Translate

Thursday, 14 February 2013

India

Life's gradually getting back to normall, I think, and it can't be too soon for me. I want to get back to doing some travelling and writing. 


And my cousin Lorna and I have been talking a lot about India.  That side of our family lived in India for well over a century during the Raj.  For many Indians and Pakistanis,this was not a good time - nobody likes to be under colonial rule. But for most of the English people who had the privilege of living there, India was very fondly remembered.

My family always worked for government departments, first in bringing telegraphic communications to India, Persia (as it then was) and places beyond, and later in organising education.   It all came to an end in 1947, and when they returned to England (or, rather, came to it for the first time, in most cases) they felt neither Indian nor yet fully culturally English. 

 I once had a long conversation with the explorer, historian and re-creator of historic sea voyages, Tim Severin.who also remembered this same fractured background of feeling that India was ever-present, yet just out of sight,.  We agreed that you couldn't really quite describe what it was like to anyone who had not experienced that curry scented atmosphere with the tales of crocodiles and panthers and dakoits and servants who went mad at the full moon..  Of course, we all ended up wanting to go there someday to see for ourselves. 

Anyhow, Lorna's been to India once, and she loved it.  She is now saving to go back.  I've always wanted to go and now I am starting to think that I must.   I'm not that interested in a tour of the big sights - I can probably do without the Taj Mahal - but I want to visit the Nilgiri Hills, which my grandmother loved.   Here is a picture of my mother as a baby in the Nilgiri hill station of Ootacamund.   I wish I could pan around and see the rest if the landscape and everyone else there too. 


  (I have to say she was a prettier baby than me.  I've been looking over old snaps of me and I resemble WC Fields). 

Mum's parents and grandparents left India the following year, but she always wanted to go there, so when she grew up she returned to work in Delhi and Bangalore for a while.

Anyway, the Nilgiris is where I want to go, and also Mussoorie where my granny and aunts went to boarding school at Woodstock and about which had many tales.  Trouble is, Mussoorie and Ooty are about three thousand kilometres apart!  

Talking to Lorna reminded me to do a link to her websites on the sidebar. It's called Fell from Grace, because the family name was Grace.  She is into steampunk, but think I'll have to suggest she does a few things inspired by India. 


49 comments :

  1. Hello Jenny:
    We have found this post of particular interest since we too have one side of the family which, for several generations, formed part of the British Raj in India.

    Like you, we have no interest in visiting to see the typical tourist sites but the prospect of that enormous sub continent, in which we have so many past connections, continues to fascinate. Perhaps one day?!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have no links to India...but neither did a friend who first went there to visit a friend with whom she had worked for years.
    She's hooked and goes every other year...when she's saved up for the fare!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah, India ... and you really can't manage without seeing the Taj Mahal, it's astonishing, photographs can't capture the substance of it. And no worries if places are miles apart, the British left behind a comprehensive network of trains (though buying a ticket can be an adventure in itself...) Go - Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jenny, I'm delighted that you're blogging again and I truly hope things are returning to normal. The photo of your mother as a baby in India is wonderful. I hope you can go there someday, as I'm sure it would inspire some interesting writing. It's definitely a place that I would like to visit.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello Jenny, how truly exciting for you to be contemplating a trip to India - especially when it holds such memories for you. To go to those places you mention.
    That's a beautiful photograph of your Mother as a baby.
    Such exciting times await you I'm sure :D)

    ReplyDelete
  6. We have a friend born in India but sent "home" to England when old enough to go to school. When his father was alive I was lucky enough to hear many of his stories of life there. I too would love to visit.

    Darla

    ReplyDelete
  7. Blame it on American TV, but India is not a place I want to visit. Yes I get that there is beauty beside the ugly, but with the state of unrest and such, nope don't wanta go there......
    Glad to read you are doing better too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always find it interesting that a lot of British love to thought of visiting India.

      Blame it on Bollywood and all the Tamil/Hindi movies I've watched, India is not one of the places for me. YET. Maybe someday. :)

      Hope you get to enjoy all the places that you wanted to see, Jenny! :)

      Delete
  8. India-Steam Punk - that could get interesting.

    Family is never a straightforward, is it?

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love the photo of your gran -- and her pram! India has always fascinated me because my dad was there in WWII service - a long time ago I did a Gypsy post about that time after watching Michael Wood's India series on PBS. That and Jewel in the Crown were both pretty amazing. Something tells me you will get there and discover all the places you want and need to see.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Glad to hear things are improving somewhat.
    India is a must! My dad served two years in the RAMC in Poona and never forgot it.
    Many I've known who have lived there wished to go back.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The baby photo of your mother in a basket with her eyes wide open to the world around her is enchanting. I agree there is a sense that there is so much more to see if only we could expand our view or walk into the picture. I don’t blame you for wanting to further explore these fascinating places that your family brought into your background!

    ReplyDelete
  12. As I was reading your comment about visiting Nilgiri, a short program came on TV about a goldworking studio in Nilgiri! The Muslim workers create gold leafed roofs and interior pieces for temples of all faiths. A small bit of serendipity. I hope you are able to make the trip.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I've never been to India. I'm sure it has many beautiful places but I imagine I would be very shocked and depressed by the widespread poverty and squalor. My father was in India during the Second World War and loved it, though he never talked about it much so I'm not sure why he loved it so much.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Although India has never interested me personally as a place to visit, I have read some books about life there (both modern and older), and there are several people in my family and circle of friends who have been to India. And while my sister calls it an interesting experience she neither wants to miss nor to repeat, one of my friends has been eight times and I think he wouldn't mind to go again. So diverse is the subcontinent that it gets such extreme reactions - I don't think India leaves anyone cold who's been there.

    ReplyDelete
  15. India sounds a fascinating country and I so so hope you visit there and relate your wonderful stories.

    I have a colleague from South India - he tells me it is so different from the north culture wise. He has a Spanish surname and two other Indian colleagues - English surnames.

    When I asked him about his Spanish ancestor he had no idea of it and my other two colleagues no idea of an English ancestor - seems these surnames are now regarded as Indian. Fascinating.

    So glad to hear that life has just about to returned to normal Jenny.

    Anna :o]

    ReplyDelete
  16. Like you, I can't wait to visit India. Mrs. C. and I depart on March 9th.

    ReplyDelete
  17. India is on my list of places to go to. My father spent part of WWII in India and Ceylon in SOE. He never spoke about what he was actually doing there. He took his secrets to his grave but he did talk about places and the sights.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Nice to see your post today.
    The header photo is wonderful !

    cheers, parsnip

    ReplyDelete
  19. Par of me would love to see India, and another part would rather Australia, and i'm not sure which to save up for.

    ReplyDelete
  20. India is ever fascinating --if utterly overwhelming.
    Gathering strength to go there again.
    Sorry I haven't commented on your blog for ages!
    Greetings from New York.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hello,Jenny
    First of all,So glad to hear that your every day life is gradually returned to normal!
    The photo of your mother as a baby with cute eyes is lovely.
    Thank you for sharing that interesting post.
    Take care not to have a cold!
    Tomoko

    ReplyDelete
  22. You must go back to the home of your family. This was a place that they loved and they are calling you to it.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I know if you make this trip it will be a once in a lifetime experience. My great-aunt who has been there still talks about the sea of humanity she encountered there...

    As for living abroad and then coming "home" I can relate to the fractured feeling your cousin describes...whole books and websites are devoted to so-called "Third Culture Kids" or "Adult Third Culture Kids." This is now a recognized phenomenon.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I love the books by E.M. Foster, taking place in the India you're talking about. I find it fascinating that you have roots there, and I hope you'll be able to go back there. I'm sure you'll feel like home, and you'll find inspiration to write great things.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Fascinating bit of your family history there. I love reading books that take place in India. Travelling there would probably take more courage than I possess (self-confidence, perhaps)so if you and your cousin do go, I look forward to living the trip vicariously through you! If it's a dream that has long haunted you to there, then of course you simply must! The ancestors are calling....

    ReplyDelete
  26. Ah, Jane and Lance, so you know what I am talking about then.... Yes, Helen, I have heard many people say India gets to you - one way or another... Darla, I think many of those sent "home" to school suffered. My aunts and grandmother were always glad they went to school in the Himalayas even though it was a whole day's train journey and then they had to be carried up the mountains in those days on mules. I'd definitely like to visit their school which is still going and one of the best in India.... Zhoen, she is definitely inspired by some aspects of India for the steam punk!

    Anna, there were a lot of Portuguese people too who seem to have settled in India. I guess it is often the case with seafaring nations ....I too have heard how different North and south are... Adullamite, I think a lot of Brits got the chance in the war to serve in exotic places.

    And on the subject of people not forgetting it, I HAVE actually been to India - when I was five - and I haven't forgotten how amazing it seemed to me, quite different from anywhere I had been. But I don't really count that visit because it was such a short "passing through" trip at an age when I couldn't put anything into context. It's more a collection of impressions than real memories....

    Jo, you speak from experience!I might ask you for some advice if I go!

    There are many aspects of India that I hear about that don't appeal, but I know from my childhood of living in different places that when you live there you kind of adjust and learn the appropriate things to do. So the poverty as such didn't figure in my family's reminiscences, although some of their tales did focus on the deprivation and indeed dangers of life there. Mum was once more or less kidnapped in Delhi but was luckily rescued. She had returned there as an adult, having left when she was just one year old and her parents returned permanently to the UK.


    ReplyDelete
  27. glad to hear life is getting back to normal for you...i would love to go to india...and might get my chance first of next year....we will see...there is a certain romanticism to it for me...smiles...all those smells and such...

    ReplyDelete
  28. Jenny I really hope you get the opportunity to see that landscape for yourself, it would be a wonderful experience.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I love that photo of your mother as a baby with wide-open eyes!
    No one in your comments has mentioned Rudyard Kipling (unless I missed it.) He is the one that comes to my mind when you speak of those who have a close tie to India.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I hope you get your wish one day Jenny, and I can see why you would want to avoid some of the more obvious sights in favour of those linked to your family.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Just like W.C. Fields, I don't believe it! It was wonderful seeing you pop in for one of my posts the other day, and even happier yet to catch one of yours. It's always great to see you- and enjoy those talks with cousins and of trips and things to do! Yes! I too feel a good old fashion road trip coming up real soon! Afterall spring is on the way!

    ReplyDelete
  32. I have a great desire to visit India and I know I will in time. I am always intrigued by the Indian women the way they look so colourful, refined and elegant even though they may be tilling the fields.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Jenny, you told about India and I learned where these towns are. The school is in Tibet, isn't it? And I thought it would be nice to see India one day!

    ReplyDelete
  34. I imagine you will have wonderful stories to tell after a visit to India.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Come visit Pakistan sometime too. U'll love it :)

    ReplyDelete
  36. This was interesting Jenny. I must be disconcerting for an English person born in India to try to adapt to England. - Dave

    ReplyDelete
  37. Oh, yes - I think this is one adventure you must allow yourself, Jenny!

    ReplyDelete
  38. The photo of your mother is so sweet. My daughter is married to a man whose family is from the state of Kerala, India, so my grandchildren look Indians. Her in-laws have invited us to come and stay there for a while but with my husband’s health right now (going through past-cancer treatments) I am not sure. I always wanted to visit Pondicherry because it was French for a long time and I had many stamps showing it. The movie, and book, The Life of Pi, shows some of Pondicherry.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I would love to go to India...my some best friend is from India and he goes back every summer and comes back here with stories for all of us.

    ReplyDelete
  40. An India trip sounds like a great idea, I look forward to your travel writing of that country enormously. Love the old photograph - you should join in wirth Sepia Saturday.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Oh, this is exactly how I feel sometimes. My parents were European expats and I was born in South Africa, spending time in SA, UK and Nigeria as a child. I've always felt 'other', never quite belonging anywhere but feeling at home in UK. I hope you do get to visit India and I especially hope you get to visit the Nilgiri Hills.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Wow, I'd love to take a trip like that someday.

    ReplyDelete
  43. part of my family was living in todays Ukraine before second war, mY Wish is to go there and see the all placeswhere they lived. I think it is important part of my own story. Go to India, see the places...Sorry for your loss...

    ReplyDelete
  44. I'm not sure how I missed this post but I did. I have friends who travelled almost the length and breadth of India using trains and boats and planes and absolutely loved every (well almost every) minute of it. They said that distance seemed irrelevant. They also said what another commenter said about buying train tickets being an adventure in itself. I think anyone who grew up in a cosmopolitan part of Britain (and there are parts that aren't) feels some affinity to India. My friends told me that I would never cope with the less palatable sides of life there and they may be correct. Despite the fact that I travel a lot I am not inherently a traveller.

    Steampunk! I'd never heard of it. Google tells me, though, that here in New Zealand we have a Steampunk Museum. I've been to the town but as I had no idea that I should be looking for a Steampunk Museum I didn't. I would now. One learns so much from Blogs.

    ReplyDelete
  45. How wonderful to have a direct connection to India. I'd very much like to see the "real" India too. I love that baby photo of your mother. It feels like it was from so long ago, much longer than it actually must have been.

    I can relate to the feeling of not quite belonging fully to one culture or another. A lot of Asia was under some type of colonial rule so there were always undercurrents between local populations and the "foreigners." My family was always rather strange because we (including my parents) were educated in the West and lived back and forth between continents. I remember my mom saying she wanted us to be "citizens of the world," taking the best parts of every culture but none of the garbage. I guess I'm still trying!

    Jenny

    ReplyDelete
  46. Very interesting to read about India from a foreigner and especially from someone who is distantly connected to my wonderful country! and your mention about Nilgiris and skipping the ususal route is so amazing! You should visit India soon and also check the write ups on Nilgiris & Ooty on my blog here www.trippinonlife.wordpress.com.
    Have a great time! Trip on! let me know if u need any tips!

    ReplyDelete
  47. Hey jennywoolf

    am trying to figure out your contact details..can you pl share ?

    ReplyDelete

Blog Archive