Delhi || Rajasthan : Udaipur || Mussoorie || Delhi again || Photos: Studio 59
Subject: [class59] India in 2004
Llyn and I have just come back from a two-week trip to India taken in honor of the 150th anniversary of Woodstock School. It was a grand success in most every way and left us wanting to return to explore some of the areas that we didn't see on this trip. I still have a yearning to go and put down some roots there, but I'm not sure that will ever happen.
First, we flew into Delhi and spent the day after our arrival trying to find a way to take Delhi in a manageable way. We were not terribly successful as each time we ventured out someone came by and convinced us to ride in a motorized rickshaw because the maps we were using were not to scale and the distances too great. Lindsay, Dana, Llyn and I did have fun discovering the YWCA International Guest House and having tea in their garden. We were there to case it since we were meeting our guide there the following morning at a bright and early hour.
We eventually adjourned for naps preparatory to our gala Banquet at Claridge's-Delhi's contribution to the 150th festivities. It was a lovely dinner and there was a lovely performance of dance and music with both children and adults in it that was ably MC'd by Tom A. We happily found Robert B and Suzanne as well as Norm M. and Alice, who I'd formerly met in her home city of Yangon, Myanmar. On the small world level, I ran into a member of the class of 54- Kavel G, who I had known in Washington as a friend of Llyn's mother. Neither one of us knew that the other had been to Woodstock.
Woodstock had planned for activities all over north India. The one we went on was Puppetry in Rajasthan. We were a great little group of 8- Norm and Alice, Llyn and I from the class of 1959 and Nathan S. and Nikhil K. from the class of 1984. Katherine, Nathan's bride and Sidharthra, Nikhil's 10 year old son made up the party. We just took up two compartments on the overnight train to Udaipur and had a fairly nostalgic trip rattling along on the train. We got out at stations for Chai and samosas. The train provided sheets, pillows and blankets much more luxurious than in the old days. We all got along wonderfully and enjoyed our adventures. By the time we reached Udaipur we felt we'd known each other for much more than a day.
In Udaipur we stayed on the banks of a lake built or expanded by the Maharana of Udaipur in the old town. It was like staying in a palace, all in white marble with rooms overlooking the lake and a restaurant on the roof complete with views of the city and the Palace in the middle of the Lake. Unfortunately, Udaipur is in the middle of a drought. The monsoon has been light for over 5 years and there is almost no water in what was a shallow lake to begin with.
Our stay in Udaipur included visiting a puppet museum where Nathan had studied and getting a grand tour as well as watching the carving of a puppet and getting to try our hand at manipulating them. We visited a craft village where there is much effort to keep the old storytelling and other crafts alive. We were much impressed as on our last trip at how many Indians we found visiting their historical sights.
In the afternoon we went out to a pottery village that makes pieces for the temples and enjoyed watching the preparation of a plaque that would be hung in the temple. The artist we visited is descended from other potters and was incredibly gracious in explaining his craft to us. I brought home a wonderful piece of my favorite god - Ganesha.
Our second day we went out to a village where Seva Mandir, an NGO working on community empowerment among rural poor and tribal peoples in the Udaipur District of southern Rajasthan, has a handicrafts progrmme that provides women with alternative skills and means of augmenting their income. Not only did we get to share our stories with about 15 of the many women involved and they with us, but we also bought lovely embroidered things from them and were given a marvelous lunch.
The two Alice's got to visit a day care center in one of the poorest villages we saw. Interestingly, though, the presence of the center and the fact that its children went on to excel in school had been instrumental in improving the school itself since the parents were empowered to lobby the government for better teachers. Having been to visit sites in Mali, when we were there with Joie, it is clear that even poor villages in India have many more resources to draw on.
On the way back we visited a wonderful temple that is close to the home of the current Maharaja and looking very prosperous. Then we went to a dance recital and dinner.
I have to tell you, we were way overfed on this trip and each meal was wonderful. The daihi was as wonderful as I remembered it and thanks to Air India I even have culture to try to keep alive.
Our last day in Udaipur we visited the main palace and wandered about the city acquiring many beautiful things, then caught the night train back to Delhi. It was like riding a camel; the ride was so vigorous and bouncy. We were happy to learn that in very short order there will be new tracks and a much faster train between Delhi and Udaipur. The country between them, at least what we saw was fascinating and I love riding by train. I guess it dates back to those wonderful days when I rode regularly from Delhi to Mussoorie.
Just as wonderful as it was in 1998, there were hundreds of us back for the reunion and the school and students were all spiffed up for the weekend. Robert introduced our new music room-the old infirmary for those of you remember staying there for mumps or chicken pox. We happily stood beside the banner and unfurled it at the right moment. It was filled with confetti that sprinkled happily onto the quad. We tromped all over, listened to talks and visited the new buildings, finding long lost friends as we went. The new dorm has, hold onto your hats, central heating. The Hanifil Centre is out Tehri Road and has the most spectacular view of the Tehri Hills while serving as a state of the art building for environmental studies.
Norm and I took Llyn and Alice up to see the snows. The first time there were mostly clouds and they had to believe there were mountains there, but we bought gooseberry jam from Prakash and had chai sitting in a little garden up near Kellogg Church. Then we came back the next morning and saw the snows in the most spectacularly clear sky.
There were shuttles to take us all over so some of us not so fit types rode up the hillside and walked down. Lindsay and Dana painted a new banner that she has and Li, Lindsay and I carried it in the parade. Somehow neither Norm, nor Robert was in evidence at that moment. There were all kinds of events-competitions between classes like relays and tug of rope and many of the alumni gamely joined in to compete with one another or the staff.
At the end of the day as Lindsay has already told you we had a super dinner, with fresh chapattis creatively made by two young men who twirled them high into the air before cooking them. The day ended with speeches and then fireworks. On a sadder note, there were two serious medical events - Bob Stoddard had a heart attack, blessedly back in Mussoorie, not on the hike he was on, and a doctor whose name I unfortunately forget fell during the closing ceremonies and broke his leg up near the hip. On the way home I heard that he was going to Dehra Dunn for treatment and perhaps a hip replacement. As far as I know both are going to be OK.
We were in Delhi before and after Udaipur and after Mussoorie. It did become more manageable with time, but it is not the sleepy little city of the early 1950s. I took Llyn to Lodhi Gardens where I learned to ride my bicycle and had many picnics. We visited my old house which is no longer there but is now a block of 18 flats. Then we walked to the National Museum and saw their wonderful collection that goes back thousands of years. There are even a few pieces from Khajaraho. Our final activity before we packed it in to come home was to have tea at the Imperial Hotel. It was a favorite place when I lived there and now it has been really spiffied up. We sat looking over the garden and had our first raw vegetables in two weeks. It was grand. We did go to some of the tourist spots as well - the Qutab Minar, the Red Fort and Humayan's Tomb. But Delhi is really a bit much and the next trip I hope to spend in smaller cities.
All in all, it was a great trip and fun showing Llyn my childhood. Oh I forgot, the one-day his stomach gave out on him was Wednesday after the election, so we spent the day watching the returns on Indian stations, CNN and BBC. The outcome was just as painful as for many of you, but CNN international seems better than what we get here and the approach of the others was interesting.
So now we are home, with many memories and a view out our window that at least reminds me of the mountains.
Return to visits back. Or Class of '59.
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