Chris Allen & Family

March 11 2005

This page is dedicated to Chris Allen and Family ex Keyhung T.E, 
in the Tingri district of Assam 
Daughter Sadie has so far produced all the pictures and her story and we thank her. We hope to receive some stories from Burra Sahib Chris in the not too distant future

Please click on headings to go to stories

Well pruned tea bush

Memories of a childhood framed with Bougainvillea

Return Visit 1988

Pre Retirement 1981

November 2005

Well pruned tea bush
This is probably the only well pruned tea bush of this age surviving in the Pennines at Glosssop in Derbyshire or anywhere in UK. Nurtured, professionally pruned, and well looked after by none other than Chris Allen of Tingri fame--This picture was taken in November 2005 by the Editor who enjoyed lunch and lot's of reminiscing with Chris Allen about Assam etc--Thank you Chris for a very enjoyable day

A Party at Tingri

A New Year's Eve Party (in the Seventies) at Tingri

Back row l-r, Paddy O'Flynn, Hamish Pirie, Shena Pirie, Adrian Allen, Patrick O'Flynn, Alma O'Flynn, Maurice Wheatcroft.

Front row l-r, Pat Russell, Barbara  Allen, Chris Allen, Mary Wheatcroft, Alison O'Flynn, Joslyn Rigby.  

The Keyhung Burra Bunglaow that was their home for 
as long as Sadie could remember

The family on their departure from India for good at Lake Dal in Kashmir 1981
Left to Right Adrian's wife Sarah, Chris Allen, Barbara Allen, 
daughter Sadie and son Adrian

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Memories of a childhood framed with Bougainvillea

by Sadie Lund (nee Allen) 

I count myself as being extremely privileged to have been brought up as an ex-pat Tea Planter's daughter in Assam, an upbringing that only a very few of us will share.

            I spent eight of my formative years on Keyhung - being tutored by my Mum - who did a great job as I was ‘well ahead' when I went to boarding school,  from where I returned to Assam initially three times a year - then twice - Easter and Christmas until my parents left in  1981.  The frequency of these visits was something I just took for granted, but appreciate nowadays as I would just love to jet off on two/three long haul holidays every year.

            Friends and peers over here are astounded when certain things about the way we were brought up let slip in conversation, - something that unfortunately becomes less frequent as time separates the memory even further.

            Each year I would try and think of a different theme for a birthday party for my daughter (thankfully she has now grown out of them) - from the ubiquitous children's play centre venues, to Canoeing and swimming parties; cut back to my childhood - rickshaw rides, a trip on the Keyhung tea trailer that ran on rail tracks and even elephant rides (eat your heart out Victoria Beckham).  Throw the latter into the conversation and you find friends curiously receptive - strangers probably thinking ‘attention seeker!'.

            Assam has also given me a love for spicy foods and I am well known for the copious amounts of garlic I lace most of my dishes with - and there are always fresh chilies and coriander in the fridge.  As a result my daughter Freya has always been a great appreciator of foreign food, exotic fruits and loves eating out at a decent restaurant.

            Another conversation stopper is when you mention the servants we used to have on the tea gardens - and after recovering from the initial shock,  friends and colleagues being thrown into an apoplectic state when you answer  the question of ‘how many'. Well, there were two.. three... four bearers, pani-wallahs, the bobbergee, jharuwallah, malis, burries, drivers, syce, bagal (for those of you that had cattle) - and of course the Ayah, although I am sure most of us considered ours with almost the same love and affection that we felt for our parents.  Then you had the extended help - the nappit, dhobi etc.

            My Ayah was firstly my brother Adrian's Ayah and was with our family from Adrian's birth through to when my parents left tea in 1981.  After I went to boarding school she took on more of a ‘house-keeping role' as I am sure many of the Ayahs who had been in long service did.  She initially joined my parents employ as a double act with her husband ‘Durgar' who was our chief bearer, but he died when I was quite young, and Ayah just stayed on with my parents.  When I went back to Assam in 1988 with my parents and my husband, such was my excitement, and indeed my parents, to see Ayah, that we stopped off on the way from Mohanbari Airport to Keyhung burra bungalow to see her first.  That was amazing because even though she had heard we were coming - she wasn't sure when and we all wept at the reunion.  Sadly she died a couple of years ago, - but she lived well into her mid eighties.

            The Swimming Galas - they were great and remember the summers when we would do the rounds - Dibrugar, Digboi, Doom Dooma, Panitola and Tingri which were on the South Bank's circuit ?  I always prided myself as a pretty good swimmer, and one summer at school in the UK when I was about 10 challenged this ‘new girl' to a race.  She was from Nairobi, and slaughtered me by reaching the end of the pool by the time I was about ¾ of the way down - that's when I realized us Assam children were infallible after all!

            Another thing that I loved about India was the smell and the humidity that hit you in the face when you landed at Dum Dum airport on your holiday journey home to Assam.  It greeted me as soon as the cabin doors were open when we went back in 1988 and nostalgia just hit in as it epitomized the ‘feel' of the land - although it had the opposite effect on my husband Bob who hadn't traveled out of Europe and found it abhorrent.   In his favour though, even though he wasn't over enamored with Calcutta (I can still refer to it as that can't I?) he loved Assam.

            In retrospect I really envy the life of the memsahibs - Mum was always busy organizing the servants, shopping in Tinsukia  (going to that extortionate store that used to get imported stuff - chocolate that had gone white in the heat , but which we all wolfed down anyway - I am certain it was called Gems?)  Then they had to play tennis, and golf, go to the club, lots of functions, organize and attend dinner parties.  Sounds good to me.  I am not taking the mickey in the slightest, if that way of life was an option to me, I would go for it like a shot!!!!

            Most of us had a menagerie of pets as well, which wouldn't be viable unless we had lived on a farm in this country.  My parents had numerous dogs, cats, cattle, horses (Dad always had a horse for as long as I could remember), chickens, pigs, rabbits, monkeys (I had three or four as pets when I was little), civet cats, mynah birds.  When I was very small Dad kept tropical fish, but all I can remember of those is the empty tank which was stored on the ground floor of the bungalow.  They also had a deer called Bambi (original name!!) pre me, when my brother was little.  My favorite of all these animals was Alfie a 95% Labrador and Nikki my monkey.  Nikki was brought to us as an injured orphan - apparently his elbow bone was protruding out of his skin.  Mum nursed him back to health and he was just adorable.  He used to love clinging onto the calf of my leg!!!  I was at school at this time and only saw him in the holidays so he gradually became less tame because the servants weren't interested in him, and after a few years he was released back into the wild. He used to do some terribly rude things, but I don't want to shock the older members of this site by detailing them.

            Christmas day was spent opening presents, then going to Church in Digboi, where Father Innes would conduct the service.  Everyone would then go to Mr and Mrs Bevan's for a drink and sikkins before going home to roast duck or goose.  Even though these meats were an improvisation for Turkey, I would do anything to get my family to have one of those now instead of Turkey on Xmas Day - but every year that I suggest it there is always one who scuppers my plans!!

            The abundance of fruit that grew in our compounds was also something that we took for granted - lychees, bananas, mangos, guavas, papayas, pomeloes  - together with the produce in the mali bari  - all organic!!!  After missing these fruits for many years, I must admit I buy them in fairly prolific quantities nowadays from Tescos - especially with their ‘2 for 1' offers.  The beautiful compounds with the nahoor trees, and the array of colors that adorned the gardens was something I never really appreciated until I looked back at the photographs - many of which were framed with bougainvillea, the bloom of which I recognized on a trip to Portugal as ‘growing in our garden in Keyhung'.  Bougainvillea thereafter became synonymous with my memories of Assam.

            When we went back to Assam in 1988 I was overwhelmed by the genuine affection in which we were held by the garden staff, bungalow servants and laborers, - particularly my Dad.  Representatives came to the burra bungalow bearing gifts, Assamese scarves and garlands for us to wear.  Looking back on it, our upbringing was such a safe and idyllic lifestyle - away from the real world.   We were taught nice traditional family values, had acres of land to play on and some how managed to survive the local dangers without being scarred for life - ie. the odd cobra or banded crite.  I am sure my Dad would have liked to have arranged me a marriage if he could - which would have saved him all the worry of boyfriends and partying much later into the night than he would have liked.  It really was a fantastic childhood and way of life and one of which I have the fondest of memories

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 A return visit to India by some of the Allen family 1988

This is a selection of pictures recording the visit in 1988 by Chris and Barbara Allen plus Daughter Sadie and her husband Bob Lund
The comments with the pictures are from Sadie

Thank you --Sadie, for sharing with us to  help us revive our memories

Breakfast at the Keyhung Head Clerks house - 
A.K. Purkayastha (Aimya)
l-r - Aimya, Bob Lund (ex husband!!!) Chris Allen (don't know who was standing) Mr Tapan  Baruah  the Manager of Keyhung in 1988, my Mum Barbara.  

Sadie says :1988 - outside my Ayah Haribella's house, she and I are seated, and her daughter in law Rinchi and daughter Parkuli behind  and a child who I acquired along the way!!!  His mother was lurking in the vicinity along with lots of others when I was on my way to my Ayah's house and she asked whether I would take the child in the picture - which I did.

Again Sadie says:1988 - the Keyhung bottle kahna.  We have Bani Bearer to the left who was with our family for years whilst we were in Assam, and was still head bearer at the 'Burra Bungalow' when we returned.  Next to him we have Rang Mali who also worked for us for a while prior to our departure in '81.

The Nurse at Paneery T.E. operating a post natal check up 
in 1988

Chris and Barbara Allen 
picture taken during their return visit to Assam in 1988

Mimi Ahmed (Chat and Nasma Chaterjee's daughter) with her twin sons Tahir and Zuber at the Corramore Burra Bungalow 1988

Left to right: Bob Lund, Dr Robin Buhyan who worked for M&M and his wife Punima (she was a Dr also but not for the company) - this was in 1988 when they were based at Paneery T.E.      Next to that is Valerie Pariat - her husband Sanbah Pariat served his 30 years in tea and retired in the mid 90s only to be killed by some dacoits who came to steal his new car in Shillong.  Valerie's father was killed along side him.  Then to the far right is my mother 'Barbara' 1988

Dr Buyhan, Chris Allen, Dr Buyhan, Barbara Allen - 1988 - Paneery Burra Bungalow.  
Dr Buyhan used to run the hospitals on Keyhung, Itakhooli and Dirial when my Dad was General Manager.  I struck up a great relationship with him and his wife  and each holiday he would invite me to come and watch one of his 'operations'.  I found it extremely interesting especially when there was an electricity cut!!

Sanbar and Valerie Pariat  1988

Jatindra Singh (Jitu) - 
a very well known and larger than life planter from James Warren

foreground - Alec Dutt, Mr Dhillon, Me, Mr NK Baruah, Mr TK Baruah.  NK was my Mum's tennis partner for years in the mixed doubles when they represented Tingri. 
NK and TK were always known by their initials
They owned their own tea garden - in Tingri and together with their elder brother were really good friends with my parents for many years. 

l to r - me, Valerie Pariat, Dr Buyhan, Sanbah Pariat, Dr Buyhan.  This was taken as we were departing from Paneery.  Mum and Dad had left on the first run - as the Cessna was only a four seater, and Bob and I had to follow.  This was always the deal - as we didn't like to be the first ones up.       1988

Bob, Mum, Mon Mohan and Neera Mehta, and Dad in 1988. Mon Mohan will also be known by many of the M&M planters

Sadie and Neera Mehta in 1988

Dad and Debraj - who used to be Dad's bagal and looked after his heard of cattle for over 25 years.

1988--The  Williamson Magor/McNeil & Magor Cessna

1988-  -   KK the M&M Pilot

1988 - Pykin and myself.  Pykin was one of the labour women who formed a great attachment to us and every holiday she would come and see me and bring a live chicken and some fruit to present.  When you think of the grand gesture on her part it really is quite overwhelming.  When we went back in 1988 - she must have come round as soon as she heard that the 'boga sahib was back'

Pykin's house.  - Makes the gesture mean even more doesn't it?

Pay day on Keyhung  - 1988

1988-Back to Paneery - a young mother and her new baby

One of the nurses at Paneeri weighing a baby

1988 - Francis our Paniwallah who was still employed at the Keyhung Burra Bunglow - together with Philip - Ayah's eldest son.

1988 Bahadur Singh - another very well known character and good friend of my parents.  Together with Mum, Dad, myself and Bob.

1988 - Dad, Parki Banergee and Rupen Banergee.  Rupen was one of the very first Indian's in tea and was good friends with my parents for years.  Now, if he got together with my Dad they would bring up some really good tales of the 50s.  They were separated by banks for many years - but reunited for Dad's last few years in tea and it was lovely to hear them giggle like young boys when they reminisced about the past

1988 - The Itakhooli pool.

1988 - A plucker's cresch. 

Pictures below taken of the Keyhung Bazaar in 1988

The Keyhung bazaar day 1988  

More of the  Keyhung bazaar day

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Pre Retirement 1981

These pictures relate to the  days before  Chris Allen's retirement from Keyhung in the Tingri District  of Assam 
in 1981


1981 - one of Dad's leaving ceremony's outside the Keyhung office.  

1981 - another  of Dad's leaving ceremony's outside the Keyhung office.  Dad is obviously in the middle, in the foreground is Sanbar Pariat who was tragically killed in Shillong along with his father in law by some dacoits in mid 1990s - 

The Allen Family's luggage departing on the first leg of it's journey 
to the UK and retirement  -- 1981

1981 --Tinsukia Our bustling local town

Dad was up most mornings for his 6am ride

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This a record of the time when the Allen Family were living  
at Keyhung in Assam

The Tingri Club Tennis team - 
winners of the 'Wakefield Cup' in 1965.
 l to r, Barbara Allen, NK Baruah, Peggy Herkes, David Somerville and Shena Pirie.  The missing member of the team was Phil Bayley.  

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