Saturday, October 30, 2010

Picnic lunch

We were well-fed at the picnic. Soon after we arrived we were served coffee, tea, and lemonade (made from their own limes). In one of the flower beds I saw this stalk of celery growing. Evidently they are working hard to grow some unusual things and to use them in the food they serve.

With the coffee and tea, we had some nice vegetable spring rolls.

About 12:30 two of our visitors were served their lunch, as they had to leave early. Phil and Alan had plans to climb Witches' Hill during the afternoon. They made it up, around, and back down, and then Alan met Dan to play some squash. He's an active guy!

Here is a full plate showing the lovely rice pilau, dal, subzi (vegetable), and tandoori roti.

Rice and dal in serving line.

Subzi and rotis in warming containers.

Tandoori chicken.

Sitting in the yard eating lunch.

For dessert we had vanilla ice cream with bitter orange sauce, absolutely delicious. I ended up leaving before teatime, but I'm sure it was something good!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Picnic, pt. 2

Once we had arrived at Brentwood and been told the schedule (coffee and tea first, lunch at 1:00, tea at 3:30), many of us headed off up the hill or across the stream.

As I headed up the hill, I saw several of our taxi drivers sitting in a nice field in the sun. It looked like they were playing Parcheesi.

At one point the path was quite overgrown; a bit higher it widened and looked passable by a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

A tree on a bluff.

A view ahead. Notice the white gravel on the path ahead.

I was with Ben, Mark, Annie, and Abhra. Phil had left earlier and was on his way down when we met. We visited for a while, then I headed back down with Phil.

The day was clear and views were gorgeous in every direction.

This view is looking down at the Brentwood facility on the left. The taxis were waiting for us to depart later in the day.

Tomorrow: lunch

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Staff Picnic

This week has been Activity Week for most of the school. Grades 6 and up have left the campus, most going on hikes and other outdoor activities. Even the young students here have gone off for day trips and camping overnights. That leaves the support staff in the various administrative offices, including ours (Development and Alumni Affairs). On Monday I was happy to hear that there is an annual picnic for the support staff during this week. So yesterday at 9:00 many of us were at the school gate to pile into at least eight taxis for the hour-long drive to Brentwood Sanctuary. I hadn't even heard of this place, but many others had been there before. The drive went all the way to the west through Library Bazaar and down the Kempty Falls Road. A few kilometers above the falls, we turned off onto a non-metalled (read unpaved) road that went another couple of kilometers to the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary part is for the Himalayan Quail, last spotted in 1876 in this area. We arrived to find two buildings, one containing about 4 rooms with attached baths, and a number of tents set up for overnights. There was a very large grassy area, a stream, and other amenities. The owner of the Tavern restaurant also owns this property. It isn't advertised, but by word of mouth many schools and other organizations in Mussoorie know about it and have activities there.

One of the first things I saw was the double swimming pool. It didn't seem very clean and the water was icy cold; no one went in.

As I walked onto the grassy area, I saw two little rivulets running into the stream below. They were small enough to just step across. The ground was very wet all around.

The stream had lots of rapids and small falls; it was beautiful, as was its sounds. Later they put on some loud music with a speaker sitting outside; we got them to turn it off -- we were there to see and hear nature, not loud music!

As we arrived, we could see some farmers plowing their fields with oxen right across the stream. Each field was terraced and very small; one looked about 5 x 15 feet!

As I was watching, the farmer tried to turn a corner too sharply and one of the oxen went down. He managed to loosen the yoke fairly quickly and the ox was soon up and working again; it didn't seem to be hurt.

Later we saw them set loose to have their lunch at the edges of the fields.

Tomorrow: more pictures of the picnic

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Last Word

Finally, more than two weeks later, the last of the Writers’ Festival posts! As I said in the beginning, the entire event was fantastic. I hope you’ve gotten a little taste of what those of us fortunate enough to attend were able to hear. I’ve provided quite a few links to information about the presenters and some of their organizations for your exploration.

The last session was actually titled “The Last Word.” As had the morning session, it focused on conservation, sanctuary, protecting nature, especially the Himalayan Mountains near where we live here.

Prerna Binda, who spoke on tigers to the children on the first day, talked about the power of words, and what “wildlife” actually means. Her book The King And I: Travels in Tigerland celebrates the tiger, worries for their future, mourns their passing and hopes that they continue to rule the wild, forever. She mentioned so many writers who have written books and articles about conservation and wildlife and ended with these words: “Write and Spread the Message.”

Jim Curran, who spoke earlier about conquering fear, showed slides of many of his paintings of mountain scenes. Rather than trying to duplicate photographic-style pictures, his mountains are stylized and give the sense of what it might be like to be there.

The final speaker of the Festival was Shailaja Bajpai, an Indian Express journalist whose novel, Three Parts Desire, is due out later this year. It takes place in Delhi, New York, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, and an unnamed hill station -- and sounds like one I will enjoy reading!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bazaar Visit

No matter how often I go into the bazaar, I always see something new and different that I never noticed before. I’m not sure if I’m not observant enough or if it’s just that most places are so small that it’s easy to miss them. Sunday afternoon I kept my eyes open and my camera at the ready.

I've seen this framing shop on Mullingar Hill frequently, but yesterday it was decorated nicely -- maybe in preparation for Diwali next week.

On the hill into Kulri after the clock tower, a new ditch has appeared.

At the lower end of the ditch is this sign -- "Sawadhan -- Caution" then seewar karya pragati per hai -- sewer construction is on (meaning, not transliteration). I presume the small lettering is the authority in charge.

Also on the hill down toward Kulri; how can such a tiny tea stall make enough to stay in business?

Fish shop; the muchli-wallah told us it is from the Yamuna River near Dehra Dun and was delivered fresh that morning.

Another tiny restaurant -- I'm quite sure they aren't related to the larger Golden Restaurant near the Clock Tower.

One of several vendors laid out on the road selling plastic items -- toys and household goods.

And just below the hospital, a bit away from the regular food shops, is this meat shop. It says "Jhatka" above the picture of a goat and "mutton shop" below. The bird is probably a chicken. You can see the English words "Jhatka Mutton Shop" in the window.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Worldwide Woodstock Day

We actually began celebrating WWD on Friday. The Development Office staff had lunch with the visiting class of 1960 at Rokeby Manor. Below is the group just starting lunch, with Immu taking an official group photo.

One of the two salads was tandoori paneer cubes on a green salad.

One of the two entrees was mustard chicken.

Jim Rugh, organizer of the 1960 reunion, with Abhra Bhattacharjee, Director of Development.

Friday evening about 6:00 a ferocious storm began. There was rain off and on all night, heavy winds, and thunder and lightning. Plus a severe drop in temperature. On Saturday some of the students and staff attended the Mussoorie Inter-School Sports Competition (formerly fondly known as "The Olympics"). We heard it was pretty cold out there, but we mostly stayed home except for a walk in the afternoon.

About 6:00 Dr. Laurenson called me to suggest that we sing some school songs at his house after dinner. I dug around in the office, found a copy of the "Hiking Song," and, after consulting with Chris by phone, printed off "Shadows" from the website.

There must have been at least 40 people attending the fine dinner at Dr. L's house, including the above-mentioned class of 1960, alumni who are currently on staff, other long-serving staff, and others. This is just a small group; many of these are currently on staff.

Chris (still a bit jet-lagged from his trip back from the US last week) and Monica -- Monica arranged the delicious dinner.

Sue Scott Swanson '67, Naz Nagarwalla '80 spouse and staff member, Bhavna Sarup, alumni spouse.

Tom Alter showed up, to our surprise and pleasure; here he is with Saroj Kapadia and Shonila Chander.

Chris talking to Mrs. Aurora and David Laurenson ready to say a few words to the gathering.

On the way home, we were happy to see a clear sky, Dehra Dun sparkling like jewels on black velvet, and a full moon. I hope you did something special to celebrate Woodstock on this special day. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the founding of WOSA; stay tuned for some big plans!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Writers' Festival, continued

On Thursday evening following the musical presentation, the authors (and Development Office staff) were invited to Steve Alter’s home at Oakville for dinner. Rather than a typical menu, there were cooks producing common Indian snacks, all set up outside on the veranda. Besides those shown below, there were chicken wings and a few other things.

Aloo Tikkis are a savory potato patty, fried on a large griddle. A serving includes a variety of toppings, usually including yogurt, tamarind sauce, and coriander sauce. Years ago, this was Dan's favorite snack (if I dare say that, samosas rank pretty high, too). There was a vendor right outside the Rialto movie theater where he usually got them.

Jalebis are too sweet for some people. The dough is drizzled into hot oil, in squiggly shapes. As soon as they are cooked, they are dropped into sugar syrup. As the squiggle is quite hollow, it fills with syrupy sweetness. When fresh and still warm, they are delicious. Serving them with dahi (fresh yogurt), cuts the sweetness and increases the nutrition.

Sweetened steamed milk topped with ground almonds was poured between pitchers to get it good and foamy, then served in clay cups. These used to be common at railway stations -- they are biodegradable and could just be tossed out the window without permanent littering. Sadly, tea shops at the train stations now serve tea in a little plastic cup -- with a teabag!

Friday Morning -- Mountain Messages

Toby Sinclair is an Englishman who has lived in India since 1977. The title of his talk was “Goddess in Despair,” referring to the Ganga (Indian word for Ganges). He was the producer of the film “Ganges” that was shown near the beginning of the Festival. He talked more about the river and some of the ravages it has suffered. In the 1960s the US planted a plutonium-powered nuclear spying device in the Nanda Devi sanctuary. It hasn’t been seen or tracked since 1968. Did it disappear into one of the Ganga tributaries? The Tehri Dam, in planning since 1972, opened in 2006, creating some areas of a nearly dry river below. The river’s greatest gift is its silt, which fertilizes one of the largest fertile areas in the world.

Bernadette McDonald, the biographer who spoke about three of her subjects earlier, talked about “Freedom Climbers.” It is about the golden age of Polish climbers, 1975-95. She told us about one particular climb two men did up a face in a heavy storm, when they ran out of food and fuel. The mysterious “third man” was with them as a sometimes malevolent, but mainly benevolent, force. A few quotes: “We were ready to die, but not ready to give up.” “You can’t attain enlightenment on a full stomach.” When they finally rappelled down, the third man was there helping them.

David Wagner, whose drawings from nature were on exhibit, talked about “Mosses and the Meaning of Life.” His love of mountains and nature gives meaning to his life. He has devoted his studies to the often-overlooked mosses and liverworts. David talked about his experiences with nature growing up here in the hills. He collected butterflies and ferns – even found new varieties of ferns that hadn’t been cataloged before. He had beautiful pictures of natural phenomena that showed things I had never seen before. He read a poem written in 1961 by Vera Frances, a long-time WS teacher, “I Have Loved Beauty.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Inn

Wednesday evening we went for dinner at the top of the hill instead of in the bazaar as usual. I left around 4:00 as I wanted to stop along the way.

Just below the hospital a group of goats was being herded along. This is not all that unusual, but one of them surely looked like a sheep to me, and that was indeed unusual.

What do you think? Sheep or furry goat?

Then I headed on to Mullingar Hill and up the walking path toward the Chakkar and Char Dukan. Our friends Tenzing and Tsering are renovating an old building into a small hotel/inn. It is named for Tenzing's mother, Doma, also a long-time friend. They have brought in Tibetan painters from Nepal for the final decorating and it is quite amazing.

The front is decorated with a dragon (still to be colored) and the name.

Also on the outside is a statue of a monk. I couldn't help but smile back at him when I saw him.

This shows some of the ceiling of the veranda/hallway inside the building. There are six rooms; each opens onto the veranda.

Another ceiling view.

After I left T & T, I went up the longer driving road way; there is a walking path but it is very steep and I had plenty of time. To the right of this photo is a plant of stinging nettles. And they can really sting! I accidently brushed against one a couple of weeks ago and it stung right through my cotton shirt. To the left you can see dak (dock) leaves. They always grow nearby and if you rub the stung spot with a leaf, it will ease the burning sensation.

When I got to Char Dukan, I had a cup of tea at one of the tea shops, then headed on toward Rokeby for dinner. I was walking about the same pace as a little girl, Tanu. When I asked her where she was going, she said "cow." I thought that was a little strange, but we walked on together, chatting in my rather weak Hindi. (Where do you live, what's your name, what school do you attend) As we came around a corner I heard a cow mooing and remembered that there is a house just below the road that has one. Tanu had a small bag of food that she had brought to feed the cow. We said goodbye and she went down the steps to give the food to the cow.

Tomorrow I'll tell you more about Rokeby Manor, a recent renovation of an old boarding house. It is pretty fabulous now!