her lenient attitude was the main cause of Simon’s behaviour. She was under the mistaken belief that if she lavished him with all her love and spent enormous amounts of money on him then he would be well-behaved and respectful.

If Simon was rebellious and answered back to everyone else, he held his grandmother in the highest esteem. He did whatever she told him and was the very model of rectitude. So there was some good in him after all.  It was a long and slow process but the rehabilitation clinics did eventually manage to wean Simon off the drugs. It took many years more to get him to keep his temper under control.

When Simon was discharged from the rehabilitation clinic, his parents thought it advisable to get him out of London and brought him to live in Allandale. He was still under legal school-going age so he was enrolled in a country school.

His parents could keep an eye on him and they got him to study hard and redeem himself of past misdemeanours.  Edward’s work in upgrading his villages to above average standards was noticed by the government and he was awarded high honours. Many foreign dignitaries came to view the progress and Edward was elevated to the House of Lords. He became known as Lord Edward of Allandale. Durga was known as Lady Allandale.

Edward’s services to the community were recognised in many parts of the country and his work was held as an example to all.

Simon became very aware of his father’s standing in the community and vowed to follow in his footsteps. This then was the making of Simon.  He began to study hard and in earnest. With strong willpower he stopped his drinking and as the clinic had already weaned him of the hard drugs, he stopped taking what he considered soft drugs.  Durga and Edward were well aware that Simon could lapse at any moment so they kept a watchful eye on him.

Then tragedy struck, Simon’s beloved grandmother suffered a stroke and, within a matter of days, she died. Simon was inconsolable and his parents became very worried for the balance of his mind. He required extra protection and affection. This came in the shape of a young girl, of Simon’s age, named Lucy.

Lucy was the daughter of a local shopkeeper. She was a beautiful blonde girl with long flowing tresses. Simon had noticed her over the years and now he summoned the courage to speak to her. Lucy had heard rumours of Simon’s outrageous behaviour and of his drinking and drug taking. So she was a bit apprehensive at first. Then Simon’s charm and now quiet demeanour, soon won her over.

Simon realised that if he had any chance of making a future life with Lucy, then he would have no option but to do everything in his power to advance his own status in life.

Lucy was kind and gentle with Simon she led him in paths of peace and tranquillity she guided him in much the same way as his grandmother had done. Lucy and Simon’s grandmother were cast in the same mould and now Lucy loved Simon with all her heart.

Durga and Edward were pleased with this turn of events and persuaded Lucy to visit them as much as she liked. There were whispers in the village that Lucy only wanted the Allandale money and the Allandale titles, many of her previous friends now shunned her, others could see the happiness that her association with Simon had brought.

At the end of their schooldays, the lovebirds, Lucy and Simon were parted as each went off to their respective universities.

They met at the various end of term holidays but had difficulty in re-establishing their previous easy going camaraderie.

Because of Simon’s previous drug taking habits, he found many professions were out of reach to him. He had his heart set on a diplomatic career, but this was not to be. Instead his father Lord Edward Allandale, suggested that he join the family business and join him in establishing a home for homeless boys and girls, youngsters, who through no fault of their own, found themselves, with nowhere to live and no likelihood of ever finding gainful employment.

It was then that Lucy, who had studied social work, stepped back into Simon’s life.  Her university degree would have enabled her to get employment with an above-average salary. Lucy was prepared to forego all this just to be with Simon, and help in his work.  She had found that she had been miserable over the past four years, without Simon, and she would not now, make the same mistake again.

Being together again, their love was rekindled and each approached their parents and raised the possibility of marriage.

Simon and Lucy were married in the local village church and all the villagers turned out to wish them well for the future.

As the church bells tolled the happy news, Simon entered the church with his best man. They took a pew at the front of the church .The priest came out to give them some last minute guidance and the organist played the old  familiar tunes, known to all the parishioners.

Suddenly the organist changed to the Wedding March. All the people in the church became silent as they stood up to catch a glimpse of the bride.

Lucy was dressed in a magnificent white wedding dress and she carried a bouquet of fragrant flowers in her arms.

A silver horseshoe was tied around her waist, by her friends, as a sign of good luck. Her father gave her his arm as they processed slowly up the aisle of the church.  Flower girls threw rose petals in their path and Simon gazed at this beautiful girl who was to be his wife in a few minutes time.

One of Lucy’s friends walked a few paces behind her together with four other identically dressed bridesmaids.

As they reached the front of the church then Lucy’s father gave her to Simon. Lucy handed her bouquet to her chief bridesmaid.

The parents of the happy couple dabbed their moist eyes with handkerchiefs  The music stopped and the priest started his intonation..’’Dearly beloved , we are gathered here today, in the sight of God and in the presence of this community to join this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.

At last the Sacrament of marriage was over, Simon kissed his wife and the organist played more lively music as the bride and groom walked down the aisle ,arm in arm ,and out of the church and into the sunlight to begin their new life together.

There was an universal cheer from the villagers and cries of ‘good luck’ filled the air.

After the celebrations, Durga and Edward returned to their London house and left Simon and Lucy as master and mistress of Allandale.


      February 18 2016

Early days…….Edward 

Edward was saddened to see the well-remembered sights of East London as he sat in this magnificent motor car with his mother, father, and Durga.

The large bonded warehouses by the riverside were in ruins. There were huge gaping holes where happy communities of Cockneys once lived. They were all dead and buried. The German bombs had seen to that. Other houses had been devastated by fire. The fire-watchers had done their best but they had been overwhelmed by the number and the ferocity of the blazes.  The fire engines could not get to the fires because the roads were blocked by bombed down houses.

As they passed by the huge dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, they could see tarpaulins draped over the damaged areas.

The chauffeur maintained a stiff upper lip and did nothing to show that he had any interest in the talk around him. This was his homeland and his area of this great city.His grief was greater than most.

At last they drove through a tree-lined avenue and arrived at a huge mansion, with pillars to the front. The marble porch and front steps led into a huge room that was decorated in the Italian style. There was no indication here that there had been a war on.
The chauffeur and a manservant carried the cases into the house and laid them on a wooden slatted bench.  Edward’s father retired to his den and lit his pipe to relax and read the daily newspapers.
Edward’s mother led Edward and Durga up a carpeted staircase in to a huge bedroom that was to be their room. Durga was relieved to see that there was a fully functioning bathroom leading off the bedroom and clean Egyptian towels with the legend his and hers hanging on the bathroom rails.  Edward and Durga had a quick wash and brush-up and made their way down to the dining room. A waitress served them tea, cake and cucumber sandwiches and Edward had a small measure of brandy.

 The waitress curtsied to Durga and called her ma’am. She then left the room.

 When the happy couple entered the family room Edward’s father and mother were already there. They were making small-talk and listening to some classical music on the large wireless set that was sitting atop a well-built table.

Durga was shy at first and relaxed only when Edward by her side. As time went on she was more at ease with her mother-in law and father-in law.

There was a roaring log and coal fire in a fireplace but even so the room was cold oh so cold.  At precisely eight o’clock, the dinner gong sounded and Edward’s father escorted Durga to the dining room. Edward took his mother’s arm and escorted her to the same room.  The dinner table was laid out with gleaming silver and highly polished drinking glasses. The butler first brought some delicious vegetable soup and then cleared the table. The next course was a small amount of breaded and fried fish with a delicate sauce. Durga was glad to see that the main course was to be roast pork with gravy and a selection of roast potatoes and vegetables. Pork was after all the meat of her fathers’. The dessert consisted of a crème brulee and the whole meal was washed down with red or white wine.

One would never believe that the country had been at war and there was severe rationing of foodstuffs.

The family chatted for a while and a much relieved Durga and Edward went up to their room, they were both extremely tired.  Edward got up early the next morning, but even so, his father had already had breakfast and gone out to business.

When Durga got to the breakfast room she saw that a variety of food was laid out on a sideboard. There were boiled or scrambled eggs, sausages and a fish pilaff. Tea and coffee on a hot plate with milk and sugar, and the butler stood by ready to serve whatever was required.

Durga’s mother-in-law took her out to some very expensive clothing establishments where Durga was kitted out with clothes more suited to this cold climate. All the clothes were charged to the father’s account   Edward soon realised that there was no call for a collector in England. He therefore spoke to his father who arranged for him to be employed as an estates manager in the family business. Now that Edward had the matter of a job cleared up, he visited many of his friends who had studied with him in Eton and Oxford. All these young men had very high powered jobs in the city of London, and were successful in their chosen careers.  Because of Edward’s work in a foreign land he was always in great demand at parties, where he related his experiences in the orient.  His friends had heard of Durga and they were always keen to meet her  They accorded Durga the utmost respect. She was the wife of one of their own.  Durga and Edward soon settled into a life of hard work and his parents were gratified to see the Durga was not content to just sit back and let Edward look after her.   As in her home country, she commanded huge fees for her work. Durga’s sharp mind was the envy of many in her profession.
In due course it was evident that Durga was expecting her first child.  As was the custom and the very stiff competition for places at Eton, Edward at once, went and registered a place, for the not yet born child.  Edward was ‘over the moon’ when a boy was born and they named him Simon, after his grandfather.

When Simon was still a toddler, Durga decided that she would take him to the land of her birth to meet her now aged parents, who still lived in the house in the forest that Lala had built. The rapidly expanding town had now become a city and the house was no longer in the forest.

At this time, Edward’s parents expressed a desire to visit the foreign land in which Edward had worked as a collector, after he left Oxford 

Air travel was now the means of travel, so the three arrived in the capital city.

Edward’s previous staff had got to hear of his arrival and they had turned out in force to welcome the Sahib who was incorruptible and fair in all his dealings. They placed garlands of flowers around the necks of Edward and his parents and touched their feet. Taking their lead from Edward they placed the palm of their right hand in blessing on the head of the suppliant. This young man, this heaven sent, had been a leading light to them and they tried to emulate him in all their dealings.

Other passengers wondered who these people were to be accorded such high honour and Edward and his parents left the airport with tears in their eyes.

Edward and his parents visited the palaces and palace hotels of the old maharajas; they were fascinated by the diversity of this ancient and pleasant land that was trying to come to terms with the brutality that had occurred when their country had been rent in two. Thousands of people were made homeless and thousands more had been butchered all in the name of religion.

The three had ventured on the toy train, and seen the vast tea estates, as they climbed higher and higher up the massive Himalayan Mountains. At last they reached the Summer Capital of the Raj. This little England was changing but still retained its olde worlde charm.  Because of their age, Edward’s father and mother were unable to travel to Durga’s birthplace. So they returned home, tired but happy.

When Edward’s parents returned home there were unmistakable signs that his father was not well. He had picked up a tropical illness and was too weak to shake it off.

After the funeral, the family solicitor had read the will and after many small bequests, Edward was the main beneficiary of his father’s vast lands, properties and businesses.

Edward realised that he alone could not administer all the wealth that he had suddenly acquired so he asked Durga to help him. She at once accepted this challenge because, in the long term, it would benefit their son Simon

And Edward’s mother found solace in her grandson Simon, whom she loved and the two were thrown into each other’s company as never before.   Durga and Edward then set about understanding the workings of the wealth that he had inherited. There was sadness too that it had taken the death of his father for Edward to become the recipient of this huge fortune.  Edward vowed with the help of Durga to make his father proud in the days to come.

        February 14 2016


For the first few days in the house of her in-laws, Durga was treated with the greatest respect, almost to the point of insult.

Edward’s mother did not know what to make of this elegant exotic woman, this woman who was her son’s wife.

There was no question of this women having married her son for his money, because she was far and away richer than Edward would ever be. Her mental capabilities were also far above anyone else in the house. And yet, Durga went about her life in all humility, in common with women from her own country she deferred to her mother-in-law.

When Edward’s friends, from his days in Eton or Oxford, came to the house they were taken aback by this beautiful, learned person who was his wife. Many had heard rumours of Durga and came to see her as much as to reacquaint them with Edward. These Oxford, Old Boys, were highly educated with high powered jobs in the City, many had come to belittle Durga but she was a match for them in intellect.

Edward and his mother became more proud of this woman than they otherwise might have been. There were three servants in the house, so that whenever Edward and his father went out, the two women were thrown together. At first it was just a mutual trust of each other, and then it became a mutual affection.

It was decided that the tropical clothes that Durga had, needed to be changed to something more in keeping with this cold climate. The two women therefore made their way to the most expensive clothing shops in the city. At first the supercilious salespersons ignored Durga, but she soon had them running around, by the sheer force of her personality and her mastery of language.

Durga had already known this city from her days as a lowly articled clerk in chambers, where she had studied law. She therefore made up her mind to visit her old tutors and made an appointment to call.  Her fame had preceded her. The junior staff was in awe of this woman who had been of help in the legal wording of the constitution of the jewel in the crown of Empire that was now a free country.

Because of her status as a King’s Council, Durga was offered a partnership with these Chambers and she would earn a great deal of money, to boot.

There were other law firms vying for her services, but Durga, knew where she would be happy.

As she drifted through the years Durga cast her mind back to the time when her aging grandparents had been exploited and lost the major part of their money and property. She realised too that here in this land there were many uneducated and mainly aged people who , because of their poverty, had no recourse to the law. She therefore persuaded some of her learned colleagues to join her in providing free or very cheap access to the law

Many applied to her chambers, but not everyone was grateful. Colour prejudice was rife among the lower classes and some argued that they would not accept a black lawyer.

Little did they realise that because of their prejudices they had turned down the services of one of the finest legal brains in the country.

Edward’s parents had heard of Durga’s success in the courts and had sat in the visitor’s galleries to hear her plead on behalf of her clients. They had returned home to discuss this in whispered tones in the solitude of their own room.

When it was evident that Durga was expecting a child, she and Edward repaired to the Country where Edward’s father had an impressive stately home and vast lands that also included three villages.

And Durga and Edward whiled away they time in leisurely pursuits of reading and painting and boat riding in the lake. The servants did all they could to make Durga’s life as comfortable as possible.

Durga eventually returned to the city for the birth of her son whom they named Simon.

And Durga decided that she should return to her homeland so that her mother and father, Asha and Lala, could see their grandchild. Asha’s own grandfather had died several years before so her grandmother was now living with her own daughter.

The age of the aeroplane was fast becoming the sensible way to travel, and it would take only a few days to return to her childhood home, so Durga booked passage for Simon and herself to visit her parents. Edward was busy with his own work and could not accompany them.

A very new and comfortable airliner took them to a large Eastern city in her homeland and many of her childhood friends came to see Durga and her son Simon. Then a smaller aircraft transported them to the town where the house in the jungle was now located. Hundreds of people turned out to welcome Durga and Simon, and there were tears of joy as Asha and Lala laid eyes on Simon for the first time.

The, ever generous, Durga made a brief visit to her school up in the hills and made them a very large donation.

Simon was pampered and fussed over as never before and it seemed too soon before it was time for Durga and Simon to return home.

Durga was pleased that her parents and her grandmother were living a life of relative ease and comfort so the parting was made more bearable.

But it was time for Durga to return to her dearly beloved Edward and Simon was beginning to miss his father.

One again, flights were booked and sad goodbyes were exchanged.

And so Durga and Simon returned home.

February 5 2016



­­With a heavy heart, Durga left her parents, Lala and Asha, there was every possibility that they would never meet again. But her sadness was tinged with a touch of gladness also; she would be going with her husband Edward to the land of his birth. This was the land that she had come to know so well during the time that she had been to university and later studied law. The land where she had become a King’s Council, the degree that had enabled her to command such high fees in her own land. It was also the route that had led her to Edward, Edward the man that she loved so well.

And Durga and Edward travelled many days before they reached the city port and the ocean liner that was to take them once again over the black waters. Durga remembered the huge triumphal archway that was named the Gateway to her homeland. Edward recalled the excitement that he felt when he first stepped on to this exotic land.

Edward and Durga made a quick sightseeing tour of the city and made many last minute purchases of presents for Edward’s family at home.

There was a huge palatial hotel that had been built at the Ocean frontage and they had already booked a room for their last night in this land.  Their meal was of the more exotic and a mixture of the two cuisines. Both Durga and Edward had become used to the taste of this fusion of tastes.

Early the next morning they boarded the liner that was to carry them home. All the big trunks were put in the hold of the ship and the smaller cases were taken to the cabin that they had booked for the journey.

As soon as the happy couple got their cabin arranged to their liking, they made their way to the dinning rooms for a cup of tea and then proceeded to the railings to watch the ship pull out of harbour. There was a band playing Auld Lang Syne and some passengers threw garlands of flowers from the ship to shore. Many children on board were in tears as they­ shouted their good byes to the waving parents on the shore. These parents would wind up their affairs in this country and then follow their children home.

There was an air of sadness and gloom among the passengers as they began to explore the various amenities on offer.

Durga suddenly noticed a change of attitude among her fellow passengers towards Edward and herself. Was this the way it was going to be? The foreign ladies were courteous enough but they did not invite Edward and her into their circles. She was never asked to join them in a game of cards or a game of deck quoits. If Edward noticed this he did not comment on it.

Because of their buying-power Edward and Durga were in one of the most lavish cabins on board. The meals were served in various dining rooms and they were of the highest quality and of great variety.

The staff on board ship deferred to their every whim and everything was done to provide the utmost comfort.

As Durga and Edward explored the lower decks they found them to be overcrowded and the majority appeared to be soldiers on their way home.

The smell of cigarette smoke pervaded these lower decks and the whole atmosphere was in dire need of a thorough airing.

The couple returned to their own deck and sat on the deck chairs provided for them.

They gazed out over the ocean, silently contemplating the ever sameness of the seas each was lost in their own private thoughts and the only diversion was when a passing ship, going in the opposite direction, spouted waving passengers. Little dhows with frantically rowing sailors, in loincloths and sometimes a torn vest were a phenomenon not previously encountered. They each wore a cotton rag tied around the head, as a shield against the burning sun.

As if to shake off the boredom, the ship docked at an Arab port and many passengers left the ship, just to stretch their legs or to buy electronic gadgets in the duty free shops.

Durga could not help but compare this barren landscape with the green and lush landscape of her home country.

They, once again, boarded ship and enjoyed a warm bath to wash away the sand that had got in their hair and under their clothes

A steward brought them a very welcome glass of iced lemonade before they repaired to the dinning room for supper.

Later there was some Arabic music laid on for the entertainment of the privileged passengers.

Early the next morning there was the sound of ship’s hooters all around them; Edward looked out of the porthole to find that they were in a ‘holding area’ with many ships waiting to pass through the canal.

The ships were eventually allowed to enter and proceed through the canal in single-file.

It was a weird and wonderful experience seeing all these ships sailing through the sand. Arabs with their camels walked alongside the canal. They were tied together one behind the other. Many passengers took photographs of these strange animals as they appeared to dance through the sand.

The British were still administering the Canal Zone, and Edward and Durga were astonished to see all these British soldiers, with their shirts off, shouting to the passengers in many British accents.  These home-sick soldiers kept asking if any passengers were going to London, Birmingham or Liverpool. There was always a loud cheer if any passenger said that they were going back home to any of these places.

The ship eventually arrived at the Northern End of the canal where it anchored for a few hours to take on supplies. Little ‘bum boats’’ tied themselves to the portholes of the ship and the Arab traders began to sell their wares on the decks of the ship.

There were men doing tricks with fluffy yellow little chickens. These ‘gulli gulli’ men would now-a-days be prosecuted for cruelty to animals.

Some intrepid explorers got off the ship to look around this strange city; they were all warmly welcomed by the shop owners who saw an opportunity to extract money from the rich foreigners.

The soldiers went ashore looking for female company and also to taste the native beers.

When Edward and Durga came back aboard ship there seemed to be a new sense of easing of tensions, sailing through this vast sea, that bordered the cradle of civilisation the passengers appeared to cast off their previous reserve and Durga was invited to join in the ship’s games. Many feigned surprise that she spoke their language so well. That was the biggest insult of all.

The members of the Raj who were returning home puffed-up their chests with pride as they passed by the Great Rock that guarded the entrance to this sea. This Rock that now remained part of Empire.

There was a great cheer as the passengers got their first glimpse of their homeland. The ship rode at anchor for an hour or so and a pilot came aboard. It was his duty to guide the ship through the treacherous waters and up the river to the Capital city of Empire. The shifting sands of the river were like the shifting fortunes of Empire.

As befits an Ocean Liner returning home, the ship was decked out in flags and bunting.

And the orchestra played Jerusalem, followed by the National Anthem.

When at last the ship docked at it’s final destination, Durga and Edward made arrangements to have all their luggage delivered to his parent’s town house.

Edward’s parents came to meet them at the dock and a very expensive motorcar transported them to the family’s town house.

Durga was always aware that Edward’s parents were rich, but she was absolutely astounded by the opulence of their property.


January 16 2016

A fine autumn morning... For an execution.

The green fields were wet with the morning dew and the big red sun was just peeping over the horizon. Another beautiful day was heralded and the world slowly cast off the sleep of the previous night and began to come back to life. 

The smoke of many fires in the small houses wafted upwards as the early risers prepared breakfast, Every now and again one could hear the raised voices of women as they scolded their children to hurry up and get dressed for school. 

Occasionally a dog barked and was joined by others as if in a chorus of badly drilled choirboys. Then all was quiet for a while then a crow began to cough but the delightful sweet tittering of other birds outdid him in the early morning chorus 

The flowers that were asleep all night turned their faces to the rising sun and opened in greeting to this huge ball of fire. 

The clatter of dishes and the metallic sounds of cutlery broke the otherwise quietness. The most delicious smells of frying bacon and eggs and bread being toasted emanated from every house. Then, as if on cue all the front doors were flung open and men in smart suits and highly polished shoes streamed from the houses. With loud ‘’ good mornings’’ they all strode out in double quick time and made for the nearest bus stop.  

Next the excitable elder boys and girls emerged, dressed in their school uniforms and looking alike with their neatly groomed hair. Boys and girls shouted, conversationally, at each other as if they were all hearing impaired. 

They trooped off in small gangs to the huge local school that was within walking distance of their homes. A shy boy or girl walked all alone, not mixing with their classmates. They would forever remain outsiders all their lives.

One could easily see who the leaders were of the all boy or all girl groups, as their friends clustered around them, not to miss a single word of wisdom imparted by the leader.

There were some who wished to belong to a group but did not belong to the ‘’in’’ crowd. They hung around the periphery of the group or walked two or three paces behind. 

Some girls made it a point of honour to mix with the boys, they were the ones who dressed and used make up differently to the others but alike as each other.

The procession got longer as more and more pupils joined in 

Last of all the mothers started the family car and drove to the nursery school with the young ones. They were the lucky ones. Some mothers pushed babies in prams while toddlers clung to their mother’s hands. The more adventurous ran about screaming and kicking stones, or discarded tin cans. 

This idyllic setting was interrupted by the staccato sound of rapid gunfire; the lone gunman drove along at a slow pace as he fired indiscriminately into the groups of boys and girls, mothers and babies, and toddlers. 

Amid loud screams of pain and extreme fright, all the walkers threw themselves to the ground. 

There was blood all around and once happy children now lying dead on the ground.

Some bewildered and traumatised toddlers tried in vain to awaken their lifeless mothers. Mothers held their dead babies ever more closely to their breasts. 


It was almost seven years to the day, that there was a vigil outside the prison gates, a minister and his followers had spent the greater part of the night, praying and singing hymns.

The trees were changing to beautiful shades of yellow and orange and the birds were singing in the hedgerows.

As the sun began to peep out of the horizon in the East, the men left their homes to go out to work. The mothers started to prepare breakfast for the family and new-born babies cried in their cribs.

Within the prison walls a man was led out of his cell, the priest started to recite his prayers, and the near stupefied prisoner was led slowly, along the log corridors, the other prisoners rattled their prison bars, and made raucous comments. 

There were four men in the room, the prisoner was asked if he had any last requests or if he wanted to make any last comments.

He was then strapped hands and feet to a metallic chair and a metallic cap with wires attached to a nearby machine, was placed upon his head... A blindfold was placed over the prisoner’s eyes and very swiftly the prison governor made a silent sign to the executioner. The executioner threw a switch. The prisoner’s body erupted into an arc and then he was still.

A priest started reciting the prayers for the dead.

Other onlookers outside the room gave him scathing looks.

They could never forget what had happened seven years ago. That memory would last a lifetime.

The prison governor signed the execution book and the prison doctor examined the body and issued the death certificate 

No one came forward to claim the body so the prisoner was buried up against the prison walls, along with other prisoners, both men and women who were left unclaimed. 

A notice of execution was pasted outside the prison gates and all the mourners of the night before, dispersed to get on with the rest of their lives.

 December 9 2015                                    


After two girls a boy child was born to a poor couple living in an isolated village.

And there was much rejoicing among the community. A pandit was summoned to make a horoscope for the child, and great things were forecast for him.

The father had seen a raven fly over the house and a goat was bleating at the precise moment when the baby was born. These were both signs of good fortune.

And the pandit named the boy Kalicharan after the goddess, Durga, Kali….

Because of the debilitated condition of the mother she was unable to cope with the birth of this child. She died in great joy at having given birth to and seen the face of her own boy child.

Because there were the two small girls and now the boy, without the mother’s help,

The father was unable to care for the boy so the pandit agreed that he would take the child to be cared for by a barren couple that he knew in another village. For this service and the prayers that he had chanted he charged an enormous sum of money.

The guru recognised that the family was in dire straits but he still ate all their food and took all their money. He then took the baby to another village and sold him to a couple who had been praying in the temple for many years for the deity to grant them the joy of a child. 

The baby was sold for a vast sum of money to the barren couple. And they were pleased when the pandit, told them that it was the baby boy of a very high caste person.

The pandit had let it be known that he had lived for many years in the high mountains and in the land of the eternal snows, where he had meditated and learnt the value of medicinal herbs that grow in the deep forests of this diverse land.

In actual fact he was nothing but a knave and a charlatan who preyed upon the piety and beliefs of the poor uneducated masses.  Thus he went about from village to village extracting money from the poor and leaving behind a trail of delusion and destruction in his wake.

Because of the vastness of the land he was careful not to return to the towns and villages of his victims.

Kalicharan was loved and spoilt by his adoptive parents and they lavished every material gift upon him. Having waited for many years they were overcome with joy at having a child, a boy child at that, one whom they could call their own.

These being the only parents that he had known, Kalicharan called them Mother and Father.

In the meantime, Kalicharan’s biological father and two sisters waited in vain, for the news that the pandit had promised them, as to where he would place the boy. But, of course, this news was never relayed back to them. As the years passed they reconciled themselves to the fact that Kalicharan was lost to them forever.

With his rich adoptive parents lavishing all their love and material wellbeing upon him, Kalicharan spent a very happy childhood. He had a nurse to provide for his every whim and to care and love him. To all, his name was shortened to Kali and the nurse provided for him, unknowingly, was his elder sister.  There was a mutual love between the two, which made the adoptive parents exceedingly jealous.

As time went on, the nurse became aware of the resemblance between Kali and her own father. Her suspicions were aroused so she asked her father to tell her the truth about what had happened to the baby after her mother had died.

Because of what the pandit had told them the baby was being brought up as a high caste Person.  Special tutors were employed to teach him Sanskrit and the sacred texts. He learnt how to chant for hours without the need of food or drink.

Kali’s adoptive parents arranged for him to visit the Holy City of Benares, and to bathe in the Sacred River, so that all taint of his birth might be erased

On his return to his native village, Kali was in much demand to officiate at weddings and funerary occasions. He also drew up forecasts based on a baby’s date and time of birth. His tutors taught him the interpretation of omens and stars. All in All Kali amassed vast sums of money. But in spite of all this he felt that something was missing in his life.

He realised that he was never truly happy unless he was in the company of the woman who had been employed to nurse him as a baby. One day Kali asked the girl to take him to her father’s house, so that he could meet the rest of her family. She was reluctant at first because she was afraid, but seeing his persistence she agreed.

When Kali came face to face with the father they were both taken completely by surprise... The father saw a younger version of himself reflected in Kali’s face.

Some other villagers, who had gathered at the house, threw themselves on to the ground, in obeisance to the living incarnation of a god.

The chant went up ‘’hori bol, hori bol’’and others came to see why the proclamation

To god was being invoked. Someone started to sing the devotional song and Kali’s other sister came out of the house.

She saw in Kali the re-incarnation of her own father so she threw herself at his feet and the crowds were more convinced than ever that a god had come among them.

The villagers demanded that Kali light the incense and read from the Holy Scriptures for them.

Thus began Kali’s true teachings, he chanted for three days and three nights, and his father and two sisters sat at his feet and listened with wrapt attention to the man who could not be cared for in the house and was sold to a vulgar pretender.

And the frail and the weak and the sick and the disabled were brought to Kali, that he might lay his hands upon them. No physical healings took place but all went away happy in the knowledge that a very special re-incarnation had touched them.

And Kali’s fame spread far and wide and he travelled to nearby villages, reading from the scriptures and laying his hands on the heads of the needy.

Then Kali’s two sisters accompanied him on his travels to attend to his welfare.

At first his ‘parents’ were taken aback in seeing the great demand which their son

now found himself in. But in due course their minds were pleased that their upbringing of Kali had resulted in great things.

And Kali took his aged parents and his sisters into the garden. He taught them how to distinguish between the different flowers and shrubs and pointed out the medicinal qualities of the herbs and spices.

Kali bade all to stop and listen to the birdsong which was all around them. He brought to their attention the brilliant plumage of the birds and the greatness of God who had created them.

When Kali said that he would travel to other parts of this land, his sisters insisted on going with him. They realised that, in spite of all his knowledge of the gods and the scriptures he was a child at heart. He could not function alone in the wider world.

They would have to shield him from those who would take advantage of his childlike innocence.

Thus it was that they arrived in the great metropolis in the Eastern part of their country. Here there were the big temples dedicated to the goddess whose name Kali bore. He began to preach in these temples and many came to hear him. The temple priests were glad at first then they became aware that Kali was attracting big crowds and the priests were being deprived of the money that they considered to be rightfully theirs.

And there was among them one who heard the name Kalicharan and was afraid that his own deceit of years ago would be discovered. He therefore began to plot and scheme to discredit Kali.

Then the duplicitous pandit started the rumour that Kalicharan was, in fact, of a very low caste of person, and had no right to speak in the temples, nor was he entitled to collect money from the pilgrims who came to pray at the Kali temples.

At first the crowds would not pay much attention to the pandit, but as time went on, and his rabble rousing became more persistent, then the temple priests, who had been deprived of a great part of their livelihood, also joined in this malicious gossip, and the crowds turned against Kali.

And Kali’s two sisters wrote to his adoptive parents and told him of what was happening in this land far from their home. Though they were now getting on in years they felt it their duty to go and comfort their son.

Thus they arrived at the city of the temples and having heard the stories directed at their son, they made enquiries as to the source of these rumours. As soon as they cast their eyes on the pandit they recognised who he was.

The authorities were informed and others who had also been fleeced by the pandit, turned up to give evidence against him. He was sentenced to a long period of incarceration, and Kali and his to sisters were able to continue with their mission.

Kali’s adoptive parents were getting on in life and they could not remain with him for long, but they accompanied him to the Holy City, where they bathed in the Sacred River, and all their sins were washed away. Kali’s sisters, meanwhile, collected a container full of the waters of the Holy River and asked, the couple to, please, take it with them for their father, so that he too could be cleansed before his death.

The couple met Kali’s biological father for the first time, and they were impressed by the man’s piety, they also realised that he was very ill and fast approaching the end of his days. They therefore sent word to Kali and his sisters, who immediately, hurried home to be with their father in his end days. They sprinkled the Holy Waters, from the Sacred River, on him and he was much comforted, and Kali remained in the house where he had been born and chanted from the Holy Scriptures, and the villagers all came to hear him.

When his father died, then Kali, being the only son, lit the funeral fire and as in days of old they sprinkled the pyre with sweet smelling herbs and lavished the wood with ghee, to make it burn more brightly, and the smoke from the pyre ascended up to the heavens.

When all was consumed by the cleansing flames, the ashes were gathered into a brand new and shining container, and Kali went down to the local waters and sprinkled his father’s ashes in the river.

And his sisters covered their heads with their garments and looked on from a far distance when all these things were done. And they cried and comforted each other in their grief, and wiped the tears from their eyes with the edge of their garments.

And Kali found his two sisters clinging to each other, their love for their father was great, because he had raised them up from their childhood, and had lavished all his love upon them. Because they had been deprived of the love of their mother, he had made an extra   special effort to spend as much time with them as he possibly could.

Kali thought that it would be unwise to leave his sisters to return to their parental home at this sad time of grieving.

He therefore took the two women with him to his mother and father’s house. And they were grateful to have the company of these beautiful girls. The elder one already knew the couple from the days when she had worked as the nursemaid for Kali.

Although there were other servants in the house, Kali’s sisters made themselves useful, and they cooked and cleaned ‘till the house was sparkling and the meals were of the must delicious quality.

Then Kali’s parents decided that his sisters should be married, they arranged the most lavish wedding for the elder sister and Kali officiated. People from far and wide turned up to the wedding, and the gathering was far in excess of what they anticipated. And Kali’s sister was clothed in red garments of the highest quality and she and her newly married husband sat shyly upon a dais, and all the guests approached them to wish them both health and happiness and gifts were bestowed upon them.

And they were overwhelmed by the size of the gifts and the generosity of the people, who had known them all their lives.

And the feasting lasted well into the early hours of the next day. The caterers had done them proud and all were agreed that the food was delicious and the band that provided the music for the ceremony was first class.

Kali’s parents had not skimped in their assumed obligations to the couple. They had bestowed a sizeable dowry on the groom, so that the couple could start their married life in comfort.

But now it was time for the couple to leave and journey to the house of the groom’s parents.

The parting was tinged with sadness because the sisters had never been apart and Kali had grown close to them during their days in the city of temples and the holy city beside the sacred river.

The younger sister, felt the acute loss of her elder sibling, and she wandered about the house, in a daze. She became listless and lost interest in life. Kali and his parents knew that to get her out of this state, they should give her more and more tasks to perform.

At first she worked like an automaton and then slowly, she started taking an interest in what she was doing and Kali again took her on long walks and taught her to appreciate, the world around them.

He spoke to her of the beauty of Nature and identified the various birdsongs, which she had not noticed before.

In the house, Kali taught his sister how to appreciate good music, he introduced her to classical music of their country and in due course she became versed in all manner of things. She had always been interested in art so her brother taught her the rudiments of mixing paints and the various a artifices used by the great painters of both   their home country and of Europe.

She already had a beautiful singing voice and this was encouraged. So in a few years’ time she became a very educated lady indeed, and accomplished in all manner of things.

In her young schooldays she had been enrolled in an English language school and now Kali encouraged her to speak in this language, constantly. He, correctly, guessed that it would always stand her in good stead.

It was now time to think of her marriage and there was no dearth of very suitable suitors for her hand in marriage. Again, Kali’s parents selected one from the many eligible young men. He was a man from an extremely wealthy family, and there would be no need for her to ever work again. She would live in a large and opulent house and have servants to cater for her slightest whim.

And her elder sister came to help her to prepare for the wedding, there was no jealousy among the sisters and there was gladness that the younger would live in comfort.

The elder sister had, by this time a daughter, and the young girl could not contain her excitement at the thought of her aunt’s wedding. She dashed about the house asking all sorts of questions, ‘till Kali’s mother and father said that she made their heads spin. But in spite of all this they loved the little girl and would have spoilt her, as they had done with their love for Kali.

The boy’s parents were so wealthy and progressive, that they waived their rights to any dowry and agreed to accept only a small token. They considered themselves fortunate indeed in getting such a beautiful and accomplished bride for their son.

One who would not shame them in the company and the circles in which they mixed?

It would also be possible for her to converse with ease when her husband took her over the Black Waters, on his numerous business trips. She would also be able to view the paintings of the great masters in the art galleries of the world and listen to the world’s greatest singers in the opera houses of Europe.

As if that was possible, the arrangements were even more extravagant than her elder sister’s wedding.

Special caterers and musicians were employed and Kali and his elder sister saw to it that everything was done to make all ceremonies go without any problems. And Kali’s parents were happy to let them make the final arrangements.

And the groom’s parents and relatives arrived in vast numbers so that they had to be accommodated in upmarket hotels

The bride was dressed in the most expensive red cloth of gold that money could buy and there was a dais covered in brocade for the happy couple to recline on after the ceremony.

The bride had her hair styled and her hands and feet were decorated with henna.

She and her attendants with bare feet came to greet their guests

The bridegroom was dressed in princely garments with a lavish turban on his head. He arrived riding on a caparisoned horse and his friends thronged around, and the whole procession was led by a very loud and a very strident brass band.

Dancing girls with garlands of flowers around their necks and bands of flowers around their hair threw rose petals in their path.

Thus they arrived at the bride’s house and Kali was there to greet them. A special

Priest had been called upon to conduct the wedding ceremony. And the bride and groom sat under the canopy and the bride had her face shielded from the common gaze and she clutched hold of the groom’s loose garments as he led her seven times around the holy place. And the sacred fire was lit to establish the validity of the marriage.

The bride’s hand was placed in the groom’s and the Hymn to Love was recited in Sanskrit.

Who offered this maiden?, to whom is she offered?
Kama (the god of love) gave her to me, that I may love her
Love is the giver, love is the acceptor
Enter thou, the bride, the ocean of love

With love then, I receive thee
May she remain thine, thine own, O god of love
Verily, thou art, prosperity itself
May the heaven bestow thee, may the earth receive thee

In the absence of the father, this role was undertaken by Kali’s father.

Much of the ceremony was conducted in Sanskrit and the Vedic scriptures were recited.

The lesser portion of the ceremony was spoken in the local language.

And the priest sprinkled water from the holy river on the happy couple and on the guests and sweetmeats and sweet drinks were served to refresh the huge congregation.

The clash of cymbals and the beat of drums were heard consistently, in the background and then all made their way to huge shamianas where food was served.

Throughout the ceremony, the bride gave pride of place to her niece, the little girl, the daughter of her elder sister. There was not another person on earth who was more honoured, and excited by this attention.

After three days, all the guests and wedding party departed for the groom’s home and Kali and his parents felt deflated, however his elder sister and her daughter decided to remain for a few days longer and it thus eased the heartache.

But the gods were not kind to the bridal party, a lorry overladen with building bricks crashed into the car carrying the parents of the groom. His father was declared dead at the scene of the accident and his mother was very severely injured. She was transported by air-ambulance to an hospital where she could receive specialist treatment.

Kali was called upon to conduct the funeral rights and once again he smelled the fragrance of sandalwood and incense as the smoke from the pyre rose to the heavens.

Kali sprinkled the ashes in the purifying waters of a local river and the groom, in his, grief returned to his home as the head of the family.

And the young bride suddenly found herself as head of a large household with many servants at her beck and call. But she remembered all that Kali had taught her and she rose to the challenge.

Her husband was most impressed by her organising abilities and her kindness to him and the servants alike.

Many visitors came to pay their respects and she met them all with dignity as one who is born to it. And word got to her mother-in-law about the competence and charitable nature of her new daughter-in-law, and she was well pleased with the choice that she and her husband had made.

Hearing of the accident and the tragic demise of the groom’s father, Kali and his elder sister and her husband and child, came to visit for a time and to give their moral support.

And the groom found great comfort in his new bride and as is the way of grief, she gave birth to a boy child within twelve months of marriage. His mother was full of joy but tinged with sadness too because the husband was not there to celebrate this joyous event.

After many months the mother was declared fit enough to  leave the hospital.  But she was no longer the robust woman who had run this large household so she delegated that task to her new daughter-in-law. 

So the poor motherless girl from a small village became the rich head of a large household with many servants.



November 20 2015

The Last Train

The old man sat sleepily looking out of the train window, at the never changing countryside; the flat fields stretched up to the distant horizon, the fields were parched and cracked. There was not an animal nor a human to be seen as the train whistled along at breakneck speed as if to get out of this hell as fast as possible. The old man looked around at the other passengers but they were all quiet, the oppressive heat and the repetitive clackity clack of the wheels as they ran over the tracks acted like a soporific, the old man too started to nod off, he shut his eyes.

The young boy ran among the long grasses as he and his younger sister danced among the fresh green, grass wet with the morning dew. His mother had insisted that he wear an extra layer of clothing, to keep out the morning chill. The mist was rising in the valleys, but that was soon cleared by the bright sunlight.

The boy and his sister picked the beautiful Himalayan flowers, which they would later give to their mother.

All morning was spent in this idyllic pursuit, and the children hadn’t a care in the world.  They were utterly content with the love that their parents bestowed upon them.

When they became tired they lay down in the warm sunshine, beside the house and watched the white fluffy clouds roll by. They pointed out the shapes of birds and animals to each other. After a while they tired of this game and lay silently, side by side, completely happy with the world.

Their mother came out of the kitchen door and called them in for their lunch.

The old man awoke with a start. The train had stopped and there was a mass of people milling about on the station platform. The cry of the vendors selling their wares blended in with his mother’s call. ‘’Chai garam, garam’cha, paan biri cigarette’’

The old man felt hungry so he bought a little earthen cup filled with very hot, very sweet tea and a vegetable samosa. He would have preferred a meat samosa but he did not trust the freshness of the meat in this intense heat.

He ate the snack while he waited for the tea to cool slightly, then he slowly sipped the tea, relishing the sweetness. He threw his head back as if to drain the last drop out of the cup, then he threw the cup out of the window and watched with glee as it smashed into numerous pieces.  He was a child again.

His mother shouted out for them not to stray too far as their father would soon be home from work and he had promised to take them out to the big shop to buy new shoes and clothes for the children. In this half awake half asleep state, the old man looked down at his unpolished shoes.  They were covered in dust and the soles so thin that he could feel every pebble as he walked along.

The boy and his sister took their sandals off as they played in their garden. In great joy they saw their father return from work and they both rushed up to hug and kiss him. The father lifted each child under his arms and carried them into the house as they screamed with delight.

‘’Ticket, ticket’’ the ticked inspector interrupted the old man’s sleep once again. He fished through his pockets and presented the ticket to the inspector, who put the ticket into a machine that he had suspended by a leather strap around his neck, and punched a hole in it.

The old man returned the punched ticket to his top pocket and the father dropped both children onto the dining room carpet.

The mother rushed up to greet the father, and he admired the flowers that were now in a vase on a little side table.

There was that noise again; the train had stopped at a smaller village halt. There were only a few people on the parched path running along the trackside.

His mother and father were speaking and making arrangements to go out.

The father had some food and a glass of sweet lemonade . All the while the children excitedly played at his feet and laughed out loud.

The people on the trackside said their last goodbyes, and the train doors were hurriedly pushed  as they were noisily slammed shut.  The train whistled and the four car doors were pulled shut one after another.

And the train started again.

When they got to the big shop they all got out of the car and the old man stepped onto the platform. He had come to the end of his journey and the end of his life. The cool breeze caressed the fevered brow of the old man, and he let it waft over him like a very welcome old friend.

The sweet Himalayan air and the sweet smell of the pine trees refreshed the stale air in the stuffy carriage.

The train was halted for some time while the old man’s body was taken off the train.

Nobody knew who he was so they looked through his pockets and extracted some papers. They discovered the name and address of his sister

The elegant, elderly lady arrived the next day and quickly arranged for the funeral of the old man. 

Her eyes were red with crying as she dabbed them   with a snow white linen handkerchief.



October 26 2015

Thanks again to Roderick for another great story
                             BOROSAHAR : A FABLE


Beside the mighty jungle there was a small town where all the government offices were located. It was here that the police station was situated so there was some semblance of law and order.

The man in charge of the police was known as the Doroga babu, and his son and two daughters were the only children who had any sort of education. As time went on other business men from a different part of the country came to live in this small town. They opened well stocked grocery stores and clothing stores.

Slowly but surely the little town expanded and became known as the main town in the district. The unmade roads eventually became roads covered in small pebbles and these gave way to tarmacadam.

All roads led to this town and the businessmen opened motor agencies and sold oil and petrol as well as providing mechanics to repair the vehicles which were prone to regular breakdowns.

A railway line connected the town to the rest of the country and the rapidly expanding town became too large for the local police force to manage.

There were many incursions from the tribes living in the forests, and no man, beast or property was safe from these marauding bands.

The foreign rulers of the country decided that they should now take a firmer control of the town and the surrounding areas.

A foreign army officer and a contingent of soldiers was sent to maintain law and order and subdue the hill tribes which were getting too strong for the local Doroga and his small force to manage.

The people of this small town had heard of the foreign sahibs who now ruled their country but had never ever seen them.

It was a great surprise therefore when these rulers first appeared in their midst.

These foreigners were of a different colour and a different size. They were huge in comparison to the local people. They spoke a different language and they dressed differently.

It now became clear why the police and army personnel were dressed differently to the local population.

In due course the army was able to subdue the hill tribes and the incursions became less frequent.

It was then that a great influx of people of an ethnic race started to come into this small town. The incomers spoke a different language that was not always understood by the townsfolk.

Some local dignitaries had learnt to speak the language of the foreigners, but a new type of sahib came among them, and nobody could understand what they were saying. Then it was revealed that the original sahibs were known as Englishmen but these new sahibs were Scotsmen.

The Scots sahibs and their influx of labourers set about clearing the jungle. Vast tracts of jungle were cleared and they planted a bush that they called tea but was known to the natives as cha.

Trees were planted among the tea bushes to afford shelter to the tender plants. The tea ‘seeds’ had been planted in nurseries and given loving care until they were ready to be replanted into the pre-prepared locations.

The tea bushes were nursed tenderly while big sheds and factories were built in anticipation of the day when the first tea could be manufactured.

At long last the womenfolk, the Randi challan, because of their dextrous fingers were sent out to pluck* the tips of the newly spouting tea bushes.

These tea tips were dried, and curled and fired and packed into large plywood cases and transported by road, rail and river, to a country that the sahibs called Home, but the locals called ‘Billat’ (*Tea is always plucked, never picked)

The men-folk tilled the land with hoes known as kodalis and then both men and women, with very sharp hooked knives, pruned the bushes to waist height.

Houses were built for all the new labourers and each family unit was given a piece of land to plant rice enough for their annual needs. The houses were fenced off in small compounds with parcels of land to grow vegetables.

These became known al the Coolie lines.

The Scottish managers and owners of the new Tea Gardens then employed doctors to look after the health of the workers.  Babus from, usually, Bengal who had learned the language and the script of the foreigners were employed to oversee the work of the workforce as well as to keep proper accounting of the business.

As more and more of the jungle was cleared so also were there more and more tea plantations that were opened.

The name of the little village became lost in the mists of time and the city was now usually referred to as the big city. So Borosahar became the capital city of the region and land there became very expensive.

The original owners of the land sold their fields to newcomers who paid them vast sums of money.

The little town on the edge of the forest now became a huge metropolis.  Hospitals and schools were built and huge shops full of the latest products sprung up

One of these shops was owned by a person from another part of the country, thousands of miles away.

The man and his wife had a beautiful daughter named Asha. The parents spoke a very refined language and found it difficult to get to grips with the local dialect.

The local dialect now consisted of an amalgam of many different languages and came about because of the many labourers brought in from various parts of the country to work in the new tea gardens. Because there were no suitable schools in the local area, Asha was sent up to the Hills, where missionaries had opened English Language schools.

Thus Asha received a very good standard of education and learned how to speak the language of the foreign rulers of the Country.

She was able to attend another University in another part of the Country. And

Asha was the pride of her parents and the envy of all who lived in her home town.

When Asha returned home to visit her parents, there were many offers of marriage for this beautiful educated girl who spoke the language of the foreigner. But Asha would not entertain any offer of marriage until she met a man who was considered most unsuitable.

The people of the hills and forests would bring their fruit and vegetables into the big city once a week on market days. Among them was a man called Lala.

He would carry his basket of fruit and vegetables and sit on the ground in the marketplace, known as the haat, quietly selling his wares.

This is where Lala and Asha first set eyes upon each other. There was an instant attraction between them but both knew that there would only be trouble if any further contact between them took place.

And Asha could not forget this man from the hills who had stolen her heart. She tossed and turned in her bed each night and longed for the day when she could return to the market to see the chosen one once again.

Lala knew that this beautiful girl was out of his reach, but that did not stop him from thinking constantly about her. His heart ached for the sight of this girl whose name even he did not know.

How was Lala to know that the girl also thought of him day and night?

And Asha went off her food and became thin and ill and her parents worried about her and doctors were called to tend to her, but they were unable to diagnose her condition because it was one of the heart and not of the body.

And Lala became worried when the girl no longer came to the market so he made discreet enquiries and discovered that she belonged to a very wealthy family, who came from a far country and spoke a different language.

And Lala went and sat outside the gate of the girl’s residence in the hope of seeing her. The girl came out into her garden to sit in the sun and her face lit up when she saw Lala sitting there.

At the same time Lala caught sight of the girl and, under the pretext of selling oranges, he approached the girl and spoke to her in the local dialect. And the girl understood what he had said and she bought two oranges from him, and called out to one of her servants to bring him some money.

But Lala would not accept any money; he saw how ill the once beautiful girl looked. He offered the girl the oranges as a present from him to her.

And they spoke shyly to one another and said their names.  They promised to see each other on the next market day. And Asha watched as Lala slowly walked away back to the hills and jungles whence he came .Just before Lala disappeared into the forest he turned around to catch one last look at this girl.

And Asha saw him and was glad; she raised a hand in silent farewell and gave a little smile.

Then Asha went back into her house with a new lightness of heart and her parents were overjoyed that at long last she was beginning to return to her old loveable self. Asha ate a hearty meal for the first time in months and her parents were glad and hoped that she would put on weight and lose the wan look that had overshadowed her beautiful face.

As the weeks passed by, Asha continued to improve in health and she visited Lala in the market every week.

In due course Asha’s parents accepted the offer of a marriage between Asha and another wealthy merchant from a far off State.

And Asha was in tears as she told Lala of this latest development.  Lala was heartbroken as was Asha and they resolved to approach her parents to tell them of their love for one another.

Asha’s parents and the house servants were astounded at this piece of news and they forbade the two from ever meeting each other again.

Asha’s belongings were immediately packed and early next morning her father and Asha caught the first train out from the city.

They traveled for many days ‘till they reached his own home State and Asha was put in the charge of his elder brother and his wife.

Again Asha refused to eat and she tossed and turned in bed each night and her uncle and aunt were troubled for her health and wellbeing.

As the months passed by the parents continued to receive letters and telegrams advising them of Asha’s ill health.

Lala knew that his beloved had been sent away from him but he could not find out where she was.

Asha wrote to Lala and told him where she was but an illiterate Lala took the letter to the local scribe who lied to him and said that Asha was well and did not want to see him again. And the scribe reported this to Asha’s parents, and they realised the love that their daughter had for Lala.

Reluctantly they agreed that the only way to save the life of their daughter was to allow her to again meet and marry the man that she loved.

Instead of the huge and elaborate ceremony that the parents had planned for their only child, a simple ceremony was performed and Asha went to live in the humble abode in the jungle to live with her husband whom she loved above all else.

And Lala surely but slowly nursed Asha back to health. She was given fresh fruit and vegetables to eat and free-range chicken and other home reared animal meat.

The Hill People ate a lot of pork meat and at first Asha could not get used to this but eventually she took to the ways of her husband.

And a very shy and pregnant and, once again, beautiful Asha returned to visit her parents. The father refused to see her but her mother met the daughter who she so loved.

And Asha returned to the jungle where she gave birth to a baby daughter.

And the baby was named Durga, after Asha’s grandmother.

To save all the Hill folk from having to trudge to the market every week, Asha persuaded Lala, to acquire a vehicle and buy all the produce from all the villagers. So Lala became a wholesaler and commanded a very high price for

his produce and animals.

With the help of Asha, Lala learned how to read and write and they became very wealthy. And Lala was elected to become the headman of the village.

And Asha would take little Durga with her to visit her mother. And Asha’s father could no longer ignore his daughter and granddaughter.

Lala built a huge house for Asha in the hills and they had servants of their own and Durga was sent up to the Missionary school up in the hills and she too learned the language of the foreign rulers of her country. And Durga was comfortable in the company of both rich and poor alike and the foreign Sahibs did not deter her one little bit. She was able to converse with them with ease and she had learned of this place, this England, that they called Home and the locals called Billat.

And Asha and Lala were rich enough to send Durga to an University in this far off land over the black waters.

And there Durga studied Law and she returned to her own country as a fully fledged King’s Council.  And Durga’s services were in much demand in the law courts of the Rulers. She was able to charge astronomical fees for her services.

And it came about that as her grandparents became aged, that Asha’s father was not able to control his vast wealth which was then misappropriated by others.

And Asha wrote to Durga and told her of what had happened. And Durga left her own underlings and took lawyers and accountants and hurried back to her home State where she took personal charge of her grandfather’s business.

The local lawyers were no match for Durga and her army of experts. And all her grandparent’s monies and lands and businesses were returned to them.

And Lala and Asha took direct control of her parent’s businesses and they were able to lead a carefree life, and at long last Asha was reconciled with her father and Durga was accepted by her own grandfather.

Durga returned to her own law practice in the capital city of her country and her business thrived and Durga mixed in circles far removed from those of her birth. And it came to pass that her own country was seeking its own governance away from the foreign rulers. The new country needed a Constitution and because of her education in the foreign country, Durga was called upon to give much needed help and advice in the legal wording of the new Constitution... In the course of this work, Durga met a man from the land of the rulers and they fell in love and proposed to marry.

And Lala and Asha and her parents came to see Durga get married to Edward.

There were two ceremonies, one in a local Anglican Church and another lavish ceremony lasting three days. At long last Asha’s parents and Asha herself got to attend the ceremony of which they were deprived many years ago.

The foreign rulers gave the land back to the local administration and Durga accompanied her husband back to the land of his birth.

And Durga went to pay a sad goodbye to her parents and grandparents in the land that had been reclaimed from the jungle.




August 28 2015


 Bimala’s younger sister, Brinda was not as driven as Bimala. She could not see the value of studying, if she was going to get married, have children and look after the household.

Brinda had seen her mother slaving all day long and she had come to the conclusion that it was the lot of women to suffer and to serve men.

Therefore when Brinda s twelve years old, her grandmother and father broached the subject of marriage, Brinda did not object. Brinda had listened to some of her friends who had boasted that they had been with men and how marvellous it had been.

Much against Basanti’s will, Makhon and Girish arranged for Brinda’s marriage. Brinda did not object and, in fact, she eagerly looked forward to it.

Girish had to borrow money from the moneylenders to pay for the wedding. To repay the loan, the young son Hari, was pulled out of school and he accompanied his father every morning to go out and look for work.

However much, they paid the moneylenders; it did not seem to lower the debt. The moneylenders would flash a book with numbers at them, numbers that nobody understood. Bimala was not allowed to see this book, because she would have understood the level of interest that was being levied against these poor folk.

Bimala spoke to the now aged lawyer and told him what was going on. The lawyer spoke to the police about it and the moneylenders made harsh threats to Girish, but they did stop pestering him for money.

And so Brinda was married to a man who was much older than her and lived in another village.

Brinda’s husband had a very elderly father, but no mother. His mother had died many years ago and he and his father had lived alone.

As Brinda arrived at her husband’s house she saw that it was practically in ruins. The two men had let it deteriorate over the years. The fences were all falling down and the walls were bare where the plaster had fallen off. The roof leaked badly during the rains.

Poor Brinda was expected to do all the washing and cooking as well as clean the neglected household. She got no peace at night either as her new husband made constant demands on her. Brinda realised that her friends had been exaggerating their experiences about men and. In fact, all their knowledge had been gleaned from cheap novels and hearsay.

Brinda’s life degenerated to one of drudgery far worse than she had ever imagined. There was no hope of ever getting out of this marriage so she suffered, a young girl like Brinda should have been at school enjoying the company of her friends. Instead she had been taken in by a bad crowd of girls and the constant pushing from her grandmother.

Why had her grandmother and father pushed her into such an early marriage? Her grandmother must have known what it was going to be like so why had she been so keen to destroy the life of this young girl.

Makhon had always been selfish; she had quite happily eaten all the food and seen the grandchildren go hungry, as long as she was well-fed.  Basanti had tried her level best to keep Brinda from such an early marriage, but with Brinda, herself, arguing for the wedding, Basanti was defeated.

It was not possible for Basanti to visit Brinda so she asked Girish to make the journey to Brinda’s new home. Girish was astounded to find his daughter living in such squalid and inhuman conditions. He realised that he had made a huge mistake in agreeing to Brinda’s marriage, but there was now nothing he could do without bringing shame upon himself and his mother. Even now he kept up the pretence of being a man of honour and social standing. In fact, even his wife Basanti despised him for the bully that he was.

Girish saw that Brinda was pregnant and it was an excuse that he could use to get her new husband to allow him to bring his daughter back home.

Basanti was heartbroken to see what had become of her beloved younger daughter. She had confronted Makhon, for the first time in her life, and Makhon had been shamed into admitting that she was mistaken. Makhon, however, would not admit that it was her own selfishness that had contributed to the reason for Brinda’s early marriage.

Hari, who had gained in strength with his daily labouring job, wanted to go and beat up Brinda’s husband.  But the others, including Brinda herself, had talked him out of doing anything rash.

It was after a few days that Brinda’s husband and father-in-law found that they needed her to cook and clean for them.

Brinda’s husband came to Girish’s house to collect his wife and there was nothing they could do stop him. She was now legally his property.

With great sadness, Basanti, Bimala and Hari, saw Brinda leave the house once again.

No one could fathom what was in the minds of Girish and his mother Makhon.

As soon as Brinda returned to her husband’s house she was put to work. There was no concession made for her pregnancy. After all, they argued, women are made to bear children. Cooking and cleaning and bearing children was their role in life. So what was the big fuss about?

Brinda’s frail young body could not cope with all the work during the day and her husband’s unabated demands at night.

She had a miscarriage and lost the baby and also a lot of blood. The poor farmers could not afford the expense of a doctor, so Brinda died.

Her family was informed and all the members came to see Brinda being cremated. There were no priests to pray for her and no sweet smelling woods to place on the funeral pyre.

Her ashes were unceremoniously gathered up and deposited in the local stream.

Brinda’s sad young life was over; she had unknowingly contributed to this with the connivance of her own grandmother.

Bimala was now more determined than ever to see that the same fate did not befall other young girls from her village. She would move heaven and earth to see that child marriages were not only forbidden but stopped.

  August 5 2015


Young Hari never got the opportunity to go to  the foreigner’s school that Bimala attended. He was still in the village school when his father and grandmother decided that his sister Brinda should get married. To meet the costs of Brinda’s wedding, Girish, the father borrowed money from the moneylenders. The repayments were so steep that Girish could not meet them on his own.

Instead of working harder to meet the demands of the moneylenders, the selfish father and grandmother decided to pull Hari out of school and put him to work.

So it was that the young lad, under ten years of age accompanied his father every morning to go out and work on somebody else’s fields.

After having lived a life of comparative ease, Hari found the work hard. He returned home every night with his whole body aching.

The landowner made some concession to Hari’s age and he did not have to do the very very heavy work. He was started as the water bearer, the pani wallah, This meant that he had to carry a container full of water and a mug and go to whoever called out for a drink. As long as Girish was around, nobody took advantage of the boy. But if Girish was working a different field then some workers thought it was great sport to get the boy running around.

Hari bore this hardship because it had helped his sister Brinda to get married. Brinda and Hari had been very close as siblings and she had cared for him as a small child. Bimala appeared to be more reclusive and she spent a great deal of her time in her studies.

As the weeks turned into months and then into years, Hari wondered just how much money had been borrowed for the wedding, because the repayments seemed to be never-ending? Girish had once queried this with the moneylenders but they had sworn at him and showed him a ledger saying that it was all written down.

Girish had asked the moneylenders to show the ledger to his educated daughter, Bimala, instead of showing the ledger they had beat him with lathis.

He had never asked again, but Hari had related all this to Basanti and Bimala.

Bimala knew that she could do nothing on her own, so she asked Hari to go with her to the retired lawyer and tell him what had transpired.  The lawyer was an old man and would have been no match for the debt collectors who always came with stout sticks to enforce payment. It was not Girish alone who owed money. Practically every labourer had borrowed money against an unexpected expenditure. If the husband died, then the debt did not die with him but passed to the wife.

The retired lawyer was a much respected man in the community and had access to the chief of police, so he made a complaint on Girish’s behalf.

The moneylenders again threatened Girish with their lathis, but they stopped demanding money.

Girish and his mother realised that an education was useful after all. By then it was too late for Hari to go back to school.

Bimala heard that there was a lady named Pearl who spoke the language of the foreigners and Pearl had a large house with lots of land that needed to be looked after.

And Bimala spoke to Pearl who agreed to employ Hari as a gardener.

Hari had to maintain a vegetable garden as well as to grow the flowers for the house and to keep the lawns trim.

Hari loved this job and in his capable hands the garden flourished as never before. At times Pearl came out to speak to him. She slowly learnt of the fate that had befallen Hari’s sister Brinda

Now Pearl had a young neice named Pooja, who was a doctor. And Pooja agreed to go with Hari to his village to care for the sick and the aged. And it so happened that in due course Pooja met Bimala, who was Hari’s elder sister. Bimala had finished her secondary school education and had become fluent in the language of the foreigners

She was trying to fulfil her promise of pulling the village out of the dark ages.

And Pooja saw the great potential in Bimala and befriended the younger woman.

After school the village children spent their time wandering aimlessly around.

 Many of them started a life of petty crime as there was nothing for them to do.

With Hari’s help, Bimala cleared a patch of scrubland and turned it into a flat field that could be used to play football. All the village children joined in and Pearl’s husband Mahesh, the mighty Mahesh also provided the football and came to teach the children the rudiments of the game.

Word soon spread far and wide and the village team was invited to play against other more experienced players. Hari went with the team and looked after all the equipment.

The presence of Mahesh always ensured a big crowd of spectators and Hari became his right hand man at all the matches. Hari did not neglect his garden work either, so he was kept busy from morning to night.

When the old schoolmaster retired, then, with Pooja’s help, Bimala was able to recruit a completely unbiased person to fill that position. At first the high caste and rich citizens of the village were against this appointment, but they were soon won over when they saw the way their children, were being educated.

And Hari took the lead from Pearl and cast aside all his prejudices. Hari’s mother Basanti and his sister Bimala had often narrated the story of the foreigner who had held their hands without flinching and had sat with them and had tea and food with them as equals. Hari did not believe all this until he saw it in action with his employer Pearl, she did not discriminate against anyone in regard to caste or creed, and she only discriminated against wrongdoers and cheats and charlatans.

And at first Hari’s grand mother died and then his father, worn out by years of hard labour also died, and their bodies too were taken to the banks of the Great and Holy River where they were cremated and the scent of sandalwood arose with the smoke to the atmosphere. And Hari could not help but compare this with the funeral of his poor sister, Brinda. The innocent young girl who was so poorly used by this world.

In the big house where Hari worked he met a young girl whose mother had also worked there as a kitchen maid years before. And Hari and this girl Saraswathi were married. Saraswathi moved to Hari’s village and helped Bimala in her work among the poor and disadvantaged.

In due course Saraswathi gave birth to a baby boy and Pooja provided all the medical care.

Now that Hari was a father he needed to spend more time at home with Saraswathi and the baby. But he could not neglect his work as a gardener in Pearl’s house, so he concentrated on that and asked one of the senior village boys to assume more of the football duties.

As a gardener in Pearl’s house, Hari saw many celebrities come and go. Firstly there were the friends of Mahesh, sportsmen usually from the field of football.

Then there was James, the son of Pearl and Mahesh. James was a priest of very high standing and Hari looked up to him as he had never looked up to anyone before. James would walk in the garden and speak to Hari about all the flowers and plants growing in the garden. James was of a different religion and he and his mother spoke in the language of the foreigners. It was also rumoured that James was very highly educated in a foreign land and that he spoke several languages.

Pooja absolutely adored her cousin James, but not in any carnal way but in a pure and loving way.

Both James and Pooja were always willing to help Hari in any way that they could. And Hari was grateful for this and did not take advantage of their good nature.

As well as the dilapidated house, Brinda’s husband and father-in-law also owned a small piece of land that had been left lying waste. And on their deaths, there being no other relatives, Hari and Saraswathi acquired this piece of land. Hari rebuilt the house and cleared the land and planted crops on this once wasteland. Then Hari and Saraswathi were able to move into a home of their own.

With his wages from the big house and by constant hard work, Hari was able to purchase other bits of land as they became available. Bimala, with her better education and her knowledge of the tongue of the foreigner was able to help Hari in all his business dealings.

Hari became a very rich man by village standards and was highly respected.

In time his land holdings were so big that Hari needed to employ men to work the land for him. He never forgot the hard life that his father and he had to endure; therefore Hari was firm but never overbearing with his workforce.

Pearl and James had seen the way that Hari had prospered in life and asked him why he still worked as a gardener, when he could afford to sit back and take things easy. His reply always was, ‘’you took me in when I was in need of help and I will not desert you now’’

And Hari saw the passing of Mahesh and James and Pearl and he himself grew old and could not continue with his love of gardening. Guddi, his favourite had also passed away, and Hari felt her loss greatly. It was time for Hari to leave the place and the gardens where he had been so happy, just because of the wonderful treatment that he had received from this family.

Bimala came to live with Saraswathi and Hari and their children, in the house that Hari had built on the spot where Brinda had laboured so hard.

Bimala and Hari sometimes spoke of the sister who they had loved and who was so cruelly, taken from them while she was still a child.

Brinda by her own foolish actions was never to know the happiness of a family life and the joys of motherhood


  August 2 2015

Childhood Dreams 

The children, two girls and a boy all under seven years of age, played with flowers from the Bougainvillaea bush on the outskirts of their village. The house was nothing but a raised base of straw and mud on which was constructed bamboo walls that were plastered with cow-dung to ward off the wind and cold in winter and the heat during the summer months. The thatched roof leaked during the monsoon rains and half-hearted attempts at repairs were made whenever any new leaks were discovered.

The house was divided into three small rooms. One room was the parent’s bedroom, one was for the children and the third room was an all-purpose room. Here their mother cooked on a small mud fireplace known as a choola, and smoke filled the room every time that the mother did any cooking.  The cooking smells and the smoke filled the whole house, so that all their clothes picked up this aroma. The husband and his mother just sat about all day and ordered the overworked wife to do more and more of the household chores.

Each room had a small bamboo-barred window cut into the wall and Girish; the husband usually hung a shirt in front of the window to afford some degree of privacy. Each room had some ropes slung from wall to wall on which their clothes were draped. The wife Basanti had two old saris and some blouses. Girish on the other hand had three white shirts that buttoned halfway down the front and had a pocket on each side. He also possessed a white loincloth, now grey with age, and two pairs of trousers.

Girish’s mother Makhon, slept in the room with the two girls, while the boy

Named Hari, had to lie down on the floor of the kitchen, a cotton rug was provided for his comfort. The elder girl was named Bimala and the younger was Brinda.

A small kerosene hurricane lamp was the only means of illumination in each room. This was enough for their needs as not one of them could read or write.

Basanti awoke early in the morning to make some tea for Girish and his mother and then started on her constant round of work. Basanti swore that her own two daughters would have a better life than she did. She was determined that all her children would be educated, even if it meant sacrificing her own comforts. Her comforts, meagre as they were, were made worse by the constant demands made on her time by Makhon, who treated her daughter- in- law like a slave.

Basanti thought of rebelling but knew that Girish would always take sides with his mother and Basanti would suffer slaps and punches, till she was black and blue. Such was Basanti’s life and she endured all this in stoical silence. Sometimes the children would find her crying, but Basanti would never tell them about the cruelty of their father and grandmother.

Basanti also knew that many of her neighbours also endured the same fate as she did. Other wives were, however, loved and cherished by their husbands, who would never ever raise a hand to their wives or to any woman.  Basanti saw that the bullies were the weak and unambitious men who had no proper jobs and found it difficult to support their families.

She had nothing but contempt for these men and women who used violence to gain their own way.

Girish went out each morning looking for work as a daily wage earner; he had no special skills and had to rely on his own strength and guile to find any work.  Even with his small wage he did not deny himself anything. He would call into the local grog shop on his way home and buy some biris along with the rice and vegetables that his wife needed to feed them all.

Basanti would greet her husband with a drink of water then she would set about cooking whatever Girish had brought home.

Basanti always fed her husband first and then her mother in law, Makhon.

Makhon was an absolute glutton; she had no thought for Basanti or the children. As long as she was able to feed her fat body and her fat face, she did not stop eating. Basanti watched in horror as she saw the food disappear. As soon as the mother in law stopped eating, then Basanti would give the children their meal. Basanti herself ate whatever was left. Sometimes this was precious little.

In time Basanti became wise to the old lady’s antics and she kept back the food for the children and herself before she presented the dish to Makhon. In spite of all this, the mother in law had no thought for her own grandchildren as long as she was well fed.

When Girish discovered what his wife was doing he gave her a good thrashing and threw her precious food out into the courtyard. Here the village dogs ran to finish the food.

When Girish went out in search of work, the old lady would lie on the bed, fanning herself and chewing paan. Her jaws never ceased moving from morning to night and her mouth and teeth were discoloured to a bright red. Every now and again she would call out to Basanti to bring her a glass of water or a cup of tea.

Basanti would stop whatever she was doing to comply with Makhon’s demands.

During the day Basanti would spend all her time in washing clothes in the nearby tank and fetching water for the house from the spring. Many years ago a foreigner had visited the village and advised the young women to boil all the drinking water. Basanti had heeded this advice. As a result her own family did not become ill when many others were contracting severe illnesses and sometimes even dying from waterborne diseases.

Then the yard needed to be swept and cleared of leaves and any other objects that had been blown in. Basanti would fetch water and clay from the stream and, with her bare hands, she would run the wet clay over the outside of the house and the steps and the kitchen, so that it all looked as bright as the day it was first made.

Basanti also maintained a small vegetable plot beside the house; the vegetables supplemented their diet as well as giving Basanti an interest away from the daily chores.

Sometimes the children accompanied their mother when she went to the spring to fetch water, Basanti always took this opportunity to give the children a bath and to wash and change their clothes so that they looked clean and presentable.

The children would laugh and skip along the road beside their mother. They had very few toys but Basanti had made a wheel out of cane and bamboo for them to turn along the road.

The young women of the village would occasionally gather beside the tank and discuss their problems and their aspirations, if anyone of their children became ill, the others would always offer good advice and help out in any way they could.

Basanti had two special friends that she would meet on a daily basis and thus relieve the boredom and tedium of her life. They were two girls of her own age who she had met soon after her marriage, when her husband had brought her to the village. Basanti’s mother and father lived in a village a day’s train ride away, so she did not see them very often. The village scribe had notified Basanti’s parents when each of the children was born and they had come bearing small gifts. They too were poor subsistence farmers.

When Bimala became five years old, Basanti enrolled her in the village school. The village provided a tatty and dog-eared picture book with the alphabet in the local script written in large letters. Basanti bought a slate and a writing tool for Bimala. Basanti never had the opportunity to go to school, so she sat at the back of Bimala's classroom and she too learned how to read and write. It was a slow process, but with determination, Basanti mastered the art of reading.

The village gossip soon passed the news of Basanti’s reading and writing to Makhon and Girish, who then started to taunt her and call her names. But secretly Girish was proud of his wife and boasted as much to his fellow labourers.

In due course Brinda and Hari were enrolled into the school as soon as they turned five years old.

Basanti had high hopes for her children and resisted vigorously whenever her mother-in-law or her husband started talking about getting the girls married.

Many a village girl was married as soon as she turned eleven or twelve years old. And Bimala began to fear that the same fate would befall her. It was only because of the good offices of her mother that she was able to continue her studies.

As Bimala grew older she began to notice something that her mother knew all along. The High Caste Children were seated at the front of the class near the teacher whereas the poorer children of the labourers were pushed to the back of the class.

The labourer’s children were allocated chores around the school every day but the others were able to study more or even finish their homework. As a result the poorer children did not do so well in class and their marks reflected this.

To make up for this blatant discrimination, Basanti, helped her children to study and their marks were on a par with the privileged children,

The teacher strongly denied any bias and he could not mark down the arithmetic papers, but the composition, history and geography papers were marked according to his whims.

Bimala was eleven years old when it was rumoured that the school inspectors would be visiting. As a result of this all the parents from the village turned up at the school, it was noticed that all the children seated in the front of the class were asked what they wanted to do when they left school. They all gave answers that were unachievable, ‘’I want to be a prime minister’’ ‘’I want to be an engineer’’ I want to be a doctor’’ ‘’I want to save the world.’’ All these pupils had been lulled into a false sense of their abilities because the teacher had been inflating their marks. In actual fact most of them were dunces and thought that they did not need to study.

The poorer children at the back of the class knew that if they wanted to get out of the cycle of drudgery they must study hard, and that is what they did. But nobody asked them what they wanted to become once they left school.

The parents noticed this blatant discrimination and objected volubly.  The teacher and the inspectors maintained that they were not biased in any way.

Now there lived in the village a retired old lawyer who spoke the language of the foreigner. Basanti and Bimala approached him and asked him for his help in learning this foreign language, because it was the way ahead. They told him of the discrimination in the school and he understood their dilemma, because, he too, had met much discrimination in his life. He agreed to teach Bimala and she attended his lessons after her own school work was completed. Slowly but surely Bimala grasped the language of the foreigner.

When it was time for Bimala to leave the village school, the retired lawyer introduced her to a nearby higher school, where the tutors were most impressed with her determination to succeed.

All the tuition was done in this foreign tongue and Bimala excelled in her studies. She did not entertain unachievable dreams, all she wanted to do was to drag her own village out of the dark ages and help all to attain their true potential.

This in itself was an uphill task because of the resistance of her own grandmother and her father who were both intent on getting her married. They might have succeeded were it not for the strong minded objections of her mother Basanti.

When Basanti and Bimala arrived at the higher school for the first time, the head of the school approached them at the school gates with outstretched arms.

She shook hands individually with each lady, and neither did she flinch nor did she draw away from them.

Instead she ushered them into her private office and gave them cups of tea in bone china cups and something called cake also served up on bone china plates.

She sat with them and drank her tea and ate her cake as if they were her equals.

There were tears in both Basanti’s and Bimala’s eyes as they were personally escorted to the school gates and wished a pleasant good evening.

It had taken a foreigner to treat them as human beings for the first time in their lives.

Now if a foreigner could do it, then why did their own countrymen treat them as lepers and outcastes?

July 29 2015

It was a beautiful warm summer’s day at the seaside on the South Coast of England. The beach was absolutely packed with families lying on the sand, some were lying on blankets and the elderly sat on deck chairs.

A man in an uniform with a ticket machine slung around his neck, moved through the crowds collecting the tariff for the hire of the deck chairs. Some old timers would get off the chairs and sit on the sand until he had passed. Thus avoiding the charge of a few pennies. Their delight at outwitting the official was far in excess of the amount of money saved.

Some African men went among the holiday makers, and tried to sell those highly coloured carpets and cheap watches.

Every now and again a man or a woman would peel off from the family unit and go in search of cold drinks or cones of ice cream available from the nearby kiosks.

Small children would be hurriedly taken, by their mothers, to the toilets.

All the while you could hear loud and cheery music being played in the small cafes situated just above the sands.

A small enclosure nearby had bouncy castles and round-abouts for the children.

Everything, including the soft drinks and the ice creams were highly overpriced, as was the food in the cafes. You had to pay for the convenience of having it available.

Some frugal families had brought their own sandwiches and bottles of lemonade or Coca Cola, flasks of tea and plastic mugs to drink out of would be produced from large beach bags, which had usually been carried by the mums. A gallon can of plain water was carried by the dads; this water was used for quenching your thirst in the hot sun and also to rinse your hands before eating your sandwiches.  Sandwiches were usually filled with cheese and sliced tomato, the more adventurous had hot dogs and hamburgers with tomato ketchup that trickled down the diner’s arms as they bit into their delicious food.

Others had brought meat pies or Cornish Pasties, that had gone cold, but who cared. There was a carnival atmosphere, and everyone was enjoying themselves.

Children would go down to the sea with their buckets and spades to make sandcastles with moats. Medieval flags and the odd union jack would be stuck on the turrets of the castles.

Suddenly there was the unmistakable ‘’hee haw, hee haw’’of an ambulance approaching. The paramedics were guided by a frantic woman to a deckchair on the very crowded beach. All the holidaymakers turned around to see what was happening.

The paramedics laid this elderly man down on the sand and started giving him artificial respiration. They eventually put him on to a small carry chair and accompanied by the now crying woman they returned to the ambulance.

Word spread like wildfire that an old man, sitting on a deck chair, had quietly died in his sleep. What a lovely way to go!!

Everyone was in a sombre mood for a while then slowly it was all forgotten and the carnival-like atmosphere returned to the beach.

Boys in swimming trunks swam in the sea, sometimes they were accompanied by their mothers and fathers, while the girls in very skimpy bikinis paraded around in small groups, they were stared at and some lads in groups would give a wolf whistle which the girls pretended not to hear. They were pleased to be noticed, that was the object of all the parading around.

Some girls modelled themselves on Hollywood actresses and wore straw sunhats and dark glasses. Some of the older teenagers could have given the supermodels a run for their money, any day of the week.

There were shrieks from the sea as the swimmers splashed water on each other.

Some adults and children floated on inflated rubber rings, with their faces to the sun.

The swimmers would return to their family groups, covered in sand, and had to dry off before the sand could be brushed off.  Sometimes a person would come hopping along with blood pouring from a cut foot. Broken bottles were always a danger in these places. The patient would have to go to the first-aid station to have his cut dressed. If the cut was very deep they would be advised to go to the hospital to have stitches and an anti tetanus injection.

During the day the mothers and fathers and all the young children would have lots of sun creams rubbed on them, to ward off sunburn, but the macho teenagers spurned such girly things. They would suffer agonies the next day as their skin blistered and started to peel.

In mid afternoon the whole beach seemed to quieten down as the children got tired of running around and the mums and dads shut their eyes and tried to get some sleep.

The teenage girls now attached themselves to the groups of boys and all went off in search of ice cream. Even so the girls were very solicitous for the welfare of each other and kept a sharp look-out to see that nothing amiss took place. A lot of hugging and kissing behind the beach cafes seemed to be quite acceptable.

Women would produce magazines, which they made half-hearted attempts to read.

Someone would light up a cigarette, which they would quickly extinguish because of the mutterings from their approximate neighbours.

As the day wore on then as if by magic, all the holidaymakers awoke from their slumbers. They finished off the last of their cold drinks and as is the English custom, the children were sent to dispose of all the waste in the litter bins provided.

A last coating of camomile lotion was applied to sunburnt skin and shirts and blouses were put on. Now the much lighter, beach bags were repacked and all the sand dusted off from arms and legs. Shoes and socks were carried by hand until they got off the sand before these items were put on.

The whole crowd that had arrived in the morning, looking as white as ghosts, now returned home looking as red as beetroots. They would suffer for days with sunburn, but how would anyone know that you had been to the seaside, unless you were sunburnt.

Slowly the crowd would make their way to the bus or the railway stations, for the long journey back to the large cities. The trains would be packed with people with smiling faces. The English reserve would be cast to the winds and strangers would be talking to each other recounting their happy day.

Some families would delay going home, as if reluctant to end a very enjoyable day at the seaside.
The whole beach looked as if no one had ever been on it. Not a scrap of litter could be seen anywhere and the incoming tide would soon wash the spilt soft drinks from the sands.

All would be ready for the next batch of holiday makers.

July 29 2015

Last days of Pooja


As Pooja stood beside the coffin of James; she was overcome with grief at the loss of the man that she had loved with a pure love, devoid of all lust.


When the Cardinals started to recite the De Profundis, Pooja was immediately transported back in time.


She had been in all the great churches and temples of the world but now her mind was in the little church near her childhood home. James was kneeling before a statue of the Virgin Mary, praying. That was the first time that Pooja had heard the De Profundis and seen the light shining in James’s eyes.


The words to this ancient Psalm had been written hundreds of years ago by a king of a different faith in a different land and in a different language, but it had survived the passage of time because of the beauty of the words.


Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord; Lord hear my voice. Let Thy ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication. If Thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities, Lord, who shall stand it? For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness, and by reason of Thy law, I have waited for Thee, O Lord. My soul has relied on His word, my soul hath hoped in the Lord. From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord. Because with the Lord there is mercy; and with Him plentiful redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord! And let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace

And Pooja went down into the crypt  to be near the mortal remains of the man she had loved. There they found her body slumped near the tomb of her beloved.

Pooja’s body was taken to the banks of the mighty river and placed upon the funeral pyre and the bare chested priests with the sacred threads over their shoulders recited texts from the Vedas and the funeral pyre was set alight. The sweet aroma of sandalwood and butter wafted up to the heavens.

Then Pooja’s ashes were taken out on a boat to the confluence of the holy river and the mystical river, there the ashes were scattered and purified in the waters.

And Pooja was reincarnated to be with her mother and father, Guddi and Shyam, and Pearl and Mahesh and Parvati and James were there also, for there was only one heaven and one earth.


 July 25 2015

Father James


In the very Elite Church School that Jimmy was attending the standard of education was extremely high. The pupils were made to learn the basics of Latin and Greek and the classics were rated as of great importance.

As well as the high standard of the education there was a similar emphasis on games.

Games and sports of all descriptions were actively encouraged.

James excelled in the classroom as well as on the playing fields. His love of football stemmed from the knowledge that his father Mahesh was at one time one of greatest and most respected footballers in the land. It was no coincidence therefore when James was chosen as the school captain of the football team.  His mother and father would always appear on the side-lines to support him in all things.

Over the years, James studied hard and he played hard and in time he graduated.

Great things were forecast for James and several respectable International Companies approached him and offered him employment in their prestigious offices.

It was a great surprise therefore that James turned them all down and instead he said that his greatest wish was to join a religious order and become a priest

It may have been a surprise to many but it was no surprise to Pooja. As she sat beside Jimmy in church in those far off days when they had both lighted a candle to their grandmother Parvati, Pooja had seen the light in his eyes as he recited the Psalm of King David of old and the words of the De Profundis came back to her mind.

And so it was that James left home to join a seminary and started studying yet anew.

He had to study theology, and philosophy, and church history and law, and many other subjects to prepare him for the role that he had chosen for himself.

Now it became eminently clear why James had not joined his friends when they invited him to riotous parties. At such times he had quietly visited the sick and the disabled and did all in his power to help and comfort them.

His tutors had seen the great potential in James and it was recommended that he go to Rome for more intensive studies. At long last it was time for his ordination. Pearl and Mahesh made plans to go to this momentous event and Pooja and Jennifer wanted to go too, there was no way in the world that they would miss seeing James being ordained in his priestly garb.

Pearl’s parents were unable to make the journey but they sent their prayers for James’ future good fortune.  As they were the most religious of the lot they were the most thrilled.

And so as James took his vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience, the wish of Parvati to see the name of the male line was frustrated.

Thus Father James returned to his home country and started his ministry among the poor and sick and homeless. Unbeknown to James, his ministry led him to the very prison where his own grandfather had been imprisoned. He gave comfort to whosoever needed it without favour of caste or creed. He did not preach the Gospel; he just lived the life of one dedicated to God.

And Father James came to hear of an elderly person in a large city in the Eastern part of the country who was helping the destitute and the dying. And James in his love for humanity made his way to the great metropolis and sat and held the hands of the dying so that they were not alone in their last hours.  James did not distinguish between the poor and the rich, to him all humanity was alike and in need of his prayers and his love.

It came to James’ ears that there was a young girl, a doctor, who was in the self-same organisation who had turned her back on a life of ease and was here among the destitute from the streets of the city, many of whom were desperately ill. And the doctor, Pooja, ministered to their bodily needs even as James ministered to their souls. 

In time his good works came to the notice of the local press and stories of his devotion began to appear in the local and then the national newspapers. It was a foregone conclusion that James’ antecedents would be unearthed and the story of Ram was reported. James had not previously been aware of his grandfather but instead of being embarrassed at the revelations he renewed his efforts as if to atone for the sins over which he had no control.

In time the works of the good priest were being reported in Rome and James was called by the Holy Father, the Pope, and James was elevated to the rank of Bishop.

And the Bishop continued to visit the now frail grandmother and grandfather who were Pearl’s parents. And his grandmother recalled how much James had enjoyed her cooking, so she always prepared ball curry and yellow pillau rice whenever he called.

It was during one of these visits that he once again met a young lady who was now a doctor and the lady said to James that she wished to help him in his work among the poor and the sick and the disabled. Thus Pooja joined James in his work. The pair was a formidable team.

The daily life of a Bishop is far removed from that of a priest, and James found that much of his time was taken up with administrative work for the parishes for which he was responsible. Because of his rigorous education he was able to accomplish these duties without too much effort. The children of his old school were always willing to help him in many of his tasks.  And Pooja was a doctor who was not afraid of hard work. She would go into areas that other doctors would not dare to set foot.

And Mahesh and Pearl’s parents grew old and died and James was asked to perform their funeral rites. The Christian rites were well known to James and he recalled how he had gone with his own father, Mahesh, to the banks of the River Ganges to light the pyre of his grandmother Parvati. And James was troubled in his mind as to whether or not he could do this for his own father. At last he concluded that as a Christian Bishop, he could not turn his back on the beliefs of his father who was a good and decent man. And so it came about that a Christian Bishop was instrumental in the funeral rites of a native non-Christian

All James’s works had been noted in Rome, where he was held in high esteem and the New Pope having read all the reports, elevated James to the rank of Cardinal.  So James again journeyed to Rome and his purple Bishop’s hat was exchanged for a red biretta of a Cardinal. The colour red was originally and currently chosen to denote that one is always ready to shed one’s blood for Christ.

And James returned to his home country as a prince of the church and there was no prouder person on earth than his mother Pearl.

When the Cardinal James was an old man, he and his cousin Pooja, journeyed once again to the great Eastern city and rejoiced that the elderly nun ,from another country, who had helped and prayed for the sick and dying of the city had her works recognised by another Pope and she had been declared a Saint.

As time went by and James could no longer attend to his ministry he returned to his childhood home, there to be looked after by Anjali and Jennifer and their husbands and children. And Pooja who was Anjali’s elder sister could no longer give her life to caring for others , came to live with them and the President of their country bestowed the countries highest honours on James and Pooja.

There was joy but there was sadness too that Pearl and Guddi and Mahesh and Shyam and Pearl’s parents were no longer there to share in the celebrations.

In the fullness of time, James went to meet his maker and the whole country mourned for him. The Holy Father in Rome sent his Cardinals and Bishops to perform the funeral rites of James and as they recited the Latin words of the 130th Psalm, Pooja thought of a time long ago when they were children and they had called into the church to pray for the soul of their grandmother Parvati.

And Pooja joined in reciting the sacred words:-

De Profundis clamavi ad Te, Domine;
Domine, exaudi vocem meam. Fiant aures tuæ intendentes
in vocem deprecationis meæ.

From the depths, I have cried out to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplication.

And James’s body was sealed in a lead casket and buried in the crypt of a large cathedral.   Pilgrims from across the land and overseas came to venerate the man who had done so much to alleviate their suffering.

And Pooja stood beside the grave of her cousin, who she loved, and wept.



July 25 2015
The End of an Era

When Pooja was a few weeks old, her mother Guddi returned home to Shyam and their elderly carers. And Pooja grew up and prospered.

In the meantime Mahesh and Pearl also had a child, a boy whom they named James and affectionately called Jimmy.

Parvati was so pleased that the male line would continue with this young boy and that the family name would not die out.

Parvati doted on Jimmy as she had done on his father Mahesh. And Jimmy would listen with wrapt attention as his grandmother recounted stories of her childhood on the coalfields. She also told about his grandfather Ram but omitted all reference to the sad days when Ram had tried to corrupt his father.

And Pearl took Jimmy to her own mother and father’s house where he had a different set of stories related to him. Pearl’s father had worked on the Railways and the stories of the giant steam locomotives fascinated the young Jimmy. He so wanted to become an engine driver when he grew up. Pearl’s mother had worked in her younger days as a shorthand-typist, also known as a stenographer, for a large multinational company. Her knowledge of a foreign language has stood her in good stead and she had progressed to the upper ranks of her profession

Jimmy had a happy childhood and he was fussed over by the whole household. When he was five years old he was enrolled in a Christian Church school where the tuition was in a foreign language, but this did not faze him as it was the language of his mother and her parents. Jimmy thus grew up being bilingual.

And Parvati grew old but as she watched the love that Pearl had for her son Mahesh she was comforted to know that Pearl would always love and care for her family. And Parvati safe in this knowledge passed into eternity.

And Jimmy accompanied his father to the banks of the Great River where Parvati’s funeral pyre was erected and Mahesh lit the cleansing flames and they all watched as Parvati’s earthly body was consumed and her ashes were scattered into the sacred river and the Mother Ganges purified her remains .The scent of sandalwood and of clarified butter pervaded the atmosphere.

And all these things were done according to the old customs.

A few days later the beautiful Pooja went with her cousin James to the church where they lit a candle in memory of their grandmother. And Pooja watched in wonder as James knelt down before a statue of the Holy Virgin Mary and he made the sign of the cross and recited the Latin words of that ancient prayer the Psalm 130,

De Profundis clamavi ad Te, Domine;
Domine, exaudi vocem meam. Fiant aures tuæ intendentes
in vocem deprecationis meæ.

From the depths, I have cried out to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplication.

And an old priest came into the church to pray and his eyes were dim with age but he recognised the boy and recalled how a long time ago a woman had asked him to show her around the church and explain the rituals of a Christian marriage.  And he was exceedingly glad that this one act of kindness had borne fruit and the boy was here to pray for his grandmother. And the priest also prayed for the soul of the departed and also for her grieving family and for this boy and girl that they may be comforted. And the old priest invoked the intervention of Mary Help of Christians, before whose statue the boy was kneeling, to pray to God for the days ahead that both the boy and the girl may be strengthened in their beliefs. He did not know that the girl was not a Christian.

It was with a new and lightness of heart that Pooja and James left the church and called into his Grandmother Pearl’s mother’s house. She was delighted to see them and was glad that they had both been to the church. Pearl’s mother and father, from an early age had regularly attended all church services. She was known as Granny and was involved in the life of Pooja as well as James. James was glad that they had called in as Granny had given them a meal that they both loved; it was known as ball curry and yellow pillau rice.

The chef in their own house often cooked this dish but there was no one in the world who cooked as well as Granny.

In these days of sadness both Mahesh and Guddi spared a thought for their father. A father who by his own misdeeds had lost out on the love of his family and especially the love of his grandchildren whom he had never known.

Many years had gone by since Ram was sent to prison, but the children had never visited him nor had they ever written to him or enquired as to his welfare. The scale of his corruption had been too much to bear. If Ram had once apologised for his actions then the brother and sister might have forgiven him. But this was not to be.

And so Ram died a lonely old man, in prison and there was none to light his funeral pyre and cleanse him of his sins.

Now the house had a new mistress one of a new religion, one who wore a different set of clothes and conversed in a different language. The new mistress, however, was cast in the same mould as Parvati, she was kind and considerate to the servants and her love of Mahesh and James new no bounds.

In time Guddi and Pearl gave birth to daughters. The daughters were named Anjali and Jennifer.

Because of the love for one another between Mahesh and Guddi, their children grew up almost as siblings. They were of different religions and usually spoke a different language in their own homes but when they were all together they used the language of the foreigner, which was universally understood in their homeland.

When Pooja’s father died, her mother Guddi returned to her old home so Mahesh and Guddi spent the evening of their lives in peace and tranquillity.

And Pearl welcomed all to her home because that was the type of woman she was.



 July 7 2015

The day after Guddi’s marriage to Shyam, she left with him and his family to go to her new home.  There were many tears at the parting as Guddi and her mother Parvati had never been separated before.

This sadness was also tinged with joy at her marriage and an expectation of a happy life together with Shyam. She was secure in Shyam’s promise that he would love and protect her all her days.

Guddi and Shyam arrived at their home, a comfortable home, not as large as the home she had just left but very comfortable nevertheless. She was glad to see that there was a large garden where she could plant her flowers and sit and read.

Reading had become such a Joyous compensation during her unhappy days when her father Ram sought to destroy her. Reading had enabled Guddi to fly to distant lands in her imagination and escape the horrid truth of her father’s intentions.

There was an elderly manservant and his wife who looked after their needs. These two took an instant liking to Guddi and she returned their affections.

Meanwhile Parvati and Mahesh found their house to be empty and even the staff missed the quiet and kindly Guddi.

Mahesh was not responding to his mother’s ministrations as quickly as she had hoped so Parvati had him admitted to a nursing home for more experienced care.

Mahesh had been a hero to the doctors and nurses alike, and in his heyday everyone was so proud of a local boy who had made good.

 After months of intensive care, Mahesh was ready to go home. His doctors and nurses came to wave him goodbye. All were sorry to see him go and one nurse in particular turned away to hide her tears...

Now it was Mahesh’s turn to speak shyly to his mother. Like Guddi, his mother had to coax the words out of him. He said that while in the hospital he had met a very special girl who he wished to marry. Parvati was overjoyed at this news and hoped that it would help with his rehabilitation.

Then Mahesh dropped a bombshell, the girl belonged to different religion. Her name was Pearl. Pearl had taken special care of Mahesh over and above those that her duty demanded and over time they both discovered that they had fallen in love

Mahesh and Pearl knew that their religious differences would be a real stumbling block to their parent’s consent to the wedding; They also knew that their love for one another would overcome all obstacles.

It was with great trepidation that Mahesh and Pearl approached her parents to seek their approval to the marriage. But they need not have worried. The parents were happy that their daughter had found somebody who loved her enough to get married.

They were of the old school with their straight laced values.

The next port of call was the priest, and this is where the trouble commenced. He was all against a Christian girl marrying a non-Christian. Seeing their determination he had no choice but to agree, but on the proviso that any children of the union would be raised as Christians. Mahesh’s love for Pearl was so great that he would have agreed to anything.

The elderly Parvati now commenced on another round of wedding arrangements. Only now there were to be two ceremonies. There would be one in the house, much like Guddi’s and another in the church. Parvati had never taken any interest in the church before, so she did not know what to expect. A kindly older priest took Parvati around the church and explained the marriage ceremony to her. Parvati found that there was very little difference between the two rites. There would be the taking of vows, to love one another for the remainder of their days, the exchanging of rings and the vows as prescribed:-

I,Mahesh ,do  take you, Pearl, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.

And Pearl will reply:-

I Pearl do take thee Mahesh to be my lawful wedded husband, I promise to be true to thee in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love thee and honour and obey thee all the days of my life. And thereto I plight thee my troth.

The priest will then say ‘those who God has joined in holy matrimony, let no man put asunder.

With the priest’s blessings and the signing of the registers the holy rites and the sacrament of marriage would be over.

Guddi and Shyam her husband arrived a few days prior to the dual celebrations and it was evident that Guddi was heavily pregnant.

The whole household welcomed them with joy, one of their own had returned.

Pearl was a bit reticent when she first met Guddi because she had heard so much about her from Mahesh.  Mahesh had always taken great care of Guddi and she in turn had cared for Mahesh when Ram had tried to ruin them both.

Looking at Mahesh and Guddi together, Parvati wondered where she had gone wrong, what had happened to the dark haired young man that she had loved and married, the father of her children. Why had Ram tried so desperately to destroy their innocent young lives? She could find no answers to these questions.

When Pearls parents first met Mahesh’s mother and sister Guddi, they were overwhelmed by the graciousness of the one and the beauty of the other. The house and grounds were of opulence that they did not fully comprehend.

Because of Pearl’s parent’s humble abode it was decided to hold all the receptions in Mahesh’s house.

After the dual ceremonies, Parvati welcomed her new relations and their guests to her house. Most of the food was similar to each other but the music and the dancing varied widely.  The Goan band, hired especially for the occasion, played Western music and the singer sang Western songs while the guests danced together.  There was much laughter and a great deal of hilarity as Parvati and her friends tried this alien form of dancing. There were many tangled feet and many couples collapsed on to the floor amid laughter.

When all was concluded it was agreed that this was the best entrainment ever.

Then Mahesh and Pearl went off on honeymoon and Shyam returned to his work.

Guddi remained in her mother’s house until the days of her confinement were over.

Shyam returned for the birth of a little girl who they named Pooja.

A new generation had been born and it was time to put all past tribulations behind them.

 July 4 2015

The Father did not come Home

Seven-year old Mahesh trudged wearily to  school, a school that he hated. His shoulders were hunched and his fists were tightly clenched.

His hair was uncut and flowing over his eyes. At the back the hair covered his shirt collar, just as well, perhaps as the collar was frayed and in imminent danger of falling off. His shorts were cut below the knee and frayed at the edges, they were held together by means of a safety pin at the waist. He looked altogether a perfect mess.

As he walked along he kicked a small pebble, with his scuffed shoes as if it was a football. What rose along with the pebble was coal dust.

Hardly any coal was mined nowadays. With the advent of almost universal electricity there was less need for coal. But the years of mining had left the roads and home with a gossamer layer of coal dust.

Most of the men had moved away, in search of work in larger towns.  Some men however, had remained. They were usually the married men with a family. They eked out a living as best they could. Some remained in the vain hope that the mine would reopen to its original capacity.

The pittance that the mine owners had given as recompense for the loss of employment was soon gone in the ale houses and whiskey joints.

One such family comprised of a mother and a father and a son. It did not take the father long to join the ranks of the leavers. The mother managed to feed the boy and herself by getting casual work in the big house. The work was very intermittent and did not pay well. It usually consisted of doing cleaning and working in the kitchen as a scullery maid. But she was grateful for even this small income.

Mahesh was poorly dressed with miscast clothing because she had purchased them from the charity shop in the nearby town. All the clothes were of the wrong size for the boy and had all the goodness knocked out of them with constant washing.

Mahesh had left home without having eaten any breakfast. There was nothing unusual in that. Most mornings he had no breakfast as there was nothing to eat in the house. He excused his mother; she was a single mother and  found it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. He knew that he would be humiliated in school as he accepted a free meal. But he was so hungry..

Ever since her husband had gone away to try and provide for his family, both she and Mahesh would look expectantly down the road hoping to catch a glimpse of him coming back.

The days had turned into weeks and the weeks into months and then into years, but there was no word from him and certainly no money and no letter ever arrived.

Just after he left home she found that she was expecting another child. This child, a girl, was now five years old. What a beautiful child, she was the apple of her mother’s eye, whatever little money that the mother earned was lavished on the girl. The boy loved his little sister, he was also aware that she was the favourite and he had been relegated from his mother’s affections.

The mother would trudge the lanes every day in search of work, but there were very few jobs available, the younger women would fight for the available work, the mother had all the fight knocked out of her. Nobody wanted to employ a woman with a small child in tow.

These thoughts kept turning over in Mahesh’s mind as he trudged disconsolately on his weary way to his lessons.

The only consolation that he had was the knowledge that he would be able to play football with his young friends. He loved playing football, if only it didn’t wear out his shoes . His mother would be unable to buy a new pair for him, so he relied on the already worn shoes from the charity shop.

And then he saw them, a pair of small football boots. He begged his mother to buy them for him and pointed out how they would save his shoes from disintegration. After much persuasion, his mother relented. How could she possibly not  know that a pair of football boots was his dearest wish? Even though this had put a strain on her already meagre finances, she was determined to make his life as happy as she possibly could.

The boy’s chest puffed with pride as he sat on the side of the field and changed into his new boots

That day, wearing his new boots, the boy played a brilliant game of football and all his friends and team-mates marvelled at his excellent way of dribbling the ball away from his opponents. He even managed to score a goal. For the first time ever he was congratulated by everyone and carried on their shoulders back to the pavilion.

For the second time that day he was puffed with pride as he made his way home, and was composing the words, in his mind, as to how he would relay his good news to his mother and his sister.

But then it started to rain, just a drizzle at first and then the rain came down harder and harder. He leaned against a tree for shelter, and then he sat down as the rain continued.  He was so overcome with emotion that he began to sob.  The sobbing developed into a full flow of tears. He began to think of his father, whom he vaguely remembered and the hard life of poverty that his family had to endure. He wept pitifully and there was no controlling his sorrow.

And still the father did not come home.

So the years went by, the boy was growing up fast and soon outgrew his cheap second hand clothes which had to be replaced by other cheap second hand clothes from the charity shop. If only he could afford some new clothes and a warm jacket!!!!

He so wished that his mother did not have to work so hard and that his sister was dressed in beautiful dresses, instead of the cheap cotton frocks from the same charity shop.

The boy spent all his leisure hours playing football. It was the only time that he could forget his troubles and imagined a different life for his family and himself.

Whenever the boy felt overcome with emotion, he would sit under the same tree and weep. The tree felt like a comfortable old friend to be turned to in times of trouble .The boy longed for his father to come home.

But the father never came.

From a very young age, both children had gone out seeking work that had paid them some money. They had always given their hard earned money to their mother without spending any on themselves. The mother had noticed these constant acts of unselfishness, and had encouraged the children in whatever path that they chose to pursue.

Although it would not always appear so, she loved her two children with equal intensity.

The boy had returned this love and he and his sister did all they could to ease the burden of poverty that they had to endure.

And still the father did not come home.

The mother allowed the  boy to fulfil his love of football and remain after school to play with his friends.

When Mahesh was  sixteen years old, He was noticed by  team scouts who went around the villages looking for players of above average ability.

The scouts had spoken to the boy’s mother and she had agreed for him to attend a camp where his prowess could be gauged against children of similar ability. He was classed as outstanding and signed on as an apprentice, he was paid for this from a club and he slowly progressed from the reserves to become a member of the team.

This meant long absences from home and he missed his mother and his sister.

And still the father did not come home.

The scout signed up Mahesh to a local football club in  a neighbouring town.

Mahesh’s skill as a footballer took him from the town to a city, then a bigger city. He was signed by a prestigious club in the capital city.

The club paid good salaries and a bonus for every victory. Mahesh began to send home money.

Mahesh was chosen for the state team to play in the Nationals. He did the state proud .

The prestigious club gave him a five year contract. The first Mahesh did was to bring his mother and sister over. His mother had stopped looking for work and she kept house for him and his sister.

By the time Mahesh was twenty, he was earning a healthy sum of money.

They now lived in a large house and had servants of their own. The girl went to a private school and she wore the most up-to-date clothes. No more hand-me-downs from the charity shops, they were the most fashionable new clothes that money could buy. 

In time he  was signed up by one of the most prestigious clubs in the land. Within a few years the boy was earning more money than he had ever imagined.

And, at last, the father came home



When Mahesh’s father ,Ram,left home ostensibly to look for work, he took many items of his wife’s jewellery to sell.The reason he gave: until he was able to support himself. He had packed a small case with his clothes and his wife Parvati ,had made up a parcel of food for the journey. As a concession to the train journey he had put on his best shoes, which he had polished to a high gloss.

To save some money he had walked to the nearest bus stop and bought a ticket to the railway station. At the station he had purchased a ticket to the nearest big town and was surprised at how expensive this was.

Some of his former colleagues were already living in the town.He made his way to the address of his friend so that he could become familiar with the town. His friends showed him around the town and boasted  what a wonderful life they were leading. No more coal mining for them, they were always clean, and free to go drinking and seeking out the company of city girls. 

Within a few days he had received a number of rejections for employment. Then he saw an advertisement for a guard to a wealthy merchant. As he had worked in the coal mines, he was very physically fit and was offered the job, at a salary far in excess of his previous remuneration. For a brief moment he had thoughts of sending money home; he quickly put such thoughts out of his mind. But he did miss his son so. As time went on it became easier and easier to spend all his money on himself.

He needed new clothes as befits an employed man. His village clothes were out-of-fashion and the cause of much ridicule. Besides he did have to spend money with his previous and new found friends. They always expected him to pay for their drinks and the odd meal.

In due course these friends introduced him to all sorts of drugs to enable him to stay awake long enough to attend to his duties. He did not realise that his life was spiralling out of control. He was on a rapid downward spiral only he did not see it.

His boss, the employer, noticed his gradual initial decline that led to his rapid degeneration.He was constantly late for work and some days he did not turn up at all. His work colleagues also suffered his abusive behaviour and there were many complaints.

His employer had no option but to let him go. With the loss of his job he lost the accommodation that the merchant had provided. So he was now jobless and homeless. All his new found friends just melted away.

When all his money savings were spent, he pawned his wife’s jewellery, which he had safeguarded all these years.  In his lucid moments he began to think about his son and his wife whom he had abandoned to a life of poverty.

But these thoughts were too painful to contemplate, so he hurriedly turned them out of his mind. But he did miss his son and thought often of the boy that he loved so well.

His wife had been replaced in his affections by a city girl, a girl who was well scrubbed and highly perfumed. A girl who did not smell of garlic and onions and kitchen smells. How had he ever put up with his wife? His guilt was uppermost in his mind

At the same time, he noticed that the city girl no longer came to visit him  as regularly as before. There was no one to whom he could turn in his hour of need, there was no one with whom he could discuss his problems and that hurt the most .

As time went on he started to sleep on the streets as he could not afford a roof over his head. Much against his earlier upbringing, he turned to petty crime, his drugs and his smoking habits were so expensive. His clothes took on an unkempt look and he grew a beard.  There was no more pretence about looking for employment. He was turned away with oaths and punches from every prospective employer that he approached.

His petty crime was just small acts of stealing and he realised that it was an easy way of making a living. Then he got more daring and started breaking into houses at night to steal whatever he could find. He sold his loot  to other criminals who gave him small amounts of money, much less than their true worth.

After years of drug and alcohol and tobacco abuse, the once strong man of the mines was reduced to a shadow of his former self. He was no longer able to fend for himself, so he joined a particularly vicious gang of thieves and cutthroats.  In the beginning they were very successful and netted vast amounts of money but as it was shared out among the gang with the lion’s share going to the leaders; his share was pretty meagre. As the newest member of the gang he was assigned all the most dangerous jobs.  He had to prove himself equal to the task.

As time went on the gang got more daring and their plans were not so well thought out. As a result, the police caught a number of them.

At his trial, he was advised to plead ‘’not guilty’’. This was a big mistake. The judge chose to make an example of him and he was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.

The prison regime was harsh, the guards were brutal but the most brutal of all were the prison gang leaders.

As soon as he arrived in prison to serve his time, his head was shorn with a cutthroat razor that was none too sharp. He was stripped naked and hosed down with a particularly harsh jet of water. A delousing powder was thrown over him and this caused him to choke and splutter but it only caused great hilarity among the onlookers.

As he had no money to pay for the exorbitant price demanded for drugs, he suffered from withdrawal symptoms that were worse than the pangs of hell. The food was at times inedible and the portions were small, just enough to sustain life.

Slowly but surely he got through it all. He endured the beatings from the guards and the punishments from the gang leaders.

Because he was now small and puny he became the target for every prison bully. He stoically endured all this pain and suffering and accepted it as a punishment for his desertion of his wife and son.

The prisoners were able to listen to football matches on the radio and he became aware of a hero named Mahesh. Mahesh became the number one sportsman of the year and his progress was followed with keen interest among the guards and prisoners alike.

How was he to know that this Mahesh was his own son who he had abandoned as a little child?  Mahesh had looked up to and adored his father, and had then been cast aside like so much garbage.

He then began to think of his wife, Mahesh’s mother. Was she still alive?  How had she managed to look after herself and feed the boy?

He knew nothing of his daughter, because he had never communicated with them after he left home.

Occasionally, new prisoners were able to bring magazines and newspapers into the prison. The photo of their idol Mahesh the footballer, was always much in evidence. As he studied the photos he imagined that he saw the resemblance between his son and this man. Was it too much to hope that Mahesh was truly his son.

Reading the reports he learnt that Mahesh had become immensely rich and lived in a large house with ten bedrooms and spacious grounds, with beautiful gardens. He lived there with his mother and his sister. Who was this sister? Where did she come from? He did not know that he was indeed the father of this beautiful girl. Then he saw a picture of Mahesh’s mother and all doubt was cast from his mind. She was his wife. But what a transformation, although she was much older she was now dressed in the most lavish garments.

All these things he kept to himself. He dare not divulge his suspicions to anyone.

He began, secretly, planning to return home when he was released from prison.

The day of his release was not far off and with time off for good behaviour, it could be any day now

Then doubts began to beset him. How would he be received? Would they be pleased?

Would Mahesh remember him? How could he? He was just a little child when he went away. He had never even known that he had a daughter. Was she his? If not, whose child was she? 

He tried to dispel these torturous thoughts from his mind but they were difficult to banish.

With these thoughts playing on his mind he went to sleep.

July 5 2915


The morning of Ram’s release from prison, dawned with a heavy mist and a light drizzle.  He was given some basic clothing and a small sum of money to tide him over for a few days. On top of this he was given the address of a house where he would be able to stay until he found work and could make arrangements for his own residence. 

In just under ten years he had been forgotten by all his friends, he had not received any visitors in the last seven years and he did not know anyone on the outside.

As a result there was no one to greet him at the gates and no happy reunions.

What had become of his life after such a promising start?

The streets all looked strange to him and the cars were of a different model than he remembered. The biggest impact was the numbers of people that now lived in the town. Where had they all come from? He listened to the dialogues and came to the conclusion that they were all country folk, just like himself, who had migrated into town in search of work.

But he had no intention of seeking employment. Why should he, when he had an enormously rich son. He would lead a life of leisure from now on.

Let someone else look after him for a change. After all there was ample accommodation in his son’s house and his wife Parvati, was still alive.

The only thing bugging him was the girl. Who was she? These thoughts persisted and were uppermost in his mind. What if his wife had remarried?

In which case he would not be welcomed into the house.

He had not contacted his family since the day he left to look for work. He had never written to them nor sent even the smallest amount of money to help.

There was no use in speculating, he just had to seek out his son’s house and see for himself, what the current set-up was.

Ram was impressed and taken aback by the size of Mahesh’s property, so he was a bit afraid of even entering the enclosed and gated gardens. Summoning all the courage he could muster he slowly walked up the long drive, but at the last minute his courage failed him.

Instead of calling at the front door, he walked around to the back, where the kitchens were located.  There a woman, who was obviously a servant, addressed him in a most uncivil manner. She asked him who he was and what did he want. They did not encourage beggars to come to the house. If they did, they would be inundated.

Just you wait, he would show her, when he was master in this house.

He told the kitchen maid to tell Parvati, he used her name, that Ram had come home.  With this new found bravado, he told her to be quick about it.

Seeing this wreck of a man, the maid was a bit dubious, but she was wily enough to know that it was never good practice to judge people by their looks.

Thus she left Ram at the back door and went in search of her mistress. Ram listed this further insult to him and swore that he would get even someday.

Parvati became very alarmed at this news and was afraid of who might be at her door, she summoned her manservant to go and bring the visitor into her small sitting room.

She also bade him to stay outside the door in case there was any unpleasantness.

Parvati offered the visitor a seat and then gazed at this pale specimen of a human being. He was hardly recognisable as her long lost husband. On closer scrutiny she was able to make out his features. She could not welcome him with open arms, so she asked him what he wanted, was it money he was after.

Parvati remembered all the years of abject poverty that she and Mahesh and her daughter Guddi, had to endure because of this man’s reckless abandonment.  He had no thought for their welfare, and now he appeared like a thief in the night, because of Mahesh’s good fortune and all her own sacrifices.

It was not Parvati’s decision alone; she would ask Mahesh and Guddi if they were in favour of having their father come home.

Parvati knew that Mahesh had often wondered about his father, and had looked down the byways in search of him coming home.

Guddi, on the other hand, had never known her father, but was curious to know what sort of man he was.

Parvati went in search of Guddi to give her the news and then brought her in to the study to meet her father for the first time.  Ram was struck by the beauty of this young girl, his daughter, who was so refined and well dressed. She had the most delicate features and was a little shy of him. Ram immediately loved her.

Parvati, telephoned Mahesh with the news and he said that he would return home immediately from his training camp. In the meantime, he asked his mother to make his father welcome and allocate a room for himself.

Ram was introduced to the servants and was invited to have lunch with Parvati and Guddi.  He had never in his life tasted such rich and well prepared food. Because of the years of near starvation, he could not eat much. He just picked at his food and kept staring at Guddi, in utter disbelief 

Then being the sort of man that he was, doubts began to creep into his mind. Was Guddi really his daughter? He hoped that she was not his.

Parvati and Guddi tolerated having Ram in the house, they felt uneasy about his presence. There was nothing that they could put their finger on, just a sort of unknown quantity about him.

The way he looked at Guddi was unsettling. No man should look at his daughter in that way. Parvati put her suspicions down to having a strange man in the house. She no longer loved nor respected this person. 

She comforted herself in the knowledge that Mahesh would soon be home then everything would be all right. She had implicit faith in Mahesh. After all she had single handedly raised him from a baby and knew all his moods.

By the second day, Ram was strutting around the house, as if he owned the place. He gave orders to the servants in a most uncivil manner.  Neither Parvati, Mahesh nor Guddi, spoke to them in that manner.  It all made for a very unpleasant atmosphere in the once happy home.

Much to everyone’s relief, Mahesh returned home on the third day.  As he had been in a training camp he had difficulty in getting a flight at short notice.

As a toddler, Mahesh had adored his father and over the years he had worshipped him with an intense zeal.  There was no one in the world like Ram as far as Mahesh was concerned.

Ram noticed the way that his son looked up to him and a plot began to form in his mind.  He would very subtly plant seeds of doubt in Mahesh’s mind as to Guddi’s real parentage. That way there would be no bar to the plans he had for this lovely girl. Once it was accepted that Guddi was not his daughter then everything would be plain sailing from then on. There would be no blame attached to his pursuit of this beautiful Guddi. He was driven insane for the longing for her, not as a daughter but as a lover.

Ram would not entertain any thought that his was an unnatural love, which would incur severe penalties in the eyes of the law. But if everyone believed that Guddi was not his true daughter then nobody could accuse him of any wrongdoing.

Parvati realised that Mahesh was completely taken in by his father and would hear no criticism of him.

To safeguard her daughter, Parvati arranged that they would go to the hills on holiday. That way they would be away from his evil intentions.

While mother and daughter were on a prolonged holiday the father was working on the son. He cast insinuations at every opportunity. Nothing tangible but half truths and innuendos, were enough to make Mahesh doubt his own mother.

One of Ram’s first actions was to dismiss the kitchen maid who had slighted him.

Ram had also noticed that some of the older servants were loyal to Parvati and had been in her employ for many years. They had to go, so had the manservant who had stood guard at the door when he had first arrived.

Ram filled their vacancies with servants of his own choosing, and Mahesh did nothing to stop him.

The father  said that if Mahesh stopped sending money to Parvati and Guddi, they would have to come home.

And so it was that mother and daughter returned to a house that they no longer considered a home.

The Corruption

Even before Parvati and Guddi left for the hills, Ram had been filling Mahesh’s mind with poison.

After they left then Ram had a clear field, he suggested to Mahesh that they go into town for some entertainment. He had a very clear picture of what this entertainment would entail.

Ram took Mahesh into a bar where scantily clad women were serving drinks at highly inflated prices.

There was also a floor show of a dubious nature. A very seedy individual, who Ram seemed to know quite well, with shifty eyes that darted all over the place, came and asked if they would like something to relax them. With a great show of faked anger, Ram, told the man to go away.

After the man had left, Ram said ‘’I wonder what he was selling?’’ ‘’ Should we try some. Just to see?’’ 

When Mahesh reluctantly agreed, Ram took the money and went in search of the dealer. Ram took a generous portion of the money as a commission, after all his son could afford it and he was sick of living on hand-outs. Why shouldn’t he ‘’have a slice of the action’’ after all his son could afford it/

Ram was well aware of what drug addiction would do to a person; he had experienced the effects when he was first sent to prison. But there was no other way to make Mahesh dependent on him.

At first he gave small amounts of ‘soft’ drugs to Mahesh and then they became more potent and the amounts increased.  Ram always took it upon himself to go in search of the dealers. This way he could amass more and more commission for himself.

When Ram had enough money he decided that he himself would become a dealer and cut out the middleman.

Ram persuaded Mahesh to stop going to the upmarket clubs and instead he took him down to the back streets and byways of the town. As Ram milked more and more of Mahesh’s fortune, it eventually came to a position where there was no more money.

The once great and revered Mahesh could no longer play football. He was sacked from the club and his income was stopped.

This still did not satisfy the evil and avaricious Ram.  He persuaded Mahesh to withdraw all Parvati’s and Guddi’s jewellery and other valuable items from the safe deposits and pawn them for a fraction of their true value.

Again Ram acted as the middleman. Mahesh, by now was completely dependent on his father.

The time was ripe for Parvati and especially Guddi to return home.

The Redemption


When Parvati and her daughter returned home they were stunned by Mahesh’s appearance. He was pale and drawn and a shadow of his former self.

He was quiet and deferred to Ram in every way.

All the old and trusted servants had been dismissed and the skeleton staff that had replaced them was rude and arrogant.

Many household items were missing from their usual places and the house appeared not to have been cleaned for weeks. It indeed had not been cleaned.

The lavish and well-cooked meals were no longer available and the tasteless food served up by a sullen manservant was a striking contrast to what had been.

The new servants did not do the ladies bidding but left it to Parvati and Guddi to carry their own cases up to their bedrooms. The beds looked as if they had been slept in and the dirty sheets left on the beds.

There was a smell of mustiness about the whole house.

A smell pervaded every room and Parvati could not identify it.

Ram became even bolder in open pursuit of Guddi. Mahesh would not accept that anything was amiss.

Much against her will, Parvati knew that she would have to get Guddi away from this place for good.

She went to the bank to withdraw some money and found that all her bank accounts and safety deposit boxes had been cleared. If she left the house she would be destitute.

Parvati realised that to save her daughter she would have to sacrifice her son.

The only sensible option now open to her was to report Mahesh and Ram to the appropriate authorities for possession and misuse of drugs.

The officers came and searched the house and a huge quantity of drugs and large sums of money were discovered on the premises.  Both Ram and Mahesh were arrested and locked in prison awaiting trial.

Oh the shame of it.

It was now Mahesh’s turn to go through the withdrawal symptoms as he could not acquire any drugs in jail.

After many months their case came up for trial, as Ram had by now accumulated lots of money he could afford a solicitor.  Poor Mahesh was left to fend for himself.

Ram testified that it was all Mahesh’s doing and he added a few embellishments of his own, in implicating Mahesh in all the wrongdoing.

Parvati and Guddi were in court to hear this and were aghast at the temerity of the man. They decided to expose Ram for the evil man that he was.

Both the ladies gave their evidence and all the old retainers appeared in favour of their former master.

Suddenly the veil was lifted from Mahesh’s eyes and he was able to testify as to the truth of what had transpired.

As if through a mist, Mahesh recalled little episodes of his downfall and the part that his father played in it. It was difficult to accept that the father who he worshipped and looked up to would try and destroy him.

Ram was found guilty and for a second offence he was given a sentence of 25 years imprisonment.

Mahesh was found guilty on a lesser charge, and as he was not responsible for his actions he was released into his Mother’s care.

All the money found in the house was deemed to belong to Parvati, Mahesh and Guddi and was returned to them.

Many of the newer servants were found guilty of aiding and abetting the facilitation of drugs and given prison sentences.

The old retainers were only too glad to return to the service of their kindly masters.

Slowly but surely the household returned to its old and happy self.

Parvati tenderly nursed her son, the lovely Mahesh back to health and he got stronger by the day. Health-giving foods were provided every day and Guddi sat with her brother for hours on end, talking to him and reading to him.

This idyllic lifestyle could not last forever, money was needed and money was scarce. Mahesh’s rehabilitation and all the healthy food cost more that they could have imagined. Mahesh, with Guddi’s help started writing his memoirs for a national newspaper and thus began to earn money again.

Sometimes Mahesh’s friends from his sporting days came to visit him and gave him news of his former colleagues.

It became obvious that one particular player was visiting more often than the others. Whenever he came he did his best to seek out Guddi, they spent long hours sitting in the garden just talking. All Guddi’s conversations centred on this person and Parvati realised that they were deeply in love with each other.

Then one afternoon a very shy Guddi approached her mother but could not blurt out what was in her mind. Parvati gently spoke to her daughter and at last Guddi told her that she wanted to get married.

Parvati and Mahesh too liked the boy and they were overjoyed at Guddi’s choice.

The whole household soon learned the happy news; Guddi belonged to them as much as she did to Parvati and Mahesh.

There were many preparations to be made and the boys parents had to be contacted for their approval.

At long last all the preparations were ready, the food was prepared and all the friends and relations were invited to attend this glorious event.

The couple walked under the canopy and around the purifying fire. They fed sweetmeats to each other and vowed their eternal love for each other.

They tied the sacred string on each other’s wrists and recited:--

I take thy hand  in mine, yearning for happiness

I ask thee, to live with me, till both of us, with

age, grow old

Know this, as I declare, that the Gods have

bestowed thy person, upon me

That I may fulfil, my Dharma of the householder,

with thee !

The old scriptures were invoked and all the proper rituals were performed as laid down in the rituals of marriage. This holy estate could not be taken lightly.

Guddi and the boy were married and as they walked out into  the moonlit garden, they embraced each other for the first time, her husband tenderly took Guddi into his arms, and all the stars fell out of the skies.


May 28 n2015
 Presbyterian Church in Cutlacherra.

I have been at a loss to come up with more ideas for further writings to post on my pages of true life stories. Suddenly, I chanced on the small article about the illustrious missionary Miss Helen Rowlands of Karimganj. I knew then that I must write about the Presbyterian Church in Cutlacherra.

There is a small church in Cutlacherra situated on a hill with the inspired name of ‘girja tilla’. The church was not too far from our burra bungalow and like the bungalow it also has a gong, this one to call the faithful to prayer on Sundays.

At the foot of the girja tilla there was a small group of houses that can only be described as the Christian Compound. There were a couple of smaller bungalows and some upmarket busti-type houses.

It was on a veranda in one of these bungalows that we all sat on that sad and  fateful night when my mother’s coffin was brought down from Shillong, and her funeral service was held for the elderly who could not climb up the Khobor tilla . How sad it must have been for my Granny as she struggled up the steep slopes of the Khobor tilla to see her daughter, my mother buried, by the light of Tilley lights and lanterns and torches.

All the missionaries had assembled in Cutlacherra and the Reverend Welsh Missionary from Silchar conducted the funeral service. 

We walked around in a daze for days while the grown ups made inane remarks to try and soothe our pain.

One of the bungalows was occupied by a lady called Didi and her carers.She had cared for my father when he was a child.

The other bungalow was occupied by Mr Nobo Kishore, the Manager Babu, and his family.

I liked Nobo Babu as he was always kind to us. It was a pity that he died so young, as he was my father’s right hand man and kept good discipline and management on the plantation.

The other houses were, in the main, occupied by the good ladies who had been abandoned by the sahibs when they returned to the UK.  My grandfather and also my father were both very concerned for these good ladies, as they were ostracised by the community. Many of them had children, so my grandfather sent the children up to Kalimpong for their education. The ladies now being casteless attended the church and, in time, came to regard themselves as Christians. They were probably baptized as well.

There was a Preacher man, the Porchar Babu, with his family who ran the services every Sunday. I have no idea who paid him for his services. But he and his family always appeared well turned out. (Clean and well dressed)

We only ever attended these church services on Christmas and New Year’s Day. We were never there at Easter Time as we were in School up in the Himalayas or the Khasi and Jantia Hills.  Another reason for our non-attendance was that all the services were, naturally, held in Bengali. Not the local Bengali but in a language spoken by the educated babus and their families. I still wonder just how much the majority of the attendees understood.

I was actually in Cutlacherra on Easter Day 1950 after I had done my Senior Cambridge exams in 1949.

There was always a period of about three days when the missionaries from far and wide descended on Cutlacherra for prayer meetings.

There was the Rev Merfyn Jones from Silchar and a larger contingent from Karimganj. The Karimganj team was my favourite, especially Mini a wonderful Desi lady, but she did not stay in the bungalow as our diet was not to her liking. Mini went and stayed with the Christian ladies.

The Rev Jones together with Dr Miss Helen Rowlands and Miss ‘Ettie Evans stayed at our bungalow and given ‘proper grub’. I know because when we stayed in Karimganj with Miss Rowlands, her cook used to present the most horrendous stuff.  I am sure that the ladies ate this food as a form of penance.

The Rev Jones’ cook on the other hand was brilliant. Once when our whole family turned up at his house in Silchar, he was away, but his cook produced plate after plate of the most delicious pancakes. He apparently did this with only a couple of eggs, my father was so impressed that he jokingly said to the cook ‘kaam mangta?’ (Do you want work?)

The three days was spent in prayer and preaching from the missionaries, in the church and the courtyards. The local populace turned up, inquisitive, at first and then, intrigued by the Bible stories.  Miss Rowlands was by All accounts a brilliant and most effective Bengali speaker. But Alas! She was only a woman, and could not hold the top position in the Karimganj mission. That position was held by the sleazy Rev Badshah (Bacha Babu). Children are a good judge of character and, instinctively, know when something is not quite right.  In latter years Bacha Babu was sacked for embezzling the Church funds.  He was, would you believe, my godfather? He was most incensed when I converted to Roman Catholicism, as were all the Presbyterian Missionaries.

The children who were sent to Kalimpong, soon forgot their Mother Tongue, they learnt to speak in English. Their eating habits also changed, to some degree, and they learned to eat with a spoon and fork, as opposed to eating with their hands. With their very valuable education, they managed to get good jobs in India or overseas, but lamentably, they forgot their mothers. Even as their fathers had abandoned their mothers, they too did likewise. Sadly the mothers yearned for their children to visit them in Cutlacherra, but they never came. Boys and girls, for all their education, became ashamed of their mothers, even as their fathers had been.

The mothers could not think of their children as grown ups, to them they remained forever young.I recall a lady ask my father ‘George koe nai aana?’ (Didn’t you bring George?)   Charitably we could say that the children forgot that they ever came from the tea gardens or who their mothers were; Cutlacherra would mean nothing to them.

Every Christmas Eve the people would gather in the large courtyard below the girja tilla and sing carols. There was the music of the harmonium, the beat of the drums, the clash of cymbals and the loud trumpet and the stringed instruments that accompanied the singing all night.

Very early in the morning when the dew was beginning to settle and the mist was still in the air, the carol singers left the courtyard and started their slow walk passed the bhor thall and passed the drying sheds and passed the tea factory and along the top banks of the Dhaleswari river. Singing all the way they wended their weary way up the slope to the bungalow. They were all wrapped in their chadors and came on to the front veranda. Round and around the giant marble table they went singing and playing their instruments. There was to be no more sleep on Christmas morning. We children would look out bleary eyed and either my mother, or in later years my grandmother would instruct the chowkidar to provide refreshments to all.

With calls of ‘Happy Kismis’ they would go back down the hill and prepare for the first Service of Christmas Day


March 12 2015

Cutlacherra Pagla khanna

During the Christmas holidays when we were all together in Cutlacherra, the weather was fine; the temperatures were not too hot, not too cold, but just right  It was then that we arranged “impromptu” picnics. They always took a great deal of preparation and planning.

First of all we had to choose a suitable location. Then we had to decide what food would be taken. The mode of transport to the chosen location was very important.  We did not have to wait for a bright and sunny day. During the winter months, every day was going to be bright and sunny. We just had to choose a specific day. On the appointed day, two bearers would go ahead to make arrangements for our comfort. Workers were employed to take a table and chairs to a clearing at the edge of the forest which had been cleared of all twigs and overhanging branches etc.  The earth was flattened and the table laid out with a tablecloth and napkins. Someone carried the gramophone and a few records to the venue, usually nursed on the back of the lorry.

A primus stove was an essential bit of equipment as all food had to be reheated. The food was not anything different from our everyday meals, plates and cutlery and drinking glasses and water all had to be taken. My mother, grandmother and sisters were usually taken by car to as near as possible to the picnic site. The food was transported in the dekchis, in the boot of the car and my brothers and I would ride our bicycles to the spot. Table and chairs and morahs and all the heavier stuff was taken on the back of a plantation lorry,

 My father would always break off from his work on the plantation (Kamjari) and join us. He would arrive riding on his horse with the syce (groom) running along behind. We would play some music on the gramophone and sit around chatting and laughing and joking. Because it was the jungle, nothing different then, we had to ensure that there were not any nasty creepy crawlies, about. We messed about under the trees and all the while the bearers were busy reheating and preparing the food. The ayahs were kept busy looking after the very young ones, they were my sister Sheila and my youngest brother Alfy (this may come as a shock to some who knew him as a team captain in school, or even as a grown up). When all was ready we were called to have our meal in the jungle (Pagla khanna).

 Then things started to wind down, all the plates etc were given a cursory wash in a stream. All pure unpolluted water was used then the dishes were transported back to the bungalow. The primus stove was used to boil water and make tea and cake was cut for us. After all the playing around we had to wash our hands in the cool waters of the stream, before we could be given cake to eat. All the other food was eaten with a spoon and fork.( I still use a spoon and fork to eat my Indian meals, my children all use a knife and fork to eat curry and rice. I ‘educated’ my wife Molly, to use a spoon for curry and rice. )  As it was getting towards evening, my mother, grandmother and sisters and the Ayahs would all get in the car to return to the bungalow. My father would make a short visit to the tea gangs before he returned home and all the paraphernalia for a Pagla khanna would be returned to the bungalow.

We boys would ride our bicycles around a bit and then pedal home. We would all be tired but happy because it had been such an enjoyable day.  These days were memorable because they were so infrequent but also because they were a family affair. Best of all, my Mum was alive then.Sometimes, only sometimes, we invited other planters and their families to join us.

 The servants always referred to our picnics as Pagla khanna and could not see why we had to go to the jungle when we were perfectly comfortable eating at home. In time we always referred to our picnics as Pagla khannas and never as picnics.

(Sahib log Pagla ho gya)


March 9 2015

During my late teens  I made rare trips to the land of Oil.

Digboi in the North East of India in the state of Assam was where my two uncles worked.
They were my mother’s brothers and were quite young when they first came out to India.
Their father had died, so my father sent for them first, and then later for

Their mother, my grandmother, whom the whole population of Cutlacherra and everyone
that we knew, called Granny.

My father had the boys educated in St James’s college in Calcutta, as boarders. When
each individually left school he applied to the Assam Oil Company for employment and
was successful.

On my rare visits to Digboi, I came down by bus from Shillong to Gauhati, and then train,
through the Assam Valley.  I never ever saw the mighty Brahmaputra, then, or if I did,
I did not register it.

One year I travelled with a school friend to a tea garden in Upper Assam, where his
father was the burra sahib and spent a few days there before making the short trip
into Digboi. This was a big tea garden, but the bungalow was bare with just a few
servants and not much furniture. I then realised that whereas our bungalow was our
permanent home, other tea planters moved where they were told. It did not have
the same warmth or the lived- in atmosphere as our burra bungalow in Cutlacherra.
May be I am just biased, but I don’t think so.

When I arrived in Digboi I was immediately struck by what I would call the pungency
of the air. The smell of burning seemed to pervade the atmosphere and the huge
refineries and storage tanks made our tea garden factories look like something out
of a meccano set.

At the station I went into the station master’s office to use his telephone in order to
notify my uncle of my arrival. The station master and his staff had a good laugh at my
expense as I did not know how to use the ‘phone. The ‘phone was on a brass pillar
about eight inches high and hanging on a hook. On the other side of the pillar was
a little handle that had to be turned. This marvel was beyond my capabilities. The
station master showed me how to use it and I asked the Digboi telephone operator
for my uncle by name. The operator, very kindly passed on a message, and soon
thereafter a car drove up.

As my uncle drove me from the station to his house I could not help noticing the derricks
dotted about the countryside all busily pumping oil.

At his house, my uncle had this servant who seemed to do everything except clean the
toilets. My uncle’s diet would make a good cardiologist weep. He had this piece of very
fatty pork, in his fridge and he would cut off a piece every day for the servant to either
roast or curry. But the servant thought it was great’ chorby bahut acha hai’ (the fat is
good for you) This attitude was prevalent over much of India.

I could not live, indefinitely, on this diet so I would cycle over to my other uncle’s house,
where his wife had superintended a decent meal.

Many of the houses were company owned, and the higher up the scale you were the
better house was allocated to you. The majority of the higher ranked personnel were
British and they had their own, very plush, club. There were other clubs too for the
Anglo-Indian staff and Indian staff.

Tea planter chota Saabs used to frequent these clubs for the female company they
provided, and also for the dances.  The number one club was too staid for the chota

These chotas would arrange picnics to nearby beauty spots and boating on the many
rivers. Elephant rides were a great magnet for many people from England. They had
photographs taken of themselves riding on elephants; these photos were sent back
to their mothers and fathers in Britain. You couldn’t get more exotic than that.

In Digboi, people would never tire of telling me that it was the first oilfield in India, and
the oil wells were the oldest in the world.

My uncle once took me up to the River Dehing, which had a big bridge spanning it. He
advised me that China was on the other bank and it was not advisable to cross over
for fear of being arrested and imprisoned.

I did, however, visit the big military cemetery nearby. It was beautifully kept. All the
pathways were swept clean and the grass was newly cut. The keeper was very proud of
his work and invited me to write a few words in the visitor’s book. I did this gladly. Not
only because of the way it was maintained but also because all these men had given
their lives, in safeguarding a people of a foreign land.

Having felt the nearness and the effects of the war had made me realise that things
could have been quite different if the enemy had succeeded in their endeavours.

I never ever quite felt comfortable in Digboi, even though I was staying with my uncles
whom I had known all my life. The houses never felt stable enough to be a home. As they
were all company houses, they would never belong to the occupants, and as such the
occupants never ever felt the need to do any additional work on their houses. It later
reminded me of the council houses in England, where needy people were able to rent
them at cheap rates. The council undertook to do all maintenance and repairs. For this
reason the tenants would wait years for the council to repair a broken window pane
rather than do it at their own cost. Their argument was ‘why should we do it, it’s not ours’ completely oblivious to the fact that they were living in it.

Because of their clubs and the fact that all the inhabitants of Digboi were working for
the same company, there was a great camaraderie among the people. They often visited
each other’s houses and invited neighbours around for a meal. Every person seemed to
know what their neighbours were having for luncheon, tea or dinner.

‘What your mother cooking?  Feesh?’ This was a phrase I heard often from a lady living

Because Digboi was a town built up around the extraction and the refining of oil that was
the main function of the place. As the population increased so did the number of children,
a hospital and a number of schools were built.

The whole place seemed drab and there was nothing of beauty anywhere. Some parks
and gardens alleviated this to a certain extent.

The utilitarian and similar designs of the Assam-type houses, hurriedly constructed for
the workers did nothing to enhance any longing for the place.

I met a Young Anglo-Indian lad, a few years older than I who was training to be a driller.
He was housed in a long building divided into rooms where he was allotted a room, He
said to me “Welcome to my basha”. He never did say what he and all the other apprentices
did for meals, as I could not see any cooking facilities in his room.

On the strength of this and because I would soon have to look for a job,I asked my uncle
to try and get me an interview as a trainee driller.  I did see this supercilious English
manager, and then heard no more.

Perhaps I came across as too arrogant for him, as I expected to be snapped up.No joy
there then.

I did not spend much time in Digboi as my uncles were working and did not have much
time to show me around, I was left to my own devices during the day.

 I was glad to go home.                  

March 7 2015

When I first arrived in Calcutta, looking for a job, I was so grateful to the Majumder family and especially Chapal and Benoy who looked after me.

Arriving in this great big city, the second largest in the Commonwealth, was a culture shock. Up until then I had lived in the wide open spaces. Kalimpong, up in the Himalayas, was where my first school was located. It was cold in ‘dem thar hills’, but the scenery was breath-taking. Mount Kanchenjunga was just up there to the North of us and we could see it out of our school windows everyday. The best views were from the playing fields and the upstairs of the art room. Because the hills just fell away, there was this uninterrupted view

Towards the South lay the great plains of India, but we could not see them, we just knew that they were there, because that’s where we came from.  We could, however look down into the valleys where the rivers Teesta (Tista) and Rilli ran. These were the places to go on picnics and a swim in the river. But during the Monsoon, these rivers with their fast flowing currents were dangerous; you entered at your peril. Even at the narrows we would cross over by holding hands and forming a chain.

Another favourite picnic spot was up Deolo hill, which was even higher than our school.

My next school was in Shillong, in the Khasi and Jantia Hills... In Shillong, the hills were covered in sweet-smelling pine trees. Here we could not see very far as hills surrounded us. The only panoramic view we got was if we climbed up to Shillong peak. Even then I was disappointed after the Kalimpong wide open spaces. Even the school had a different demographic. It was all boys. The only consolation though was that we got to wear our own clothes and shoes and socks. It did not feel so cold, but in the wintertime there was a special classroom allocated for the Senior School Certificate examinations. As a concession to the boys with frozen fingers, there was a coal fire to heat the room. We noticed that the invigilator seemed to sit very close to the fire and the students at the back of the classroom did not get any benefit from the fire.

Then there was always my own beloved Cutlacherra, The wide-open spaces, the clean clear air and the roads virtually devoid of traffic, was in complete contrast to Calcutta.

When I eventually got my bearings, I loved Calcutta. But in the meantime I hated all the noise, the grime and all the traffic. The beggars in the street would not leave me alone, it is when they started to paw at me that I hated it the most. If the truth be known I probably had less money in my pocket than they did. My only consolation was that I had somewhere, apart from the streets to sleep on, and I had a father who I could ask for money, I never asked him for money, as I was determined to make my own way, after all he had paid for my very expensive education.

Most of all I missed the blue skies, the wide open spaces and the peace and quietness of home. I was alone in this great big city and loneliness was a big problem. I had never before in all my life been alone. Alone in a great big city with millions of people around me is a feeling that I had never before experienced.

I could never find a map of Calcutta, in the end I gave up looking for one when the bookshops told me that there was no such thing. I then started exploring the city, only my immediate neighbourhood, at first, for fear of getting lost, then as my courage increased, so did my area of  expedition.

At first my walks were limited to the area around my immediate vicinity of Chowringhee and the Maidan.  I got quite excited when I chanced upon the Statesman Building. My father had been reading that paper for years, and lately, so had I. Just imagine, here was I where it was printed or edited.

When I first started to read the Statesman, my Granny asked me if I found it difficult and weren’t the words too big for me to understand. It took a bit of persuasion on my part to make her see that reading and comprehension was no problem.

Then my circle of exploration increased and I was able to see more and more of this Immense city. 

I was taken by the scale and architecture of the Victoria Memorial and the St Paul’s Cathedral Church. Many other grand Calcutta buildings were overlooked as they belonged to a bygone era.

The river and the big ships on the River Hooghly, however, made a big impact on me.

I have always loved the water, and in the absence of the Ocean, a river was the next best thing.

I now live beside the Ocean , the English Channel, and a part of the Atlantic Ocean. After living in London for over forty years , my wife and I decided to retire to the seaside.

My wife was a Londoner and it was a big wrench for her to leave, but, As always, she did everything to make me happy. We spent seventeen very happy years, beside the sea before she died.

By all accounts, Calcutta is now more congested than I could ever imagine. Even the spelling and the pronunciation of the name has altered , Kolkata, would you believe.

But whatever floats your boat.

As I enter my final years, I find it hard to believe that I had such a magical childhood, because that’s what it was ‘magical’ there is no other word for it. My schooldays are still vivid in my memory .

All my experiences in India keep flooding back in nostalgic memory.


March 2 2015


I have said that when we left Cutlacherra, we always travelled northwards,

That was not strictly true because we sometimes, went South through the jungle roads because we visited a tea planter Sahib and his wife and family in Manipur Tea Estate, (properly Manipurbagan).

All the roads, wherever we travelled were, kutcha (unmetalled). They were flattened and sometimes stoned over with pebbles, but during the Rainy season they became impassable, because of all the mud.

Bisecting Cutlacherra there was a stream, draining into the Dhaleswari, and we had to cross over this steam known as the Kabli Nulla, the wooden bridge was quite low down, and had wooden planks laid lengthwise, to stop the rattle as motor vehicles crossed.  During the Monsoon, the bridge would be underwater so we and all the plantations to the South were marooned, until the waters subsided. The level of traffic did not warrant a ferry.

It was always this infamous bridge that our chowkidars were instructed to escort any unwanted persons to, (Pool koe oy turrof punchow). It was also the bridge that separated the Christian Compound and a small proportion of the labour force, from the greater mass of workers. There were no shops or any amenities on our side of the bridge.  But the main functions of the Tea production were on our side. The big tea factory and the withering and drying sheds were all grouped together at the foot of the bungla tilla but a little way away. 

The ‘lakri wallahs’ (woodcutters) would spend their days cutting wood and piling the logs in the lakri gatha (woodpiles) for use in the factory furnaces.

It was a very pleasant walk down from the bungalow on the river side as there were wide open spaces to look out on.  As we strolled along we came to the factory and overlooking the river was a little shed (a godown) that was permanently locked. Beside this shed was a huge metal ‘pipe’ that we struggled to get on and sit on.  We could see the boats going by and people walking about on the other side of the river. In the far distance was the dhobi Ghats (the washer men) with clothes laid out to dry.  We would sit here a while chatting,  before the ayahs would say ‘chalo baba, abhi jayga’ (come on we must go).

At the bottom of the hill was the gohaal (the cowsheds) and we tried extremely hard not to get caught up with the cattle being driven home from the grazing, at the end of the day, because we tried not to show it but we were scared of all these big cows and bulls walking towards us.

A little further up about halfway up the hill, but looking outwards was the ghora ghor (the horse’s stables). We could not see any of these buildings from the bungalow.

If we came down the hill on the other side, the incline was shorter and much steeper. At the bottom was the garage and the main road, where all the cars, about two a week, and busses, one a day in each direction plied their way. This was too where the tea bushes that came nearly up to the bungalow. After all, this was a tea plantation, The tea bushes used to have the most brilliantly coloured beetles that we caught and kept in matchboxes, or made little houses with separate bedrooms for them,. The poor things didn’t last more that a couple of days. These beetles were the size of marbles, so quite big

There was a longer road, less steep, on which cars were able to drive right up to the bungalow.  Some cars would really struggle to make it and we were never able to pedal up this road either. The cars would have to drive to the side of the bungalow before they were able to turn around for the return journey. No car was able to drive to the back because at a certain point the fence narrowed down to a space of less than six feet.

The spring from which we got all our water for the bungalow, was over the main road and about a quarter of a mile away, over a very ramshackle bridge. The two pani-wallahs (water carriers) spent all day carrying water up to the bungalow; the water itself was carried in cleaned kerosene cans and slung over the shoulder. One man carried the drinking water from the spring and the other man carried water that he got from the tank.  This was used for washing and bathing (goosool) and flushing the toilets.

The spring water was boiled and cooled and put in the water filter. Only then were we allowed to drink it. One memsahib actually stood watching me get the water from the filter before she would let her daughter drink it. 

There were two or three plantations to the South of us and then nothing but hills and deep impenetrable jungle. The road itself petered out and jungle tracts led into the Lushai Hills and Aijal.  Sena, a Lushai, told me that it took over a week of trekking for him to get home to his village.

Apart from Manipurbagan, there were some scattered tea gardens, with Exotic names, Sultanicherra, Jhalnacherra and  Kukicherra. Over the river From Manipur was Dholai and I overheard a pukka memsaab describing this place to a newcomer as ‘Diloycherra’ Unfortunately I was never able to get further than Manipur and Diloycherra was out of the question.

These roads must have been more recent because they were wide and level. There was an iron bridge and the received wisdom was that it was built by the boora Saab.  (Boora Saab banaaya raha)

It was on this bridge that, the driver one night came across a tiger sitting in the middle and beating its tail from side to side. The driver and all the passengers were petrified, because it was an old fashioned car with a canvas roof and ‘Perspex’ windows. Blowing the horn might have antagonised the tiger, so they just say there till it moved away.

Ever since then the driver approached this bridge with great caution, and at a snails pace. Our Hindi was not good enough to say, ‘lightning never strikes in the same place twice’ so we just said (Boorbok bagh baagh gya  "‘you fool the tiger has run away’

February 25 2015


Whenever it was necessary for us to go and catch a train, we had to drive Northwards out of Cutlacherra and passed all the lines the rice fields (khet) and then through the Katlicherra  Bazaar.  The road then opened up to more rice fields and the occasional  Busti (village) house. The houses usually had a clump of trees surrounding them and sometimes a tank (A water supply dug into the earth) for family use. The trees usually comprised of a few fruit trees, oranges, limes, leechees (not lychies ) papayas, and a must have, a coconut tree and some betel nut with paan (betel leaves) scavenging off the tree. Some enterprising people grew their own vegetables and the pride of place was a gourd.

Just passed the bazaar there was a small white painted,  mosque on the right hand side of the road. On arriving at this place the driver habitually stopped the car and leaned on the horn. After a while the Kala Miah would appear, all wreathed in smiles.  He was bent double at the waist, but did not use a walking stick, he would walk to the car and the nearer he got the faster he walked.  On arrival at the car he would stand upright, just for a few minutes, and then he would be bent over again. We were always happy to see him and he was happy to see us as we had called on him since we were babies. I am not sure how it all started, but we would chat to Kala Miah for a while and then he would go back to his house, near the mosque. He always wore a long black overcoat and sported a long snow white beard.

It continued like this for many years, then one year, the driver did not stop, we asked him why and he said ‘bechara mor gya’ (the poor man died)

We kept looking sadly at the mosque, every time we passed. But the Kala Miah was gone forever.

Then the houses became more frequent and closer together. There were more shops and even a motor agency selling petrol, in green cans at two gallons a time and the hand operated pump for petrol to be pumped directly into the vehicle’s petrol tanks. I do not recall there being any grades of fuel.

This was the town of Lalabazar. The road crossed over a single track railway lines, and then branched out into straight ahead, via Goglacherra ghat to Silchar. The right fork would bring you to the railway station, and on to the end of the line at Lalaghat.

The left fork was the way to Monacherra and continued on to Hailakandi and the rest of India.

At Monacherra was the Tea Planter’s Club. It had a polo ground and a golf course and facilities for playing tennis and badminton. Indoor sports were also available, but the main function seems to have been to serve drinks to the very thirst planters.

The club bearers would be dashing about with the bar chits, which the sahibs ordering the round of drinks had to sign. All these chits had to be redeemed; it would just be unimaginable to renege on a debt.

Nearby was the bungalow of the chief medical officer for the district. He had a driver but he preferred to drive the car himself at a snail’s pace. He was noted for it. He made his rounds and also visited at the gardens when called for. There were many illnesses and operations that the garden doctor babus were not competent to perform. Then the chief medical officer had to officiate.

Monacherra also boasted a railway station. The railway line was a single track and shuttled between Lalaghat and Katakhal Junction. The line was so isolated that the driver used the train as if it was his private conveyance. He used to stop outside his busti and whistle for his family to bring him lunch and collect any shopping that he might have done. It was all very cosy.

At Katakhal the train waited for the Silchar to Badarpur train to come along and disgorge its few passengers who then got on the waiting Lalaghat train which took off for home.  Two trips a day was quite sufficient.

When we were off to school we always arrived very early on a misty morning to catch the first train out of Lalabazar and going out into the wide world.  This was the only way that we made all the other connections. When we arrived then the driver would go and wake up the station master, he would arrive with a chador wrapped around him, to ward off the cold.  He would then light all the kerosene railway lamps and make us a cup of tea. He would go into his office and write up our tickets because he had only local pre-printed tickets.

Some stragglers would arrive to catch this very early morning train. Tickets would be sold, or not, and we all waited patiently to see the headlight of the approaching train. All trains in India had a very bright headlight and a low down cowcatcher because there were no fenced off areas to keep the lines safe from sheep, goats and cattle.

The station master would escort us to our carriage and hold the train until our entire luggage was loaded. The last time I ever saw my mum she was standing at the side of the train, with my sister in her arms and waving us off. She would return to Cutlacherra as soon as the train left.

February 22 2015

Khasi Cuisine

Whenever there is any mention of food or restaurants in Shillong or anywhere in The Khasi and Jantia Hills, there is always a mention of the most delicious pork dishes.
I first had a taste of the Shillong pork when I was boarding in Don Bosco (St John Bosco’s) in 1946. A few days before a feast day a live pig would be delivered to the kitchens and kept tethered . Then on the eve of the feast, one would hear the most horrific squeals when it’s throat was cut. The meat would be cut up and, probably,marinated overnight.
The cooking would start early on the morning of the feast day and and the most wonderful aroma  would pervade the atmosphere ,while we were in church for the Holy Day Mass.
The good Fathers knew how to make us sweat for our food.
 The curried pork was always served with a Junglee Pillau, making it even tastier. I have never had pork that tasted any better, before or since my Shillong days.
The Bangladeshi restaurants, obviously do not serve pork, but  I did find some in a Nepalese restaurant. They had cut the meat into a quarter inch sized pieces and cooked all the taste out of it.
I cannot seem to get it right as I always cook it too tough.
February 22 2015

Cutlacherra preparing for Christmas

Every year, soon after we arrived home for the holidays, my father would go to Calcutta to buy us our Christmas presents and also to buy all the ingredients for the Christmas fare. He would pop into Nahoum’s in the New Market to get the specialist cakes and biscuits.

Hall and Andersons and Whiteaway Laidlaw were visited for household items, and material had to be bought for all our school clothes to be made up by the durzi, Kamala, sitting on our side veranda.

Before the advent of air travel, this journey had to be made by car, and train, and paddle steamer, and train, before finally arriving in Sealdah Station.

A few days were spent in Calcutta,shopping and  visiting old friends, then the journey back to Cutlacherra, with all his purchases.

Because the goods mounted up and Dad was not able to carry all these himself, even if he wanted to, he decided to take Khorimona, the head bearer with him.

Apart from the luxury of travel to the Empire’s second largest city, Khorimona was absolutely astounded by the way city folk lived. Also he could not adapt to the Hindi or Bengali spoken in Calcutta. His Cutlacherra way of speaking made him an object of much amusement, but he said that he was never held up to ridicule, because he was the Sahib’s bearer, and therefore a man of influence.

When he returned to Cutlacherra he retailed his story to the throngs of people who wanted to hear, he told of the wonder of the electric light, operated simply by flicking a switch, and the fan turned by another switch. He wondered why we didn’t buy these switches for the bungalow, and then he wouldn’t have to pump up the Petromax and Tilley lights every evening.

Khorimona got used to seeing my father hiring a coolie to carry all the heavy stuff at the stations etc. so when he was sent up to Shillong to take us back home he decided to get a coolie to carry his bedding roll up to St Edmund’s from the bus station. He was aghast at the charge demanded for this simple task, especially as he had to walk. A taxi would have cost as much.

However a sheltered life the garden folk lived they were very resilient in arranging accommodation for themselves. The St Edmund’s kitchen staff fed and watered and housed our bearer for the night, before we all returned to Cutlacherra the next day.

On his return home, my father would produce all the foodstuffs, and there would be a frenzy of baking. My Mother and Grandmother did all the mixing and some of the servants would be kept running around. ‘Gorom pani annoe’ (Bring some hot water) and ‘owr doe thoe anda mangta (I want two more eggs).

One of the women servants would be delegated to pick the stalks off the raisons and sultanas and any other fruit needed for the cake. This was explained by ‘Uskoe bahut acha choke hay’ (She has good eyesight) Oranges had to be peeled and the rind removed before the skin was finely cut into strips. (I think it is called Julienne)

In latter years my wife, Molly, would whip up a cake in no time in spite of not having all this help to slow her down. She also made some cheese straws to use up any surplus batter.

All the cake-making activity was conducted on the back veranda and when all was ready and the batter put in the baking trays then the pani wallahs would have to carry them safely to the kitchen for baking.  I do remember that a shovel full of live coals would be taken out of the burner and placed on the floor of the oven.

Although the kitchen was some way away from the bungalow, the beautiful baking smell of cakes baking in the oven would fill the air.  It was all we could do to stop ourselves from cutting the cake immediately.

The cakes would be allowed to cool under a cloth mesh or in a doolie. (A meshed cupboard for storing food). This was to keep any flies and cats off.

Then the cake would be wrapped and placed in airtight tins till a few days before Christmas, when they would be taken out and have a layer of Calcutta Nahoum’s marzipan placed over them. Some were just iced without any marzipan. We always hung around and begged for small pieces of marzipan, to eat. My mum or my granny always gave some of these delicacies to the young ayahs who looked on longingly as we were given some sweetmeat.  These young girls were terribly unselfish; they invariably tied a small morsel in the corner of their saris, to take home to their own mothers or their younger siblings. It would make you weep if you saw their little faces.

After Christmas, all the helpers were given large slices of cake and those with children were given extra pieces. On Boxing Day 26 December, all the servants were given presents. Sometimes they got items of clothing, but always some monitory reward. The older servants appeared to be acutely embarrassed, by this.

There was this young ayah about fifteen or sixteen years of age, who looked painfully thin, almost anorexic, so my Granny decided that she needed feeding up. She was given rice and chicken curry from the kitchen, direct from the pot, and the older servants were always careful to see that she got meat and vegetables. She was so shy, this girl, she would have her meals in the bottle khanna (The pantry) and would squat in the corner with her face to the wall as she ate.

My Granny or my father would have known whether this girl was motherless or fatherless, because her clothes were so poor that she was given blouses (Choli) and saris to wear in the bungalow. She was a very kind and sweet natured girl, and looked after my little sister.

Most of the ayahs were from the lines, but my own ayah came from over the river, (Gaang paar), her name was Goolshan Bibi, and her father was the cook for a while.

As we got older we had men to look after us. One of these was Ramchandra who later became the jugali (The driver’s helper) and then he became the driver. But by then I had left home for good.


February 15 2015

Dogs in Cuttlacherra
Over the years we had many dogs as pets in Cutlacherra. Some died of illness. Others were taken by tigers. A puppy was taken from our front veranda just as it hopped over the door frame. There was a scream and it was gone.  We used to keep the door open during the evening for the cool breeze.
The night chowkidars slept on the verandas at night.  It was decided at one time that Ghurkha night watchmen would be a good idea. But that didn’t last.
Then there were the Lushais, Sena made himself out to be fearless so he and a colleague were employed to keep us safe at night. Sena asked my father for a torchlight so he lent him the very long beam hunting torch that took six batteries.  During the night my father went out on to the verandas and found Sena and colleague sound asleep, So he picked up the torch and went back to bed.
Next morning I heard Sena explaining ‘Bahut shorom ko baat hay’(It is a great shame)
The dogs also gave us a lot of heartache. One of my uncles working in The Assam Oil Company in Digboi, had these beautiful black and white Cocker Spaniels. He brought them down to Cutlacherra for us.  Tojo was the male (probably named after The Japanese General) and the docile lovable female named Peggy.
They had two puppies, one was snatched from the veranda  and after a great deal of thought and much imagination we named the other one  Rex.
The jamadar Romesh was in charge of looking after the dogs. He fed and watered them and took them down to the river for a bath with Shirley’s dog soap.  All the good stuff.
Tojo was bitten by a mad dog and started showing signs of hydrophobia . When Romesh took them down to the river for a bath , then Tojo bit him on the wrist.
Ideally, the dogs would have been shot, but my father had no cartridges. The only option was to bash its brains out. Just before it was killed Tojo bit Peggy on the mouth and it immediately started swelling up.  So Peggy and Rex had to be disposed of in the same way. Peggy made no struggle but went meekly to her death.
For days the bungalow was very quiet and my father was traumatised for days, with the thought of what he had had to do.
Romesh was sent to the civil hospital in Hailakandi for serum and   our doctor babu gave him fifteen consecutive injections in the stomach. The rest of us, including the servants were given seven consecutive injections, in our arms as a precaution.
Maybe that is why I am a bit pagalled.

February 3 2015
 The Presidency General  Hospital in Calcutta. Known as the PG.

When it was agreed that I should visit an hospital in Calcutta, Mr Chapal Majumdar agreed to accompany me, as he had finished his work in Cutlacherra and probably agreed a price for the tea. Mr Majumdar had business interests in Calcutta, the main business being a plywood manufacturing unit in Beliaghatta.

When we arrived at Silchar airport (Kumbirgram) I was told that they could not guarantee a through ticket for me as some passengers were getting on at Agartala. At Agartala I was offloaded (that seems to be the accepted term for kicked off) and I was promised the first available seat on any flight to Dumdum (Calcutta’s airport) .

So there was I sitting on my box outside the airport building, and every time the manager passed he would say ‘you still here’ I had nothing to eat or drink all day as there were no catering facilities at the airport and it was miles from anywhere.  In the end the manager said he would get me on the next plane from Gauhati.  He was as good as his word.

On arrival at Calcutta, this was my first visit, I ‘phoned Mr Majumdar and he told me that his younger brother Benoy would look after me. After a while Benoy arrived and took me to their mansion in Ballygunge.  It was a four story building and each brother had a floor for himself and his family. I was allocated space on the ground floor in what appeared to be an office.

The top floor of the mansion was the kitchen, with a Brahmin cook, his cooking was pretty decent. They also had a small back garden with a tethered cow for the milk.

Next morning I was passed to a brother in law, who would look after my stay in Calcutta. He took me to the Lake Medical College and a surgeon there said he would  operate on my elbow. There was absolutely no privacy there and patients were having the most private examinations in full view of the others.  In the meanwhile the doctors told jokes in English, relating to the patients and laughed uproariously.

When I was admitted to a ward , the nurses were all men in sweatshirts and trousers. I was given a pair of pyjamas and a tumbler of sweetened warm milk. Nobody spoke any English and I could not converse with anybody, so I walked out.

My carer was a bit upset, but next day he took me to the private residence of a doctor, Mr Roychowdhary. This surgeon practiced at the P G Presidency General Hospital and arranged for me to be admitted there.  I had to go and have X-rays done in a Calcutta clinic and was admitted to a ward. Here everyone spoke English. The Anglo Indian nurses were in uniform with their little nurses hats. The patients were all English speakers, so I did not feel so isolated.

Little did I know then that I would be in hospital for three months.

Two days before my due date for the operation, I was given a long list of all the materials that would be needed. Bandages and cotton wool, plaster of Paris , safety pins, were all on the list. I had to give the list to a pharmacist who came to the hospital, and all these items had to be paid for separately.

The next day the pharmacist returned with all my necessary items.  They had to be

billed to the man who Mr Majumdar had nominated to be my carer in Calcutta.

On the designated day Mr Roychowdhary took me into the operating theatre and I was semi sedated. Then he looked at my x-ray again and decided that he needed more information. I was wheeled out of the theatre and one of the other patients , standing nearby, looked at me, I winked at him, and he took two steps back in alarm.

I eventually did have the operation, whereby the surgeon could do no more than remove all the splintered bone fragments. The ball and socket joint was completely smashed. So my arm was pulled straight and put in traction. I was kept in this position for weeks on end.  Sometimes ,I was sedated and my arm was manipulated, to stop it from going stiff.

Nurses had to wash and feed me and change my pyjamas. There were light-hearted moments too. One day a nurse was feeding me salad and I noticed that she was pushing all the beetroot to the side of the plate.  When I asked her why she was doing that, she very seriously informed me ‘I don’t like beetroot’

As I was in the hospital for such a long time I saw many patients come in, get better and go home. There were also several deaths, these were always distressing to the other patients. Doctors and nurses took it in their stride.

An American chef from an American ship docked in the Hooghly river was brought into hospital because he had chopped off  part of a finger.  One day he noticed that I had some apples in a plate beside my bed. He asked me ‘What are these plums?. Then he promised to bring me some apples from off the ship. When he returned from his visit he walked into the ward and I asked him if he had forgotten my apples, he told me that the man was bringing them. I was a bit confused until I saw a man with a sack over his shoulder , walk in.  The sack was full of Californian apples and oranges and a great variety of fruit. I went around the ward distributing fruit to all the patients and there were still some left over which I gave to the ward staff.  We had never seen the like of these fruits much less tasted them.

Then there was an English charter pilot, who was all smashed up ,but on the mend. He had crashed his aeroplane, which was full of oranges and failed to lift off. He had the most marvellous wrist watch.

He became friendly with an Anglo-Indian senior nurse and they envisaged making a life together on his discharge. He trusted this girl implicitly, even to the point of handing over his insurance cheque to her for banking.

They were completely in love and I heard later that they were married. 

Sometimes mothers and daughters came to visit some of the male patients and if they wanted to have a private conversation with their wives, they  invariably, sent the girls to talk to me, as I had no visitors at all.  One such day I was surprised to see my father and Mr Majumdar walk into the ward.  My father’s comment to Mr Majumdar was ‘Baap ka beta’ (father’s son)

The Anglo-Indian girls all understood basic Hindi and this girl was very embarrassed by his insinuation.

When I returned to Calcutta, in a couple of years, I was informed that the father had died in hospital and the girl was engaged to a chota sahib from a jute company in East Bengal.

My arm was giving a lot of trouble in healing and it would not flex. A Miss Robertson, who had an electric massager was asked to give me some electric massage. In the course of conversation it transpired that she was the cousin of Lanky (Rufus) Robertson who was my classmate in St Edmund’s  in Shillong.

This partly restored some flexibility to my arm.

When I left hospital I found that the Majumdar brothers had lost the key to my locked suitcase (box in Indian parlance) so a locksmith was called to smash the locks.

On opening my suitcase we found that they whole of the Calcutta population of cockroaches had taken up residence inside. All my clothes had to be given to the dhobi for washing and ironing before I could wear them.

I then returned to Cutlacherra and back to St Edmund’s to go to College 


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February 2 2015
If you Gentlemen have enjoyed my previous stories about Cutlacherra, I hope that you will enjoy my little write-up on my first Summertime in Cutlacherra as a ‘grown-up’ .Well nearly a grown –up.

I did my Senior Cambridge examinations in 1949. And then it was agreed that I would be sent to Calcutta to have an operation on my splintered elbow.

Before going to Calcutta, I had my first experience, since childhood, of summer in Cutlacherra. Since I had been to school in Kalimpong and then Shillong, these hill stations afforded a respite from the blistering heat of the Indian Plains.

Because of the heat I would spend all day lying on one of those Indian daak bungalow chairs. They were made with a wooden frame; the arms would swivel out to make a footrest. The chair itself was made with a cane body. This allowed the air to circulate freely and gave some degree of respite from the summer heat. The thatched roof and bare concrete floors were all designed to add to the cooling process.

There were two of these chairs on the front veranda, and my father seems to have appropriated one for his exclusive use. He would chase off anyone sitting in his chair.

With a cold drink (meatha pani) in hand I had a wonderful view of the river, the Moslem houses and orchards on the other side, then the rice fields and the Lushai hills in the distance. Sometimes, people would come down to the river with a lota in hand. At other times, a mother with her children would come down for their midday ablutions.  The children, usually, being reluctantly dragged along.

Large boats, known as khistis, had a long mast with stout long ropes attached, and they would be pulled upstream by two men walking along a towpath, at a slow steady pace. The boat owner, meanwhile, sat under the shade of a little living accommodation on the boat. He would have the tiller in hand to guide the boat passed any obstructions. Going downstream, the khistis would have their masts laid flat along the length of the boat. The captain would steer the boat leisurely while he puffed on a bulb hookah.  Some boatmen would sing loudly as the boat drifted downstream,

Men in little dinghies would be rowing their little craft in all directions, trying to catch fish. The watermen would hail each other in loud voices. I could hear the voices but did not understand the language. I believe that it was Sylheti, a form of the Bengali language, peculiar to the Sylhet district of East Bengal.  Sylheti is now widely spoken in the surrounding areas and has even made its way into the Karimganj and Silchar districts of India.

The peace of the lazy afternoon would suddenly be broken by the thunder of horse’s hooves as my father rode up the hill, from ‘kamjari’ (work on the tea garden).  He would plonk himself down on the lounge chair; he would be wet with sweat, so a chowkidar would fan him with a hand fan, made of dried palm leaf.  My father would just sit there, while his shoes were removed and a pair of slippers brought for him. A glass of lime juice with ice would be brought on a galleried silver tray and placed on the wide arm-rest of the chair.

The syce who had run behind the horse, would take it away to be rubbed down and fed and watered in the ‘ghora ghor’. The stables nearby.

My father would spend a few hours at home then go out again in the evening, on foot this time, to speak to the chota sahibs and the Tilla babus.

Then he would return home, in time for the sardars to come up to the bungalow to give him the daily progress report.

One evening ,my Granny and I were sitting on morahs,  chatting on the back-yard, when this man appeared, he was fairly well dressed and said that he wanted to see the sahib. My grandmother called out to a chowkidar to get him a morah to sit on.

But the man would not sit on the morah, he kept saying how important, he was so my Granny instructed the chowkidar to bring him a chair.  He was being really obnoxious and kept on telling my Granny of his importance.  So I said to the chowkidar,” Uskoe

doe chokie annoe” bring him two chairs. My grandmother was embarrassed but the  chowkidar burst out laughing.  That soon put him in his place and he got short shrift from my father. 

Another time we went into the bungalow to find two strange ladies, lifting up articles and just looking around. They were well dressed and heavily perfumed, and thought that as they were passing they would have a look around the bungalow.

My Granny instructed one of the servants to escort them to the other side of the Kabuli Nulla Bridge. The expression was always.” Pool koe ouy turrof punchow”

After our midday meal, most of the servants went home. Some were finished for the day, but the cook and bearers and Pani Wallahs would return for the evening meal.

My grandmother always had a siesta and one chowkidar and his helper remained to cater for our needs and make the afternoon tea and slice the cake.

They very accurately told the time by the evening shadows on the hill.

This activity occurred every day. Sometimes I would read a book. There was a fairly vast library of books in the bungalow. I believe that my grandfather was an avid reader. My father usually restricted his reading to the Statesman newspaper.  Some old magazines, given to my sister, by tea garden memsahibs, provided me with some easy reading.

I recall that there were many editions of The Saturday Evening Post; they had an abundance of well written short stories. Someone had obviously subscribed to them.

We had an upright piano in the bungalow, but nobody knew how to play it. I sometimes used to dong the keys just to break the monotony. We also had an HMV wind-up gramophone and a small collection of 78 rpm records that I used to play.

My father and my (maternal) grandmother had no time for any music.

But my grandfather , the boora sahib, used to play old Scottish tunes on an accordion. Can you imagine the old tunes wafting over the South Cachar Hills and jungles.

During the dusk when the temperatures dropped, my father would sometimes go on shikar. He had two 12 bore double barrel guns, a Winchester 303 repeater and a point 22 revolver.

I had a .22 airgun which shot pellets, so I tried shooting pheasants and small birds.

If I shot too many the elderly women would say “ Chee Chee, bahut shorom koe baath”

 But being born and brought up in the wilds of India, we saw no harm in hunting birds or beasts.

Then Mr Chapal Majumdar, who bought the Cutlacherra tea, arrived for his annual visit. He persuaded my father to let me go to Calcutta to have my splintered right elbow operated on. The damage was caused in a horse riding incident on the first field of St Edmund’s College

31st Jan 2015
That was a great post, Roderick. Took me back to the good old days when my father and some of his friends owned a tea garden near Tinsukia, where we went to spend some enjoyable times during our winter holidays.Those days, only orthodox teas were made. Our second flush teas fetched very goo prices at the auctions. Later on as technology changed from diesel engines with line shafts to electric motors, manufacturing practices also changed, from orthodox to CTC (Cut, Tear, Curl), due to demands of the market -- mainly more cups per kg. I don't know why my father was never interested in making me a tea planter. If he did, then I wouldn't have had to spend four years of hard labour in an engineering college which was run on the lines of a United States Marine Corps boot camp.
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January 18 2015

Phelps & Co

When I  lived in Calcutta for about eighteen months I, obviously, had no relatives there and knew no one either.  I did meet up with some St Edmunds boys during their winter holidays.  I also met a lad from Kalimpong and saw another with his girl friendbut did not speak to him.
I had to find rooms, close enough to Phelps, I did find accommodation, just off Central, Chittaranjan Avenue. It was more or less above a Goan restaurant, and as I had no cooking facilities, I tried their food.  It was too hot (jhall) for me. When I mentioned this to the owner, some of the diners asked “What do you want ,sweet”?  As if their was no other way of cooking apart from
to sweet.
As I had an hour lunch break from Phelps, I used to wander about ,looking for somewhere to eat. I would occasionally pop into Nizam's’ for a Kati kabab , I loved these. Then I found a small cafe doing the most delicious lamb curry and rice, quite cheaply.
Heaven only knows what my managers must have thought  when I returned to work stinking of curry.
 I did not have any breakfast, but on my way into work I bought one Senior Service cigarette loose, and lit it from the smouldering rope that was hanging beside the kiosk, for this purpose. The man used to sell all brands of cigarettes and biris. The English brandswere obtained, from the ship, (Jahaj say) and he kept these under the counter. Out of sight of the police. But everyone knew that
they were there, just as I did.
It was only when I got into work did the chaprassis make me a cup of tea.  They also made tea whenever I asked for it.
In England, the tea lady, came around with her tea trolley ,twice a day. Once during mid morning and again mid afternoon.  She usually had cheese rolls or cheese and tomato or ham and tomato sandwiches.  Tea was free but food had to be paid for. There was no coffee in England then. If there was we never got any.  The coffee in the cafes was usually some liquid stuff with
hot water poured over it.
Because Phelps was a shop, we were open all hours. Not quite but, a lot of the time. Even half day on Saturday, and I hated that,added to that we were open till five in the evening, whereas the offices nearby closed at three or four.
Phelps also had a ladies department, next door, all European clothes. All the memsahibs frequented this shop as the Indian ladies were not given to wearing frocks.  They did however sell, stockings (no tights in those days) and bras. Scarves and gloves were in great demand.
All these items were ordered from England as were all the dress materials.  The manageress did all the measuring up and the durzies made- up the garments.
Mr Glancy was in overall control of this shop as well as the menswear.  However much the lady protested, it was a case in fact.  He could have sacked her at any time.
(PS when I did the spell-check the word Jahaj was not in the system but it suggested jihadi.)
as if.
January 18 2015

I have just watched a programme on TV about the last flight of the airliner Concorde.
The E was added in deference to the French ,making funny noises.
The Prime minister tried to explain this by suggesting that the E was for England.
Then the Scots objected till it was explained that E was for Ecosse.  (French for Scotland)
It did London to New York in just over 3 hours. Therefore business leaders were using it as a commuter aircraft, One could leave Heathrow at 10.00 am and arrive in New York at 10.00 am on the same morning.Do ones business meetings and return the same evening to London.
When Molly and I and the children first moved from Highbury to East Sheen near Richmond, the flight path was over Richmond Park, as we were so near the airport the plane used to fly very low over our house.  In the beginning we would take off about a foot off our beds with the noise. Then we got used to it and slept through.
When I was doing a weekly commute to Glasgow I used to catch an early morning flight from Heathrow to Glasgow. Then return Friday early afternoon. The journey time from Glasgow to London was shorter than my tube journey home. Also because of my frequent trips I was able to collect the ticket stubs and got a free airline bag.
Sometimes Concorde did this trip but sadly I was never ever able to get on that flight.
Catching this flight was like getting on a bus, you just turned up. No booking. There was hardly any security except for the flights going to Ireland.
Another airline with rigid security was EL AL going to Israel. If you had a beard with a black wide brimmed hat  OK you were positively welcomed but with an added moslem name you stood no chance.
Concorde would fly on the edge of space 60,000 feet at Mach 2.4. Quite fast actually. And in complete luxury. Because of the noise, most US airports would not grant landing rights.
January 1 2015

Cutlacherra mornings

When we were at home for the Christmas Holidays, the Cutlacherra bungalow was a hive of industry.

After being devoid of all noise, we were all at home together. Alex, Molly, Roderick, Bill, Alfy and Sheila. Added to this my uncles would sometimes come down from Digboi. To see their sister, my mother and their own mother my Granny. James had his own children, Colleen, Jean and Shirley and John

It was a good job that the bungalow was large enough to accommodate us all. There were also a sufficient number of servants to look after us all.

The cook was put through his paces to make enough food to go around. Added to this was the fact that the children had different food to the adults.

The night chowkidar was responsible for lighting the kitchen range, with logs and charcoal, and making a huge pot of tea. Then a fire would be made on a flat brazier and the pot of tea would be placed alongside the fire to keep it warm. This whole contraption would be carried in to the space between the dining room and the sitting room.

As each member of the family awoke we would pull up a morah close to the fire and my Granny would pour us a cup of tea.

It was a real family affair; we would sit around the fire warming ourselves. We would sit and chat and drink tea. My father, mother and grandmother and uncles would sometimes have more than one cupful, and then someone would shout for the chowkidar to bring more water.

While all this was going on the other servants would be arriving. The cook and his assistant (called the pani wallah) would start getting breakfast ready, Porridge and boiled eggs, omelettes (some with and some without onions) scrambled eggs (called rumble tumble) fried eggs, poached eggs ,bacon and or sausages and slices of toast.

The two bearers would lay the table with a tablecloth and napkins in rings, so everyone could identify his own napkin.  The large table could accommodate eight carver chairs with ease. The younger children sat around a smaller table on morahs. The very young children were got ready by their ayahs, who also helped to feed them, the older ones just had to wash and dress, all our clothes were laid out for us and our shoes were polished.

The bearers would come around with the food. By now the bearers were dressed in their long white coats with a blue cummerbund with a ‘C’ buckle their white pugarees had a blue rim.

We usually sat in the same place each time.    So that was chota hazri.

When I visited other gardens the same ritual was performed.

 Perhaps some of the latter-day tea planters would care to tell us how things were in their day.     Roderick.
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About forty years ago I was the manager of some offices in West London. As such I was able to hire and fire people. Not that I did much firing.

I hired a middle aged Jewish lady. She was a hard worker and did not gossip. Anyway she had a daughter of marriageable age so the wedding was arranged for the Great Synagogue in Bevis Marks (that is a street) in East London.  This lady invited her office supervisor, the managing director’s driver and my wife and me to the wedding. My wife was thrilled with this lady’s good manners.

We duly arrived at this beautiful building, the ladies were segregated to the galleries and the driver and I was in the main congregation. As we had no skull caps (yarmulkes) we were provided with white paper caps. The prayer books were all in Hebrew (I think) could have been Yiddish, and the service was conducted as such.

It reminded me of our own Latin masses.

As the service continued we were familiar with the bit where a wine-glass is wrapped in a napkin and the bridegroom steps on it, breaking the glass. There was an universal shout of mazeltov and cheering and clapping. I had seen enough Hollywood movies to recognise this. So the wedding continued with the exchanging of vows and the  giving of rings.

The service ended with the rabbi wishing us all health and happiness, and hoping that he would see us all in Jerusalem, next year.

We all then walked to the reception, and what a reception. More on that later.

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Yesterday I told you about the Jewish wedding in the Great Synagogue in Bevis Marks in London.

I said that I would write about the reception.

The reception was held in the function rooms of Plantation House in the City of London.  All the guests were able to make their way there on foot but the happy couple and families came by limousine.

As we entered the foyer there was a list of all the guests and showing our allocated tables and  table plans. A good start and it only got better.

As we entered the function room it was lavishly decorated as befits the Tea Industries main function hall. (Alas it is no more. Plantation House has given way to high-rise buildings) The tables were laid with snow white tablecloths and damask napkins were set beside the gleaming cutlery.  The waitresses stood around to assist anyone who needed help.

There was an orchestra playing at one end of the room.

When we were all seated then the bride and bridegroom and their family members came in. The band played an appropriate tune and all the guests stood up and did a slow handclap. When they were all seated at the top table, I noticed that we were placed quite near the top.

The meal commenced with chicken soup. Jewish penicillin. and the food just got better and better.

There was no hanging about, the waitresses were superb. All kosher food don’t you know. The wine was excellent.

And the band played on.

After the meal came the speeches. These lasted a while and the band took a well earned rest.

Guests started to mingle and greet friends that they had not seen for years. Of course Molly and I and my office colleagues did not know anyone except the brides mother.  She came and sat with us awhile, after a chair was provided for her and she called her daughter over and introduced us, to raised eyebrows.

Then the band started to play and couples danced.  It was all very jolly.

By then it was getting late and the waitresses came around with carved salmon with a delicious sauce. Supper even.

Then the band played Hava Nagila  to a rousing reception .  All the guests seemed to know the words. My table knew only the two words so we joined in lustily, whenever they were repeated.

Hava Hava Nagila

Then it was all over.

Though I do say so, it was the most lavish and best organised wedding that I have ever been to.

Mrs.... in my office told me that she had been saving ever since her daughter was born to give her the best wedding that she could afford.

And, by golly didn’t she do well.

Hava Nagila” (äáä ðâéìä Havah Nagilah, "Let us rejoice") is a Jewish traditional folk song in Hebrew, that has become a staple of band performers at Jewish weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.“Hava Nagila” (äáä ðâéìä Havah Nagilah, "Let us rejoice") is a Jewish traditional folk song in Hebrew, that has become a staple of band performers at Jewish weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.

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I wonder ,does anyone remember the concert parties that used to come around the tea gardens.

They used to perform their plays over three nights, in the natch ghor.  In the absence of electricity, Petromax  lights and tulley lamps  would be borrowed from all and sundry . The shopkeepers in the bazar were usually a good source.The lights needed to be pumped up frequently.

Very extravagant garish costumes were worn. The plays invariably involved a king. You knew that he was a king because he walked around with a crown on his head. Then there was the baddie with a large black moustache , there was always a man called senapati. Beards were much in evidence.

The orchestra consisted of a man with a loud trumpet , an harmonium and some drums.

The audience waited with bated breath for the king to challenge the baddie to a duel with the immortal words, ‘Dhoroe austroe thumi hamar songae judhoe koroe. ‘ A big cheer would go up from the audience. (sorry my spelling of Bengali words into English script is not up to scratch, but you get the drift)

The play ended with the king the victor and the baddie lying dead. Very hammy acting was always appreciated.

Our bara babu, in one of his patriotic moods decided that he would put on a play with a sahib as the baddie. He demonstrated how one should fire a pistol ‘dhai dhai’ with each dhai the left leg was raised up behind him.

He suggested that I play the sahib and dress up. Then he thought about it and decided that I didn’t need to dress up, but I should wear a sola toppee.

My dad soon put a stop to such nonsense.

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During the summer in Cachar, many of the roads and bridges were submerged in water.   The land being flat there was nowhere for the torrential monsoon rain to go. The rivers were already full up.  Even now the town of Silchar gets flooded when it rains hard. If nothing else, at least it washes the streets . For some unknown reason there used to be these red patches all over the place. Aadmi thook diya.

The only way to get about was to use a car ferry to cross a river. When a car approached a ferry at night you had to put on your headlights and lean on the ‘horn’ and wait for the ferryman to appear, usually in his loincloth, as he had just got out of bed.

There was usually a slope down to the ferry and one the other side. If you car got stuck in the mud. Then God help you, there was nothing else to do but push or wait ‘till morning when people would come to help, for baksheesh of course. If the river was in full flood, it would frighten the wits out of me as the car would be taken down stream as well as across.

The ferryman would be quite unconcerned while he pulled on his biri.

The ferry looked precarious at best. There used to be a bamboo barrier fore and aft , as if that would stop a rolling car. Perhaps they were just meant to tell you when to stop.

With poor headlights in those days it was pure luck that drivers didn’t drive into the river. Headlight adjustment was something else. Ours usually pointed up into the trees, my Dad used to say ‘ key Audhor (because that was the driver’s name)  kotha koojtha (are you looking for bird’s nests?)

I don’t know if there is a bridge over the Surma river now, but even the main road  to the Kumbirgram airstrip had to be traversed by ferry.

It used to be a long flight from Kumbirgram to DumDum especially if you were offloaded at Tripura and hoping for a seat on the Guahati to Calcutta flight. Otherwise you just sat on your box and waited.  These Dakota planes did not carry many passengers and there was no rubbish about airhostesses or meals.  Air-conditioning ? Forget it.

No customs, no passports. But just after Independence I used to be quizzed by persons in uniforms as to who I was and where was I going. I could get by in a marketplace but I could not converse in High Hindi,or pukka Bengali,  so I would enlist the help of a friendly babu to translate for me.  The babus were really good and helpful, they didn’t seem to like uniformed people taking an advantage of a young lad like me. They liked nothing better than a good argument and would gang-up on the official.

At Kumbirgram Airport the tea bushes came right up to the runway. Good job the pruning was  up-to-date.

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December 20 2014

I frequently read all my submissions on the Koi Hai, website. It brings back all those
happy memories of my childhood in India. Where else in the world would I have had
such a magical childhood.  The wide open spaces in Cutlacherra Tea Estate with my
whole family.
My first school in Kalimpong, with the Mount Kanchenjunga as a backdrop. Seeing this
beautiful scenery every day, out of my classroom window.  Dr Graham certainly chose well
when he chose Kalimpong  as the base of his philanthropic work.
As a youngster I was happy with the hundreds of boys and girls of my own age around me.
We worked hard but we also played hard. There were playing fields all around us,
and the trek through the forest to get to school every morning certainly cleared the mind.
There was always a sense of togetherness and of belonging.  The whole school gathered in
the vast church every Sunday. Dr Graham was usually the preacher and then after he died
there was the new  man in charge the Reverend Duncan. He was a lot younger but he had the same commitment to the Homes as had Daddy Graham.
We learnt how to swim in the swimming baths and then we also swam in the river
Rilli where we went on picnics. Nothing elaborate , just bread and butter and a mug of tea.
But oh how marvellous it tasted when we were tired and hungry and happy.
The long trek up the mountain, back to our cottages, nothing could be better for contented
We had buns and jalabies on the school compound every Homes birthday in September.
This occasion was always eagerly looked forward to. Jalabies have never tasted any better in any other place in India, England or even once in France , when I found some by the Sacre Coeur.
The school concerts in the Jarvie Hall, were always well acted and we ended with the
school  rallying song ‘Rouse up lads and Lassies’. Then the ever familiar piano chord ( This must be the most familiar piano chord in the world ) when we all knew that we must stand to attention and sing ‘God save the King’.
We were all fiercely patriotic in those days. This patriotism has lasted all our lives, whether in India, the United Kingdom,Australia,Canada, the USA or any other country where the Homes boys and girls have settled.
The Homes boys and girls have transferred their allegiance to their chosen country of residence. But we all have a very soft spot for India and our dear Kalimpong.  Many children knew no other childhood home and their interviews, later in life, attest to this fact.
As a young boy I was friendly with Norman Hutchinson, but like many childhood friends we lost touch, when I left the school. Little did we know, then, that he was to become one of her most illustrious sons.


December 10 2014

Dr Graham's Homes 
I have previously written about my first school. St.Andrew’s Colonial
Homes in Kalimpong, in the Himalayas and in the shadow of Mount
This school is now known as Dr.Graham’s Homes, after the founder. 
He was affectionately known as Daddy Graham, and I had the extreme
good fortune to meet this great man. There he is in the first ‘photo.
On the 9th photo’ there is a group of boys in the gardens of Hart
Cottage. I was in Hart for many years before I moved to St.Edmund’s.
The photos were taken looking towards the boy’s cottages.  The girl’s
cottages are behind the photographer.
In Lucia King they looked after the babies and toddlers who were
abandoned, usually  Anglo Indians in Calcutta. These boys and girls
were educated right up to SC or Metric.
As you can imagine ,the upkeep of the school and the cottages and
the education and feeding and the clothing  of the near 2000 pupils
costs vast sums of money.
The school has associations in India,  The UK, New Zealand,Australia,
Canada, USA and even japan , where monies are donated for the
My grandfather, the Boora Sahib, was a great friend of Daddy Graham,
and among other things he donated a piano to the school. My sister
Molly, used to curse him because she was allowed extra practice on
this piano, and she hated it.
The school had a cadet Corps NBMR (North Bengal Mounted Rifles)
and a pipes and drums band.The cadets were kitted out in military
uniforms and the band in kilts, bagpipes with tassels .
The Ghurkha ‘ marker’ was a very important man of the brigade.
Some of the Anglo Ghurkali boys joined the Ghurkha regiment and
attained very high ranks .
The school had vast playing fields, and even a swimming pool, a
cattle and milk farm, a bakery a vegetable garden .
You can see the church which we attended every Sunday, in our
Sunday best. The clock tower could be seen from miles around
and it chimed out the quarters and struck the hours.
That is Deolo Hill in the background. It had the reservoir for the
water and was a favourite picnic spot.
I must nor get carried away.
I wonder can anyone find me in the group photo’ I can’t.
That is only part of the school buildings.  More teaching facilities
on the other three sides. And the Mountain behind the photographer.

Gallery 1 - Historical Homes

  • Dressed in Sunday best!
  • A quiet & bustee like Kalimpong Town
  • Performance of HMS Jubilee at the Jarvie Hall
  • Smiley Faces!
  • School pipe and drum band.
  • The newly opened Katherine Graham Memorial Chapel
  • Raw 'materials' being transported to the school!
  • Lucia King Nursery photo shoot! <
  • Hart Cottage - preparations for the flower show?
  • The McRoberts tower in all its glory!
  • Junior school photo shoot!
  • Grant & Scottish Canadian cottages awaiting the mist!
 December 10 2014
Subject: Raymond
The boys and girls who had no parents or were orphans or abandoned would be taken from
their ‘home’  cottages and moved to another cottage, during the Christmas holidays, to fill up
the numbers. The empty cottages could then be redecorated and refurbished.
During these holidays the boys and girls would be taken to camps for a few weeks, normally
down to the plains, where it was warmer and carefree.
Among others, I had a friend called Raymond. When I got back to school after the holidays,
Raymond was not there.
One of the other boys told me the story. They were camping very near the DHR The
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, affectionately known as the Toy Train. This hill railway
plied between Siliguri and Darjeeling.
Anyway the station godown (warehouse) was used for storing molasses (gur) and the boys
would sometimes help themselves. We never did get sugar in school, or none that you could
taste anyway.
Nearby was the river Teesta where the boys swam. All Kalimpong boys knew how to swim.
It was a given.
Every now and again one of the boys asked if anyone was going for gur.
Raymond said ‘last dive and I’m going for gur’  He dived in but the strong undercurrent got
him. He never came back alive again. It was days before fishermen found his body miles
These mountain rivers are very fast flowing and very very dangerous.  I had many a picnic
beside the river Teesta (sometimes spelled Tista ) .  We were always cautious not to get
caught in the current.
What a tragedy, another friend lost.

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 December 10 2014

If anyone wants an elaboration on this I will gladly provide it.
Long before I ever came to the Khasi and Jantia Hills for my education, I was in a school  
in the Himalayas...  We always said him- a- lay- yas never himalyas.
It was a co-educational, school, the boys and girls went to the same classes but, quite obviously
we were housed separately.  The houses were scattered all over the mountainside. There
was a house-mother and a house auntie to care for the boys or girls in their house. Each
house also boarded one of the teachers. The ‘pupils’ ranged in age from babies ,in the babies
cottage, being cared for by the nurses and trainees., right up to Senior Cambridge or Metric.
There was a fully equipped Chemistry class, a physics class, a woodwork class. You name it,
it was provided. There was a school hospital and a school church. A clock-tower chimed out
the hours and the school bell summoned you to school.
Large playing fields were dotted around the school buildings and also a field was alongside
each house.
Everything was provided for. All our clothes including a Sunday best. A Macintosh, for rainy
days, Bed sheets and blankets were changed weekly and laundered in the school laundry.
There were no servants; we had to work for everything. The house floorboards were
maintained to a high polish, as was everything else. The bigger boys with an assistant did
the cooking. The youngest swept the footpaths. Everything was inspected, and all this
before the nine o’clock school bell. Some houses were quite a way from school, walking
through the forest.
Meat and vegetables came from the farm and bread from the bakery. Butter and milk was
delivered to the houses. 
The school buildings had the Kanchenjunga Massif as a backdrop.
There was always snow on the mountain the only difference was that the snowline was
higher or lower dependant on the seasons.
We were all given buns and jalabees as a special treat on Founders Day in September.
Pupils came from all walks of life and from several countries.  Everyone was treated
equally whether you were an orphan or a raja’s son.  Whether you were paid for or not.
You could not ‘buy-in any extras.
I just remembered to tell you that we were not allowed to wear shoes.  This was painful
during the cold Himalayan winters.
What with chilblains (thank God I never got those)
to chipped toes.
Why did I leave?  My mother died, she was a Catholic and it was her dearest wish that
we should be raised as Catholics.
December 7 2014
Christians of Cutlacherra

I have just watched videos of the Nagara & Thiya naam of the lower Brahmaputra Valley.
Having watched these two clips, I now realize where Christians of Cutlacherra got their inspiration.
Every Christmas Eve and again on Holy Saturday, leading up to Easter day. all the Christians of Cutlacherra would gather in the Christian Compound.  They would spend all night singing Carols and Hymns.
Then very early on a frosty morning of the boro deen,  I mean very early, they would all process along the river and passed the tea factory. Then start the slow march up the very steep slope up to the bungalow. All the while there would be the clash of cymbals, the clapping of hands, the banging of drums and the singing would continue. They would come onto the front veranda, in single file and  walk round and around the large veranda table, continuing with their ‘kirton’ . They would only stop when either my mum or later on my grandmother would tell the raath chowkidar to take trays of refreshments and sweets out to them.
Then we knew Christmas or Easter had begun in earnest. We would all have our chota hazri and go to the Chalmers’ Memorial Church, for the services. The service would be conducted in a Bengali that I did not understand. Then we would pay our required visits to the Christian Community where we would  be given very sweet tea and biscuits. Greetings were always conveyed in English . ‘Happy kismis’ or ‘Happy Estre’ and the old ladies would say ‘Sook err thak’ (Stay in peace’')
All the while the Cutlacherra  cooks would be cooking the most delicious Christmas lunch. It was a meal that I loved but many a person in later years would say ‘How could you eat that’ when I mentioned it was pigeon pillau.
Tea time would be Christmas cake. The servants would be given presents, usually clothing for themselves their wives and children and sweets for the children. I don’t know why but the older servants appeared to be acutely embarrassed when they accepted their presents.
Happy days never to return.
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November 19 2014


During the wartime, there were big military bases near Lalabazar and Lalacherra not far from Cutlacherra.
There was also an airfield in Monacherra with airplanes and gliders.
As we were on the Burmese border , these Jap planes would fly past the bungalow to bomb the military installations.  They would fly low in between the Bangla tilla(the hill with our bungalow) and the Kobor Tilla (the hill with the graves), so we could see the Japanese pilots quite clearly, some of them would wave to us.
British and American army personnel would go up river passed our bungalow on the way to Aijal in the Lushai hills.  The kishti (large boats) would have to be pulled upstream as there was no hope of rowing against the Dhaleswari current. Many of these soldiers were only young lads, far from home, so my parents would invite them up to the bungalow for a rest and a meal. My mother and Grandmother were particularly sorry for these boys.
I remember one year as it was nearing Christmas, my mother gave these English boys a goose for their Christmas dinner. They kept hanging around and it transpired that they were waiting for my father to come home from work to see if it was OK for them to take the goose. My mother explained that it was nothing to do with him and she was in charge of the household and everything in it belonged to her.
Early, I mean really early, next morning a jeep drove up to the bungalow and these soldiers left us many army rations, on the front veranda table.  They never waited for thanks, or anything, but just drove off before we could get out of bed. One act of kindness deserves another.
These army rations were most welcome, especially the Christmas pudding. My Mum used to make Christmas cake but she could not get cherries etc., for the pudding.
When things got really bad then my mum, granny and young sister Sheila were all transferred to Kalimpong, where we were at school.  They hired a house near the bazar and the lady owner of the house left this  woman to keep an eye on her property.  This woman was a real  nasty piece of work who carried tales to her memsaab. Then my father arrived and this woman was much subdued. But we were not allowed to make a noise in the house. I don’t know why , there was no-one else there or nearby.
Then my dad took us all back to Cutlacherra. Japs or no Japs, it was the lesser of two evils.
November 18 2014


 Being back at home again after ten months in Kalimpong, felt very strange to say the least.

In Kalimpong we all had to do housework or mali work or jamadar work or khansama work and to run around barefooted in the cold of the Himalayas.

Then in Cutlacherra we suddenly found that there were servants, lots of servants, who answered hojoor to your call and hurried to do your slightest bidding.

We wandered around aimlessly for the first few days,’ till we got our bearings. We did nothing but eat and roam and sleep.


Then we started finding things to do. One of the first tasks was to strip down and oil and grease our bicycles that had lain idle for nine months. The tyres were invariably flat and sometimes even perished.

The first task was to pump up the wheels. If they were OK then we could at least, move the cycle easily to the backyard. The ball bearings would be washed in kerosene oil, making sure that we did not lose any; they would then be greased and painstakingly replaced.

As we had grown during the year, the seat had to be raised. The driver or his assistant (the jugali) was asked to help with difficult jobs


When everything was done to our satisfaction, we would start exploring our old haunts. As the bungalow was on a hill, it was absolutely essential that we had good brakes.


 We would freewheel down the hill at breakneck speed,                   usually towards the tea factory and the lines. Going in the opposite direction would have been more pleasant but that way lay the jungle, with all sorts of nasty creatures and animals lurking about.

Individual monkeys did not frighten us, but when they come at you mob handed with the dominant male baring its teeth, it is prudent to make a dignified retreat. Always looking back to see if you are being chased.


As we passed the tea factory the workers would come out to greet us or just look. Some of the workers had known us all our lives. They would ask ‘Kysa hai baba?’ and ‘Bahut burra ho gya’. (How are you? And you have grown a lot.

Another question always asked and I always said ‘Yes’ even if I didn’t was ‘Humco yaad kurtha Saab?’  (Do you remember me?)   But more often than not I did remember them.


This questioning and gathering of people continued all through the lines for several days. The very young children would just stand and stare and the girls, who were now growing up, would suddenly become very shy, even though they were very bold just the year before.


The workers who had worked in the bungalow when we were very young would embarrass me with their ‘down to the ground’ salaam. But I had known these people all my life and I had a great affection for them. And they knew it.


Then it was passed the rice fields (khet) where people were busy harvesting their crop and so on to the, dak bungalow and the doctor’s house, (I do not mean the Doctor babu) this was a private doctor, Dr. Horace Christian, he would give us a cup of tea or meatha pani, then passed the police station (the thana) and on to the Katlicherra bazaar.


We would turn around here and make for home.


The doctor babu looked after all the plantation folk but Dr. Horace looked after everyone else, for a fee. His consulting room was his front veranda, where he had a large wooden table.  The patients had to hop up on this table to be examined or for injections etc.

Dr. Horace had a large catchment area as he also served the people from the other side of the river.


Although I did not have any medical dealings with him, I know that Dr. Horace was well trusted. His children were older than us, the boys were Mark and Luke and a very ginger haired daughter named Ruth. We did not see much of them at all.


 After a few days we found more and more things to occupy us. It is quite amazing that even in the midst of the jungle, one is never bored, provided of course that you are born there and know what to expect and to accept this isolation. The affection of the local people is also of paramount importance.  You love the people and they love you in return.


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 November 18 2014 

Journey to Kalimpong


I have mentioned in an earlier mail that the paddle steamer  would bring us up-river from Chandpur to Goalando Ghat, a journey of eight hours. At Goalando we got the branch line to a station that rejoiced in the name of Paradaha Junction.  We had to spend all night in the very uncomfortable waiting room, waiting for the Darjeeling Mail to arrive from Calcutta.

We had already bought cheap torches in the Katlacherra market, so we pretended that we couldn’t see the platform without the use of these torches. Another annual purchase was a penknife.


Several carriages would be filled with Kalimpong boys, all inviting us to get in with them.

My father would leave us here to return home to Cutlacherra. A two and a half days journey. But in all the excitement he was already forgotten. Boys would ask me ‘Do you live here’ and I would explain our days of travelling.

I don’t know about tickets. My father certainly didn’t give me any We just tagged on to the rest of the bunch. Nobody could count us.

When we arrived at Siliguri we all hopped off and got on the Toy Train. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Two men with buckets of sand sat on the front of the train. Their job was to drizzle the sand on the rails to stop them from slipping on the incline.

I loved this train as we chugged along and looped the loop . Sometimes it was quicker to get off the train and climb up the khud while the train made its winding way up the Himalayas.

We eventually got off at Riang, I think it was.  Here taxis would be waiting. They were all owned by Pempa Hishey of Kalimpong market.   I knew his son quite well  Tashi Tschering was his name. He was either a dunce or a giant. We all piled in , imagine a trainload of boys and girls fitting into a limited number of taxis.  It wasn’t the done thing for boys to admit to liking the girls.

These taxis would take us to the St.Andrew’s Colonial Homes Office where we would be checked in and then made our way to our various cottages. The journey was up a very winding road, up the mountainsides . Years later I was reminded of this journey on my way from Sylhet up to Shillong.


All new boys or girls were kept in the hospital for ten days, in isolation, in case of contagious diseases.

No messing about. After a few days there would be the round of injections and inoculations and doses of salts. Just like Sister Victoria did in St.Edmund’s.

At least they kept us all safe for another year. What would have been the consequences of an epidemic in such a large school.

In our cottage we all had a rather lukewarm bath in a zinc bath and then gave in our shoes and socks and all out home clothes. We were given the school clothes, minus the shoes.  For a few days we walked on tip-toes ‘till we got accustomed to going barefooted.

Our home togs would be put in our boxes and packed away until going home day in ten month's time.


September 7 2014

 Catties in Cutlacherra Catapults

After we had serviced our bicycles and seen all our childhood haunts it was about time to think of other things. As we were living in the jungle we all had to have  catapults for shooting birds.  The jugali (driver’s helper) used to work as our carer in the bungalow so we would ask him to come around with us to find a suitable Y for the catapult. Ramchandra (I remember him telling me ‘Nai Nai Chandra undra nai, humra naam Ram choondroe’) would get the dao and cut the bit that we pointed out to him.

Then we would get the driver to cut a bit of old inner tube for the elastic. The moochie (shoemaker) would cut the leather for the pouch.

As you can see this catapult business involved many people.

Thus with a lot of shaving and tying we eventually made the catapult.

My brothers and I also knew of a place near the water tank where there was an abundant supply of clay. We would roll the clay into balls the size of marbles and let them dry in the sun.  From the Manipuri tribesmen we had purchased these ornate shoulder bags with tassels; they were ideal for carrying the pellets.

The fact that we never actually hit any birds didn’t seem to matter. The fun was in the making and the exploring afterwards.

Another game was to shoot the pellets into the river to see who could shoot the furthest.

If you got tired of this you could always skim stones in the water.

By the riverside the boatmen (kishti wallahs) would always give us a ride in the large boats or in the dinghies.

My attempts at rowing always resulted in the dinghy going round and round.

Many years later in London. I would go rowing in the Regent’s Park Lake in a skiff, by then I was able to make the boat go straight.

I also went rowing in a larger boat in the River Lea in East London. I lived in Stamford Hill and Springfield Park was nearby,and the river ran alongside. There was a refreshment hut in Springfield Park where you could buy biscuits and tea and ice cream. My girlfriends loved the water. Or maybe it was the refreshments. Sad to say Molly never ever came rowing with me.

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September 7 2014

Subject: Food or the lack of it
As it is Ramadan time I thought that the Bangladeshi restaurants might be cooking special biryani dishes. Maybe they are doing some for themselves but when I ordered this dish, I got the same old rubbish that they usually churn out.
There are some lovely recipes on the internet but they are too complicated for me to try. Not complicated exactly but time consuming and I cannot stand in the kitchen, or anywhere else for that matter, for any length of time.
Another dish that I loved is Burmese, Khau Swei (Cow Sway) , made with chicken and coconut milk etc. it is delicious. The only snag is I cannot find it in any restaurant. My cousins, who lived in Insein in Burma, made some for me years ago. They are all gone now, I was a fool not to have taken the recipe. But one doesn’t like to intrude, does one?.
Talking of my cousins..
My mother’s sister was married to an engine driver from Burma, they were mainly based in and around Rangoon and that area, but being railway folk, they were moved around a lot.
My Granny would go to visit them sometimes. One year when Bill was just about to start school, they couldn’t take him for lack of space, so Granny took Bill to Rangoon with her.
In those days Burma was just another State of India. So no passports were needed. Granny had her registration document.
They lived a happy if itinerant life. much as we did in India, except we didn’t move around.
Then came the Japanese invasion of Burma, and my cousins could not get any transport out of the country. There were by now eight children and the youngest was a babe in arms, their only option was to walk and walk they did.
The father was doing his level best to get people moved on the railways and he was never heard of again. Probably killed by the Japanese bombing or otherwise. What a tragedy for the family. Never ever knowing what happened to a husband and father.
My aunt took the children and a few belongings and started trekking out of Burma, the belongings were soon abandoned or traded in for food from the indigenous tribesmen. They suffered terribly from foot blisters. They were soaked through by the rain and often hungry. The baby was passed around the older sisters as he had to be carried all the way.
The thick jungle terrain was sometimes impenetrable and they had to attach themselves to anyone with a Dao.  Streams had to be crossed and hills had to be climbed. All the time the footpaths were slippery and they only knew that they must travel Northwards. They saw many expensive items discarded along the way. Sewing machines and bicycles, cameras and cases full of houhold items. All abandoned to lighten the load. It was a matter of survival. Milk had to be purchased for the baby at highly inflated exchange rates.
The nearer they got to India, the more help they got. The Shan and Kachins gave them food and shelter.
They were eventually rescued by the British Indian Army and brought to Cutlacherra.  They were all weak and malnourished. Granny and my mother and father then fed and brought them back to life.
My cousins were moved by the British Government to a Catholic school in Lucknow and then, after the war to England. This is where I met them.
Years later there was a TV programme in England called ‘What’s my Line’ . The eldest boy and one of the sisters went on the programme and their line was ‘We had breakfast with head hunters'
September 7 2014
                   Wintertime in Cutlacherra
To all who asked me to continue doing this, thank you.  At least there is nothing controversial here.
During the Christmas holidays in Cutlacherra all sorts of things were happening.

The heavy monsoon winds and rains used to play havoc with the thatch roofs of the bungalows and they all needed to be repaired. The monsoon used to make the roof leak in places even though the thatch was about eighteen inches thick. Then buckets had to be placed under the leak and emptied depending on the severity of water coming in.

Men from Noakhali used to come and do the thatching. It was claimed that they were the best and I am inclined to agree, occasionally it was just a repair job, but every few years the whole lot had to come down. The thatch roof used to harbour all sorts of animals so it was dangerous work.

Most prevalent were the geckoes, then there were mice and lizards, and even the odd snake.

All our mosquito nettings used to cover several beds at a time, not just one each, so the beds were placed quite close together.

I vividly remember one night when we were all woken up and the mosquito net was shaking like an earthquake. We were all ushered hurriedly from the room and on our way out passed my father coming in with his gun. There was a very large snake writhing on the net, my father shot it.  Had it not been for the net then the snake would have landed in one of our beds.

I mean the beds of Alex, Bill, Alfy and myself.

We could not go back to our beds as some liquid, was it blood, had dripped out of the snake.

We spent the rest of the night on the sitting room sofas and the next day the dhobi and the servants made everything shipshape again.

I still don’t know who it was that saw the snake. Maybe one of the night chowkidars.

Every evening as it was just getting dark we would hear a gecko making its peculiar call.  The call was very loud as they would use their suckered feet to crawl about the veranda wall looking for insects to eat. Any insect foolish enough to come too close stood no chance as the gecko’s tongue would dart out and trap them.

My brothers and I would think it was great sport to shoot these geckos with either catapults or our .22 airguns.

Either my Granny or my father would always tell us to leave them alone as they were eating the insects.

The Noakhalis were not only good at thatching they were very good at weaving cane that they put over the thatch to keep it in place. Then everything would be trimmed to size to make it look good.

The ceilings of many bungalows had stretched cotton sheets which were then painted with whitewash.

The ceilings of our bungalow the burra bangla had tightly woven cane attached to a bamboo frame. It looked lovely but I was always afraid that it was a fire hazard.

Because of the lack of electricity we had a very bright Petromax light suspended in the middle of the room. When the bearers were lighting this every evening then the flames would shoot up to the ceiling. How it did not catch fire I shall never know. At least once during the evening a bearer would come with a high stool (a peera) and pump up the light.

For reading or whatever we had Tilley lights which also needed to be pumped up. Otherwise ordinary kerosene lanterns were placed in the rooms, just to get our bearings.

The cook (khansama) also had the privilege of a Tilley light. The pani wallah in the bottlekhana made do with a kerosene lantern.

We had to use a lantern to go from the bungalow to the kitchen which was about fifty yards away. Just so you didn’t get any cooking smells. Maybe that was why the food was never quite piping hot.

The river was down the hill in front of the bungalow and at the back was the jungle; it was also where the Khobor Tilla was. On bright moonlight nights we could see the tombstones glistening. Not very conducive to a good night’s sleep, knowing that my mother and other relatives were buried there.

When we were very young then the ayahs and the chowkidars used to tell us stories about ghosts (bhooths) which frightened us even more.

In Kalimpong they were referred to as ‘churails’

The Noakhalis would also cut and split the bamboo and crosshatch them to renew the fences, which were all around the bungalow and quite a way down the slope.  These fences had to be very strong as we would climb over them as a shortcut down to the river or the main road. We did not need the fence to break as we would otherwise tumble down the very steep khud.

I shudder to think what all this cost, even though all the material was gleaned from the Cutlacherra jungle the Noakhalis provided all the know-how and the labour.

Their work took many days and they were usually housed in one of the drying sheds, where they could cook their fancy meals to their heart’s content.  It usually smelled much better than ours whatever it was.

The thatch for the roof was cut by the young girls (chookrie log) and dried well before the Noakhalis arrived. As we grew older these girls used to flaunt themselves at us, knowing that we were embarrassed. Some used to just stare and give us ‘come hither’ looks .But we knew better than to touch any one of them.

The bamboo was similarly cut by the garden men and piled up near the factory.

I don’t know where the cane came from; maybe the Bengalis brought it with them.

Also close to the factory was the ‘lakri gatha’ the wood pile. The lakri wallahs used to spend all day cutting logs to fire the boiler furnace.

There were also men who used to make charcoal in the forest. This charcoal was used to make the fires for our braziers and the kitchen range.


August 4 2014

The Circuit of Israel and Jerusalem

I am so glad that I visited Israel when I did. It was relatively calm then, Asser Arafat was in charge  in Palestine and Molly was with me.  Her presence made all the difference.
A few years ago we were on holiday in Cyprus and saw a mini cruise advertised. So I said to Molly, my wife, that we should make the most of it as we were never likely to pass that way again.
I was able to book this cruise for Molly, Rupert, our middle son, and myself. This is how it went. :-
We got on this huge luxurious cruise liner late one afternoon at the port of Limassol. This gave us ample  time to get settled in to our cabin then enjoy tea and cake. Later that evening I had supper. The most marvellous food. These cruise liners do not skimp or stint.  There was only one drawback,or two drawbacks. Molly acquired a raging headache and the throbbing of the engines made Rupert feel ill.
The waiting staff were all Polish. Our waiter fashioned a beautiful rose out of the paper napkins, which he presented to Molly. Even this distraction was not enough to entice her to eat.
Next morning we were at the Port of Haifa, in Israel. They collected all our passports and gave us ID cards.You would be amazed at what a British passport can do. Many others were subjected to all sorts of scrutiny. We were put on buses according to our spoken language and started our tour of Israel.
Behind the port of Haifa is Mount Carmel, we skirted around this mount and started travelling South.There was this lush green vegetation, but vegetation alien to us.
Our Israeli guide spoke beautiful English and he named places as we passed by, Caesarea, Lake Tiberius, Ashdod,. The guide must have studied the Old Testament well as he recounted the stories with which we were so familiar. He told us stories of the twelve tribes of Israel and where each Tribe resided. Samson and Goliath were also mentioned.
We could see the city of Tel Aviv in the distance. I wondered why I had never heard of Tel Aviv, in my scripture lessons, it is a new city where Jaffa used to be. In the land of Dan.
We travelled South and then up again and into Palestine, into Bethlehem. The coach was parked outside the city walls and we walked into Bethlehem. What Joy, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would actually see the place where Christ was born. We toured the Church of the Nativity , all the while I was using my camcorder to record the event.
Many of  the various Christian denominations were well represented within the Church.  Some of the English girls do not know how to behave in a Church.(I had experience of this in London when one of our Catholic workmates invited all the staff to witness his marriage. )  They were climbing into every nook and cranny, however holy, to have their photos taken. The Coptic priests were  in a little chapel waving their horsehair, fly whisks and looking very bedraggled. Their tight-fitting black skull caps did nothing to enhance their image.  But then that was not the intention. A photo of Assar Arafat was given great prominence in the foyer.
  As we came out there was this poor old Palestinian with no arms, he was playing a stringed instrument with his feet. I gave him some alms and started looking around, the Arabs fascinated me, their long robes reminded me of the pictures in our scripture books. The guide however was having none of it. He looked wildly about and quickly ushered us back to Israel and into our coach.
Next stop Jerusalem.
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August 3 2014
Holy Land Tour Jerusalem

I last left you as we came out of the Bethlehem gate and passed out of Palestine and into Israel.

We were going to Jerusalem. It was so near to Bethlehem that it seemed no sooner had we got on the coach then we were getting off again.

Actually it is six and a quarter miles between the two cities.

We were parked outside the city walls and the guide then led us through one of the city gates, archways, and into Jerusalem.

The guide was always in a hurry and fairly rushed us through the city. He probably realised much more than we did that we were in danger. The English contingent saw no danger anywhere. We were so used to the safety of England; this outwardly looked no different except for the buildings and the peoples.

The Armenian quarter looked a bit insipid. It was not ‘till we got to the Moslem quarter that things began to look up. The streets were very narrow and the tiny shops too close together. There was a meat stall there beside the side of the road, no worries about refrigeration, flies everywhere and the carcasses hanging on hooks and covered in flies. The sheep and goats and chickens still had their heads attached. For identification and possibly to prove that there was no chicanery. All the animals and fowl had their throats slit as per the Halal and Kosher custom. All were prayed upon. I wonder if the words are different.

Next door would be a shop selling dresses or other articles of clothing. Then comes a hardware store, but not a hardware store as we know it. They had just a few bits and pieces.

All the while I was recording with my camcorder. I pointed inside a dark long shop, and an angry young shop girl appeared she kissed her hand then toughed her bottom. I put the camcorder down and smiled at her and said ‘I’m ever so sorry’ She may or may not have understood me. She absolutely beamed at me and her whole face changed to one of beauty, I still remember her to, this day. I wonder if she remembers this strange man with a camcorder. Probably not! Why would she?

By then Molly and Rupert were at an intersection telling me to hurry up. The guide was nowhere to be seen. We caught up with other members of the party and soon found ourselves at an open space packed with people. We were at the Wailing Wall.

There were Jews rocking back and forth as they prayed at the Wailing Wall. There seemed to be some segregation between the men and the women and also between the men dressed in long black coats and black wide-brimmed hats and men casually dressed.

Many Israeli Army personnel, both boys and girls, were around the square. All were heavily armed and I later asked our guide about this. I told him that the police in England do not carry anything more offensive than a baton. He said that to capture one of these  would be a great prize for a Palestinian.  I wonder if he meant the gun or the girl,

We were taken to a gift shop then back to the ship to continue our cruise. By this time both Molly and Rupert were recovered enough to have a jolly good supper and then watch part of music show. But we were so tired we had to go to bed, very soon.­­

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August 3 2014
Port Said and Cairo

When we got to Haifa, tired but happy, we retrieved our passports and got on board, just in time for tea and a good bath.

Then we dressed for dinner. Again it was a sumptuous meal and both Molly and Rupert were a lot better. Their headaches having subsided they enjoyed their food. We listened to the music for a while and then went to bed.

We awoke next morning with the daylight flooding through the porthole. I looked out and we were coming in to Port Said. I dressed hurriedly and went up on deck for a better view. I had been to Port Said before on my way from India. A phenomenon is that the waters of the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean are at different levels and this could be plainly seen.

After breakfast we disembarked (that’s a nautical term for getting off the ship) .Our passports were waved through, I have mentioned British Passports are allowed special treatment. Then a desk was giving receipts for camcorders, so that there would be no problems on leaving Egypt.

Molly and Rupert sat together and I being the odd one out sat by the security guard near the driver. No lies but he could have done with a good bath. Some ladies were complaining that their seats were wet, as they had been shampooed. So after about ten miles we were able to change coaches.

An English lady asked me to come and sit with her as she had a double seat to herself.

So once again we set off for Cairo in convoy with armed security guards. There was an armed guard in each coach and a Jeep load of guards fore and aft of the convoy.

We passed through the desert, it was very hot but thoughtfully we had each been given a small bottle of water and a buttered roll from the ship. The roll contained ham.

The countryside was deserted with just the odd house dotted here and there.

The outskirts of Cairo looked like any other Middle Eastern city. Then the city centre was packed with people and traffic everywhere and all sounding their horns. A real cacophony of sound, but nevertheless it was a welcome experience for a Westerner. There was a massive flyover over the city centre and it looked like people were living under there. There were jaywalkers everywhere and the traffic did not keep to any traffic lanes that I could see. The population was wearing a variety of styles of clothing. Many were in Arab robes flowing down to the ground and others in western dress. I must say that the Arabs looked the most comfortable and moved about with ease.

Thus we came to the Cairo museum and parked in the courtyard coach park. We were all allowed into an already over crowded museum. The place was heaving with the press of people. We saw the various mummies and their coffins, is that the right word? There was no pretence of going anywhere you just went wherever the mass of people took you at a snail’s pace.

I could see Rupert’s face glaze over in panic and Molly looked truly uncomfortable so I asked her if she wanted to leave. She agreed and took Rupert outside. I remained in the museum but I need not have bothered.

The Cairo Museum, potentially one of the greatest museums of the world is seriously in need of proper management. They need to look to the British Museum in London for guidance. We all came out of the Museum .all of us looking dishevelled and perspiring heavily. Thank god my seating companion was sweetly perfumed. I will speak more of her later.

In the meantime I have copied and pasted an article about the museum

Next stop the Pyramids.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo contains the world's most extensive collection of pharaonic antiquities; no visit to Egypt is complete without a trip through its galleries. The original collection was established in the late 19th century under Auguste Mariette and housed in Boulaq. The objects were moved in 1891 to the palace of Ismail Pasha in Giza before being transferred in 1902 to the current building at Tahrir Square, which is the first purpose-built museum edifice in the world.

Designed in the Neoclassical style by Marcel Dourgnon, the Egyptian Museum boasts 107 halls filled with artifacts dating from the prehistoric through the Roman periods, with the majority of the collection focused on the pharaonic era. The museum houses approximately 160,000 objects covering 5,000 years of Egypt's past.

The ground floor takes the visitor on a chronological tour through the collections, while the objects on the upper floor are grouped according to tomb or category; exhibits here include the treasures of Tutankhamun, wooden models of daily life, statuettes of divinities, and a rare group of Faiyum Portraits. On display on the second floor are also many of the New Kingdom royal mummies.

Labels are in Arabic and English

Open daily, 9:00 AM-7:00

August 3 2014
The Pyramids of Giza

When we got back on the coach at the Cairo museum I had a bit of an altercation with the lady courier, because there were other nationalities on the coach and whereas she spent a long time explaining things to them, when it came to English we just had a few sentences. For example there is a huge graveyard just outside Cairo. She was at great lengths in explaining its history, although I would never know, in German or Dutch, they both sound alike to me, and the English version was ‘That is a burial ground’

After leaving the museum we could see the Pyramids at Giza within a short space of time. It is highly probable that the pyramids were built out in the desert away from the village which is now the city of Cairo.  We could see boys riding camels and were warned not to accept their offer of a ride for a small sum of money, because then the scam sets in and a huge amount of cash is demanded to let you off.

We were let out of the coaches to wander about and take photographs, All the while we were being pestered by these camel boys. I did notice though that some Europeans were on camels.

Because I was taking photos’ Molly and Rupert wandered off and touched and looked at other pyramids as well as the Great Pyramid of Giza. After a while I heard Molly calling me, she was with three bedraggled policemen who were demanding baksheesh because she had taken a photo of them. Two of them were very begging but the third was feeling ashamed and started going away. I called him back and gave them all some money. However they are never satisfied, so we just walked away in the end. I am not surprised though, their uniform was khaki shorts and a short sleeved shirt, one more wash and they would disintegrate. I could not help comparing them with the exceedingly well turned out policemen guarding the tomb of Makarios in Cyprus.

You get this intangible feeling of being somewhere old and historical when you wander among the pyramids. But you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.

The Sphinx was nearby so we walked over to it. Now this was more like it. There were young Arab boys selling cheap replicas of the pyramids and the Sphinx. Although I wanted to help these boys I resisted because the souvenirs were so badly made they wouldn’t last five minutes.

Then the coach arrived and the courier said we must move on.  We got on the coach and three minutes later it stopped at a massive gift shop. We were all turfed off and the hard-sell began. If you wrote your name in English then they would make you a pendant in gold in cuneiform (?) letters.  High price and chain extra, nothing in life comes cheap. I am so glad Molly never asks for things.

We got back on the coach and started our return journey to the ship by way of the suburbs. Then the courier informed us that she was getting off as she lived in Cairo but we were in safe hands because the driver spoke very good English. We learned later that his ‘very good English’ was limited to answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to questions.

As the sun went down so the whole convoy of coaches stopped there in the desert. Never mind about security. It was Ramadan and the poor drivers were gasping for a cup of tea or coffee. They lit their little pump-up stoves under the wheel arches of the coaches to boil the water.

We had already drunk our water and eaten our ham rolls during the day. The caterers on board ship do not seem to know about dietary laws in Moslem countries.

As we drove through the desert it got darker and darker and also colder and colder. We were glad to see the bright lights of the Port Said and our ship waiting on the quayside. The men handing out the camcorder passes had long since gone home.

Talk about a comedy of errors. But I would not have had it any other way. This is what makes it all the more enjoyable and all the more memorable. It is their way and once you accept that, life is grand.

Driving through the desert I discovered that my seating companion lived about three miles away from me and her daughter, who rode and stripped down motor bikes, actually lived in the same village as me. The lady’s husband had died a few months previously so she had booked a three week holiday, full board, in Cyprus. She had then been offered a fourth week at half board for free. I saw her again next morning as we were sailing into Limassol. She was on the upper deck reading a book, so we spoke awhile and I said ‘Goodbye’ to her and thanked her for her company. A charming lady indeed. She did tell me her name but I have forgotten. Molly would have remembered.

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 August 3 2014


I have just been watching a short movie entitled Calcutta (I can’t spell the new name ) walks.
There was no sound but the pictures were good. They showed Nizam’s and the Kathi Kababs, and the name Flury’s came up, then they showed some jalabies and gulab jamuns.
In the midst of all this there was a carrom board with people playing.  This is where I wanted to tell you about an experience I had in Hamley’s the large games store in Regents Street in London.
My wife and I had only the one child then, so we decided to go into Hamley’s to buy his Christmas present.  As the other children came along all the presents were bought from street markets.
Back to Hamley’s we went up in the escalator and were looking at the toys when we came across a carrom board , I called out ‘Oh carroms’ and the shop demonstrator looked up. He was showing potential customers how to play. The board itself was pretty decent but the men and the striker were not that good.They were more like draughtsmen. Very light.
Then the time came for him to set up the men and he was getting in a terrible muddle, so I just leaned over and set them up for him. I had very strange looks from the customers and the assistant. I asked if he wanted me to show him how it was done but he declined. He was also not too keen on the way we flicked the striker. His way was to push it.
I think we bought a teddy bear in the end , elsewhere.
August 3 2014

English Holidays

Schools in England, Scotland and Wales are now on their great summer break. Mid July to the first week in September.
Seven weeks of holiday. Now is the time that parents can legally take their children on holiday. Be it in the UK or further afield. The continent of Europe is always a magnet for these holidays.
A couple of weeks on the continent, including air fares, is far far cheaper than a few days in England.
I always loved going to the continent, because of the warmer weather, the exotic architecture and the food. We invariably booked our holidays with a travel agent and more often that not , if you booked two weeks full board you were given a free third week on half board. But once the staff got used to your faces, nobody ever queried your status. Some hotels would print your photograph on to a plastic card. The card was supposed to establish your bona fides, but nobody ever scrutinised it.
Sometimes a whole family was photographed together and one card was issued, as if we were all joined at the hip. The card had a magnetic strip and was used as the ‘key’ to your suite. This always caused confusion if some wanted to go shopping and others wanted to sit by the poolside. The hotels were very reluctant to issue more than one card so you just had to say that yours was lost. Then a duplicate was issued. This was all very well unless the reception then changed the electronic function on the ‘key’
These package holidays were also good because they always took you on free excursions to remote beauty spots or to other inaccessible towns. Visits to the high mountains were always my favourite. As in these places there would be a new set of cottage industry and usually a very different cuisine. Kebabs even. At one time there were English couriers on the coaches but, the European Commission, in its wisdom decided that local English speaking couriers should be used. Leading to some hilarious turns of phrase.
Some of the scenery was stunning.
In the hotels the restaurants were usually self service. The food counter for breaksat would be packed with all manner of eggs, cheeses, cuts of meat, sausages and fruit.Bacon and ham. Tea and coffee machines were self dispensing and the toaster revolved allowing you to make an endless supply of toast. Various types of butter was availabe, plain or salty or even cheese flavoured. Don’t like butter, not to worry you could have margarine or any other type of spread.
You could eat to your hearts content but you were never allowed to take even a slice of bread out of the restaurant.
Because of the popularity of the breakfast menu there would be a queue forming at the door. To ease this congestion I tried to walk out with an orange but was stopped at the door. I apologised to the next in line and went back in to eat my orange. My wife just threw her orange on to a table and walked out.
As most of the guests were away during the lunchtime, the restaurant was very deserted. So also at tea time.
But come dinnertime the hotel really excelled itself. All manner of salads were on the bar. The different roast meats and fish gave the whole restaurant an inviting aroma.
The English always asked for gravy on their roast but the Continental chefs always called it sauce.
Marvellous cakes and gateaux of all descriptions were laid out for the taking.
A real paradise for a glutton. As many guests proved to be. But after the third day you just could not eat any more than your normal amount, however inviting the food.
At one breakfast time I counted a guest taking seventeen rashers of bacon.
At other times the syrup would be spilling out of peoples plates. I haven’t any idea why they did this as there was no restriction on the amount of food one could have.
At this evening mealtime the wine-waiters would come around selling bottles of wine. To facilitate the sale of wine  all the coffee machines were shut down. This pettiness really irked me, and I complained about it more than once. I was always told that I could get coffee at the bar.
Being all inclusive, the drinks at the bar were also free. But they were all local brews. All well-known branded drinks had to be paid for.
If you were going on an excursion the next day you could let the ‘desk’ know and they would make you up a box, ‘pixnic’ to be picked up  the next morning. 
After dinner there was always time to get washed and changed before the predominantly English hotels would start playing bingo (housey-housey). Monitory prizes were a good lure. Then the band would arrive for a brief spell of ballroom or disco dancing. The cabarets would be staged while the band had a rest. In Spain the cabaret was usually girls doing the Flamenco. In France it was the girls doing the Can-Can. In Italy it was nothing but someone crooning. A big let-down. The comedians invariably told risqué jokes. Some ladies laughed uproariously but other were very disapproving. The men thought that they should show their broadmindedness. But you could tell when they too were embarrassed.
In a very large hotel in Spain the whole complex would fuse at four in the afternoon. It was because the English who were sitting by the pool would return to their rooms and switch on their kettles, to make a cup of tea. The use of kettles was not allowed but they could not stop it. Heavier fuses had to be put in.
When Vincent was on holiday in New York, there was a coffee maker in the room, but no kettle. His wife asked him to go out and buy one but he decided to ask at the desk. The receptionist laughed and said’ You English and your cups of tea’ before she produced a kettle from under the counter.
 July 26 2014

I have contacted my erstwhile school colleague, who lives in London, and between the two of us we have managed to recall our school highlights.
You will be aware that this narration begins in the last days of the Raj.
When I returned to St.Edmund's in March of 1946, it was in the old school which had been vacated by the British war wounded. The whole place looked spic and span and was redolent with the smell of fresh paint. Most of the boys were strangers to each other. Others were returning to their old school after spending the war years in Darjeeling or Kurseong.
Brother O'Leary was the principal and my teacher, Brother Morrissey, was there.
All the boys were assembled in the great hall and we were allocated 'houses' not by name but by colours. There were four colours. Red, Green, Gold and Blue. I was in Blue house.  The boys sat for meals at long refectory tables, according to house colour,  reminiscent of the medieval monks and abbeys.  We were made to recite 'the grace before meals'.
Do you remember this prayer and the 'grace after meals.?
We were allowed to talk during mealtimes and there was a constant buzz with all the boys talking at the same time. There were a couple of hundred of us.  Bearers served our meals individually. There was porridge or cereal, bread and butter and tea for breakfast. Lunch consisted of beef curry and rice and daal. Sometimes we had lamb or pork or vegetable curry by way of a change.There was always plenty of food and quite tasty.The 'grub matron' saw to that.At teatime we had bread and butter and jam and tea.  Supper was usually made up of 'side dishes' you probably know these as anglicised Indian dishes. Aloo chop etc. and water to drink. As far as I can recall we only ever got a pudding (dessert) on a
Sunday supper time.
The boys were a mixed bunch . English, Scottish,(mostly tea planter's sons) Anglo-Indians, Irish and a very few Indians. The one common factor was that their fathers worked for vast companies and were extremely rich by Indian standards. They had to be, to afford St.Edmund's boarder's fees.  Many came from Calcutta others were railway folk from Kharagpur, Asansol etc.  Some fathers were chiefs of police or post and telegraphs, licensed measurers, Indian Civil Service and Army etc. You will recall ,maybe, that some jobs were the sole preserve of Anglo-Indians. Tea planters' sons were well represented. Toss in a couple of maharajah's boys. We all got on well together. There was absolutely no tension between the different races or the different religions.Catholics, Moslems, Hindus,protestants and Jews all happily attended mass together. That is until 15th.of August 1947 when some people with advanced theories spoilt it all. It was inevitable I suppose.
We were allocated classes and dormitories, and lockers (presses). There were two large dormitories. Juniors and Seniors.   Our beds were made by the matrons every day.Our shoes were polished and our dirty clothes were listed and sent to the dhobi once a week. They were also counted back and examined by the matrons and put back in front of our presses. Our luggage trunks were removed and put in the attic, not to be seen again until going home day in December.  The press room was above the shower room. We had showers on Wednesday and Saturday afternoon after which were allowed to leave the school premises.  Supervised by the brothers, we were taken to town. Police Bazaar or up the hill passed Tripura Castle.  The Chinese chow shop in town was very popular. Just plain chow mien. I think it was fried in bacon fat.It wasn't messed around with, with meat or vegetables.As I recall it cost eight annas a portion or was it four annas?  There was another chow shop in Laitumkrah.  Another popular shop was the soda fountain near the Kelvin cinema.  Morelos and Guidetties were two Italian confectioners. The former was on the way to town and the latter was in Laitumkrah.
The way to town was via Laitumkrah Square passed Don Bosco and St.Anthony's and down the steep slope known as Jacob's Ladder. We fit boys managed this slope with the greatest of ease. I wish I could do that now!
You will find the St.Edmund's and Don Bosco campus's on Google Earth. It is a pity that the photo has been cropped before we can see the immense and imposing cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians. Incidentally, this cathedral was built during my St Edmund's years. Before that there was a large church attached to St.Anthony's College and subsequently referred to as the pro-cathedral. 
I am led to believe that the reason for the photo-cropping is that there are sensitive areas in that part of Shillong.
I cannot vouch for this however.  Apropos the pro cathedral. There was an English brother in Don Bosco   Bro.Henry who was ordained in that cathedral in 1945 by Bishop Ferrando, an Italian' while I was in St.John Bosco's. I carried the large candle that towered over me. Immediately after the ordination I served ,now, Father  Henry's first mass.

I saw him a few times thereafter when he came up to St.Edmund's to say mass. Then I lost track of him. That is until 1960, when I went, with my future wife, to the Church of the Sacred Heart in Battersea in London. The parish priest called Father Henry to speak to me, I said 'Father do you remember me'? Much to the surprise of both my intended and also the parish priest, he replied 'How can I forget you Roderick!'
Best wishes from Roderick.

July 6 2014

At Home
I am sure that you will all remember the vivid clear light in India. No smog, just a natural scented air, the smell of pine trees in Shillong with the strange not exactly rustling but a squeakiness of the pines rubbing against each other. Beautiful light for taking photographs. Or an artist’s paradise.
In the plains in rural Assam there was the smell of the jungle and the tea bushes. The silence of the days and nights with the occasional barking of dogs or the shrill cry of children.
In Cutlacherra our bungalow was high on a hill and we looked down on the jungle on on side, as our gaze moved around we could see the church and the lines, before we got to the  tea factory, beside the river.
The river Dhaleswari flowed slowly along and in the distance was the dhobi ghat before the river swept around a bend and was lost to view.
We could see the washer men at their work and the vagaries of nature prevailed, the dhobi would be bashing hell out of a stone with a shirt, then he would raise the shirt for the next stroke , just then the noise of the first stroke would reach us. Most odd, to say the least.
People would go down to the river for their midday bath. Mothers with screaming children, but the screams would be lost in the vastness of the space.
All the Hindu tea garden workers were on our side of the river but on the other side (gaangpar) there were the Mohammedans. They just worked their fields and orchards etc. They were also the fishermen with their triangular bamboo poles with fishnets trawling for whatever they managed to catch. These fish were sold in the garden bazaar days, Wednesday in Cutlacherra. Our Doctor Babu, was in charge of selecting the fish for the bungalow. We children thought that curried fish was disgusting but the grown-ups seemed to like it.
As we went home for the Christmas holidays then the rice was being harvested.  Men with scythes would cut the stalks and tie them into bundles which would then be put on to the ends of long bamboo poles to be carried on the shoulders to the threshing area. The stalks would be laid on the ground and a pair of bulls would spend hours going round and round treading the rice off the stalks with their hooves.
All this was done in silence except for the shouts of encouragement by the person driving the bulls.
When the dhan (unhusked rice) was off the stalks it was stored in huge cane baskets in the godown (warehouse) for later use. It was a good idea to have a few feral cats knocking about to keep the mice at bay.
Why is it that children all over the world feel the need to chase cats ? It was a pastime in India as it is in England.All the while shouting bilee bilee or cat cat, depending on the country.
Looking North from the bungalow we could see the North Cachar Hills, they always looked blue.
The hill town of Haflong was up there somewhere.  There is a convent in Haflong St.Agnes’ and many a St.Edmund’s boy started their schooling there. I can recall a few, Jimmy Hague, Peter Thom, both their fathers were tea planters, Then there was Derek Perry, whose father was the big shot magistrate over a wide area. Another name may be known to some was Cramphorn , the younger brother had a fist of steel he felt no pain when he punched concrete. How useful is that ?
To the East were the Lushai hill with a kucha (unmade) military road going up to Aijal.  I am using names that were prevalent during the 1940s . They have since been changed and new states have been carved out of the old Assam. Now various factions even want to cede from the Indian Union.
One of the main insurgents is an old St.Agnes’ boy. They block roads and collect tolls from lorries plying the Shillong Silchar route.
July 6 2014
 A Lonely Tea Planter
Many a lonely tea planter took up with a local tea garden girl and on account of there not being any effective means of birth control , they had children.
The good guys stood by their women and loved and cared for them, looked after them and either remained in India after retirement or brought their ‘wives’ and children back to the U K with them.
Others just abandoned the women and children. Even during the years of liaisons with these sometimes lovely girls, let’s face it, they picked the pretty ones, the girls were kept hidden in a separate house, apart from the burra bungalow.
My grandfather ( The boora sahib) established a compound in Cutlacherra, for these abandoned women. The women who by now had no chance of a respectable marriage.  He arranged for the children to go to school in St.Andrew’s Colonial Homes in Kalimpong, near Darjeeling. Of course it usually meant that the children learnt to speak in English, they forgot their original Mother Tongue and their childhood customs. Their eating habits also changed.
The mothers’ never understood the concept of a boarding school whereby the children went back after the holidays, So it was easier  to just leave the children where they were. In time the children forgot their mothers’ but the mothers never forgot their children. I vividly recall the mother of a boy named George, when we went home for the holidays she would say to my father, (‘George koe nai aana?)( Didn’t you bring George)  In the forlorn hope of seeing him again. George knew where she was, but as a grown-up he never ever returned to the Cutlacherra compound.
In time the children grew up and got good jobs in India’s big anonymous cities or even overseas.
They would never fit back in to their mother’s way of life.  Their father’s were long-gone and probably married to an old English woman.
Who is to say whether the boora sahib or my father was wrong.  The women and children would be ostracised by their families and castes. They could never return to plucking tea, pruning or doing kodalee. (Digging with a hoe)
In time the compound gradually diminished in size. George Richmond mentioned this without knowing where he was, he said that Bill and he stayed in a small bungalow with a kindly middle-aged woman to look after them. The boora saab or my father, I don’t rightly know who built a church in Cutlacherra , the ladies were now casteless so attended a Christian  Church.
Whenever my brothers and I returned home from school or were going back we always, always visited the ladies. On our infrequent trips to Silchar we asked if there was anything they wanted. As if to recall a different life in a different world  they invariably asked for ‘bilati’biskoot’ (English biscuits)
What lovely ladies they were too.
It makes me so sad to recall this now. The wonderful life in India can be so unforgiving if you overstep the mark.
July 7 2014

Brush with Roman Catholicism

My first brush with Roman Catholicism, was not a pleasant one.  It came about because of the sad death of my mum in the Welsh Mission Hospital, in Shillong.
The last time that I ever saw my mum she was standing on the grass verge of Lalabazar station on a cold and misty ,1944,  February morning with my sister Sheila in her arms.  The train arrived from the next station, Lalaghat, which was the end of the line. It was necessary for us to catch this very early train to take us to Katakhal Junction to catch the train from Silchar, that was going to Badarpur Junction.

We were on our way to Kalimpong. The big train took us through East Bengal via Kalaura to Chandpur Ghat to get on the river paddle steamer.
Unbeknown to us my mum was very ill. She was visiting hospitals in Calcutta during the year for radium treatment.
Thus we spent ten months in Kalimpong oblivious to the impending tragedy. We left for home in early December , not knowing that we would never return to Kalimpong.
In Cutlacherra, Mum was not there. She was in The Welsh Mission Hospital in Shillong.
A letter arrived saying Mum was going rapidly down hill. Alex tried explaining this to Granny. But she said ‘yes there are many hills there. ‘ Because Alex was also grief stricken he got a bit upset, at this lack of understanding.
It was agreed that my Uncle James’s wife would come from Digboi to look after us. My father,Granny,Alex and sister Molly, all went up to Shillong. I was left in Cutlacherra with Bill,Alfy and Sheila under the care of our aunt.
The servants took absolutely no notice of this aunt. One morning the Manager Babu, Nobo Kishore, came up to the bungalow, at about eleven o’clock, he asked me what we had had for breakfast. I told him that we had not even had a cup of tea as yet. Nobo went flaming mad ,he summoned all the servants, there must have been about eight of them, on duty,  in the bungalow at that time. I thought that he was going to hit them with his cane.
Perhaps I should explain, Nobo Babu always wore an  immaculate white shirt over an even whiter dhoti,
he carried a Malacca cane in his right hand and with his left hand he held a fold of his dhoti. Thus he went striding along and  flicking the dhoti and resting the cane gently on the ground.
I liked Nobo Babu, he was always kind to us and he was my father’s right hand man. He died some years later.
After that we got our pallang cha and chota hazri, bang on time.
James and Alex came down to Cutlacherra just after Christmas. This must seem daft but they took some tea and sugar back with them.
There were all sorts of machinations going on in Shillong. Because my Mum was a Catholic she and Granny were overjoyed to find a Catholic priest after all the deprived years in Cutlacherra.
My Mum asked the priest to receive us all into the Catholic Church.
In mid-January she became very ill and died. A telegram was sent to Cutlacherra, my aunt read it and gave it back to the dak-wallah and asked him to present it to the next garden along, that is Manipurbagan.
All the servants were very subdued but my aunt had not told Bill,Alfy , Sheila or me about the contents of the telegram.  We sensed that something was wrong but didn’t know for sure.
Then the missionaries started arriving, The Rev.Merfyn Jones from Silchar, The Rev.Badshah (Bacha Babu) Miss Rowlands, Miss Hetty Evans and Mini from Karimganj. Several years later Bacha Babu was sacked for misappropriating the church funds.
I had my worst suspicions conformed when I heard Rev.Jones ask Miss Rowlands ‘When did she die?I had the grim task of telling Bill Alfy and Sheila.
About sixty years later the daughter of this aunt told me that her mum said ‘She died in my arms’
My mum's two brothers from Digboi and the rest of the family all came from Shillong with the coffin in an ambulance. They arrived late at night, By this time word had spread and all the Cutlacherra workforce, people from the bustees, and other tea gardens  and the Mohommadens from across the river came to bury their memsahib. There were literally thousands there.
Because many elderly people could not climb up the Kobor Tilla the Rev.Merfyn Jones conducted the funeral service in an open space while we sat on a veranda.
By the light of Tilley lights, kerosene lamps and torchlights we all went up the Kobor Tilla where a grave had been prepared on the top of the hill. My aged Granny struggled up to see her daughter buried. The Rev.Jones and Bacha Babu conducted the burial Service.
I do not think anyone had much sleep that night. The ambulance driver had to go back to Shillong that day, he was taken aback by the crowds and said that he had not ever seen so many people all together.
I’ll skip a couple of months and Bill, Alfy and I was in Don Bosco in Shillong, waiting to go up to school in St.Edmund’s.  The Fathers in Don Bosco knew that Mum had died and they kept saying ‘you have a new mother now’  ‘What were they talking about ?
The next morning Fr.Negri, because he spoke English was assigned to look after us, told us to get dressed to go to church. I was the first one dressed so I went alone. The church was very brightly lit, there were statues ,though I didn’t know it at the time , of the Virgin Mary , several other saints and a large crucifix. It must have been a feast day as there were lit candles all about the altar, the priests were in their very expensive vestments saying mass and all the Khasi boys droning on reciting the Rosary. Incense filled the church to choking point and the priests bowed and genuflected and spoke Latin.
My immediate thought was idolatry. We didn’t have all this in the Presbyterian church. I dashed out and back to the dormitory where Bill and Alfy were now dressed.
Father Negri ushered us back to the church, so we just sat there . They may force us to attend their rites and rituals but they could not force us to participate.
This was my first introduction to Roman Catholicism.
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July 8 2014

Travelling to Kalimpong

When I went to school in Kalimpong, we would make the river trip of eight hours , from Chandpur to Goalando. The ship’s cook would make the most wonderful fried fish.As a boy I hated fish curry, I still do if the truth be known. I cannot get Dhaleswari river fish curry in England so who knows whether I would still hate it. (Market day in Cutlacherra was Wednesday after the workers were paid on Tuesday and the Doctor Babu was always given the task of buying the fish in the Katlicherra market. Every Thursday when the Doctor Babu made his daily trip to the bungalow he would ask how the fish was, he knew the answer, we always said’' ‘bahoot kharab’ (very bad) . The older folk absolutely loved curried fish despite all the bones.
We would wander around the top deck in  front of the Ostrich and were able to rest in our cabins and have a hot bath. The Ostrich was built in 1929 so it was all fairly new,clean and well maintained.
The staff would take us down to the engine room to see the giant machinery operating. We would pass through the packed lower deck with people sitting on the floors, and their possessions scattered around them, children being fractious and young girls looking coy with their sarees pulled over their mouths.  (Surely they were not all going to Kalimpong ) We said that the machinery  looked like horses jumping. The smell of hot oil also added to the excitement.
When the ship made brief stops along the way then men in little boats would pull alongside and sell the most tasty rossugollas, jalabies, kalajams etc in little earthen pots . We would pull these up on a rope and send the money down the same way.
Other treats were East Bengal oranges and bananas.
The bearers and the jamadars made a good job of looking after us and ensured that we did not go over the side. As I am able to attest by the fact that I am here.
We had arrived at Chandpur after a very long train journey and several changes from Lalabazar in Cachar.
As the train made the slow sweep into Chandpur Ghat the coolies, in their red shirts and red pugarees,  would hop on and off the train asking if we needed any and how many. What puzzled me was that the coolies would rather carry a heavy load than have it shared, by say, another of his colleagues. They would hurry off to board the ship and leave us in the lurch. We would arrive at our respective cabins to find our cases, called ‘boxes’ in India, already there and the coolies waiting, for my father to pay them. As I recall there was always an argument ‘nai saab, bahoot bairie hai’ (no sahib it is very heavy)
What a magical life we led.
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 July 8 2014
I have just watched the tennis from Wimbledon between Tsonga and Novak ???
They are marvellous players , makes you sick. The cameras have been showing the beautiful sunset over SW 19  Wimbledon.
It has been raining there a lot and play was only possible in the court with the retractable roof.
My youngest son Matthew lives there and on good days he goes to watch the tennis after work.
Talking of Indian sweets, my eldest son Vincent brought me some of those lovely thick Bengali jalabies and fresh gulabjamuns. We polished off the jalabies days ago and the last of the gulabjams this evening. I give them a slight heat in the microwave and then drizzle them with sweetened condensed milk. Abso-bloody-lutley delicious.
Now that the  Music festival has finished we are in for another treat, starting this Saturday. The Tour de France is starting this year up in Yorkshire and then travelling South down to London, before going on to France.
The riders pass the top of Vincent’s road so his family and he is looking forward to seeing the riders.
Matt and Vincent became addicted to the Tour de France when as teenagers they made their first trip to Paris and saw the end of this race,
They rang up, all excited, and said ‘Mum we’re in Paris’ What wonderful times for young lads.
I couldn’t get so worked up about going to Silchar. Mind you I did like going there.
But it does not have the same ring to it.
People on tea gardens did not travel far. I do not  think that they moved more than three miles from their birthplace. Our nearest railway station, on those days was Lalabazar, about five miles away, but many folk in Cutlacherra had never seen a train.  When my father took one of the bearers , with him, to Calcutta , he would come back with these fantastic tales of flicking a switch on the wall and the room being bathed in light. Similarly, a switch would turn a fan, no pankah-wallahs for city dwellers.
Every evening the sardars would come up to the bungalow to give my father the report of the day’s work and precise detail of how many yards of tea was picked or land was turned over by kodalee. No worker was allowed to be absent overnight or to have an overnight guest without the permission of the sardars , which was then reported to the Sahib.
I was always amazed that the workers always knew where their jat-bhais lived and were able to locate them to arrange marriages for their sons and daughters. This was the usual reason for absences.  If ever there was a girl with no father, then my youngest sister Sheila would persuade my father to bear the cost of her marriage, when Sheila asked one of these girls what she wanted she replied that her dearest wish was to have a haath ka ghorie, a wrist watch.  However inappropriate, Sheila duly bought the watch. There were tears in the girl’s eyes when Sheila presented it to her.
Clothes were always a very welcome gift. During the war years the estates had an allocated clothes ration but these were hardly ever taken up except by the babu’s families. They were also addicted to Agru perfume. I found it too overpowering.

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July 8 2014

Tour de France
 have just watched the tennis from Wimbledon between Tsonga and Novak ???
They are marvellous players , makes you sick. The cameras have been showing the beautiful sunset over SW 19  Wimbledon.
It has been raining there a lot and play was only possible in the court with the retractable roof.
My youngest son Matthew lives there and on good days he goes to watch the tennis after work.
Talking of Indian sweets, my eldest son Vincent brought me some of those lovely thick Bengali jalabies and fresh gulabjamuns. We polished off the jalabies days ago and the last of the gulabjams this evening. I give them a slight heat in the microwave and then drizzle them with sweetened condensed milk. Abso-bloody-lutley delicious.
Now that the  Music festival has finished we are in for another treat, starting this Saturday. The Tour de France is starting this year up in Yorkshire and then travelling South down to London, before going on to France.
The riders pass the top of Vincent’s road so his family and he is looking forward to seeing the riders.
Matt and Vincent became addicted to the Tour de France when as teenagers they made their first trip to Paris and saw the end of this race,
They rang up, all excited, and said ‘Mum we’re in Paris’ What wonderful times for young lads.
I couldn’t get so worked up about going to Silchar. Mind you I did like going there.
But it does not have the same ring to it.
People on tea gardens did not travel far. I do not  think that they moved more than three miles from their birthplace. Our nearest railway station, on those days was Lalabazar, about five miles away, but many folk in Cutlacherra had never seen a train.  When my father took one of the bearers , with him, to Calcutta , he would come back with these fantastic tales of flicking a switch on the wall and the room being bathed in light. Similarly, a switch would turn a fan, no pankah-wallahs for city dwellers.
Every evening the sardars would come up to the bungalow to give my father the report of the day’s work and precise detail of how many yards of tea was picked or land was turned over by kodalee. No worker was allowed to be absent overnight or to have an overnight guest without the permission of the sardars , which was then reported to the Sahib.
I was always amazed that the workers always knew where their jat-bhais lived and were able to locate them to arrange marriages for their sons and daughters. This was the usual reason for absences.  If ever there was a girl with no father, then my youngest sister Sheila would persuade my father to bear the cost of her marriage, when Sheila asked one of these girls what she wanted she replied that her dearest wish was to have a haath ka ghorie, a wrist watch.  However inappropriate, Sheila duly bought the watch. There were tears in the girl’s eyes when Sheila presented it to her.
Clothes were always a very welcome gift. During the war years the estates had an allocated clothes ration but these were hardly ever taken up except by the babu’s families. They were also addicted to Agru perfume. I found it too overpowering.
July 10 2014

Bamboo Rafts
In the winter time the rivers are almost dry. Whilst the monsoon filled rivers overspill their banks and flood the countryside and submerge the bridges the winter time rivers are so depleted that at some points it is possible to walk across from bank to bank.
It is then that massive movement of bamboo takes place. Huge rafts of bamboo are tied together and a small hut erected on it for the people. They eat and live and sleep on these rafts while it slowly floats downriver. Because of the shallow waters these rafts frequently get stuck. Then the elephants are called in to give them a push.
At evening time the mahouts would come up to our bungalow to ask permission to let the elephants loose in our jungles to feed. The elephants are very partial to banana ‘trees’ and they can polish them off in no time. This asking permission is purely a courtesy.
My brothers and I would get the mahouts to give us a ride on the elephants. For a saddle the mahouts had a gunny-sack tied around the beast, just behind the ears. We, of course, had to ride bare-back and wearing short trousers the elephant hairs used to prick us like mad.
The mahouts would get the elephants to sit down and we would step on to its legs then he would yank us up behind him. We had to cling on for dear life as the elephant got up, front feet first and back feet last making a steep slope. When we were fully able to go the mahout would dig his feet behind the elephant’s ears and shout ‘dhalie dhalie’ or words to that effect. He would get angry if we shouted it first. Some mahouts used iron spikes to encourage their elephants.
We would ride along the main road or a jungle track for a mile or so and then get off and return to the bungalow for a good bath, (goosool) The elephants would in the meantime be let loose in the jungle. The morning would show a scene of utter devastation. 
Then the elephants would be back to the river to get the rafts started again. The progress was so slow that it took two or three days of feeding elephants and elephant-rides in Cutlacherra.
I have no idea what they did when they were out of the jungle area and among the paddy fields.
Do elephants eat paddy?
The Dhaleswari river was the Ganges of the region. It was used as the latrine as well as the immersion of the gods. I would cry when the idols were immersed and say ‘hum manta ha’  but the ayah would say’ nai nai baba chalo chalo , Mummy goroes ho jayga’ ( Let’s go Mummy will be angry)
Bodies were cremated on its banks and the ashes shovelled in. There was always an ample supply of wood in the jungle or in the ‘lakri gatha’ by the tea factory for the furnace. Occasionally a dead cow or some other bloated  animal corpse could be seen floating by. Usually with a vulture sitting on it pecking away.
But not to worry, people still bathed in the river, did you know that girls would use clay to ‘wash’ their hair and make it silky.?
Then the ladies would rub coconut oil or mustard oil on their hair and bodies for hydration. It seemed to work better than the Western preparations, sold in chemists.
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July 20 2014

My Time at St Edmunds

 My first year in St.Edmund’s was as a day-scholar’ and that too as a part timer, mornings only.

I think that you already know that I first attended St.Edmund's in 1945. At that time the school was a British Military hospital, for the British soldiers wounded in the Burma and far east campaigns. Although it was acknowledged that the buildings were a hospital, I, in fact, never actually saw a soldier, nurse or doctor in the vicinity.

We therefore had our lessons in what was previously  the college section.  We went to school in the mornings only then the college students occupied the building during the afternoon. Because of the lack of boarders the only school pupils were in the main Shillong residents, or tea planters sons, like myself and my two brothers, who were boarding in St.John Bosco's at the bottom of the hill in Laitumkrah. The class sizes were therefore quite small. About eight or ten boys to a class. It was almost like having one-to-one tuition.

My own teacher was Brother Morrissey. He was a fairly young brother, and could not have been much older than the senior boys. Brother O'Leary was the principal. I am afraid that I cannot recall the names of any of the other brothers, they were just there.They did not impact in my memory at that time.

I cannot honestly say that I actually learnt anything, but I must have done. As it transpired in later years, Brother Morrissey was in my humble opinion the best teacher in the school. He was very strict in class and rather prone to using the strap. Outside of class he was a different person entirely. Great at organizing games and concerts and he would talk to us on all manner of subjects.

We spent Easter, Summer and Puja holidays in Don Bosco's. I can't imagine how we passed the time. Many of the Italian Fathers in Don Bosco had a very limited English vocabulary but they all learnt Khasi very quickly. I am afraid that I never managed more than five or six words. There was one priest from England, however so we spoke to him a lot of the time.

When we were in the communal washroom, I was talking to the boy beside me and a new Italian priest was taking charge, he kept looking at his book and then came up to me and said ‘snub ja’ (be quiet, in Khasi) ( George can you please verify)so I replied in English, ‘I’m so sorry father but I don’t speak Italian’

 In Don Bosco we played football with the Khasi boys but they always commented to us in English words.  We all slept in large dormitories and went to mass together every morning. In those days masses were always said in Latin. 

Thus the first academic year went by and  we went home for the Christmas Holidays. A full three months on the plantation.

When we returned to Shillong it was as boarders in St.Edmund’s. You will all probably know that in St.Edmund’s it was English only. There was no Khasi spoken there, a few of the Anglo-Khasi boys may have known the language but, I, certainly never heard it.

Many of the bearers spoke limited English but I am sure that they understood more than they were letting on.

My plantation Hindi would come into play here. This was quite different to the Hindi spoken by the Calcutta and Central India boys, both in accent and choice of words,


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