Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tilak Memorial Library

At the far end of Mussoorie is an area called Library Bazaar. The name comes from an old library that is located above a row of shops. Here is a picture I took last year. Over the past two years, I have attempted to get inside a number of times, but it has been closed every time I've been there. I recently was told that it is a subscription library, and memberships are generally inherited. I know I was inside it one time over 30 years ago and hope to do it again.

Recently I was told that there is another library in town, this one across from Picture Palace at the beginning of Kulri Bazaar. I had seen it but never really noticed or paid much attention, especially since the sign is in Hindi. Last evening Dan and I decided to stop in on our way to dinner. This is the outside view, taken standing in front of Picture Palace.

Once inside, we were greeted by these two women who were working at the desk at the back of the room. The one on the right was knitting. I asked if it was OK to take their picture and they seemed pleased. As we chatted with them about the library, they were eager to tell us all about the place. This, too, is a subscription library, but anyone can join. The fees are a refundable security deposit of Rs. 300 (about $7), entrance fee (nonrefundable) of Rs. 50 (about $1.10), and a monthly fee of Rs. 25 (about $.55). This seemed like a very reasonable amount to us and the kind of thing we should support, so we took out a membership for me. The library is open daily from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM and 4:00 to 8:00 PM.

This is the view from the back of the room looking toward the door. When you enter, there are two angled racks for reading newspapers. Then two long reading tables with chairs. The books are in glass-fronted bookcases around the perimeter of the room. There are also bookcases sitting perpendicular to the wall, like small stacks. There were 3-4 people there reading.

A photo of the Sri Tilak who founded the library hangs above the back of the room.

Here the librarian is filling out my membership form and receipt for our payment. I got the feeling that I might have been the first person from Woodstock to do this. She was quite amazed, but pleased.

This photo shows the English fiction area. At a rough estimate, the books are probably half (or slightly more) in Hindi and half in English. While I was looking through this area, the books stopped at authors beginning with K. I poked around and found another area to the left where they continued. I was particularly interested in seeing which Nevil Shute books they have. I collect them and now have nearly everything he wrote. Some are in elderly paperbacks and I keep looking for hardbacks in used bookstores. They did have a number of his books so I took out one I hadn't read for a long time. When I checked it out, I was the first entry on the slip in the back. But it does look like it has been read at some point. It is a first edition from 1953. All the books are dusty and musty. There is no climate control and the monsoon is hard on them.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


A few unrelated shots from the past week. The weather has improved greatly, but for a few minutes on Friday afternoon, there was a hailstorm. I think I was able to catch the image of the hailstones (about 3/8") coming down.

There was a major festival going on at the Sikh Gurdwara in Landour Bazaar this weekend. I'm not sure what it was, but all the men attending wore orange turbans.

The area at the bottom of Mullingar Hill, where the Gurdwara is located, was decorated with golden streamers overhead and there was music playing through the speakers.

On Tuesday the advanced orchestra held sectional practices. As the rooms were all in use (and the weather cooperated), the first violins worked on their part in the Quad.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Changes in the Bazaar

Yesterday I put up a few photos from our walk between the school and Mullingar Hill. Today we visit some changes in Kulri Bazaar.

Last spring the Banaras Silk Saree House was boarded up and looked deserted. I was pleased and surprised to see it open and in business again. This has always been the best place in Mussoorie to buy good-quality silk sarees.

The Aggarwal Restaurant poori man was happy to see Dan again.

From the upper floor of Aggarwal's, we could see this mochi (shoe-repair-man) working at the side of the street. Notice how he uses his feet to hold the shoe while he works on it.

The always popular Chic Chocolate shop has a new sign.

This is a common type of modern clothing store. I don't know how so many of these places stay in business. They must rely on the tourist trade, which will pick up again now that the rains are over.

Mussoorie now has a Nirula's restaurant-cum-ice cream shop. This is across from the Domino's Pizza/Cafe Coffee Day building that used to be Kwality's Restaurant. We remember when Nirula's first opened their ice cream parlor in New Delhi, around 1979 or so. It was a good treat then and still is today. There has been one in Dehra Dun for quite a while (near the MacDonald's in Astley Hall), but this one just opened this past summer.

Along with all the new things, here is a knife-sharpener working in the street, using his bicycle pedals to spin the sharpening wheel. He holds the knives against the spinning sharpener and puts a good edge on them.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Walk into the Bazaar

On Sunday we took a walk into the bazaar. This is a view of Mullingar from Tehri Road. You can see that the clouds are breaking up. It was sunny a good part of the day.

Prayer flags flying at the corner between Springview and Landour Community Hospital.

The herder was urging his goats up this almost-nonexistent path to lunch on the vegetation.

One of the shops below the hospital; I enjoyed spotting these children's jackets with furry trim.

The empty spot for the Clock Tower. It was taken down to be rebuilt; there is some controversy and the building permits haven't yet been issued.

PS to Monsoon

The dehumidifier was delivered on Friday and has run all weekend. The difference is wonderful -- we had dry towels for after our shower, the beds feel much less damp, and the dampness in the walls is visibly less. We are feeling much happier!

Friday, September 24, 2010


This is a year that everyone around the world has become more aware of the monsoon season in South Asia, due to the terrible flooding in Pakistan that has received wide coverage. My Tuesday post showed some of the pictures I took on the way showing flooding between Delhi and Mussoorie.

What is it really like to live in a monsoon? We are arriving at the very end (so we hope) but it has brought back many memories. During this time the power supply can be frequently interrupted (as happened in our apartment Wednesday most of the day until early evening). School property is now on a grid backed up by generators in all areas. So the majority of staff know that if their power goes off, it will most likely return in just a few minutes. The power outages can also affect the water supply, which is powered by pumps. Even when the rains are heavy, there can be problems getting water into the homes. Fortunately, the school now has been able to assure a constant supply to residences and homes.

Inside the house everything is damp during the monsoon. Some homes have wired the clothes closets so that there is a light bulb burning near the bottom. This keeps shoes from getting moldy and clothing from feeling damp. Beds feel damp when you crawl under the covers. Towels do not dry and begin to smell sour after a few days. Laundry can be hung for days until it is fit to wear. Seat cushions on chairs make your behind feel damp when you rise. The thick cement-and-plaster walls feel damp to the touch. The positive side? It is incredibly beautiful, everything is bright green, and the views when the clouds part are amazing.

Today (Friday) a dehumidifier is being taken down to our apartment. Running it constantly for the next few days should help a lot. I’ve moved my clothes from shelves in the wall to the wooden wardrobe, which could keep them from feeling even more damp.

On Wednesday the clouds were heavy all day and it rained more or less continually from late morning onwards. Thursday morning there was a crack of blue in the clouds and throughout the morning the sun shone. Around lunchtime the clouds rolled back in and the dampness returned. It didn’t rain at all, although the clouds came and went. We had supper in the bazaar and on the way home the full moon was shining brightly and the sky was clear. Today the break in the clouds was even wider, with lots of blue sky. The forecast looks promising.

This season can make people edgy and depressed. When you are continually socked in with clouds and fog, with endless hours of rain (frequently very heavy), you begin to feel that it will never end. In the past, when a nice sunny day appeared in mid-September, hopefully signifying the end of the rains, the Principal would declare a Fair-Weather Holiday. This was always a favorite of the students (not to mention staff). I remember one year that we hiked to the village of Suokholi (about 7 miles out Tehri Road) with another family. Our kids were all very young but they enjoyed it. Most people took the day to be outside, take a short hike, and just be glad that the sun was on its way back.

Entry to our road from Tehri Road; the poles keep out large vehicles

Monsoon mist on the path up to Fern Oaks; Dan ahead of me (as usual!)

Ferns on the trees, beginning to turn brown

Harvest moon from Tehri Road Thursday evening; this makes me want a better camera!

Friday morning skies!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Day in Mussoorie

Tuesday morning we awoke to gray skies. We didn’t have provisions yet, so we headed up to school for breakfast. We are much closer to the school than the last two visits, only a five-minute walk. It was good to see some familiar faces in the staff dining room, along with some new ones.

It was good to get back into the Development Office and see Pete and Immu and Abhra, the new Director. Monica and Chris were both out of the office and there is one new staff member, Neva.

Down in the Quad I ran into Mary Ellen, a new staff member whom we met in Seattle in January when she and her family were just considering applying to teach here. They have settled in well although they have had a number of health problems. They are living in the same duplex that we occupied last spring. There were many old friends to greet throughout the day; there's always a feeling of homecoming when we arrive here.

Dan took off on foot for Sister’s and Landour Bazaars to buy a variety of things we needed, such as peanut butter (none are as good as Prakash’s!), bread, batteries for my flashlight (I should have checked at home), bananas, and more. He put ten miles on his pedometer by the time he was finished. At the end as he was unlocking our apartment door, a monkey came up and grabbed the loaf of bread right out of his backpack. He was so mad about it that he turned around and went back to Chayya at the top of Mullingar Hill to get another loaf.

Later on Tuesday evening I was a co-presenter in an online seminar (“webinar”) put on by CASE on the topic of International Alumni Relations. It was at a good time in North America – 2:00 in the afternoon. That was 11:30 PM here. Those of you who know me well know that is not my best time of day. Dan kindly came along back to the office with me so I could use the internet and phone, neither of which is available in our apartment. If you’ve never taken part in a seminar on the web, here is how it works: a PowerPoint presentation is on the website, along with an attendee list and chat box for questions. The 90+ participants from 31 schools could pose questions at any time. Everyone was on a phone and we presenters took turns talking and controlling the slides and the attendees could hear while they watched the screen. It was a new experience for me but worked well and was quite enjoyable. I panicked for a few minutes when my phone cut out shortly before my part was due, but I dialed in again and the operator smoothly got me back in. The others didn’t even know I was gone. Needless to say, I was happy to fall into bed at 1:30.

Yes, it’s still raining a lot. More on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Adventures in Travel

We are back in Mussoorie! The monsoon is still going on, but the ferns on the trees are beginning to turn brown, a sure sign that it will end. They had 8 inches of rain in 24 hours last weekend before we arrived.

Our flights to London and then to Delhi went smoothly -- we even arrived in Delhi an hour early. We both slept reasonably well during the overnight flights and recovered from most of our jet lag fairly quickly. Arrival at the new Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal in Delhi was quite amazing -- we passed through immigration and baggage very quickly, no long lines at all (this is definitely a change for the better).

After a couple of days adjusting in Delhi (and enjoying the sunshine Friday and Saturday, buying umbrellas on Sunday), we boarded the Monday morning Shatabdi train for Dehra Dun. We had breakfast on the train and I listened to an audio book. While we were sitting in the Saharanpur station (about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way to Dehra Dun) a shrill siren went off several times and there was a jabbering of announcements. I assumed it was related to the next departure and didn't pay much attention. Soon Dan came back into the car and said that the train was cancelled because the tracks and road were washed out ahead. Suddenly there were several hundred people stranded in Saharanpur.

The word going around was that there were no buses or taxis that could get through. It appeared that our options were to find a hotel and try the next day or head back to Delhi. We went into the station where Dan spoke to the stationmaster. He said he thought taxis could get through via Hardwar, the long way around. So we went outside where I stood by the luggage while Dan went off in a cycle rickshaw to find a taxi stand. The driver took him across town to a private travel company, where he was able to book a taxi and he arrived back at the station about a half-hour later.

The driver looked quite young and the taxi was the usual small Indian car (a Tata Indica--a bit more beat-up than this image). We stuffed our luggage and ourselves into the car, with Dan in front and me in the back with the bags that wouldn't fit into the small trunk. We headed off for Hardwar. Our driver turned out to be excellent -- speedy but very careful. We went through many spots where the road was badly potholed and nearly washed out. The driver frequently called other drivers to find out the conditions ahead of us. We got through every place without a hitch. There was quite a bit of traffic on the road, but no trucks or buses. We left Saharanpur about 11:00 AM and arrived in Dehra Doon about 3:15 PM without a stop. We went directly to the train station where the Mussoorie taxi stand is located and found a taxi to take us the rest of the way.

We made a quick stop in Dehra Dun to eat a little something at Nirula's (ice cream, of course) and headed up the hill in an ancient Ambassador. The engine knocked continually and it ground along in second gear most of the way. The driver was also ancient and we wondered for a while if either one would make it all the way to Woodstock. But he obviously knew his way around and we arrived at the school gate just before 6:00. The keys to our apartment were waiting for us there and we drove on around the next bend and down a short way to Fern Oaks. This is the home of our old friend Saroj, who has a small apartment beneath her home. The school has been renting it for guest quarters for a while. We unpacked our bags and decided we had to go for a walk after sitting all day. We walked out Tehri Road and stopped in to see our friends Karen and Asha in their home at Suncliff. Then we headed home and gratefully fell into bed.

Tuesday we found out that a WS alumnus was on the train with us. Max '67 and his wife Sally went to a hotel where they met a couple from Dehra Dun who were travelling by car. They were offered a ride with them. At the washout they had to walk down a ravine and up the other side where another car was waiting to take them the rest of the way. I can't imagine how we would have managed our luggage if we'd done it that way.

Below are a few pictures I took along the way from the train and the car.

Flooded fields through the train window

Some potholes on the road

Flooding along side of road

More potholes; you can see that some have had gravel and stones put in to attempt to fill them

More flooding in a wooded area

Flooding on the road; notice the car being pushed out of the water

The common egrets were enjoying themselves with all the water along the way

A view of the Ganges at Hardwar; running high and dangerous