Barbara Crossette

WestviewPress - A Division of HarperCollinsPublishers - 1998

1How It All Began1
2The Hills of Pakistan21
3An Indian Sextet43
4Sri Lanka's Tea Country121
5Forgotten Burma143
6A Malaysian Mix163
7Dutch Indonesia187
8Rebirth in Vietnam205
9Philippine Americana221

++Page 8 "1. How It All Began"

Although the most important hill stations served as seasonal centers of government, administrative buildings were not always the defining or en- during landmarks. Hill stations often had and still have-in addition to their offices, hospitals, country homes, churches, clubs, and libraries-at least one grand hotel or rustic lodge, boarding schools, a brewery, a lake (usually created by damming a stream), a botanical garden, wildlife sanctuaries, a golf course, hiking trails, a race course or gymkhana ground for competitive games, and plenty of horses or ponies for mountain rides. A lot of hill stations have ghosts, "European" flowers, strawberries, and, alas, armies of uninvited monkeys. The monkeys are especially numerous in India, where Hanuman, the monkey god, is an important mythological figure

++ Page 9 "1. How It All Began"

and an object of worship. Hanuman's descendants are marvelously adept at finding tourist attractions and picnic spots. I noticed a gang of them pan- handling beside a speed bump on the road up to Ooty, where they knew they couldn't be missed when the tourist buses slowed to negotiate the bump. In Darjeeling, they hang out at the temples on Observatory Hill trying to look very hungry and forlorn. In Simla, half a dozen of them were entertaining themselves by removing and tossing around a traveler's laundry that had been hung outside a guest house window to dry.

Rehan Khan, who describes himself as a "lifer" at one of the most famous of boarding schools in the Indian hills, Woodstock, in Mussoorie, spent all his secondary-school years there in the ig8os and remembers a lush campus with a lot of "red-butted monkeys" among the prolific wildlife. "In my first year at school," he recalled, "I was walking down the path to the dormitories eating a sandwich when a group of monkeys started to chase me. Needless to say, they were after my sandwich. I remembered the oft-repeated chant of my peers: Do not ever run away from a monkey. If you happen to visit Mussoorie and a monkey chases you, muster up your best growl and run toward the animal. In my five years at Woodstock I always kept my food-and also perfected a pretty mean growl." A decade earlier, Gil Halstead, another student hiking in the hills, was pelted with pine cones tossed by silver langurs, who also enjoyed sitting on a cliff overlooking the Woodstock campus and taunting boys and girls as they walked to classes.

The presence and ultimately the proliferation of boarding schools in the hills stemmed from a distressing dilemma faced by many parents during the colonial era. Sending children back to the West for schooling split families for long periods. But keeping sons and daughters at home in the colonies reduced their educational opportunities and risked their health. Life in the Asian colonies could be hard on children. Their small graves are scattered everywhere, painful even to an uninvolved traveler, who cannot help but feel the parents' intolerable sorrow. In southern India . . . . . .

[Chapter 3 is "An Indian Sextet" meaning Simla; Mussoorie; Darjeeling and Kalimpong; Kodaikanal and Ootacamund.]

++Page 60 "3. An Indian Sextet"

Into this evolving social setting, the Savoy, like a debutante, made an entrance. The Savoy Hotel is now a dowager, crippled by assaults from

++Page 61 "3. An Indian Sextet"

upstart resorts new to Mussoorie, most recently a mammoth mountain lodge called the Residency, which advertises itself as "the first five-star deluxe hotel in the hills of North India." But it was the legendary Savoy-- not the squash courts or pool of the Residency-that propelled me to Mussoorie in the dead of winter on my most recent trip. It was the second time I foolishly made the climb from Dehra Dun in cold weather. My son, Jonathan, and I had visited the Woodstock School in Landour more than a decade ago. He, hardened by short-pants British education, nonetheless remembers Woodstock as the coldest place he ever had to get out of bed in the morning. But at least our guest room had an efficient bukbari, a wood stove that can be started quickly with almost anything flammable and will produce warmth very quickly. In the 1950s, when Edith Theis-Nielsen was a student at Woodstock, she found the cold- water showers "trying" in winter. "For at least 15 years after my time at Woodstock, I was thankful every time I turned on the hot-water tap," she recalled. Theis-Nielsen, who is Danish, had brought along a Scandinavian eiderdown for her bed. "Once at room inspection the matron gave me a demerit because she didn't think my bed was properly made. I explained to her that an eiderdown has no way of being made flat as a pancake."

Rehan Khan, who was a student at Woodstock in the 1980s, said he never remembered it snowing, but "a few avalanches in the mountains every month provided badly needed excitement." The next time I arrived in Mussoorie the town was deep in snow, adding considerable adventure if not exactly excitement to the experience. Leaving a hired car and its dubious driver at the base of the hill crowned by the Savoy, I plodded up on foot, lugging my laptop and luggage along a frozen pathway with an angle of ascent approaching 45 degrees, if not more. It was dark, and there seemed no end to a slippery hike up a long curved driveway circling toward the Savoy's private hill. Then around the bend, there suddenly was a speck of light, a small cottage and a trellised doorway bearing a modest sign that read "Office." A naked yellow bulb illuminated it and the doorstep below. All else was lost in the black night, except the acres of snow. In the bitter cold, absolutely nothing moved; even the trees seemed frozen.

Decades vanished in the few moments that followed my opening the door, with some uncertainty about whether I had come to the right hotel. Inside was a small foyer with a chest-high barricade of bank-teller windows that would have made Dickens comfortable. One sign over an old metal grill said "Reception." Others said "Cashier," "Bills," and "Miscellaneous." On the wall, there were boards for pinning up one's calling card to. . .

++Page 69 "3. An Indian Sextet"

Landour's most famous institution, the Woodstock School, was founded in 1854 as a school for Protestant girls, many of them American or British children of missionaries. In 1874, the Board of Foreign Missions of the American Presbyterian church took over management, an arrangement that lasted until the early 1920S, when the school became inter-denominational, though it never lost its earnest missionary atmosphere. At that point, boys were accepted as boarders; until then they were admitted only as day pupils. Like the Kodaikanal International School in South India, Woodstock has managed to keep alive strong links with American Protestant churches, despite India's unease about foreign Christians and their influence. Maureen Aung-Thwin, a Burmese-American who was educated at Kodai, where her mother also taught, told me that whole families became associated with these schools. The alumni are loyal friends who watch over Woodstock's fortunes just as Woodstock in turn watches over its natural environment. From the air, the school is enveloped in green. Rehan Khan remembers the lush, luxuriant foliage of the campus when he was there in the late 1980s--"a respite for sore eyes" after a walk through treeless Mussoorie town. The rainy, unspoiled forest presented its own problems, of course. "My most poignant memory of driving up to Mussoorie was the feeling of terrible gloom when the school reopens in July," he said. "The sky is overcast, it is raining heavily and it is a three-mile hike strewn with leeches from the town to the school." Gil Halsted learned about jungle wildlife in 1972 when he and his friends, exhausted from climbing Nag Tibba, decided to camp overnight at a deserted government rest house, only to be shocked out of their sleep by a water buffalo barging in through the front door.

Woodstock and the Kodaikanal school, which briefly considered a merger at one point, have had a powerfid influence on many individuals, Americans and others, who support active alumni associations and retain their links to India and each other through these institutions. Edith Theis- Nielsen, who studied in a special class for Europeans and others at Woodstock who needed to take the British Cambridge secondary-school examinations, said the school had many activities that challenged students to think independently, though she and others bristled at the demonstrative Christianity of the missionary environment. But there was always also tolerance and an atmosphere of sharing. She later went to a boarding school in France and found it "run with military discipline separated from meaningful values." Students did not care for one another as they did at Woodstock, she said. "When I left Woodstock, I did't think there was anything unusual

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about the school. But as the years passed, I realized how much Woodstock students and parents differed radically-in a positive way-from the people who surrounded me later in life in a purely secular context. I had given up being a believer. But in my search later for people who were like the ones at Woodstock, I also found faith rooted in the Bible."

Wilbur H. Lyon, a physician who lives in Idaho, was among those who feel, as he put it, "that exposure to international concerns at an early age helps one comprehend the complex world in which we live today." Lyon, who graduated from Woodstock in 1940, absorbed firsthand the tremors of approaching Indian independence. "India was then still British India," he wrote in an e-mail message to me. (Woodstock and Kodai schools have their own home pages on the World Wide Web.)

A classmate of mine was Chand Pandit. She was the daughter of Madame JayalakshmiPandit, the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru. He was to become the first Prime Minister of independent India and she would be India's Ambassador to the United Nations. Madame Pandit invited Chand's classmates to a party at her home after our baccalaureate service. At the party she stated that she expected to be imprisoned soon because of the stand she felt she needed to take, even though she knew it was against British laws. She wanted us, as Chand's classmates, to understand her views. She still stands out as one of the most intelligent and gracious people I have met in my nearly 73 years.

As a sixteen-year-old boy with nearly all my life experience in British India, I was concerned that India would be worse off if the British were forced out, since the British seemed to control the transportation, communications, financial structure, law enforcement and so on in such a large and diversified country. Her reply to my expression of this concern impressed me by making me realize the difficulty our very young country has in really understanding the thinking and philosophies of countries which are several thousand years old. She replied very calmly and graciously: "Yes, we will be worse off at first, and it may be 200 years until things are as good as they are today. Then things will get better, because that is the way it should be." At that time, my country was 166 years old. In the U.S.A. we are very impatient if our goals cannot be met in a four-year term or a fiscal year.

Young Wilbur also confronted other Indian realities at an early age, and came away sobered.
I remember as a thirteen-year-old student a feature speaker at one of our assemblies was one of India's top socioeconomists. He made one point that captured my youthful attention. He remarked that India had a serious problem because the previous year there had been an "unsuccessful famine." By
++Page 71 "3. An Indian Sextet"

that he meant that only about 20,000 people had died of starvation, rather than the predicted number ten times higher. This would result in many more people to feed and house in the years ahead than the country was prepared to support. This was entirely at odds with my thinking, even as a thirteen-year-old American boy
. The internationalism of Woodstock meant a lot to most of its students. "I remember the smells of breakfast and of the winter, the village and its northern influence on my experience of India and its culture," said Monica Flores, who entered Woodstock in 1988.

I was the was the only Mexican at the time, even the only Hispanic. The experience made me stronger in my own beliefs and more fully cultured. I learned a lot about uprooted children like myself; my father was in business and I never lived more than five years in one place. I have returned to Monterrey, Mexico, my birth town and work for a Dutch company now. I have a managerial position, a top staff job in a highly male culture. I know some of this is due to what the Woodstock experience taught me about being true to yourself--and how when you feel you represent only yourself you discover there is a lot of you in others.
Woodstock may have its lifelong friends and guardian angels, but other venerable institutions like the Savoy Hotel are in trouble in a new India. Anand Singh, the duty manager, told me the next morning how this came to be. As in Pakistan, many people in India with money to spend on vacations no longer want what an old hotel has to offer, a quiet formality tinged with eccentricity. Less-affluent tourists, coming to the hills in mushrooming numbers, would find it too expensive, even at the equivalent of about $35 a night, though it is doubtful it would hold any attraction for them either. Most visitors, including the busloads being disgorged that morning on a national holiday, the birthday of the Indian nationalist (and fascist sympathizer?) Subhas Chandra Bose, go to places with names like Sun 'n' Star, the Shilton, or the Honeymoon Inn. They ride a precarious cable car or hire the somnolent horses that are part of a hill station's repertoire. Like Murree, Mussoorie has a revolving restaurant and dozens of souvenir shops stocked by Kashmiris. Tibetans, perhaps even more successful merchants than Kashmiris, are also part of commercial life here, as they are now part of the scene in every hill station bazaar from the Himalayas to the blue Nilgiri Hills and the Palni highlands of the South.

The Savoy is wileng to rent sections of the hotel to banks and corporations to use for staff recreation; "holiday homes" is the Indian expression.. . .

++Page 245 "Acknowledgments"

MANY OF THE PEOPLE who helped me in many ways in the writing of this book are quoted or mentioned in its pages and bibliography. But there are also those who are not named whose assistance and encouragement were immeasurable. A book on the hill stations of colonial Asia in all its varieties might not have existed at all had it not been for Laura Parsons of Westview Press, whose knowledge of the region and the genre made her receptive to an idea few others understood. I was introduced to her by Sumit Ganguly of Hunter College at the City University of New York, who also arranged for me to meet his parents in Calcutta; and Nandini and Romen Ganguly, veterans of many hill station "seasons," who generously shared their reminiscences.

Jane Cummings, executive director of the Kodai Woodstock International association, offered me access to the Internet websites of Kodaikanal and Woodstock schools, which put me in touch with alumni on several continents. At the University of Virginia, Philip McEldowney, the librarian and a Woodstock graduate, took the time to compile a bibliography of books on hill stations all over India. I was directed to him by another Woodstock alumnus, Rodney Jones.

Patricia Herbert of the British Library in London was equally generous with her expert advice on Burma and her willingness to find and supply me with accounts from old official gazetteers. Sarah Timewell at Geographic Expeditions in San Francisco brought me up to date on contemporary Burma and recommended places to stay and see in Maymyo and other hill towns. In New York, Kyaw Tha Hla translated articles from Burmese-language publications given to me in Maymyo by their authors. At the University of Pennsylvania, David Nelson, the librarian for South Asia, opened his magnificent collection to me and helped me locate out-of-print books that would otherwise have been very difficult to trace.

In New Delhi, P J. Anthony, a friend and colleague, took time to plan an itinerary that efficiently packed an unbelievable amount of travel into barely a month of revisiting the distant hills of North and South India, and then sent me on to Sri Lanka without a hitch, in a part of the world where almost anything that can go wrong usually does. In New York, Nancy Newhouse, editor of the New York Times Sunday travel section, was always open to suggestions for articles about Asian places, however remote or unfamiliar, that I visited as a foreign correspondent. Some material in this book, therefore, first appeared in different forms in the Times travel pages.

++Page 246 "Acknowledgments"

Joseph Lelyveld, executive editor of The Times, not only allowed me to take three months leave to travel in the Asian hills but also shared his own recollections of Maymyo, and told me that George Orwell's memorable description of the town was to be found not in Burmese Days but, of all places, in Homage to Catalonia.

As always, my husband, David Wigg, was my first and most trustworthy critic.

Finally, there are those no longer alive: the reporters, memoir writers, and diarists who over two centuries jotted down their joys and tribulations in colonial service, bringing to life the West's encounters with some of the world's most fascinating cultures. Their history is now part of Asia's as well as ours.

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