Thursday, April 30, 2009


The first WOSA Tea was held in 1911, nearly 100 years ago. You will be hearing more about this centenary in the next couple of years. It was my pleasure to attend for the first time in 29 years. During this event, the graduating seniors are welcomed into WOSA. Instead of Parker Hall, the tea was held in the Quad. Class flags were hung from all the balconies and tables and chairs were set with cloths. We picked up our tea inside the dining room – chole bhatura, ham or veg sandwiches, chocolate pastries, and kala jamuns – and tea in china cups.

The program began with welcomes by Chris Starr and David Laurenson. Bhavanesh Kumari, president of WOSA/India and I, on behalf of WOSA/NA, welcomed the students into WOSA. Bhavanesh and I presented each student with a pukka membership card and a beautiful scarf.

It was wonderful to have older alumni present, too, from Lillian Skinner Singh ’39 right down to the class of ’09. Below are Chris Starr with Lillian and Crina Aurora.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Saturday Evening

The Tavern is still a popular restaurant in Kulri Bazaar just beyond Picture Palace (which is in a terrible state of decay; I hope someone will fix it up before too long). After a short time of recuperation from the long day at the Mela at Hanifl Center, several groups met for dinner. The class of 1984 met in series – those with children earlier and the others later. We were there with the Hanifl family and Darab. When the Tavern opened in the 1970s it was quite exciting to have a restaurant other than Kwality’s (now defunct) to go to. Their menu is much the same as then – a variety of Indian and Chinese foods. We especially remembered the “American Chop Suey” – a pseudo-Chinese dish invented in America served with Indian style – and a fried egg on top. For old times’ sake, I had to order it. It was very tasty, but they have dropped the fried egg (not that I really needed it). Several others had sizzling platters of various kinds that smelled and sounded delicious.

The hand is Sue's granddaughter Zibby, showing off her mehndi (henna) pattern. Other shots are Darab '80 and Dan, Jenny '84 and daughter Livia, Sue and son-in-law Gregg.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Big Day

On Saturday my friend Dolma and I set out before 8:00 to walk out to the Hanifl Center and put up the stall signs. The Mela was timed to begin at 10:00. It took us all that time to get around to every food and handicraft booth to put up the signs according to my rough hand-drawn map. The vendors were beginning to arrive and unload their wares. All the food vendors had to carry their gas burners and cylinders, ingredients, serving plates, etc., up the switched-back path to the campground. The handicraft vendors had huge boxes and bags full of things. Ram Chander had box after box of snack foods and drinks, very popular with the younger kids who don’t go to the bazaar so often.

At 10:00 the preliminary entertainment began, followed by a few remarks by the Principal and introduction of the chief guest, Sue Hanifl. Throughout the day musicians and dancers performed in the stage area on the campground. People crowded around the food and handicraft stalls. Hotdog vendors roamed with trays of hotdogs (really chicken kababs, quite tasty).

Remembering the June Sale of years ago, I was struck by the similarities and the differences. A high-school class still sells ice cream, but it is purchased, not hand-made. Handicrafts were provided by a variety of NGO and commercial vendors, not mission groups from the plains. And American candy was sold by Ram Chander (Snickers, Kit-Kat, et. al.) not imported by parents. Staff members still work hard. More alumni are around (classes of 1964, 1984, and 1989 had special reunions on the weekend). All-in-all it was a good, if tiring, day for all concerned. It was more complicated to do it at the Hanfl Center, but the theme of Rural Villages was well served by the location. Maybe next year it will be back at the Quad.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Woodstock Mela Preparation

This past weekend was the annual Woodstock Mela, which is also Homecoming Weekend. Our office is responsible for these events, which include the WOSA Tea welcoming this year’s graduates into WOSA membership. Today I’ll focus on the preparations for the Mela, with more about the weekend in the next few days.

When I arrived I was added to the Mela committee. Monica in our office is the main go-to person for all the events. This year she has been dealing with the illness of her husband and so more of the preparation fell to other members of the committee. Rachna very capably took over many of her duties, and I assisted her. For the first time the Mela was held on the grounds of the Hanifl Center for Outdoor Education and Environmental Study, about a 10-15 minute walk east on Tehri Road. This wonderful facility lent itself well to this year’s theme of a Rural Village.

The festivities began with the traditional Indian Music concert on Friday evening.

My main job was to map out the locations of the various booths and stalls and make the signs for all of them. The logo was a stylized foot as seen above.

Handicraft booths were set up inside the classrooms and on the grassy lawn just below the entrance. Café and ice cream booths were in the dining area. All the rest of the food booths encircled the large campground area above the buildings. On Friday afternoon tables were brought out and set up and the large hot dog booth was assembled.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lunch with Old Friends

One day this week we were invited out to lunch at our friend Saroj’s house. Saroj taught at Woodstock for many, many years, first as a young single woman and later her husband Ron worked here too. Her son Fali lives in the US and is here for a visit. She also invited Crina to come – she was the hospital receptionist when Dirk was born and later worked at the school in the alumni office. She currently lives next door to the Ivy Bank Inn above Mullingar Hill where we stayed last winter. It is always a pleasure to get together with friends who remember the “Old Days.” On the way out, I took a photo of some of Saroj’s beautiful flowers blooming around her yard.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Visit to Doon School

Wednesday Chris, Pete and I visited the Doon School in Dehra Dun. We met their development director, Jayant, at the CASE seminar we attended in Delhi a month ago, and were enthusiastic to continue the relationship begun there. Both schools could learn about the things we do best in development and alumni relations.

The Doon School is a famous independent school, spread across 70 acres in the Cantonment Area of Dehra Dun. The goal of the school is to provide young Indians with a liberal education, and to instill in them a respect for the ideals of secularism, discipline and equality. In the poll held by Education World in September 2008, Woodstock was ranked as the number one international school in India, and Doon was ranked as the number one residential school in India. Over the years there has been a good deal of interaction between the two schools, from sports competitions to arts festivals.

The campus is beautiful and they have had an ambitious building program, with new homes for faculty, the currently in process art building and more. The main classroom building is shown from two sides.

The dorm areas are divided into five houses for grades 8 through 12. Seventh graders are housed together for their first year as they are introduced to the policies and procedures of the school. Their housing accommodations are quite spartan and neat compared to the ones at Woodstock. The summer uniform of gray shorts and blue shirt helps create a feeling of equality among the boys. All their clothes are kept in a linen room.

An old-style bungalow home is shown below, as is one of the newer style of staff housing.

The Doon School Old Boys’ Society is very active in fund-raising, social projects, and support for the school. It has been in existence since 1937, two years after the founding of the school.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bazaar Food

For many of us, one joy of being in India is the food. Earlier I wrote about my bun omelet lunch at Char Dukan. On Saturdays we frequently walk in to Kulru Bazaar and the Agarwal Vegetarian Restaurant (right across from Inder’s Bengali Sweet Shop, a favorite haunt of Woodstockites over the years). The cook sits out front in the mornings until early afternoon making fresh poories. They are served with a potato curry and mashed pumpkin curry. The latter has been a long-time special favorite of mine. Sometimes they serve chickpeas as well. The price for two poories and the curries is Rs. 35, about $.70 at the current rate of exchange. Dan usually has one extra poori for another Rs. 10 ($.20). It is delicious!

Here are a few more shots of bazaar foods – samosas awaiting cooking at Hapurwalla Sweet Shop in Landour, a general snack/sweet shop along the Mall, and fresh paneer for sale in Kulri.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Camel's Back Road

Saturday Dan and I took a long walk into the bazaar, around Camel’s Back Road, back on the Mall Road, and home through Kulri and Landour Bazaars, picking up what supplies we needed on the way back.

The bazaar is no pleasant place to walk these days, with many tourists, far too many cars, all of them honking madly and trying to drive too fast. Fortunately, Camel’s Back Road was beautiful and quiet. You can see the camel-shaped rock for which it is named in the picture above. It was a very warm day. As we came around from Kulri, we saw Bandar Punch, “our” mountain, peeking up at a different angle than we usually see it.

As we got further around we saw the snows to the east as well. Spring is here and there were many flowers blooming along the way. Here are a few I saw. The yellow roses were outside the Kulri Methodist Church.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Visit to Rajpur

On Sunday we took a taxi down to visit friends Asha and Dino outside Dehra Dun. This was our first trip to the Rajpur area in many years. We were impressed with the many beautiful homes in the area. It appears to be a popular place to live with the advantages of being near Dehra Dun but away from the crowding, traffic, and pollution that have gotten so bad. Their home is in a lovely area off the Sahastradara Road between two Tibetan areas – one an older village called Dekhyiling Settlement and the other a new area, the Songtsen Library Center for Tibetan and Himalayan Studies. We toured the campus of the library, which includes a beautiful school for the lamas where Asha teaches English. I took many pictures, some of which are shown below.

On the top, you can see the 1964 Mercedes which was given by the Dalai Lama to His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche (head of the library) and the facade of the library itself. The lower picture is the school with a garden in front. If you'd like to learn more about the library, its website is

Friday, April 17, 2009

Daily Announcements

Every morning when I turn on my PC (the school computer I am assigned), the first thing I pull up is the Woodstock Wire. The daily announcements include a variety of items. There is always a thought for the day. Today’s is from Eleanor Roosevelt: “When you have decided what you believe, what you feel must be done, have the courage to stand alone and be counted.” The Bible verse for today is from Deuteronomy 10:12: “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but the fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

The announcements today include information about the Sadie Hawkins dance and special dinner (I'm not sure if it's Friday or Saturday, but I'm sure the students know). The dinner will be in the Quad, the dance in Parker Hall until 10:00, and students must check in at the dorms no later than 10:45. A bus will be available to take the boys back to the Rokeby and Mt. Hermon dorms.

There is a brisk action in lost and found items (mostly lost). Mobile phones, USB memory sticks, sunglasses, MP3 players, and occasionally books are reported missing.

The daily menu is also posted. I wrote about the improved school food around the first of April, and here is the actual menu for today:

Boiled Eggs
Diced Potatoes with Cheese
Fruit Juice
Fresh Fruit

Seekh Kabab Frankie
Paneer & Vegetable Frankie
Roasted Vegetables with Pepper
Rajma Masala & Rice
Whole Fruit

Chicken Manchurian
Vegetarian Manchurian
Vegetarian Fried Rice
Egg Fried Rice
Mixed Dal
Pineapple Slices

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Win Mumby Gym

Many of you know that the dream of a new gymnasium for Woodstock has been in the planning and building stages for at least ten years. It is now at a stage where the end is in sight. The dedication is set for this September. It has been interesting to watch some of the process. I published a photo of mules on Tehri Road a while back. That was taken at the bottom of the path up which all the building materials have been hauled. There is no road access, so every brick and beam has been taken up a narrow switch-backed path by the mules.

During the Quarter Break just past, we took a walk on the path that encircles the new gym area. [I seem to recall this being a popular after-school assignation spot for couples in the 1970s…] Here are a few photos that show the progress of the building.

The strips of roofing were lying along the back path into the school property. We watched the men bundling them and then loading them onto crossbars for carrying by four men (somewhat like a dandy of old).

Those strips will eventually cover the frame, where you can see some workers.

From around the back side, you can see the final form of the gym taking shape. It will be an amazing facility when it is finished.

Grateful thanks to the relatives, friends, and former employers of Win Mumby, WS Class of 1942 and former P.E. teacher, for making this new gym possible.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

PE in the Quad

Because of the Mumby Gym construction that has been going on for some time, PE classes are held in the Quad. Our office is on the balcony level so we hear cheerful sounds of kids playing all day long. This morning as I came to work from my apartment, a bearer was tying a volleyball net between two columns.

All kinds of physical activity take place in the Quad. One day I saw elementary students crouching in a row, learning how to take off for a footrace. It was quite amusing to watch their attempts; some of them were pretty good. After school another day a group were playing with a huge parachute. And Four Square is still a popular game. More about the gym tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Little History

In the office I picked up a copy of Rev. Allen E. Parker’s short book “Eighteen Years in Woodstock: 1922 to 1939.” It covers the years that he served as principal of Woodstock School. During his time there was a great expansion of the school. New buildings included the Community Centre, Community Hospital, Tehri View, Principal’s Cottage, additions to the Quad, Hostel, the “new” school building (I think it is the current high school), and other cottages on the hillside. More boys were added to the student body, making it a fully co-educational school.

The work on a new auditorium was begun before the Parkers left for a furlough in 1923. While he was gone they decided to name it for him. He served on many boards, including Wynberg School (during its merger with Allen), Kellogg Church, Community Hospital, Union Church, and Mussoorie Book Society.

During his 1932 furlough he studied the adjustment problems of children of missionaries. This early work foreshadowed later studies on Third Culture Kids. Many things changed at the school: “Some people wanted a purely American School at once, like Kodaikanal, and some wanted our school to turn into such a school gradually… We knew that if this [happened] we would lose our best Anglo-Indian and Indian staff as well as students. We felt that exclusion was not a good policy for the school, [and that] all groups working together would mean the most to the school. This would be a school where all races and nationalities could mix and work together.” This philosophy still guides Woodstock today.

Twice Rev. Parker traveled to the Tehri area to visit Pauri, which was the home area of many of the school employees. The first time he went alone on a horse and the second time his wife and three daughters accompanied him.

A humorous story he tells is when he worked with scouting at the school before becoming principal. He arranged a camping trip for the young boys. When he arrived at the school, he found the matrons had loaded them all up in dandies. As soon as they got around a curve away from the matrons, they all got down and walked. And this was for a camping trip to Jabarkhet!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Quarter Break

Quarter break began Thursday afternoon at 2:30. Staff and students headed off in all directions – Delhi, hiking in the mountains, Rajaji Wildlife Park near Hardwar, and Yamnotri, to name just a few. As Dan is arriving back from his trip on Saturday, I’m staying here. It is Easter weekend and we may be able to visit with some friends who will be staying near Christ Church between Kulri and Library Bazaars.

Last Sunday afternoon was the all-school Easter service in Parker Hall. The place was packed full with all students, staff, and some hillside friends. Although I expected to be cold in the balcony, it was very hot and stuffy. Students were standing all around the edge. IT was a very active service with Bible readings, songs by various groups, dancing and celebrating. Following the service, dinner was served in the Quad. The kitchen staff set up three serving lines and small circles of chairs covering the entire place. It was a fun and festive evening.

Now Friday morning, it is very quiet in the Quad. About half the students are gone, and of course there are no classes. Later I’ll wander into the bazaar and hope the monkeys don’t drag my clean laundry off the clothesline on my balcony while I’m gone. It looks like a gorgeous day.

Students are due back in the dorms by Monday evening. Tuesday morning tables will be set up in the Quad for parent-teacher conferences and classes will begin after lunch. And a restful break will probably be soon forgotten.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Anyone who has ever lived in Mussoorie even for a short period of time has memories about the weather. If it’s winter, you are freezing most of the time. I remember a piano student in the 1970’s who had chilblains so badly she couldn’t play at all. I knitted fingerless gloves to help us survive. For a piano recital, we had to put an electric blanket on the keyboard for an hour or two before the concert.

One February when our family returned from a visit to the U.S., our taxi barely got us to Picture Palace in the evening because of snow. It was impossible to drive or walk to the school as the Mussoorie street was covered with ice. We got a room at a nearby hotel and spent the night – including our children of 4 and 8 – in a large bed with one big risei to cover us. Still being jet-lagged, we woke around 3:00 AM and lay there until daylight and there was a possibility of some chai. After the sun came out, it thawed a bit and we picked our way back to Palisades, with coolies following carrying our luggage.

Then there is the monsoon, which seems endless when you are living in it. The beauty is amazing, lush ferns and other plants growing and flowering everywhere, and clouds rolling up from Dehra Dun. But there is also the reality of moldy shoes, laundry that never really dries and smells sour, and leeches lurking and waiting for tempting human skin to come near.

We arrived here in mid-March and, as expected, it was fairly cold. But we had the right clothing and it was all right. It’s now been nearly a month and it seems that the weather can’t decide quite what to do. Within the space of a day, it is warm and sunny, cold and windy, thundering and raining. It feels as though we are on the way to warmer weather, but on a zigzag path that looks like a cartoon business chart.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reading Indian Authors

Ever since I first came to India in 1968, I’ve enjoyed reading books about India and by Indian authors. Some of the first books that I remember reading then were Khushwant Singh’s "Train to Pakistan" and V.S. Naipaul’s "An Area of Darkness," both admittedly somewhat depressing. I also read some of Nayantara Sahgal’s fiction. In the last 30 years or so there has been a proliferation of Indian authors writing in English and I’ve read quite a few of them. I bought too many books during my working years and have been trying to read the books I already own before buying more. But when I was in Delhi last week I went into two bookstores in Khan Market and succumbed. I’ve finished "The Hindi-Bindi Club" by Monica Pradhan, the story of three daughters of Indian immigrant mothers growing up in America (with good recipes as an extra treat). Another is "Wicked Women of the Raj" by Coralie Younger, interesting vignettes of 20 western women who married Indian princes. I’ve also recently read two excellent books – "White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga, which won the Man Booker prize last year and "Sea of Poppies" by Amitav Ghosh. "White Tiger" is somewhat depressing, but has a strong ring of truth and is very funny much of the time. "Sea of Poppies" is the first of a trilogy about the opium trade, bringing together a most interesting cast of characters who finally meet on a ship leaving Calcutta.

Evidence of my dual life – when I first typed the title for this post, it read “Reading Indiana Authors.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


One of the most iconic spring-in-Mussoorie sights for many of us is a rhododendron tree in bloom. Two years ago when I visited Woodstock, the display of red flowering trees was tremendous and that’s when I took this picture.

Last week I saw the first blooms of this spring. I’ve heard that the blossoms are not as numerous as they used to be. As Ruth Unrau wrote in her book Hill Station Teacher, Woodstock staff and parents often made jelly from the rhododendron petals. I was along on “The Great Rhododendron Hike” that she tells about in Chapter 10. The purpose was to pick enough blossoms to make a good amount of jelly. Each of us brought a pillowcase to carry them in. Here is some of her descriptive text:

“…[We] reserved a dak bungalow, coolies, Diana Biswas, and sleeping bags. Ten of us, all women, started out Friday after tea, knowing that we had to make the eleven miles to Nali before dark to set up camp… Someone offered the information that bears were known to inhabit the area and asked what we would do if we met one. They thought I would be the first snatched off since I was at the end of the line, but I thought the bear would laugh himself to death when he saw Diana leading the group in her camouflage hat and hiking boots… After finally crawling into my sleeping bag…I was uncomfortable and cold on that concrete verandah. The night was very long… We were disappointed [on the way back] that we could find so few flowers because the local villagers had picked all those within reach… I harvested two cups of juice.”

Thanks to Ruth for permission to quote and for writing up many of my memories, too!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Saturday Walk

On Saturday I headed up to the top of the hill. I’m almost embarrassed to say this is the first time I’ve been up on this visit. But I picked a perfect day. I walked out Tehri Road, up through Oakville Estate, and on to Sisters’ Bazaar. I had a shopping list of a few items I wanted to get at Prakash’s.

The weather has been off-and-on cloudy since we arrived but Saturday was sunny and bright. Instead of beging covered with haze, the snows were out in all their glory. I took too many photos; this one is the best of Bandar Poonch.

I walked from Prakash’s store around both back chukkers (roads that go around the north side of the hill, so the snows are in view much of the time). It was a good long walk for me and I was happy to see Char Dukan come into view. This is a small group of shops close to St. Paul’s Church. It’s been traditional to have a “bun omelet” here – a two-egg omelet (with our without onion and chilies) with a slightly sweet bun. Add ketchup and it makes a great lunch.

After eating I took the front chukker paths back to Sisters Bazaar and headed down the old Zig-Zag path. It all took about three and a half hours and I was stiff and sore but happy.