I shall start as near to the beginning as I can. Its always the best place to start..
Gateway to India
Circa about 1932 and the man in the suit to the left of my picture is my grandfather, who, although commissioned into the British Army, ended up both serving and being loved by the Indian Army. A lowly born man. Quiet. Artistic with no ambition in 1916 other than to sign up and serve his country. Being another recruit who was way under age to both serve and fight, he was not scathed physically but was scarred emotionally. This didn’t stop him extending his commission and with a wife ( somewhat difficult) and 2 young boys, headed off on their journey of a lifetime…..in 1931 to India….
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And as my father, the left one in the picture below is now heading up towards 90 years of age and speaks fondly of his time there I feel I should relive his journey both through his eyes, as he remembered it and then, later , I shall make that voyage again, some eighty years on and visit the places he saw. Embrace the things he did and see if the Indian Magic can sprinkle some of its dust on me as well….
The two young sons…my father to the left and his older brother. I don’t know exactly where they were. It was of course one of their many homes and maybe the Bridge in the background may give a clue. He isn’t entirely sure. They look settled and happy.
The first big excitement was the delivery of a car. Having become an Officer he felt they needed a car and this is it arriving . The location says ” Bangalore” on the back of the photograph, but I could be wrong and would welcome confirmation….but maybe that was the location when it came off the boat and was simply in course of transportation to Bangalore.
An excitement locally and one where my Grandfather ended up taking lots of local children for rides where ever he went. They simply jumped on the side and hung on until he reached his destination. They didn’t care where he went, they just wanted to be in the motor car. He firmly believed that living in the country meant ” Cultural Immersion” and so my father and his brother went to the local school each day, on horseback, until they were older and were sent to Boarding School, but again in India.
My grandmother, or Nana, took to her new Colonial life like a duck to the proverbial water. A trained Nurse in England she brought her skills with her and helped out at local clinics in the day and embraced, rather too fully, the Ex Pat life at night. The picture below is one Christmas, Bangalore. My nana in the white dress with her beloved Popeye (dog) in front….My grandfather was relegated to the back of the picture, as he was deemed rather ” uncouth” for the photo. ( ie not dress properly, don’t, ya know!)
And then afternoon tea on the lawn in Lucknow with various family members. My grandmother loved her shoes and found someone locally who would make them from photographs from magazines. For a girl who grew up on a Farm in Worcestershire, this was heaven personified…..
The photographs have fascinated me for years. First looking at my grandmothers photographs and then my parents. I was brought up on stories of baby elephants for pets and chimpanzees jumping through the house. What a magical place it sounded. It became second nature to me and why I have not visited, I have yet to answer!
A few years ago my father returned to visit his old haunts. Now its going to be my turn. I want to embrace their past. My history. I want to relive their stories of Hill Station Camps and Tents in the Snow. I am looking at old photographs and planning my journey. I want to visit where they lived and take photographs of how it has changed… I want India to work its magic on me as well…. I have a rather sneaky suspicion that it will