India Inklings written on Apr 28, 1937

India Inklings.

Please return to Lenette Atkinson

April 28, 1937. Vol. III. No. 3


The editorial office has shifted itself to Darjeeling, and if the I.I. lacks in continuity or coherence, blame it on Kangchenjunga and the snows, which divert the Editor at intervals, as it is imperative to go to look at intervals to see if they are still there. Miss Beard and the Editor arrived on April 20, and it was not until the 25th that they were seen clearly; the weather seems to be on the mend, and we hope for a trip to Tiger Hill on Saturday to see Mt. Everest. We planned to go this morning and it would have been a fine morning for "the snows", but some faithless man disappointed us and the car never came. We rose at 2:30 to be ready for the car at 3:00; we walked half a mile more than was necessary and then gave up at 4:30, came home and went to bed. It is something of a trip to Tiger Hill, and then a half mile climb to alt. 8500 ft. If you can picture how the Editor hates to rise in the night, and then double it, you may imagine how the disappointed party felt.

Miss Edith Beard, a retired teacher from England and a friend of Miss Macdougall's, travelled north with the Editor. They are now established at a very pleasant cottage at Mount Hermon, a suburb of Darjeeling, with Mrs. Culshaw, a Methodist missionary (British), her 5-year old son Peter and the elder Mrs. Culshaw. It is a comfortable house, new this year, "with hot and cold laid on," and a fine view of "the snows." Miss Van Doren arrived on the 22nd, and Miss Bain (Scotch) of Madras is due May 1st. Dr. Martin of Nagpur is due May 2nd and then we all start for a trek into Sikkim. We have our permits to enter, and our reservations for Dak Bungalows, also a paper which we must sign, promising not to try to enter, Nepal, Tibet, or Bhutan. We plan to go as far north as Singhik, above Gangtok, the capitol, and then to the east to the border of Tibet. We are to start May 5th and return to Gagntok on the 19th; then the Editor will take a mail bus to Kalimpong and the train to Calcutta for a boat to Java, sailing May 23rd if it does not change its mind. It is a freight boat, and takes 18 days to reach Batavia, Java. The Editor will be in Java from June 10 to Aug. 10 and can be reached through the Director of Botanical Gardens, Buitenzorg, Java, N. E. I. After than [sic] she will be out of contact with the world except for a stop in Manila, about Aug. 25th; and then is due in Los Angeles Sept. 9-10. S. S. Silverwillow, Silver-Java-Line, Manila, Phillippines, and the same boat in Los Angeles. The Editor will gratefully receive all mail which her friends and relatives are moved to send.

Society News. There was a wedding in Madras on April 6th, which determine the date of the Editor's departure. Miss Hilda Hume, of the W.C.C. was married to Mr. John Phillips who is connected with an English business firm in Madras, in St. George's Cathedral. Miss MacDougall gave the bride away and was most handsomely dressed in black and silver brocade with a black hat. The bride had a while [sic] heavy silk dress with train, a tulle veil and a Russian coronet. When the organ began with the Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin we all stood up and looked for the bride but no one appeard [sic] for nearly ten minutes, [sic] In the meantime we got discouraged and sat down. The next time the organ began with the Bridal Chorus we took a good look before we gotup. [sic] There was a very impressive procession with the Bishop of Madras in proper regalia. The wedding was at 4:30 and there was a garden party at the W.C.C. immediately afterwards, with 275 guests. There was a 3-decker wedding cake (65 pounds) most beautifully ornamented, cake and decorations all the work of Mrs. John, the Indian Superintendent of Residence. Tea was served at small tables in the courtyard of the Hostel, a most beautiful place with grass (preserved by daily watering), and a rock garden of ferns, and many lovely palms.

Travels. Miss Beard and the Editor started north April 8th at 7:55 A.M. on the Grand Trunk Express, seen off by many friends. They were provided with about 50 lbs of ice to keep the compartment cool, and the Editor's 4th year students provided a lovely garland made of many fragrant things - roses, pinks, two kinds of scented leaves and even fragrant roots all tied along a string in little bunches. It was a hot trip as far as Nagput which we reached the following morning. Miss Van Doren came to the station with a coojah of fresh drinking water (earthenware jar), a box of sandiwhes [sic] and other delicacies for lunch, a dozen of Nagpur oranges, considered the best in India. She said we would not need ice that day as the weather was most unusually cool and there had been a cyclone the night before. It is usually terribly hot through the central plateau in April, but we were actually chilly before the day was over and we ran into a hail storm. For some miles the hail covered the ground and the landscape looked like New England in November after a light snow - bare trees and white ground. There are many trees of Butea frondosa through that region; the trees are not handsome - not so beaufofully [sic] frondose as one could wish - but the flowers are like large masses of fire.

We arrived in Agra the next morning at 4:00 and had another sleep before breakfast, at Mrs. Gilmour Hand's, with whom we stayed in 1930. Then we set off to see Agra. Agra is in the north as we could tell without a map just from the camel which are the usual beast of burden. Also there are so many more Muslims than in the south. Also the heat is dry and the air is dusty. We visited the Fort, built in the 16th century - lovely palas and mosques, and the beautiful marble "Jasmine Tower" where Shah Jehan who built the Taj Mahal for his favorite wife, was imprisoned by his son, and there with his devoted daughter spent his last days looking at the Taj. We also crossed the Jumna River to see the beautiful tomb of the Grandfather of the "lady of the Taj." The Muslems [sic] have been strong on tombs.

In the afternoon we went to the Taj. (I found it even more beautiful than I remembered it.) We saw it first against a dark stormy sky - a beautiful sight - and then a yellow cloud came up and we saw it against a dust storm, but that made us take refuge in the Taj itself a little earlier than we had intended to. That was our substitute for seeing it by full moon. Fate has decreed that the Editor shall not see it by full moon as it recommended, but by no moon at all. After the dust storm subsided there was a gorgeous red sunset clear to the zenith which gave a beautiful red glow to the white marble. We did not grieve for the full moon which we did not have - this was a beautiful substitute.

That night, April 10th, we went to Jaipur and arrived in the early morning. Jaipur is the most Indian place the Editor has seen; it is a Native State which is happy and prosperous. The city of Jaipur was laid out about 200 years ago by a Maharajah who was a mathematician and astronomer; the main streets are broad, and the city is spacious. There is a stone astronomical observatory - the instruments are of stone - which looks as if it had furnished the inspiration for some modern art, the cubist art which has curves. We spent one morning shopping, and most of the time was in the brass shops. We also went to the old city of Ambar where the rulers lives [sic] before Jaipur was built. My impression of the whole place is full of camels, peacocks, and doves. The drive back to Jaipur from Ambar at sunset was enlivened by looking at peacocks going to roost in the trees, and watching monkeys with their tails hanging down like ropes as they perched in the trees along the road. We spent two days in Jaipur and felt magnificent as we drove everywhere in a phaeton with two fine horses and paid only the modest sum of $5.25 for the two of us for the two days. It was about 95° most of the time, so walking was not pleasant.

We returned to Agra by night train April 13th and had nearly two days there. It began to warm up and instead of being 95-96° at the hottest time, it was 102-3°. We rose early one morning and started at 6 to Fatehpur-Sikri, 23 miles from Agra in order to avoid the heat of the day, but one must reckon with Indian cars which are apt to be badly taken care of. We had a puncture on the way out which held us up half an hour and we had trouble with the feed line on the way back which held us up over an hour - nearly two - so we had the heat of the day in the car sitting under the sparce [sic] shade on a tamarind tree watching farmers thresh and winnow grain, and watching beautiful birds which came and went. Fatehpur-Sikri was built by Emperor Akbar as the royal city, 1570-4, but he had to abandon it later, probably on account of lack of water, and went back to Agra. It is a magnificent place of red sand-stone, with one marble building, the tomb of a saint. The palaces for the wives are very handsome, but rather to near the stables to suit us. Doubtless there were plenty of servants to fan away the flies. We were not bothered by flies but by would-be guides who wanted to tell us what everything was. We had adequate guidebooks, and most buildings are labelled, so we did not want a guide, but it took more than firmness to get rid of them. If we had both been as gentle as Miss Beard we could never have escaped.

One afternoon we madea trip to Akbar's tomb at Sikandra, 5 miles from Agra. It is a magnificent structure set in a beautiful garden of vast size - a four or five story tomb with the cenotaph in an open court on the top, and a marble column a few feet high which is said to have held the Kohinoor.

April 17th we left Agra at 11:00, and headed for Lucknow, which involves two changes with all our saman - two hold-alls, three large suit-cases, three small suitcases, a basket of food, a coojah, the microscope, typewriter, and two bags for our hats, as well as a Flit can in a bag and a canteen of water. The Editor carried a basket with fern cultures. We arrived at Lucknow at 6 P.M. after a hot trip. We closed the carriage completely and kept wet compresses on our heads. The next day we found that the shade temperature at Agra was 110° and at Lucknow 107.6°. Who can calculate what it was in the train?

At Lucknow we stayed at Isabella Thoburn College where one of the Editor's 1929-1931 students is now teaching Zoölogy? Mary Chandy is a fine young woman. She and Anna Zachariah, a graduate student at Lucknow University, met Miss Beard and the Editor at the station which is the finest which the Editor has seen in India. Anna Zachariah is the best Botany student that the Editor has had in her three years in India. She is working on Fungi, research work. Another Botany student was from W.C.C. but after the Editor left in 1931; this was Chinna Varkii who treated the Editor as if she were an old friend and honoured teacher.

The temperature at Lucknow seemed to be almost the same day and night, and always around 105-7°. Isabella Thoburn College has a fine establishment and it may be a comfortable place when the temperature is down to 35° in winter, but it is badly planned for the heat. We prefer a place like Madras where it is always warm so that the buildings are built for warm weather - at all events we think we prefer it when we feel the heat of Lucknow and stifle in the airless rooms.

The chief thing to see at Lucknow is the Residency which was beseiged in 1857. It is kept jast [sic] as it was and the British flag flies day and night. We found it most depressing in Lucknow to find the memory of the Mutiny so carefully preserved and kept to the front. It is not to be wondered at that Lucknow is strongly anti-British. It could hardly be otherwise. Even Miss Beard seemed to feel anti-British.

Miss Shannon, Principal of Isabella Thoburn, took us for a ride around the city and out to a hunting lodge of a former Nawab - a most beautiful place, - where the I.T. staff have picnics. Miss Shannon said that one of her favorite ways of entertaining was to have a picnic dinner out there and to have a camel and an elephant so that the gusts could take rides on them. She said it was getting to be more difficult to get an elephant than in former years.

We left Lucknow on the 17th at noon, provided with ice by our kind hostesses, for the trip to Benares a 6 hour trip. It was fully as hot as the trip to Lucknow but with ice packs it was tolerable. At Benares we specialized in Hindu and Buddhist scenes. Benares is one of the most sacred places to the Hindus, and they all want to go there to bathe in the Ganges. We went out one morning at 6:45 and took a small boat for a trip up and down the river to see the ghats - platforms and steep steps down the the [sic] river where the Hindus bathe. Such a happy group of people one seldom sees, but people who can acquire merit by bathing in the Ganges ought to be happy in the water when the[y] finally reach it.

Unless you can pook [sic] upon the water as sacred you would hardly want to bathe in it; it is dirty and unattractive, but for some reason there are never any epidemics there.

We took a car out to Sarnath, 5 miles from Benares, sacred to the Buddhists because Buddha began his preaching there. There are extensive ruins of old Buddhist temples and monasteries, and a broken Asoka pillar, of which the very impressive capitol is in the museum. There is also a modern temple, of Japanese architecture and a hostel for Buddhist pilgrims. This was hot but interesting, following around to see the various ruins. We returned to Benares in time for a 1 o'clock lunch and while we were eating Miss Beard asked the Editor if she remembered that it was Sunday. It had not occurred to her, although she had known it from her schedule. Neither the Hindus nor the Buddhists have a Sunday, and as the day had been devoted to Hinduism and Buddhism, there was no reason to remember Sunday. We saved that for Darjeeling and Mount Hermon.

We took the night train to Calcutta and left there again at night to come to Darjeeling. Out of the twelve night[s] between Madras and Darjeeling we spent 6 on the train; no wonder a train compartment began to look like home to us. In Calcutta we went out to the Botanical Garden to see a fabulously large Banyan tree. [sic] then we returned to the city and transacted busniess [sic] with the American Express Company. We spent the time from 1 to 3 - the hottest part of the day in a restaurant rest room and were very comfortable. At 3 we went shopping in the Hogg Market and the Editor bought a rain coat for Rs. 4-8 after having a jug of water brought her to test it. If it lasts through Sikkim she will be satisfied. We were much surprised the next day to find that the temperature in Calcutta that day was 101°. It did not seem particularly hot to us, and we hadbeen [sic] out in a hot part of the day - up to 12 and after 3, and a little while at 1.

The mail goes out shortly so this number must be rushed off.