14 The Mall
It is some weeks since I
last wrote, and meantime it could seem best to leave
over an account of our visit down a Gold Mine at Kilar
and give you the story of our journey here, and first impressions of
We motored 1300 miles North, with luggage and Ayah and baby in the back, staying at rather barn-like “Travellers’ Bungalows” at night, for in India one may travel a thousand miles and never meet a hotel. We had a basket for Sylvia Ann to recline in, on the back seat, curtains for the sun, and feed made up each morning under camp conditions and put in thermos flasks. The dust on the roads was terrific, and it was amusing to see Sylvia Ann’s rattles and rings etc being scalded with boiling water, as an instance of asepsis in the jungle! We did about 200 miles a day, our first stop being at the little known Gersoppa Falls in the North East of Mysore State, which are actually higher than Niagara though the volume of their water is much less. The water falls into a deep, precipitous cup in lovely wooded hills. Indeed for many miles around the wooded countryside is very reminiscent of the bonniest parts of Perthshire. We then skirted up close to the coast sometimes through jungle country, great state forests, sometimes down small tablelands or “ghats”, sometimes through richly fertile country till we reached Poona where we reached our first hotel, and rested till the following day after lunch. We now turned north-east through the native states of Indore and Gwalior. Gwalior is especially interesting. It appears to have a very modern and efficient ruler. Its red roads were so marvelously smooth that for a hundred miles one could do 50-55 miles an hour in our Ford V8 and not feel it. The Travellers Bungalows (being used by the Maharajah) were beautiful. One we stopped at for lunch had red carpets, and after lunch we picked oranges off a tree in the garden. A little further on we found the Maharajah’s lake, complete with houseboats and yacht. The most of his state appeared to be forest, probably abounding in game.
At Thansi, the nights were much colder and we had a roaring log-fire, which Sylvia Ann was very intrigued with, never having seen one before. So was “Trixie” our dog (whom I forgot to mention). She, evidently, had never seen a fire either, for she singed her tail. There, too, I chanced to buy a “Statesman” and we were stunned to hear of the King’s funeral. We had not seen newspapers for a week. A feature of the scenery from now on was petty ruined fortresses, whose history must be quite forgotten, but probably belong to the Mahratta wars of Akhor’s and Moghul times. Lucknow is a large city – the 4th in India, coming after Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. It is divided into three parts – 1) the Indian quarter – a walled city, mostly very “smelly” and crowded, 2) the Civil Area, with wide streets, shops and fine Government buildings – for Lucknow is the seat of Government for North-East India, 3) The Cantonment, or military quarter, which is more or less like an English suburb with hospitals, churches, schools etc.
It is in this latter, that we stay, and have already got moved into a delightful bungalow with cottage windows that open inwards, stone fireplaces of Scottish country variety, while most of the woodwork is in pale green. It is by far the most convenient house we have had, and as my appointment is a 3-5 year one in Lucknow, we are looking forward to making it a “real home”. Merchants and vendors attend another verandah at all hours of the day and we see their wares after lunch, or sitting at tea in the garden. We have so far bought our first Persian rug – a small one of deep rose – and two mizapur carpets – a rose and white one for our bedroom and a blue and white one for the nursery. A house is not furnished in India unless one has lots of Persian rugs, so we hope to collect them gradually, and to send you and Jean one some day.
My job promises to be interesting. Major Faruki, my predecessor, was the senior of the two Eye Specialists in the IMS; I am the most junior. For an Indian he has been exceptionally popular, but does not seem to have looked after the equipment side. There is no eye-testing room, no dark room, not even a Test-Type Chart belonging to the Eye Specialist. I have, however, been promised an eye-room in a few months time. I get an extra £90 a year for this job. I tour about three times a year and hope to be able to take Tess and S Ann for it will be to places like Darjeeling and Shilling (a hill station in Assam that is called the “Scotland of India”). I am hoping in two months time, too, to get an appointment as Medical Advisor to the Civil Aviation people – their pilots require periodical special eye tests; this will bring in a few extra rupees.
Weather is here a delightfully new experience. Fires go on every evening, chilly at breakfast time, pleasantly warm the rest of the day. No mosquito nets at night. But we have still to see what it can do in a few months time.
We are very pleased to get your wedding invitation and think the photograph of you both splendid. We hope Lower Rosemount is now thoroughly ship-shape, and wish we could exchange ideas by having you here.
Tess thanks Jean for her recent letter and will write soon.
Love from all to both
PS First “Listeners” have arrived. Are going to be first-class. Many thanks!