Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Farewell the Winterline the title of the memoir of Stan Brush, Woodstock Class of 1942. I like the sentiment, as the winterline is always out when we are leaving at this time of year.

This morning (Wednesday) we packed up our trunks that stay here in the attic (Indian clothing, some kitchen things we have accumulated) and our two suitcases that go home with us. I brought quite a few clothing and food items into the office to give away at coffee break time. And they are all gone!

I have finished up the work I've been doing. I've done a lot of research for the next volume of the Woodstock School history. I've been working with Dana Crider, a long-time staff member who is at home on disability; it's been very helpful to talk back and forth with him about what I'm doing. He is ready to carry on some of the work that still remains to be done. And a writer needs to be found!

Our taxi will come at 3:00 to load up and take us to the Dehra Dun railway station. We take the Shatabdi train toward Delhi and get off in Meerut to spend a couple of days with the Lals. Then on to Delhi and our flight very late Sunday night (actually early Monday morning). We should be home by late afternoon on Monday -- a very long day with a stopover in Frankfurt.

Thanks for reading. The blog will pick up again around Christmas time, when we will be visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Korea, then going back to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dan's Motorcycle Trip

I thought you might be interested in more information about Dan's motorcyle trip last week. Here is a link to the YouTube video that Tashi took, if it doesn't work right as embedded below.

Also, here is a map of the route. If you have any familiarity with this area, you will find it interesting, I think. Click the map to embiggerize it (as one of my favorite cartoonists, Dan Piraro, likes to say).

Day 1 Mussoorie to Rishikesh
Day 2 Rishikesh to Rudraprayag 
Day 3 Rudraprayag — Deoria Tal — Rudraprayag
Day 4 Rudraprayag to Uttarkashi
Day 5 Uttarkashi to Gangotri
Day 6 Gangotri to Uttarkashi
Day 7 Uttarkashi to Mussoorie 

Correction and Birthday

If you follow the news, by now you know that the epicenter of the earthquake we felt yesterday was actually in Afghanistan, not Pakistan. It appears to be quite devastating. It is in a remote area, so help will be difficult to send in.

Monday afternoon a special tea was held for Eric Roberts' 60th birthday. Staff gathered in the Tea Garden to celebrate. Monica has not been well, but she was able to come. We've known Eric's sister Nima since 1968, and Monica has worked here since 1979, when we were still on staff. Eric runs the school travel office and is amazing at getting things done. Monica is Alumni Secretary, and I've been working with her ever since we started coming back to Woodstock.

Lots of good food -- cake, chicken or veg patties, Indian sweets, etc.

Me posing with Eric and Monica.

Note -- I mostly wear Indian clothes when I am here, but my last things are at the dhabi so they can be packed away clean. I'm only wearing things that go home with me or don't need laundering.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Monday afternoon about 2:45 Margo and I were working in our office. Margo suddenly felt a bit queasy and I realized that the building was shaking slightly. It continued for what seemed quite a long time (over a minute). We all left the office and went down into the Quad. The siren went off and we all traipsed down onto Tehri Road. I think the rule was to dive for cover under the desk, but it felt better to be outside. Of course, if there is a big one here, there would be no safe place. The mountain is very steep and everything would slide down. The last one we felt was back around 1970 when we lived in Woodstock Villa. We woke in the middle of the night with the bed shaking. I don't remember evacuating; we just waited until it stopped and went back to sleep!

It turns out there has been a major (7.7) earthquake in northern Pakistan in the Hindu Kush Mountains. It was felt as far away as Delhi. It will be a while until we find out more. I'm sure there are many lives lost, but at least it is a relatively low-population area.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mountain Festival Saturday

Saturday morning I headed out to the gate to run registration again. But I ran into Steve in the Quad and he told me not to go, just let the regular security guard hand out programs. So I got to go to the presentations in Parker Hall after all.

The morning opened with three readings. The first was Amrita Tripathi, who read from her novel The Sibius Knot. It is about five friends from boarding school into their late 20s. Each chapter is from a different point of view. Although it is dark, with many sad happenings, it sounded like a good read.

Next up was Martushka Fromeast, a Polish photographer. She also had a photo exhibit in the Quad about the Nanda Devi Yatri (pilgrimage). She was a little difficult to understand, but she had wonderful photos from a Nepal village. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in the earthquake earlier this year.

Paro Anand read again, from a book of short stories, Like Smoke. The one she read was wonderful, about a teenage girl who goes from hating Muslims to learning to know and like one, very timely and appropriate.

Mandip Singh Soin is a mountaineer, who talked about Indians going to the Alps, rather than the opposite. He also showed pictures and told about the Indo-Pak Peace Trek to the Sianchen Glacier.

John White, from the Isle of Skye off Scotland, talked about a variety of adventures there: biking, caving, kayaking, hiking.

Mandip SIngh Soin
I left the session to grab a bite of lunch and headed out to the Hanifl Centre for the Mela (about a kilometer walk). This time I worked for two hours in the booth. My partner was a 10th grader, Suyanch. He is from Kanpur and wants to be a businessman. He was moving constantly and already is a great salesperson!

For the first half-hour or so, we didn't have our cash box, so we had the money tucked under a jam jar. Marta came with the box soon after that. It was stuffed with bills from yesterday. We weren't too busy, so I had time to sort the cash and put like bills together. I think there was at least 30,000 rupees. We sold almost all the hats, but had many small and medium T-shirts left. 

The performance area was right behind us and lots of people were hanging around. A musical group made up of school staff played and sang. Then we had a Garhwali folk performance, a reenactment of the story of a woman who marries Shiva. They were very good, and a translator took part, which helped. I wanted to hear another program but this one went long past its scheduled time and I was pretty tired, so I headed back to our apartment.

Women in the play

Part of a procession in the play
Yesterday I mentioned we had dinner at Sanjay's house, which was magnificent. He had a nice place before, but this one is on the top of the ridge and has views both of the mountains and the valley. The facade/entrance is quite impressive!

We went inside, down and out to the back where there were two firepits going. Waiters were serving drinks and snacks. It was crisp and cool outside.

When it was time for dinner, we went inside. back up to the main floor. There were many places to sit. The house is absolutely beautiful inside, full of the tasteful details that Sanjay is known for.

Ceiling in entrance hall

Fountain at base of central stairway

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mountain Festival Friday

Friday dawned clear and bright; it appears that the constant mist we've had has finally left. This is the best kind of October weather here -- warm in the sun, cool in the shade.

When I was here for previous Writers Festivals, I attended every session. It was wonderful, but also very intense. This year I volunteered to help out as needed, so I couldn't go to as many sessions. Maybe I am even enjoying them more this way! There were 11 different presentations yesterday, plus three book releases and two Q&A sessions with artists/photographers. I spent two hours at the front gate registration table and one hour in the booth selling T-shirts, hats, etc., with the festival logo.

The morning began in Parker Hall with the usual welcome and introductions. The Upper Years students are required to attend a certain number of sessions (classes were cancelled for the day). The Lower Years through Grade 5 had their own special events, but they started out all sitting on the stage. After the introductions, Paro Anand, a children's author and storyteller, told part of a story about an angel born without wings. She was wonderful, very engaging, and the kids (and the adult audience) enjoyed it.

Here's a photo of Steve Alter, alumnus, author, friend, and founder/director of the festival.

The first presenter was Manjari Mehta, a classmate of Steve's and an anthropologist. She talked about the village near Kedarnath where she did her research 30 years ago. She had photos from then as well as some now. The lives of the village women have changed drastically; the young ones are being more educated and many improvements have been made.

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner grew up in a small village in Austria, where the priest loved the outdoors. She and others would go to church on Sunday morning in their hiking boots and gear, and the priest took them up into the mountains for the rest of the day. She became one of the world's great woman climbers -- she has scaled all the world's 8000-meter-plus peaks without supplemental oxygen. Her talk focused on her successful attempt to climb K2 after several failures.

My two hours at the front gate were quite enjoyable; people kept arriving. It was quite cool in the shade, but too hot in the sun. Dan brought my jacket and friend Eric stopped by with a cup of tea. The usual traffic on the road was disturbed by all the extra vehicles parked around!

From 11:00 to 2:00 there was a Mela (generic word for festival) in the Quad. There were booths selling a variety of food, handicrafts and other local items. Cambridge Book Depot had a very large booth. I said NO MORE BOOKS and ended up with only four!! [Paro Anand's adult comic novel Pure Sequence, about four Indian women in a retirement community; Steve Alter's latest, The Secret Sanctuary, for young readers, set in the new Jabarkhet Nature Sanctuary, formerly Flag Hill; The Himalaya Club by John Lang, Australia's first author, who is buried in the Camel's Back Cemetery; and A Children's History of India by Subhadra Sen Gupta, quite fat but an easy read]

Here is the booth with jam, hats, T-shirts and fleece. Two students did most of the work and I made sure the money was correct.

This cleverly decorated balloon was in the Quad as decoration.

After lunch I went up to hear Bernadette McDonald, the curator of the Banff Mountain Film Festival. She is a writer of books about mountain climbers. I've heard her before and own her book about a woman in Kathmandu who was involved in most of the Everest expeditions for nearly 50 years. Her book this year focuses on climbers from Slovenia. She was followed by one of them, Silvo Karo. The picture below shows a peak in Patagonia.

The final session I went to was by Sandesh Kadur and Kamal Bawa, who have done several books together. Their focus is on climate change in the Himalaya. They work with an NGO that has been developing ways to help the mountain dwellers to cope with the rapid changes; one thing they've done is create a cooking stove that is more efficient and has much less smoke emission. The photo below from his presentation shows the Darjeeling train in a snowy landscape. [This one's for you, Laverne!]

In the evening we walked up to the top of the hill to Sanjay Narang's new house for a dinner with festival participants and guests. It was wonderful and I'll post more about that tomorrow.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Festival Begins

Thursday afternoon was the first session of the Mussoorie Writers Mountain Festival. We were treated to the Banff Film Festival World Tour, a selection of short films on extreme sports, from mountain biking the ridge on the Isle of Skye to the first scaling of Half Dome and El Capital in Yosemite. Absolutely fascinating, and Parker Hall was crowded. There will be events all day on Friday and Saturday. I'll be attending as many as I can, plus working the registration desk and sales booth and proofreading student blog posts about it.

Dan returned about 2:00 Thursday afternoon after a wonderful week motorcycling in the Uttarakhand mountains. His bazaar-made boots worked well, and Tashi helped outfit some of the pieces he was missing.

Wednesday evening Cate, Margo and I were included in a dinner invitation to the Principal's house. The classes of 1995 and 2005 were having milestone reunions and it has become tradition for these groups to be entertained there. I got to visit with a number of people and met an alumnus of 2005 with whom I have had quite a bit of email back and forth. He and his brother are from Nepal, and since the terrible earthquake there last year, they have been working in the relief efforts.

The weather has turned much nicer -- it is 67-68° in our apartment instead of 63-64° as it was much of last week. That is a big difference! The mists have gone and it is clear and sunny.

Wednesday morning I was up early, as usual. I heard the monkeys clattering on the roof, as they do nearly every day. Then I looked down into the playground and watched a young monkey playing on the swing. He swung in the normal way, climbed the chain on one side, leaped on and off and through. He was obviously having a great time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


For the past several months, an alumnus, Antonio Puri, has been an artist in residence at Woodstock. His art represents the many colors of people here and that we are all of one humanity. Today was the final day, the opening of the two artworks he has created while here. You can read more about it here.

We had a special tea and then the ceremony.

Gathering in the Quad

Dr. Long introducing Antonio and talking about his art

Alok Maiti, Indian music teacher, performed a short raga

Antonio thanked so many who helped

Ribbon cutting at Business Office lobby

Wall paintings in lobby (yes, this is where Diana Biswas sat for many years)

Ribbon cutting of the outside sculpture

DNA of many skin colors
And great news -- Antonio has gotten engaged to one of our Hindi teachers!

Thursday afternoon starts the beginning of the Mussoorie Writers Mountain Festival, which will go all day Friday and Saturday. I'll be working registration some of the time, attending as many sessions as possible, blogging here and proofreading/editing blog posts from students.

FYI, Dan is having a wonderful trip with his motorcycle buddy, Tashi. They will return late on Thursday.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Well, I had a wonderful weekend, with the staff outing and WWD. Sunday afternoon I headed up the hill to Wolfsburn, home of my friend Immu. It was about a 40-minute walk up to Char Dukan, where I stopped to have a cup of tea. Cate and Margo, alumni volunteers working in the same office with me, came before I quite finished my tea. We went together to Wolfsburn, where Immu was fixing an Ethiopian meal for us. Immu grew up in Ethiopia, met an Indian teacher, married him, had two daughters, and eventually he retired to Mussoorie. Her daughters attended Woodstock and she has been working in the alumni office for quite a few years now.

We were pleased to have Dr. Cyril Dutt join us for dinner. He was the head of the Landour Community Hospital in the late 1960s/early 1970s when we were living here. He is currently renting an apartment in Immu's complex (she has about 5 units, I think). He is from the town where Cate's parents worked, so she's known him most of her life and they were happy to catch up.

The first picture is standing in front of one of the rental units looking back at the building Immu lives in (on the right). She has a very cozy place on the upper level. The terraced hillside is covered with marigolds.

We had a proper Ethiopian meal, injera, door wat chicken curry, dal, and vegetables. It was delicious.

Monday evening just before dinner I looked out and saw a gorgeous sunset. The limbs are from the Lyre Tree, which has been mostly dismantled. The wood has been saved and something will be done with it. I think for now they are leaving the trunk and main branches standing, even though they are chopped off.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

World Wide Woodstock Day

Yesterday (the 17th) was World Wide Woodstock Day, an annual celebration that began in 2009. Woodstock people gather together all over the world. We have frequently been here for it; last year we had a lunch in Dehra Dun. This year we went to the Tavern Cafe, a new place below the older Tavern Restaurant in Kulri. The owner is an alumnus. Quite a few people who might have attended were still away on Activity Week, but we had a fun gathering anyway.

We all ordered whatever we wanted from the menu. The names of all the dishes are based on Mussoorie names, and include Ruskin Bond Fish & Chips. I had the Company Garden Pesto Paneer Burger. That looks like a maraschino cherry on top, but it is actually a tiny tomato. It was delicious and the fries were good, too.

I wanted to show you the inside with large chunks of paneer covered with pesto.

Here is the full group after we ate. Thanks to Cate Whitcomb who posted this on Facebook.

And, to close, here is a picture that Karen Tamminen took of our group in the boat. I am in the back.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Staff Outing

As I mentioned before, this past week has been Activity Week, with students and staff chaperones scattering for hiking and other activities. For some years, on Friday of Activity Week the administrative staff, most of whom have been working in their office, are treated to an outing of some kind. A few years ago I wrote about a day at Brentwood Sanctuary, a resort area to the west of Mussoorie. This year the group headed east to Chamba and Tehri, and I was fortunate to go along.

About 18 of us traveled in four taxis and one private car. Before we left, Eric handed each of us a bag for the trip with a bottle of water, bag of chips, packets of peanuts and cashews, and boxed pineapple juice. Very nice! We left the school gate at 7:00, just an hour earlier than Dan's small group motorcycle trip was to leave. The drive was spectacular; all but about ten kilometers was on the front side of the slope. The views would have been better if there hadn't been so much mist and haze. At the tea stop we could just make out the snow-capped peaks poking out of the clouds, but not enough to have a picture.

Our first stop was at a village tea shop, a little less than two hours away.

Village house with traditional slate roof

Enjoying tea in the sunshine
After another hour we arrived at a resort in the hills above Chamba. Chamba is now a big town, where the Tehri-Mussoorie Road forks to Rishikesh. The resort was an organic farm with a restaurant. Material from the Purana Darbar palace in Old Tehri has been used in the construction. The palace had been built by Maharaja Sudarshan Shah in 1815. When the Tehri Dam was built, a new Tehri was built some kilometers away and the residents were moved. The town is now submerged in the lake. It was a nice place with gorgeous views. There were six rooms opening onto a veranda. Behind the building and up a hill were a couple of tents nicely outfitted. In the dining room, there were many artifacts taken from the old palace.

Lodge veranda
Section of painted ceiling

Antique rocking horse

View of Chamba from farm
We looked around, enjoying the view and the sunshine. Around 10:00 tea was served, with many delicious pakoras -- onion, potato, capsicum (green pepper), paneer (cheese) and brinjal (eggplant). The sauces were fresh mint chutney (spicy!) and catsup.

After tea we headed toward the Tehri Lake. We drove through the center of New Tehri and I grabbed a shot of this temple from the car. It is a large bustling town now.

Tehri street with palace hotel above
The picture below was taken in 2002 when the dam was still being built. It is the tallest dam in India and one of the tallest in the world. It is rock- and earth-filled.

And here it is today -- you can see where the terracing just above the water level was during construction.

We drove down a long way to the level of the lake, where we had boat rides. They had two boats that each held six passengers. I was in one of the first boats. We were taken across the lake to the opposite shore for a half-hour ride. A videographer was taping us for a promotional video.

On the far side of the lake, these workers were standing on the shore watching a small fire that appeared to be coming out of a depression. We couldn't tell what they were burning.

After our ride, another group was taken out. Most people stood around the dock watching, but the sun was hot and I went up. This man had a small tea and snack shop with a large canopy. Esther and I sat in the shade and had a cup of tea.

Once everyone was finished with the boat ride, we drove back up to the resort for lunch. It was delicious -- panneer curry, spinach, mixed vegetables, rice, dal, chapatis, and mutton.

By this time it was about 2:30 and we had one more sight to visit -- an angora rabbit farm. We drove just a few kilometers and walked up a long narrow path. I got as far as the shop where they sold the sweaters and shawls, but didn't go on to se the rabbits. It is a government scheme that provides farm wives with their own income. Several people bought shawls and sweaters; they were beautiful. The pure angora ones were very expensive, but they also had blends that were very reasonable. The photo below shows a flat part of the path alongside a marigold garden.

When we got back to the resort, many people were ready to leave, but the manager said that our afternoon tea was ready. So we trooped back upstairs. They had made tandoori paneer and chicken. Someone had aluminum foil and packed up the chicken and paneer for people to take home. We had tea and biscuits and finally headed back. Just as we were leaving, the sun went behind a cloud.

It was a wonderful day and I'm glad I went. We got back to the school gate at 6:45, just under 12 hours after we had left. I was completely exhausted and slept for nearly 10 hours!