Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Quick Update

We are having a good trip. We've been in Agra, Bharatpur, and arrived in Jaipur Tuesday afternoon. We have had very little internet access, and what we have is very slow. So no pictures or long posts until later.

The Taj Mahal is always wonderful and we stayed in a 5-star hotel, absolutely gorgeous. In Bharatpur, we saw hundreds of birds:  painted storks, inhingas, ducks, egrets, cranes, kingfisher, and more. It was fun to take a tonga (horse-drawn cart) that we could all sit on. We had a great guide who had a monocular that could focus in on  birds that were some distance away.

Our car and driver are excellent, and all is well!

More later....

Saturday, November 24, 2012

In Delhi

The past week has been a blur. We were slightly aware of American Thanksgiving, although we spent the day traveling.

Anjali and Domingos arrived with Dan on Monday afternoon. They had been on the train most of the day, so we headed out for a walk. We walked to Second Jabarkhet on the New Road and back on Tehri Road. It took just about two hours, including a brief stop for chai at Dan's regular teashop out there. It was the first time I'd been out there this visit.

On Tuesday the three of them headed up to the top of the hill, where they had a great view of the snows from Sisters' Bazaar and then went on to Char Dukan for bun omelets for breakfast. I met them at the school and took them on an abbreviated tour. Anjali was most interested to see the music area (the band room now occupies her kindergarten and first-grade room) and the new gym. About 11:30 we headed into the bazaar. We had lunch at Green Vegetarian and did some shopping. Back home to rest for a while, then we headed to Hanifl Centre for dinner with the Nagarwallas. Darab knew Anjali when she was small and we've all been friends for a long time.

On Wednesday we hired a taxi to take us to Happy Valley to visit the temple at the Tibetan settlement. They climbed the flag hill there while I sat in the sun and relaxed. We walked back from Library Bazaar, stopping at Momo's Restaurant for lunch (I do like that thupka!). I was feeling pretty exhausted, so I took a taxi back to school and went up to say my goodbyes in the office. The Whitemans had invited us to their house for dinner and we had a lovely evening.

Thursday the porters came to haul our things up to the school attic until we return. They came back and brought our luggage up to the New Road, where our taxi picked us up around 12:45. We had lunch with our friend Ajit Singh and his sister in Dehradun. The Shatabdi trip was uneventful, except that Domingos began to feel unwell. We got a quick taxi and were in our hotel soon after 11:30 for a short night. We caught the 6:50 train out to Meerut and spent Friday there with the Lal family. It is always good to visit and we had a relaxing day. Domingos was suffering from Delhi belly, but we dosed him up and had him rest for much of the day. Once again we were on the late train back to Delhi, but we didn't have to get up early this morning (Saturday). We will take our laundry to a nearby dry-cleaning/laundry shop to pick up in the evening and then head over to Mayur Vihar on the Metro to spend the day with Anju and Sandeep.

Anjali is posting lots of pictures on her blog at anjviola.com -- go over there to see them.

Monday, November 19, 2012

More Writers' Festival

I attended a few more sessions of the Writers Festival, but had to miss some of the later sessions. On Sunday morning the first Mussoorie Half Marathon was held. Runners gathered at Picture Palace, ran to Everest House at the far western end of the ridge, and back to the finish line at the Woodstock School Gate. Over 200 people registered to run, include a number of students and staff.

Change and Crisis in the Himalaya

Ishita Khanna is an environmental activist who has spent ten years in the remote valley of Spiti in northeastern Himachal Pradesh. She founded the NGO Ecosphere, which works for responsible tourism and use of scarce resources. She was thrilled to be asked to join in the festival, as she doesn’t consider herself to be a writer. Ecosphere is developing passive solar housing, neutralizing carbon footprints, and helping people to travel responsibly. It is important to protect natural areas and to give back to the community.

The two short films she showed would fit in well with the Woodstock School CARE program. Tourists from Hell was a humorous look at what should and should not be done. A Fable from the Himalayas is a magical tale about a mountain boy who finds the solution to Global Warming from a monk. You can see it at

Intrigue, Politics and Mountains

From the “Great Game” referred to in Kipling’s Kim to modern-day espionage, the Himalayas have frequently played a role in intrigue. Harish Kapadia, a well-known Mussoorie climber and author, spoke about the burdens of bureaucracy in getting permits. He has gone to the Siachen Glacier multiple times, an area that foreigners can access only with great difficulty. His final thought:  “If mountains can’t stop you, bureaucracy shouldn’t!”

Captain M.S. Kohli was involved in a very difficult USA/India cooperative spy mission in the 1960s following the Sino-Indian Border Conflict of 1962. Capt. Kohli, a long-time mountaineer, was pulled from the Indian Navy to serve with the Border Patrol. They had decided to place equipment in the Himalayas that could detect Chinese nuclear test detonations. This involved two transceivers, an antenna, and a nuclear power supply. The process of installing this system was nearly a comedy of errors. A total of eight expeditions attempted to place the equipment. The first mountain tried was Nanda Devi, but a major blizzard took down the equipment. Eventually the equipment was installed in 1967 on Nanda Kot. By the time it was functional, satellite imagery had improved so much that it was outdated. Capt. Kohli himself had many close calls during the various attempts. 

Captain Kohli releasing  Writing Outdoors: A Natural Reader

Lunch was served outside in the beautiful Hanfil Centre grounds.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Tale of a Rock and a Pushta

If you have been following this blog, you may remember a shot of a giant rock that fell onto Tehri Road during the monsoon. There is also a spot on the New Road where a huge landslide took out a section of road and the pushta is being rebuilt. These two elements have come together, as the giant rock has been broken up to provide more stones to finish the pushta.

Size of rock when we first arrived

Preparing to split

Preparing to break up

Cracking apart

Worker after split
The rock is now about half the size it was

Truck loaded with pieces of rock

Same truck unloading down below for pushta

Nearly finished pushta from below

Nearly finished pushta from above
Nothing much happened at either place during the past week, with the Diwali holidays taking up everyone's attention. We may not be here for the final completion of the pushta.

Our daughter and son-in-law arrived in Delhi late last night. Dan will be bringing them up by train on Monday. I'm really looking forward to seeing them and showing them around!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday Morning

This afternoon Dan is leaving for Delhi. He is going to visit St. Anthony's Orphanage on Friday, where we have a sponsored child. Saturday night he will go to the airport to meet our daughter and son-in-law, who are coming for a two-week trip. They will see some sights in Delhi on Sunday and come up on the early morning train Monday. I can't wait to have them here for a few days. I just hope we can keep them warm!

The other morning I walked out of the office and around the balcony to a sunny spot to warm up a bit (here we go outside to get warm!). As I came around the corner where the stairs go up to Guest Room #1, I saw this little family enjoying the sunshine, too. While I watched them, one of the kittens scampered behind the stairs into a locked cupboard where they must have made their home.

Last Sunday afternoon we took the scooter into the bazaar for some ice cream. (Yes, I know it's cold, but the hot fudge sundaes at Nirula's are good anyway.) We had 2-scoop sundaes instead of the regular 3-scoop ones.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

More celebrating!

Yes, we had another Diwali gathering on Tuesday. The Roberts were our wonderful hosts.

Here are Bhavenesh and Jane. They are both here for the WS Board meetings this week.

Jane, Fabi, and Ian chatting on the couch.

A feast was laid on! Here are squash curry and kabobs.

Thai chicken curry from Naveen (see yesterday) and rice.

Potato curry and matar paneer.

Dessert from the Shaws -- yogurt cake with chocolate icing and flan. You can see how popular the flan was!!

On our walk up from our house (yes, I did it twice yesterday!) we heard a lot of rustling in the trees above the path. It was the monkeys! Usually they are settled by dark, but I think all the sounds of fireworks and crackers were disturbing them. It was a bit creepy hearing them swinging among the trees. How could they see the branches in the dark?

Our walk home had no rustling; they must have given up and gone to sleep by then. But the noises of the celebrations in the bazaar and all over the hillside were deafening. We could see the fireworks going off at St. George's School below us, others over the bazaar, and the banging was coming from everywhere around!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


We were pleased to be invited to an Indian home for a Diwali celebration on Monday evening. (Today, Tuesday is the actual holiday, generally spent with family.) We were invited by Naveen, the Whitemans' cook; Ramkesh, a school employee who has been cleaning our house; and Sumitra, Naveen's sister and Ramkesh's wife, who also does cleaning and cooking for several staff members. They have three children, Hermani, Hamint, and Hemansu. Naveen and Hermani did the cooking. The Whitemans are sending Naveen to a culinary school in Dehradun. He will be able to qualify as a five-star chef when he is finished. So far he is the first in his class!

It was a lovely evening; two other staff members were also there. First we all went into their small home, which is in the first building at Jabarket, up and behind from the road. There are a tiny kitchen and two small rooms. After the meal, we went outside and the kids set off the firecrackers that Ian had brought for them.

Ian and Neva with Ramkesh, Sumitra, and Hermani

Hermani in the kitchen

Sumitra and Ian

Naveen in the kitchen

Ramkesh and Neva

Sumitra and Ramkesh
An unexpected treat was meeting Chota Lal, Sumitra and Naveen's father, who used to work at Hostel. He had a great time talking with Dan in Hindi and remembering all the old-time staff who came through Hostel. He worked there for 30 years until retirement.

Dan and Chota Lal
The meal began with fish pakoras (dipped in chickpea flour batter and deep fried). Very nice!

Chopped salad

Meat curry

Poories, matar paneer, salad, and potato curry

Warm custard with fruit for dessert

After the fireworks everyone posed for a group photo outside.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Saturday Lunch

On Saturday we headed out to the bazaar about 11:00. This was my first walking all the way in since I first became ill. I did quite well, although I flagged badly on the way back right at the hospital. This time we walked through the school and down our steps, rather than the Dhobi Ghat path we've been taking. It feels shorter through the Quad. Plus it gave me a chance to sit on a bench for a few minutes. We were home before 2:30.

Going through Landour there were many signs of Diwali coming very soon. Many shops were selling candles, fireworks, and decorations. Diwali is the Hindu New Year. People get new clothes, buy appliances, shoes and many other items. (A little like Christmas and Easter combined!)

I couldn't resist this vegetable/fruit seller. His shop always looks like this. I was hoping to spot some red winter carrots, and he had them. They are very flavorful and sweet and only available starting about now. It is the season for gajar halwa, made from these carrots. Can't wait to have some!

Shops that sell household supplies had lots on display. Stainless steel dishes are popular, as they don't break.

Many areas are spruced up for the holiday; this wall below Castle Hill Estate was whitewashed and the stones then outlined in blue. There are a number of these cubbyholes where people can rest and enjoy the sun.

We went to the Green Vegetarian Restaurant for lunch. It was really good; we will probably take Anjali and Domingos there when we are in town one day.

Of course, I had to start with paneer pakoras. The green chutney was very fresh and delicious. I like to have dahi (yogurt) with meals in Indian restaurants; often it is on the spicy side for me.

We had Green Special Dal (very good!) and aloo palak (potatoes in spinach gravy, simple and delicious). Dan loves the pickled onions that most places put out. He never gets sick, so they must be OK. I'm not much for raw onions, so I let him have double.

The tandoori roti were fresh and crisp.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Friday Outing

Good news! As of Friday I've been feeling quite fine. I am finished with a round of antibiotics and better than it seems I've been for several weeks.

On Friday our office went out to the bazaar for lunch. There is a new Tibetan-style restaurant (Momo's -- not very original!) in Kulri that the others were eager to try. We took a school vehicle and a taxi and piled in. Friday was Uttarakhand Day, the 12th anniversary of statehood for this region. Diwali is coming up this week and the decorations were up.

The streets were canopied with fluttering gold foil streamers. It looks fancier than this still photo.

Special decorations are available everywhere (I'll post more tomorrow). This man was walking at the top of Kulri Hill carrying a pole with a lot of streamers for sale.

Momos are Tibetan dumplings. They are filled with meat (chicken, pork or mutton) or veg. They can be steamed or fried. They are served with a (usually) hot red chutney. These are fried ones. 

One of the diners had a fried lamb dish served with rice. Similar to a Chinese style.

Someone ordered a chicken dish like nothing we've seen before. He said the sauce was similar to Alfredo. It was the only thing that wasn't spicy.

I wasn't sure what I was up to eating yet, so I had the veg thupka, a noodle soup. It was absolutely delicious, and the warmth was especially welcome on a cold day. There was enough that after I ate they packed it up and Dan and I shared the leftovers for supper.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Food and Poetry

At lunch on Friday of the Mussoorie Writers we were treated to a Himalayan Food Festival in the Quad. The menu included Tibetan favorites such as mo-mos and other Indian foods that are either native to this mountain region or popular here. The entire school, from Pre-K through Grade 12, the staff, and all attendees at the Festival were invited. The kitchen set up three serving lines in the Quad to accommodate all the people.

In recent years, the afternoon has closed with a poetry reading under the Lyre Tree. However, this year it was held in Parker Hall. The crowd was significantly larger than it has been, and the weather was on the chilly side for sitting outside in the late afternoon.

We were treated to a most interesting session. Gulzar, a famous poet, lyricist and director, was a real treat. He was very expressive in his readings. The other two were wonderful as well. Pavan Varma is a well-known author. Becoming Indian and Being Indian are two of his best-known works. He is currently the Indian Ambassador to Bhutan. Sukrita Paul Kumar is a Delhi-based poet, translator and teacher. The interaction among the three was wonderful. Gulzar read in Hindi, Varma read his translations of the same poems. Kumar read her poems in English, Gulzar read his translations of them in Hindi. The three broke into "shabash!" and "wah!" as the others read. They laughed a lot, obviously enjoying their interaction. I wish I had a video of it.

The first poem, read by Gulzar:

"These mountains; I like them."