Indian Military Hospital
As usual I have several letters from you and have
not written in reply – for which let us blame this land of kuchh parwani. Two are from Shetland and have honestly
made us very homesick – India is a filthy, dusty place in many ways – and
being separated for about a month just now by mountain and flood, we think it
rather a rotten country. Our innings
will come again when you enter on your winder. Incidentally, Jean’s waiting around outside
school while you inspect has its parallels with ourselves
on tour in
I had a very interesting and exciting trip last month to Chaubattia (to the family) which is close to the hospital where I was to do some work, and later to an adjacent hill-station – Naini Tal – see postcard already sent. It was 290 miles and I left at 2pm; the last forty miles as a mountain climb of 7,500 feet. I didn’t know how far I’d get that night, and of course there are no hotels. At 11.30pm I reached the base of the Himalayan foothills, and said “Why not the top?” By now the bearer with me was asleep. So off I set (not knowing that cars are forbidden on the road at night). I had to get out several times and smoke a cigarette to ward off sleep. I arrived at 1.30am, knocked at Tess’ window and got in. Some sort of celebration was called for and I had been without food since lunch. But the cook had locked all the cupboards and all we could find after a forage was Sylvia Ann’s biscuit rusks and the Canons whiskey! So we sat down on the rug, Sylvia Ann joining us and having a rusk, while we celebrated with a hot toddy and Glaxo biscuits.
About a week later Tess and I drove down the 1,000 feet to Ranikhet, then she mounted a trusty steed, there was (should have been) a wave of a topee and cloud of dust and she set on her return journey while I made my way on to Naini Tal. As we are now less easy-going in trailing Sylvia Ann around we had to decide reluctantly that Tess and she could not accompany me. I passed several small landslides, descended 6,000 feet and climbed 5,000 – all good tar macadam road of the scenic railway and hairpin bend variety, and arrived in the early evening. I found at the entrance a “cars no further” notice, so I had to leave it.
I was already surrounded by a score or collies ready to tear my luggage to pieces. Fortunately the little hospital was nearby and they gave assistance, ordered a steed (I had fortunately put on breeches) and off I set at a trot along with the picturesque lake’s edge, then up a terrifically steep khud-side to my abode no less than the Convalescent Home for Officers! This was rather a joke. As a matter of fact, Naini Tal being the seat of government for the Eastern Command of India the seat of the high court, and the Legislative Assembly being also in session, there was no other bed in the place in spite of hotels and boarding houses. However this place I was going to be proved to have no convalescents but only several young subalterns on holiday, very fresh from school and still with volumes of Keats and the English Parnassus about, who spent their time doing Hindustani with their munshi, phoning up girls and then they failed, in playing poker. We went to the cinema at night – a very modern place. It was quite cold outside. All the ladies were in evening frocks and most wore fur coats. After the show it was curious to see the absence of waiting cars, and instead the scores of coolies with rickshaws and light canvas chairs with poles. A couple would set off on foot with collies padding with two chairs behind. When they reached the steep khud, they would presumably get in.
I was due to leave on Saturday arriving Lucknow on Sunday. I left promptly on Saturday at noon and instead paid a flying visit up the mountain again to Chaubattia and had the evening and until next morning with Tess, doing the whole journey back to Lucknow in a day. Once down in the plains, I saw a sudden monsoon squall threatened in the black sky on my left. In a minute it came, and a huge tree fell right across the road some 50 yards ahead. I pulled up and waited till it – though not the rain – was over. During the next 30-40 miles I had to negotiate about 30 fallen trees, sometimes borrowing a hatchet from villages to chap away, sometimes filling up roadside ditches with loose metal. Later, mile upon mile of the landscape was under water – fortunately the road only in a few places, and it was sufficient for the bearer to wade ahead so that I could see the depth. I arrived about 10pm.
Now if this not to miss another week, I must get if off. Tess joins in sending our love to you both.