GUEST COLUMN

ORGANISED PACKAGE DEAL
(Extracts from a tour report prepared by Simon Plat, M.sc., Zwolle, The Netherlands)

-----"Flamingo Travels arranged a complete package for us in Assam. We made all arrangements over the internet. The deposit was paid by bank transfer. The package included the return flight Delhi-Guwahati, all transfers and accommodation, two excursions per day and the entrance fees and guide prices in Kaziranga and Nameri National Park. Flamingo Travels booked us in Aranya Lodge, one of the better lodges near Kaziranga NP with a nice garden and a high bird potential.

In Nameri NP we stayed at the Tourist Guest House in the town of Bhalukpong which was about 20 km from the entrance of the park. This hotel was good but dinner options were limited and the food was not very tasty. It might be good to know that Nameri Eco Camp is not inside the park either but about 1.5 km from the river bordering the park. The direct surroundings of the Eco Camp were not that inspiring for birding, so we didn't mind staying at Bhalukpong, one hour drive from the entrance. Actually, birding potential around the hotel at Bhalukpong seemed better than around Nameri Eco Camp (to our surprise we found a Pied Falconet from our balcony at Bhalukpong).

Flamingo Travels certainly did a very good job entertaining us. They arranged excursions every morning and afternoon, keeping us busy continuously. They were able to arrange a whole-day visit to the Eastern Range in Kaziranga NP, which normally is only allowed for scientific reasons (in return we had to do a small survey). We decided to skip an elephant ride in Nameri NP, but the elephant ride in Kaziranga NP (only 1 hour nowadays) is quite nice to see wildlife at close range (mammals). The raft we took in Nameri NP was neat and can be good for birding though not spectacular in terms of rafting (we found a beautiful Wall creeper during the 'ride').

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Extracts from 'India: The other Jungle Book '
By : Jesus Riosalido, Ambassador Of Spain, Academy of History

(Translated from the Spanish original)

------------"Kaziranga National Park, on the contrary, was very well organized for tourism. There are some good agencies, like Flamingo Travels, which is based in Guwahati, the state capital situated on the banks of the great Brahmaputra river and is directed by Sanjiv Gogoi. They organize visits in jeeps and on the back of an elephant, and provide accommodation in a reasonable Safari Lodge with good food, where, for the first time of my life, I could witness a monsoon storm, something really amazing. In fact, people from Madrid can also experience it, falsely though, in the "Faunia Thematic Park" of our Autonomous Community.

Due to better organization, we had high expectations of Kaziranga, which it did meet. We passed through great elephant and wild buffalo herds, with numerous rhinoceros, of which we were told there were about 1500 in the park. There were also swamp deer, hog deer, big sambar deer - which are the equivalent of the red European deer, barking deer, wild boar - a bit different from ours but which has the same scientific name as ours and has a black mane which is constantly raised above its back, and especially the tiger, which was lying down close to a swamp. We were told that this reserve has close to 50 tigers. And not to mention the fishing eagles, the vultures, the big turtles, the macaque monkeys, etc.

But still, the foreign tourists were few in Kaziranga, being in the majority Indian tourists, which shows that the parks are still not being well promoted, and if they are not, it also means less money to preserve them, for the animals and definitely for our nature."-----------

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In The Memory of.............

(A vivid trip report by Mr. Fettes Falconer who lives in the hills near Perth, Australia. He is a geography teacher and his plan is to write a book on family history. He was in Assam from 05 th- 10 th January, 2010 in search of the tea estates where his grand father worked during the British Raj and also the planter's clubs where he played polo etc.)

1. This is the Dibrugarh excerpt:

The plane arrived at Dibrugarh airport spot on the published arrival time. I was first out the airport and easily saw my name printed large on a placard. Jayanta, my guide, was the standard bearer. 'This is a good omen', he said, 'on time and first out. I have a good journey for you, if everything goes to plan'. Jayanta and Deepok, the driver of our very new and most comfortable vehicle, whisked me off towards Dibrugarh and my hotel. Jayanta suggested, if I so desired, we stop at a Tea Estate on the way to town where the sub - manager was expecting me for dinner with his family. I indeed desired it. So we turned into Muttuck Tea Estate. At the sub-manager's house 2 young kids and the wife welcomed us. I jumped out of the vehicle and shook hands with the young wife and the kids. Then the real wife opened the door. I realised I had just introduced myself to the kids' ayah (nanny) who spoke not a word of English. The kids did. The real wife introduced herself as Sweetie. And what a sweetie she was. She later told me a bit about her history. Her parents named her Sweetie because she was an adorable baby. Sweetie was studying Law at Guwahati University where she met her husband, Sajjad, who was studying agriculture. They married, to the consternation of both their parents for she is Brahmin Hindu and he Muslim. It was a love marriage as opposed to the traditional arranged marriage. It took 9 years to convince their parents they were serious about getting married. To escape the local prejudice Sajjad found a job as far away as possible, in tea in far northeast Assam. Sweetie followed and so did the kids. Sweetie never really got to practice her law.

Sajjad Khanikar arrived at the house as I was drinking his estate tea. He suggested we get in his 4-wheel drive for a drive around before it got dark. We toured the tea factory and the gardens. Then Sajjad had a surprise in store. 'I will now take you to where your grandfather, no doubt, played Polo'. 'And so we found ourselves at the Dibrugarh Gymkhana Planter's Club, now called the Dibrugarh District Country Club. The old clubhouse had been knocked down and replaced in the mid 1950s. It was all very reminiscent of old Rhodesian country clubs we Falconer kids used to frequent whilst our father played his golf. The Polo ground was no longer. There was a swimming pool, grass tennis courts, a golf course, a big bar, a snooker room and more . . . even a church. It was this church to which the British went on a Sunday before the big polo game. Cousin Andrew Falconer has the Dibrugarh Cup which grandfather John Fettes Falconer's team from Sonari Gymkhana Club won. We returned to Muttuck via famous Tea Estates. Back at the sub-manager's house there was a warm fire and a whisky waiting for me. We discussed much whilst the servants prepared dinner. There was much surprise when I explained we do not have servants in Australia. It began to dawn on me that this was all part of 'the plan' I had paid for, but I never expected to have this sort of excellent treatment. The tour company, Flamingo Tours is owned by Sweetie's brother in-law. Jayanta, my guide, and his boss in Guwahati (Sweetie's brother in - law) had obviously planned a great start to 'my Assam Tea Estate/ John Fettes Falconer tour'. Jayanta was excited to see that I was excited, and told me there was much more in store.

I was most impressed with Jayanta. He spoke excellent English. His knowledge of Assam's history was formidable. His desire to please was most touching.
 

The manager's house at Muttuck Tea Estate was obviously built in British colonial times. The house could have been any number of old Rhodesian farmhouses I have known: a big front of house verandah with louvre windows and fly wire; polished cement floors, cracked in places; a carpet in front of the fireplace around which comfortable chairs and a sofa are placed.
The evening was very reminiscent of an evening at a homestead on a Rhodesian tobacco farm.
The delicious dinner Sweetie and her cook dished up could not have been more Indian. I had the milder versions on offer.

I did draw the line at what Sajjad boasted to be the hottest chilli in the world. Vicious looking purply chillis in a jar of oil. I was warned one tiny drop of oil on my tongue would probably be too much for me. I declined a tip taste but did have a smell. My nostrils momentarily burned. Sajjad bravely sprinkled the poisonous stuff on his rice.
He did appear to be perspiring as he devoured his meal.

The after-dinner drinks around the roaring fire and the stories that flowed from the whisky-loosened tongues could have been straight out of colonial Africa.
I questioned Sweetie and Sajjad about their lives and hopes.
I was questioned about my family back in Australia and my history as to how I got to there from Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.

Sweetie and Sajjad were keen to hear about my grandfather, his wife, my father and his brothers when they lived in Assam. Both were intrigued with the story I unfolded about the Assam Falconers.
Sajjad doubted the house I was going to search for in the morning would be still standing, and if it was would not be recognisable. I had shown him the photo of a two story thatched bungalow that I presumed to be my grandfather's house when he managed Lukwah Tea Estate not too long after the First World War. I was sure it was the same house to which my grandmother returned with her baby, Peter, my father.
Our driver Deepok was summoned.
My delightful hosts wished me all the best in my journey of family discovery.
Natraj Hotel in Dibrugarh was where I was dropped off.

2. Lukwah Tea Estate

An early breakfast was consumed in order to accommodate my desire to view the Brahmaputra River, and to get well down the road before the traffic build-up.

'I am not too sure exactly where Lukwah Tea Estate is. Some say that it has now been taken over by Assam Oil. There is much oil and gas drilling in this area. We will stop and ask here in Sivsagar,' announced Jayanta.
Consultations were conducted with a uniformed man.

'Aaah we have to go to Simaluguri and turn left.'

Another stop and further consultations.

'We are lucky. Lukwah is still operating as a tea estate. We have to turn left again and over a railway line.'
Jayanta gave Deepok instructions.

Not twenty minutes later there was the blue and white Lukwah Tea Estate sign standing above a green sea of tea bushes.

'Yoohooo!' I yelled. 'You little beauty! Jayanta, you are a marvel.'

Jayanta nodded his head from side to side.

We came to a large guarded gate. This is where I noted a change in Jayanta's demeanour. He became more edgy. He obviously was following protocol and had severe respect for authority. He alone would go in and get permission for me to speak to the Tea Estate manager, if he was in.

'This is not the busy season for tea and he may not be here. He may be on holiday. He is the only person that I can get permission for us to look at the house, if it is still there.'

The guard allowed Jayanta in through a side gate. Deepok and I remained in the car, and remained, and remained.

'I do not think we are in luck here in Lukwah, Deepok.'

Deepok gave the Indian nod, and smiled. He did not understand a word of English.

I got out of the car and surveyed the scene through the large wire gates.
I could see two long two storey steel pole building mainly open to the elements. Both were partly clad in flat iron painted white. I recognised similar from the Muttuck Tea Estate.
'They must be the drying rooms. This whole set up is not unlike tobacco barns in Zimbabwe,' I mused once more.
I took out of my carry bag a sheet of paper. An excerpt from an email from Uncle Loft:
Luckwa is (was?), a Tea Estate (size of probably a large Canadian Farm). With large factory for grinding the tea leaves after they have been dried in two(?) massive wall-less buildings of layers of netted wire trays. Also the head quarters office complex, facing a field near a huge Mango tree. Then there is a stream, then the tennis court and the house (Borrah Bungalow) which is two storied, built on 3 foot high concrete, with steel girders to the roof. This faces a huge lawn .

What looked like mango trees could be seen in the distance shading a long low blue and white building.
'Could that be the office complex? The blue and white colour scheme must be a tradition from colonial times? The Boh Tea Estate in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia and Muttuck Tea Estate had the same colour scheme.'

Eventually Jayanta returned with the news we could drive in and park near the far building.

The security guard opened the gates. We drove through, between the large drying rooms and parked in a designated parking area.
Jayanta led me into an office and introduced me to the accountant.
The accountant appeared disinterested. His English appeared to be satisfactory. We were informed that the Manager was busy, but a message had been sent that were here.

We stood around waiting while the accountant appeared to busy himself behind his near empty desk.
I decided to show the nodding accountant the black and white picture of the house that I had printed out on A4. The house, I was sure, was where my grandfather and grandmother lived after they married and stayed for maybe 16 years. The accountant sadly assured me, with his head still doing 'the Indian nod' that:
'This bungalow is finished. It has been knocked. It has gone.'
With some prompting he told us that it must have been on the section that the government had compulsory purchased for oil and gas.

Disappointment rose in me. I knew that oil and gas had been found four kilometres down in the Sivsagar region. In fact I had read that this was a major reason for a growing number of disgruntled Assamese. They were not getting their fair share of the oil revenues. Some had taken to hijacking oil tankers and blowing up oil trains.

The doorway to the office darkened. A large man strode across to me, hand out stretched. Jayanta attempted to introduce me but had hardly blurted out my name.

'Yes. I am the manager of Lukwah. Can I be of assistance?'

'My grandfather was manager of Lukwah back in the 1920s and 30s. I am looking for this house he may have had built.'

The manager scrutinised the photo for less than three seconds.
He shook my hand again.
'This house! I have just come from morning tea there. It is still here. It is my house. Come. Come. Come for tea. Follow me please. Wonderful. Wonderful. You will be pleased.'
Jayanta and I followed. Over a little brick built bridge with small entrance pillars painted blue and white. The stream was dry.
'Of course! It is the dry season.'

We strode up a short avenue between tall trees and there was the house!

We inspected the photo again. Mr Pareek pointed out all the similarities.
The thatch had gone, replaced by a corrugated roof. There were other minor changes. The understorey of the wing leading to the lawn had been clad. A car port added. The building was painted white with blue panels here and there. The curved window lintels sealed the fact.
'It is the same house Jayanta!'
There was no tennis court but the big lawn was there.
I was quite dumbstruck to think that my father and his two brothers used to toddle around on this lawn.

We had tea on the lawn, delivered by a servant. Mr Pareek did the pouring.

'I cannot get over this Mr Pareek. This is wonderful.'

'No. I will show you around the house and then I will drive you around the Tea Gardens and take you through the factory. But we will have lunch. It is already cooking.'

'Jayanta! My heart is singing!'

We finished our cups of tea there on the Lukwah lawn in front of the manager's bungalow.
Mr Pareek ushered Jayanta and my self inside the house.

'Here is the main dining room where your grandparents had their meals.'

'And this is the main sitting room'
Now, please, upstairs to the bedrooms.

Mr Pareek showed the bedrooms and the attached bathrooms.

'I do not think these bathrooms have changed much except for the plumbing. The hot water used to be brought up the stairs by a wallah. And the dirty bath water used to go down a pipe to the garden. Now we also have flushing toilets.

Mr Pareek proudly opened a door to display a flushing toilet.

'These smaller bedrooms were where your father and his brothers slept.

And here is the master bedroom.

And here is the upstairs verandah to catch the cooler breezes where your grandparents would have sat during the wet monsoon.

It was not too difficult to imagine 'the old days'.

'It is not hard to picture my grandmother here organising the servants. She was quite, what we used to say in Africa . the Madam. In 1982, before we left to migrate to Australia, my wife and our first-born flew up to Scotland from London to say goodbye to my Grandmother who was in hospital. We took her flowers. To our horror she leaned over and rang the emergency bell. Three nurses immediately came running in.
'Put these in a vase!'
She must have thought she was back in India. I later apologised to one of the nurses.
'No, no. We understand her and are used to her ways.'


So she must have been one of the P.O.S.H. people? People who could afford to pay for the cabins on the cooler side of the ship. Port out, starboard home?' asked Jayanta- the- historian.

'Oh yes. She had kept a boat ticket with the initials P.O.S.H. on it. The snob!'

We were ushered downstairs and back into the dining room.

'To think that here my dad spent his toddling years! Amazing! It gives me a funny feeling. And then at the age of six was packed off to England for his primary education. He must have been very homesick. I could not have even contemplated the thought of sending our two boys back to Britain from Australia to start their education at such a young age.
And then in his teens my father was moved up to Scotland and Robert Gordon's College to complete his secondary education. He only saw his father three times in all those years.
Different times, different attitudes, I suppose.
It is no wonder my father wanted a big family. He never really belonged to a family.'

'Yes, but in those days I have read that that was what the British did, for many reasons. The schools here were not as good as back in Britain, and there was malaria and cholera here. It was safer for the children back in England.'

'I have read that too Jayanta. But there were good schools in the hill stations. After Assam I am going up to Darjeeling to trace my grandmother's sister's roots. I have read that there were a number of good schools there.'

'Maybe later? Maybe not at the time your father was at school age?'

'It was mostly a snobbish thing Jayanta. Those who could afford sent their children back home to England to acquire the correct accent. The upper class English accent was what was wanted. My grandmother admitted that they did not want their children to acquire what was known as a 'chi-chi' accent. That is, an Indian accent. My father did acquire a 'posh' accent. He would forever try to correct me and tried to stop me saying 'Ya' instead of yes there in colonial southern Africa. He was appalled when we would return home from school and take off our shoes and run into the bush to play. He eventually gave up. He said we had gone native!'
 

'How did your father get to Africa' asked Mr Pareek

'When his mother and father returned for good from India my father was finishing off his secondary education in Aberdeen. He was then sent down south to England, near Oxford to train as an aircraft engineer at Holton. Then the war came and the Airforce sent him to Egypt to repair planes. But they were short of Pilot Trainers. He was put through a special flying training course and sent to one of the colonies of the British Empire; Rhodesia. And there he met my mother.'

'When did you say your grandfather left here to return to Scotland?' asked Mr Pareek.
 

'It must have been 1937.
'Well your grandfather's efforts are still here. If he were here with you he would certainly recognise many things. The rollers we have to roll the tea leaves were made in Scotland in the early 1900s. Maybe your grandfather had them installed. And we have an old tea garden, the oldest. Maybe your grandfather was here when they were planted. Certainly there are some old tea trees we allow to grow to full size to provide shade for the younger tea bushes. I will show you them. But first we must have lunch.
Come. Please sit down.'

Mr Pareek sounded a gong, and soon a servant delivered trays of food.
We finished our cups of tea there on the Lukwah lawn in front of the manager's bungalow.
Mr Pareek ushered Jayanta and my self inside the house.

'Here is the main dining room where your grandparents had their meals.

'And this is the main sitting room'
 

Now, please, upstairs to the bedrooms.

Mr Pareek showed the bedrooms and the attached bathrooms.

'I do not think these bathrooms have changed much except for the plumbing. The hot water used to be brought up the stairs by a wallah. And the dirty bath water used to go down a pipe to the garden. Now we also have flushing toilets.

Mr Pareek proudly opened a door to display a flushing toilet.

'These smaller bedrooms were where your father and his brothers slept.

And here is the master bedroom.
 

And here is the upstair verandah to catch the cooler breezes where your grandparents would have sat during the wet monsoon.
It was not too difficult to imagine 'the old days'.
 

'It is not hard to imagine my grandmother here, organising the servants. She was quite, what we used to say in Africa . the Madam. In 1982, before we left to migrate to Australia, my wife and our first-born flew up to Scotland from London to say goodbye to my Grandmother who was in hospital. We took her flowers. To our horror she leaned over and rang the emergency bell. Three nurses immediately came running in.
'Put these in a vase!
She must have thought she was back in India. I later apologised to one of the nurses.
'No, no. We understand her and are used to her ways.

So she must have been one of the P.O.S.H. people? People who could afford to pay for the cabins on the cooler side of the ship. Port out, starboard home?' asked Jayanta- the- historian.

'Oh yes. She had kept a boat ticket with the initials P.O.S.H. on it. The snob!'

We were ushered downstairs and back into the dining room.
'To think that here my dad spent his toddling years! Amazing! It gives me a funny feeling. And then at the age of six was packed off to England for his primary education. He must have been very homesick. I could not have even contemplated the thought of sending our two boys back to Britain from Australia to complete their education.
And then in his teens my father was moved up to Scotland and Robert Gordon's College to complete his secondary education. He only saw his father three times in all those years. Different times, different attitudes, I suppose. It is no wonder my father wanted a big family. He never really had a family.
'Yes, but in those days I have read that that was what the British did, for many reasons. The schools here were not as good as back in Britain, and there was malaria and cholera here. It was safer for the children back in England.
'I have read that too Jayanta. But there were good schools in the hill stations. After Assam I am going up to Darjeeling to trace my grandmother's sister's roots. I have read that there were a number of good schools there.
'Maybe later? Maybe not at the time your father was at school age?
'It was mostly a snobbish thing Jayanta. Those who could afford sent their children back home to England to acquire the correct accent. The upper class English accent was what was wanted. My grandmother admitted that they did not want their children to acquire what was known as a 'chi-chi' accent. That is an Indian accent. My father did acquire a 'posh' accent. He would forever try to correct me and tried to stop me saying 'Ya' instead of yes there in colonial southern Africa. He was appalled when we would return home from school and take off our shoes and run into the bush to play. He eventually gave up. He said we had gone native!'

'How did your father get to Africa' asked Mr Pareek
'When his mother and father returned for good from India my father was finishing off his secondary education in Aberdeen. He was then sent down to England, near Oxford to train as an aircraft engineer at Holton. Then the war came and the Airforce sent him to Egypt to repair planes. But they were short of Pilot Trainers. He was put through a special flying training course and sent to one of the colonies of the British Empire; Rhodesia. And there he met my mother.'

'When did you say your grandfather left here to return to Scotland?' asked Mr Pareek.


'It must have been 1937

Well your grandfather's efforts are still here. If he were here with you he would certainly recognise many things. The rollers we have to roll the tea leaves were made in Scotland in the early 1900s. Maybe your grandfather had them installed. And we have an old tea garden, the oldest. Maybe your grandfather was here when they were planted. Certainly there are some old tea trees we allow to grow to full size to provide shade for the younger tea bushes. I will show you them. But first we must have lunch.
Come. Please sit down.'
Mr Pareek sounded a gong, and soon a servant delivered trays of food.

Jayanta, my guide, and Deepok, our driver, found Lukwah Tea Estate for me. Lukwah was the Tea Estate my grandfather ran in the 1920s and 1930s. Jayanta and the Lukwah Tea Estate manager were as excited as me at the discovery of the John Fettes Falconer manager's house! The house is still recognisable as the same from the old black and white photo. You may remember reading something like this: We ate lunch in the dining room where the John Fettes Falconer family would have eaten. It was a full-on delicious Assam lunch, served by a very softly spoken servant. It occurred to the manager that the cook's family had been on the estate for generations. The cook was summoned.

'This man's grandfather was manager here at Lukwah over 80 years ago. Was your grandfather a cook here?'
'Yes boss!' (I am sure he did not say 'Yes Sahib' nor 'Rajah Sahib, as you queried U Loft) 'Well then, your grandfather cooked for this man's grandfather!' Surreal indeed. Maybe the cook mashed up my father's and your carrots to make it easier for you toddlers to digest. (Jayanta took a picture of us at the lunch table with the cook in the background. This he did for his research purposes. He has promised to send me a copy as soon as it is developed. My camera decided to play up at the time.) After lunch we went on a tour of the Tea Estate. Lukwah is slowly being eaten away as a result of compulsory purchased land for oil and gas. 4 kilometres below Lukwah is a large oil and gas field. Despite protestations from the Manager, Mr Pareek, (I have lost his first name!), the drilling continues at a furious pace. Environmental degradation appears not to be a concern despite further protestations. Mr Pareek feels that soon Lukwah and nearby Tea Estates will be no longer. We stopped at a drilling operation, but the army guarding the operations refused us permission to take a photo. We drove around and took photos of the gas pipes and the many 'nodding donkeys'. The tea factory/ processing plant was next. Mr Pareek knew I would be intrigued with 2 of the oldest rollers. I was. They were manufactured in Glasgow in 1901 and would have definitely been operating under the watchful eye of grandfather, Fettes. (He was known in Assam as Fettes, his middle name. a not uncommon north-east Scotland surname. Apparently, according to Gran, there was another polo playing John Falconer in Assam, so to distinguish the two grandfather became Fettes). 'We will now go back to the house for afternoon tea before you leave for Jorhat. You say your grandfather played polo. Let me look at that photo of your father on the pony at Sonari club again. ''Sonari Gymkhana club still functions. I often go there. It is about 10 kilometres from here.'' You say your grandfather was captain of a polo team in 1930 that won the Polo Challenge Cup presented by the Jorhat Tea Company. He would have been Captain of the local Sonari polo team. That polo game was probably played at the Jorhat Gymkhana Club. The people in Jorhat are trying to get World Heritage status for the Jorhat Gymkhana Club. It has the third oldest golf course in the world and the oldest outside of Scotland. Did you know? ''I know. Jayanta has done much research and has contacted the present President of the Gymkhana club, and hopefully we will meet him tonight at the club. We wish to get there before it gets dark. Jayanta tells me it is about two and a half hours drive away.'' Tea is coming. But, come. I want to show you something.'' ''This piece of furniture has been here for many, many years. Your grandparents may have left it. Maybe they stored your father's clothes here before he was sent back to Britain at the age of six for his education?''

'And I have this for you as a present from Lukwah.' Mr Pareek handed over 3 parcels of top quality Lukwah tea. 'This best quality Lukwah tea goes straight to Harrods'. He also gave me a hat made of thin woven strips of bamboo.

Thank you Mr Pareek.

'Don't forget to look for the road grader out the front of the offices on the right as you leave Lukwah. That grader was probably pulled by the same elephant that pulled your grandfather's car out of the mud. I am talking about that elephant in the photograph you showed me. That elephant probably pulled that same old grader to smooth out the road the next dry season.' 'I will do. The camera is at the ready.' 'And good luck with tracking down your past family in Jorhat'.

'Thanks Mr. Pareek. I will keep in contact. And thanks for being such a good host. Every Lukwah cup of tea I drink will remind me of you and your home.' And so we left Lukwah and its memories.

3. Jorhat Gymkhana Club In The Evening

 It is heartwarming to see a few of the old traditions are still maintained. All the tea estates buildings I visited in Malaysia, Assam and West Bengal continue to be painted in blue and white . a custom left by the British.
We arrived in Jorhat in the last light of the day. 'I suggest you refresh, then we will go and find the Jorhat Gymkhana Club where your grandfather played polo and golf. The President of the club is expecting us' 'Maybe we can eat there Jayanta ?' 'Maybe. Maybe not. I will collect you at 7.30. Drinks at the club start at 8'. I had just emerged from the shower when there was a nervous tapping on my hotel door. 'Hello Jayanta! You are 15 minutes early. Come in.' 'Sir! I am concerned. I have received a phone call from the Jorhat Gymkhana Club President's secretary. She phoned to remind me that tie and jacket is the club's eveningwear.' 'But, Jayanta, I am travelling light! I neither have a tie nor a jacket with me. My best is jeans and a jumper. They are the only clean clothes I have at the moment'. 'This too is my best I have on'.'Yes, but Jayanta, at least you are wearing a type of jacket. Maybe we should go out and buy ties?' But, where? I think you will have to go to Kolkota.' 'Do not stress Jayanta. I think we should just go with the best we have. I am sure the people at the club will understand. Surely ?' 'I think I will have to phone the secretary and explain.' 'I do not think that is necessary.' 'No, sir! These are rich planters, and businessmen and high-ranking officers from the nearby Indian Air Force. We will look poorly in front of them. Maybe we should go early in the morning when only the groundsmen will be there?' 'Jayanta! They are just people like you and me. I will explain when we get there. This is not the British Raj. I wish to meet the President. He may have some information on my grandfather.' 'I think I must phone'. While I pulled on my jeans and jumper Jayanta could be heard in his singsong Assamese quietly explaining our predicament over the phone. The headlights picked out the sign on one of the gate pillars. 'Stop Deepok! Please put on high beam.' Jayanta interpreted my instructions. The car lights brightened. There in bold letters we read Jorhat Gymkhana Club. 'Yep, this is what we are looking for Jayanta, but the British spelt it JORHAUT. Well done. You are a very good navigator.' We crept in expecting to find the club buzzing. There were no other cars. 'Are we too early?' 'No' replied Jayanta. 'It is nearly eight o'clock. Look, there is a security man at the front door. I will speak with him.' The conversation, presumably in Assamese, went to and fro. 'Wednesday nights used to be full of people, but now with television and internet very few come to the club in the middle of the week.' 'Thanks Jayanta. Did you tell him about my grandfather being a member here back even before the First World War and that all I really would like to do is have a look around and maybe find his name printed on an honours board?' 'Honours board?' 'You know. Like those boards hanging on the walls at the Dibrugarh Club we saw yesterday evening. The ones with names of past Presidents and Honorary Secretaries and past Champions? My grandfather's team, he was the captain, won the Polo Challenge Cup in 1930. It was presented by the Jorhaut Tea Company, so maybe they have his name on a board.' 'I will ask.' Some conferring took place. 'He says there are many boards and that we may go in to look.' 'Without the President being here, and without tie and jacket?''No real problem.' Lights were switched on for us. We soon found the main bar. An elderly barman entered. Jayanta conducted a conversation.'This man says very few now come to the Club on Wednesday nights. We are welcome to look around. This young man has keys and will show us around, even upstairs where there is a Dance Room and Theatre. There are boards up there as well.' We scoured the boards. Some of the dates went back nearly to the club's inception in 1876. But nowhere could we find a Falconer or even a Polo Board. Interestingly, though Indians (and presumably only high caste) were eventually allowed to join the Jorhat Gymkhana Club in 1929, Indian names only started appearing on the boards toward the end of World War Two. The British names finally petered out in the early1970s.Whilst we were looking Jayanta whispered to me; 'You know that barman, he is a Naga.' 'How could you tell Jayanta?''By his accent and some of the words he uses. We are not far from Nagaland here.' 'Do you remember me telling you Jayanta that my grandfather went on an army expedition a few years after he arrived here from Scotland?

I told you he was involved in the Abor Expedition. I think it was in 1910. It was to teach those damn Nagas a thing or two after Nagas murdered a white doctor and another white man. The Nagas escaped back towards the Naga Hills. They taught the Nagas a lesson according to my grandfather's memoirs. But, according to my uncle, he spent most of the time on a stretcher because of malaria. I have my grandfather's Abor medal. I just hope he was not involved in a slaughter. My grandmother told me that because of the thorns and the heat and wet their long army pants were soon tattered and torn running through the forest after Nagas. According to my grandmother it was my grandfather who cut off his long pants just above the knees to make them shorts. Soon the others did the same. On their return they were reprimanded for doing this. However, it was considered to be a sensible idea and soon the British Indian Army was also issued short pants. I do not know how true that is Jayanta about my grandfather's trousers.' 'It is a good story.' 'It is. I think he was a bit of a rebel my grandfather. He was only 21 at the time and still learning the tea trade. He was told by the managers of Honwal Tea Estate that he was not to go on the expedition. He disobeyed them. They sacked him on his return from hunting the Nagas. He soon got another job on another tea estate.'

'Tomorrow I have my plan to take you to Mariani and Honwal Tea Gardens as you asked. Honwal is very close to the border of Nagaland.' 'It will be interesting to explore Nagaland. I know they have stopped head hunting and collecting about 50 years ago.' 'Ah, but maybe you would not like. They eat everything those people. Spiders, beetles, everything.' 'Jayanta, even though you are a Hindu and mostly vegetarian, maybe you should taste a bit of beetle or snake. Only joking! And, you know what Jayanta? It has just occurred to me; I wonder if Abor is a shortened version of Aboriginal?''Maybe. I am sure so. The Nagas have been here long before the Ahom people arrived here. The Nagas want their own homeland. If you want to visit Nagaland you have to get special permission, a visa, and you cannot enter on your own; you have to be with your wife.' 'Maybe next time I come, I will bring my wife so that we can visit Nagaland.' 'You joke too much Fettes.' 'I am not joking this time Jayanta. I would really like to. If my wife refuses then . then . I will have to find another wife!' 'Too much joking. Let us go back to the main bar, maybe the President, Mr Brahma, has arrived.' 'Hey, Jayanta! Do you think I should tell Mr Naga Barman that my grandfather probably hunted his grandfather?' 'Please? No! Please. Do not ask that!' To take the chill off the surrounds a fire in the main bar room fireplace had been lit. Standing near the fire were two youngish Indian gentlemen very neatly dressed in tie and jacket. Each was clasping a whisky. They spoke perfect English with very little trace of an Indian accent. One was the owner - director of his family's tea estate, Muktabari Tea Estate. The other was a Wing Commander in the India Airforce. I explained my presence and my mission, and also excused my attire. 'The President of the club is usually here at this time. This is unusual. The President, Mr Brahma, will surely have records of your grandfather. He has kept all the historical records. Polo is no longer played here. We have only one match here each year between the Army and the Airforce. To make room the polo honour boards have been removed. Mr Brahma will undoubtedly have those boards stored in his garage. Maybe your grandfather's name is on one of those boards? The President has been very busy trying to persuade UNESCO to declare this club World Heritage. The golf course is the third oldest in the world'. 'I know, I read it in 'The Lonely Planet'. I also read that nearly eighty percent of the British tea planters here in Assam were Scots and nearly every one of them came from just north and west of Aberdeen.' 'Those Scots were the lackeys of the English. The English ruled, but the Scots worked. That is what we say here in India. And many of Scots were in the Indian Army as officers. They even did the Englishman's fighting!' 'Yes. My grandfather joined the Indian Army and became a Major and commanded a troop of Rajputs I think. He was awarded the MC and the DSO twice. He and his Indian troops fought the Germans in France and then the Turks in Palestine. Here is a picture of my grandfather and his polo team. It is not the photo taken after they won the Challenge Cup, because only two names are the same as on the 'take - home' trophy I have back in Australia. But, I like to think this photo was taken here, with them standing on the polo ground here at this club. They won it in 1930 when my grandfather was at Lukwah Tea Estate near Sivsagar. He must have been over 40 years old when that photo was taken.' 'Let me please look'. Both gentlemen carefully scrutinised the photo. 'I think this photo was taken here. The line of the trees in the background. There is still that same line of trees. You will have to come tomorrow in the light to have a look and you can also have a good look around. I will warn the head groundsman and the manager that you will be coming tomorrow. What time' 'It will have to be early morning. Jayanta is planning to take me to Honwal Tea Estate where my grandfather first worked.' 'That will be no problem. I will organise it for you.' Small talk continued until Jayanta tapped me on the back. He had been busy on his cell phone. 'I have just spoken to Mr Brahma. He says he was called to a family dinner.' 'Oh that is disappointing. Oh well, we best be going Jayanta . to find a place to eat. These gentlemen have kindly said they will organise for us to look around the club early tomorrow. It is on the way to Mariani.' We said our farewells. As I climbed back into the car, which Deepok had been zealously guarding, I murmured out loud; 'Maybe Mr Brahma did not turn up because he learned we were not suitably dressed?' 'Maybe. The barman told me that the President is a very formal Indian.'

4. Jorhat Gymkhana Club In Daylight.

Having visited Jorhat Gymkhana Club in the dark we were back at the club before the sun could erase the early morning mist which lay in the hollows of the number 9 and 18 fairways. 'Aah, you are nice and early', quipped the manager with a slight Indian head wobble. 'Yes. Thanks for getting here early for us. After looking around the club we want to get to Hunwal Tea Estate where my grandfather started his tea career. We then need to get to Kaziranga National Park before dark.' 'Oh yes, you have much to do.' Wobble, wobble. 'Last night we saw much of the inside, but now, please, I wish to see in the day light where my grandfather, my grandmother and my father and his two brothers walked, played and sat.' We were once more taken on a tour of the inside of the clubhouse:

  • the offices, the bar rooms,

  • the billiard room, and then

  • upstairs to the ballroom and

  • the cinema and theatre..

It was not hard to imagine my grandmother sitting and watching the silent movies, probably while the toddlers ran and played on the veranda outside . under the watchful eye of the ayah? My grandfather would surely have played a few games of billiards here? Jayanta was keen to experience a quick game of billiards. He had read about this British game but had never had the opportunity to play. The balls were locked away, so Jayanta's wish was not realised. 'Jayanta, I am getting goose bumps thinking about my father running around here on the lawn as a toddler. Here surely, after his game of polo, or maybe a game of golf, my grandfather, no doubt, would sit and drink his whisky and soda whilst my grandmother sipped on her gin and tonic? And maybe they sat here on the lawn watching the sun go down?' 'Please sir. Let me have a look at that polo photo again. That one when you think he was captain and won the Jorhat Cup.' 'Jayanta! Please call me Fettes, not sir. The Raj ended over 60 years ago!' 'Here Jayanta. You see the line of trees there in the distance. It looks very similar to that line of trees way over there. I am nearly positive this photo was taken here when his team won the cup in 1930'. 'Yes. I think so.' 'But, I must tell you Jayanta, I was only reminded recently, when re-reading my grandfather's memoirs, that my grandmother was Fettes's second wife. His first wife died in labour. I think she had malaria at the time. I have about fifty small pages of my grandfather's handwritten memoirs back home. He only wrote a few lines on his first wife. The memoirs must have been written at Lukwah Tea Estate, and it ends there.' 'That is interesting. But you said he returned to this part of Assam.''He returned to this Jorhat region. From Dibrugarh to Jorhat you have been taking me backwards in the story of my grandfather. In fact after World War One he returned to Hunwal Tea Estate, the same estate that sacked him for joining the 1910 Abor Expedition when he was told not to. John Fettes Falconer married soon after the war. I cannot remember where he met his first wife.' 'Was it back in Scotland?' 'I think he must have met her in Scotland? He was demobilised and he returned to visit his mother near Aberdeen. He must have met her there. I vaguely remember reading that they came out together, and that she was already pregnant. I wish I knew more about this. In fact I wish I had brought his memoirs with me. I cannot remember what he wrote about his first wife. I do not think he even mentioned her name. I do remember reading that he was not really in love with her. ' 'There were not many British women in Assam. Your grandfather probably wanted to return with a wife?' 'He must have proudly shown off his new wife here at the club. And, I am sure he would have been considered some sort of hero. He returned with 3 bravery medals; the Distinguished Service Order, twice, and the Military Cross.' 'Military Cross! Do you know why he was given that?' 'I cannot really remember exactly, but he was in France at the beginning of the war. He was in the Battle of the Seine. He was wounded, but he stuck to his machine gun post and was able to repel the German counter attack'.'What Regiment was he in?' 'I am not too sure. I think it was The Deccan Chargers, or was it the Rajputhana Rifles? No. That was his youngest son, my uncle Loft, in the Second World War.' 'The Deccan Chargers is a cricket team! Maybe you mean the Deccan Horse?' 'I think you are right Jayanta. Your knowledge is good. Fancy you knowing about the Deccan Chargers when you told me last night you do not like cricket, and the obscene amounts of money the professional cricketers like Tendulkar make?' 'Aaagh cricket! Do not remind me.' 'When you get to New Delhi you might be able to find out which regiment your grandfather was in. Go to the Army Headquarters. They have kept all the records. Last night you said you would bring the photos of your grandfather in the Indian Army.' I fished photos out of my sling bag. Jayanta, the Manager, the keeper of the keys, a cleaner or three crowded around. There was much discussion and a few questions. 'That is my grandfather, riding in front of his troops. They fought the Turks. They were with Allenby. Do you know much about the war against the Turks in the Middle East?' 'Not much.''You may have heard of Lawrence of Arabia?' 'A little bit' 'My grandmother told me he met Lawrence. Fettes had to let him and his Arabs pass through their lines one night'. 'That is my grandfather riding into Aleppo.''This photo shows him with his officers in Aleppo. Look at this soldier. Look he has swivelled his shoulder forward to proudly show his sergeant stripes.''What rank was your grandfather?''Major, certainly by then I think.'And this photo was taken after Aleppo. They were sweeping the Turks out of Syria'.Look at this photo. I forgot that I also brought this with me. Look they are having a picnic. That is my grandmother on the right holding her knee. That is my grandfather in the middle. That could be my father on his lap, or it could be his youngest son Pat'.'I know my uncle, my grandfather's youngest son, Pat, returned to the Jorhat region after the Second World War. He went into tea planting not far from here. He told me that he frequented this club as a young man. He was very concerned when I emailed him I intended visiting this club. He was concerned I might meet someone who remembered him, because for a short period he was banned from the club.' 'What do you mean banned?' 'He was not allowed to come to the club. He was a young man and probably had far too much to drink one night and embarrassed the ladies or the older men. Have you heard the expression: 'He blotted his copy book?' 'Yes. I think I know what it means? So your uncle came back to Assam even though there were many British murdered here? There were many people then angry that the British were coming back. Even today there are many people in Assam that want more independence from India. We are Ahom people!' 'I know. I read on the internet just before leaving on this journey that a group had blown up a train between Guwahati and Kaziranga. Uncle Pat wanted to get back to India after attending school in damp grey Scotland. At least he lived with his parents for his last two years of school, unlike my father who never really knew his parents. I think Pat was much longer here with his parents here in Assam than his two elder brothers. I feel guilty now. When I left Rhodesia in early 1971 I eventually got to Scotland to visit my grandmother. I told her off for sending my father back to England at such a young age. She cried.' 'Yes. I have read about how the British sent their children back to Britain to be educated. Some were only six or seven. I have taken a few British tourists around who want to see where their parents lived while they were in school in Britain.' 'Fettes and Hilda eventually left Assam in 1937 and settled back in northeastern Scotland. Fettes chose the town of Forres. My grandfather purchased an agricultural implements business. When it came time for my Uncle Pat to go and fight in the Second World War he decided to follow in his father's footsteps and join the Indian Army; the Rajputana Rifles. So, as a very young man he returned to India. Uncle Pat's section of the Rajputana Rifles was sent up further north east of here to fight the Japanese' 'Yes, the Japanese got nearly to Digboi. There was very bad fighting north of there. Your Uncle he would know Digboi. Do you know why it is called Digboi?' 'No. Why?' 'The British found oil there, tar sands, and they used to shout at the workers, Dig Boy!''I can well imagine that Jayanta. I hope that my grandfather was kind to his labour? But, back then it was not the done thing to show too much kindness for fear of being considered weak, which could then lead to supposed advantage taking. So I suppose my grandfather was no different. My father certainly took this attitude to Africa. But I do know that in the last paragraph of my grandfather's memoirs he was going to go to Calcutta to persuade the Indian Tea Association to donate a trophy for the winner of the Garden Labour Football League that he had started up. He was proud of his Lukwah Labourer's soccer team. He insisted that only the labourers were to play in this league. Not the Babus. What is a Babu Jayanta?' 'Indian bosses. Bosses of teams of labourers. When did your Uncle leave Assam?' 'I am not too sure. I think after independence. It must have been. He married a Dutch lady and settled in Canada. He is retired and lives on Vancouver Island.We visited him about 5 years ago. Uncle Pat, now Uncle Loft, is a sensitive man. He became very emotional when he told me of his war in northeast India. He must have seen some nightmarish sights when he fought against the Japanese. He told me he must have suffered post - traumatic stress. He was sent up into Sikkim for rest and recuperation after a very bloody battle, and there in Sikkim he immersed himself in eastern religions. He eventually became involved in Theosophy, which is a combination of all the major religions. After studying numerology he changed his name to Loft Houghton; to bring him luck. I do not believe in luck, but there is such a thing as traveller's serendipity. Pleasurable coincidences. And I am so pleased I have met you Jayanta. Not many tour guides would be as keen to please as you, and so interested in my family history.'

5. Hunwal, near Nagaland.

We did make a few stops to ask the way to Mariani. My uncle remembered Mariani as a small railway station. Well, uncle Loft; Mariani has probably grown fifty fold since your last use of the train station. I tried hard to imagine you as a young man alighting from the train on your arrival, and too John Fettes Falconer arriving there way back in 1909. A station with maybe a few shops? We were held up in a series of traffic jams. The first Mariani holdup was the result of a train at the station, but parked across the main road! The second was caused by a truck breakdown, and the third because the narrowing main road was never built to carry such traffic. Trucks, cars, motorbikes, bicycles, the ubiquitous rickshaw, all mixed with holy cows, mangy dogs and pedestrians competed for the same narrow strip of bitumen and even narrower strips of off - bitumen between shops and road. However, with Deepok's near constant beeping amidst all the other beeps, and his sheer bravado, we pushed through to the plains on the other side. 'Good driving Deepok! You are a Champion'. Deepok acknowledged with a rictus grin and then returned to deep concentration. 'That sign there reminds people a permit is needed for Nagaland' pointed out Jayanta. 'Not far from Hunwal is Nagaland.' 'You know Jayanta, I always thought Nagaland was confined to the Naga hills. I did not know that it comes right down on to the plains. I would like to get into the Naga hills.' 'Aah. Remember? You will have to bring your wife.' 'My wife would never last on these roads. That drive through Mariani would have finished her. I think I would have to blindfold her.' And there we were at the gates of Hunwal Tea Estate. We could see it was a huge enterprise. Jayanta started to display an uncharacteristic nervousness. I think the size of the Tea Factory complex threw him. Ever mindful of protocol Jayanta quietly and politely enquired as to the whereabouts of the manager's office. 'The people in the office say the manager has been called away to a meeting. They are not sure when he will be back. We did write to him to expect a visit from you. What shall we do?' 'We can wait for a while Jayanta. I would like to take a photo of that monument there. There look. The big one - tine ripper. An elephant must have pulled it. And a photo of the manager's office. That little old building is the only one old enough to have been here when my grandfather was here a hundred years ago.' 'No! No! You cannot take a picture. We have not got permission.' We waited. Jayanta enquired again. 'They said come back at 12 o'clock. I think we will go for a drive towards the Nagaland border, but we cannot enter.' 'Jayanta, they trained you well as a guide. One thing you have to be when guiding is flexible. I trained as a City of London guide, then later as a Rottnest Island guide and not too many years back as a Perth guide and the message was always . flexibility. If what is planned does not happen then show your clients anything local, even if it is the simplest of things. I am interested in everything. I am a geographer. Let us go towards Nagaland' We stopped at a school. Jayanta hoped I might be able to look around. Closed. School holidays. Of course! We stopped at a roadside store made of bamboo. I purchased some sweets for us and to hand out to kids. Jayanta suggested a walk. Thank you Jayanta. You pointed out the Betel Nut palm, the pepper vine and much, much more. You enquired at a family compound and we were invited in so that I could inspect, and photograph their self-sufficient life-style: their spinning wheel and hand loom. You asked if I could take a photo of the family. I did. Maybe, if you ever pass that way again, you could give them a copy of this photo. We returned to Hunwal. Still no manager to show us the old cottages where grandfather might have stayed when he first arrived at Hunwal. Jayanta started to fret. 'Jayanta! No problem. We can wait a bit more. It is not that important to me if we are not shown around.' Teenagers were playing cricket on a large patch of lawn. I presumed they were sons of 'The Managers'. I enquired, ' Are they playing against the sons of the workers? 'No! No! That would never be allowed. Managers' children would never be allowed to play with the workers' children.' Caste and Class thrive in India. 'Those houses over there beyond those kids? They look too good to be workers' cottages.' 'They are not workers' cottages. Those would be the houses of the Babus and sub managers. For the clerks and sub managers and their families'. 'This Hunwal Tea Estate is a small town. I see there is a sign pointing to a clinic, another to the school and another to shops. It must have grown so much since my grandfather left.' A cricket ball was driven through the hedge with a well-placed cover drive. I picked up the ball, but rather than throwing it back I challenged the batsman to face my Glenn McGrath bowling. He accepted the challenge. Three wides down the leg followed by one ball well wide of the off stump had the Bishen Bedi look - alike sniggering. The fifth ball was on the stumps, but this was dispatched into the nearby tree plantation for a six. Eventually the ball was found, but in the interim I had taken a few team photos. I returned to the car and the fretting Jayanta. 'I have another plan. Maybe you will agree?' 'Go ahead Jayanta. Flexibility is my middle name, though my wife would not agree.' 'Well, you mentioned your grandfather's first wife. She died. Maybe she is buried here?' 'Here at Hunwal?' 'No!''Where? I don't think my grandfather mentioned it in his memoirs. There is more chance she was buried up in Shillong. My father was born in Shillong. The British sent their pregnant wives up to cooler Shillong to have their babies. Probably the first wife was sent there as well. And if so she would be buried there. I would like to visit Shillong one day. They built a little Scotland up there in the Meghalayas. I would also like to visit Cherapunjee, one of the wettest places on the planet. My father's birth certificate says he was born in Shillong, Assam. But I see that India has made it into a new state called Meghalaya. What does Meghalaya mean? 'The Home of Clouds. Megha is cloud. Laya is home. Himalaya is home of snow.' 'Thank you Jayanta. I never knew that. If she did die here maybe she is buried here. They would have buried her in a church yard. There must be Christian churches here in Jorhat. So many Scots were here. There might even be a Presbyterian church and her grave could be there.' 'There are about three churches in Jorhat. And, well, I wish to tell you. I phoned my guide teacher while you were playing cricket. The professor told me that there is a British cemetery somewhere in Jorhat, but he does not know where. He suggested, if you wanted to, we should ask at a Christian seminary back in Jorhat. Someone there might know where the cemetery is or where the Presbyterian Church is.' 'I think we should go Jayanta. The manager we are waiting for could take another hour or more, and we need to leave Jorhat in 2 hours to get to Kaziranga before dark. If I come back here I will book one or their tourist cottages and stay overnight. I saw one on the internet, and it looked very nice. Expensive. I will treat my wife. We will also visit Shillong. But, let's go back to Jorhat. Better than just sitting in the car here.' 'We could visit Tocklai Tea Research Station. It is not far from Jorhat Gymkhana Club. Your grandfather would have visited Tocklai when he was a manager. They experiment with different types of tea bushes there.' 'Sounds interesting.' So we drove back through mad Mariani and into madder Jorhat. 'Not as mad as New Delhi Jayanta. New Delhi has serious traffic.' 'Here is Toklai. Do you want to visit?' 'Deepok. Stop please!' 'I will just take a photo of the entrance. I do not think we should go in. I think we should try and find this Christian place and ask there where the churches are or if there is a Christian cemetery.'

6. Cinnamara

Going on the recent Hunwal Tea Estate experience, the Tocklai Tea Research Station looked too busy and even more officious to warrant even asking at the main gate whether we could look around. A photo was good enough. I took the photo for Uncle Loft. He would know the place. We maybe had two hours at the maximum before departing for Kaziranga National Park, to ensure we arrived there before dark. We drove slowly in towards the centre of Jorhat. There was much conferring between Deepok - the - driver and Jayanta - the - guide. We turned right into a well-manicured establishment. 'This is a Baptist Bible College. There is a man here who may know where there could be a cemetery for Christians' We stopped to ask an elderly man walking alongside the road the whereabouts of the main office. Much discussion ensued, presumably in Assamese. 'Amazing!' Exclaimed Jayanta. ' That was the man we were to ask for. He said there is an old Christian cemetery on the Cinnamara tea estate about 6 to 10 kilometres back the way we came.' 'I saw the sign to it on the same side as Tocklai about 2 kilometres before it, when we were driving in to Jorhat.' 'Do you want to go there?' 'May as well. Do we have time?' 'Yes. If that is not the one then there is a church in Jorhat that may have a small cemetery. After that we must get to Kaziranga.' 'It will be good if we can find my grandfather's first wife's grave, but I do not know her first name. It is as good as any way to spend the time we have left here.' We turned around and headed back the way we came. 'Please stop! I just want to take a photo of this cricket match. They were setting up when we passed earlier on. Maybe it is a twenty20 match?' 'Thank you Deepok. Jayanta, the Cinnamara sign I saw was old and faded so we must be careful not to miss it. Cinnamara? Is that anything to do with cinnamon?' 'No! Cinna in Assamese means Chinese and Mara means tea making. An Assamese man was the first man to bring the tea bush into Assam from China, from up there in the northeast, in the Himalayas. The local people did not know how to process tea so this man, Maniram Dewan, he imported Chinese people who knew how to grow the tea bush. In those days the bush was allowed to grow into a tree. The Chinese used to climb ladders to get the new leaves. The Chinese worked in the garden and in the tea factory. So the first tea garden was called Cinnamara.' 'Here is the Cinnamara sign!' We turned left and drove up an avenue of trees to the main gate. Jayanta extricated himself from the vehicle. A discussion ensued with the head security man at the gate. Jayanta jumped back in. 'We must follow that man on the bicycle. He will show us the way to the Christian cemetery. It is around there behind the tea factory.' We followed the man on the bicycle. He soon tired of pedalling through thick sand, so jumped off and ran ahead directing us through the tea bushes. Behind a low rise we came to an old gated cemetery. It was locked. There was a low wall around the graveyard. I found the lowest part of the wall at one end of the graveyard and leapt over. The gravestones were old and many vandalised. I scanned the ground and around as I slowly walked toward the far end. Jayanta and Deepok were outside looking in. A yelp leapt out of my throat, then a scream. There jumping out at me was my name! FETTES. 'Yeeoow! It is here!' I screamed again. Both Jayanta and Deepok scrambled over the highest part of the wall and came running. My heart was pounding. There on a slab of granite was inscribed my name. 'You gave me such a big fright. Maybe you had seen a snake!' exclaimed Jayanta. 'This is so good Jayanta. This is very good. Look, we have found it. I never thought we would. Look there is my name!' We made a close inspection of the slab of granite lying on the ground.

IN MEMORY
OF
JANET LESLIE McNAUGHTON
WIFE OF
JOHN FETTES FALCONER
NAGADIIOLIE
BORN 6TH SEPTEMBER 1895
DIED 30TH DECEMBER 1919

'Look, you can see there must have been brass in the inscription. You can see the drill holes where the brass must have been secured. The brass must have been stolen.' 'I think so,' sighed Jayanta. This Nagadiiolie. Is that here? 'No. I think it is a place back there with the border or even inside of Nagaland. We spell it Nagadjulie.' 'She was only twenty four when she died.' A sudden sadness enveloped me. 'Jayanta. To think she has been lying here all this time and maybe we are the first to visit her grave in maybe eighty years. You know Jayanta, when I taught history, history of the First World War, I would shock my students by saying 'thank goodness for the First World War because had it not happened I would not be born'. My grandmother, who eventually married my grandfather, this man, John Fettes Falconer, was first married to a Mr Wood. This Mr Wood, his father was a famous conductor and musician back in London who started the London Proms.' 'Proms?' 'It is a name given to a series of music, classical we say, and prom is short for promenade, I think. Promenade means to walk. I think the audience was allowed to walk around while the orchestra played the classical music. The music is played in a famous building in London, the Royal Albert Hall.

Anyway, the son of this man married my grandmother, Hilda Newman, and so she became Hilda Wood. Her husband went off to fight in the war. They had only been married three weeks. My grandmother received a telegram not three months later. Her husband was missing in action. They presumed him to be dead'. Jayanta translated for Deepok.

'My grandmother was one of the first female chauffeur drivers in London. She decided to become an ambulance driver. She was one of the first women who drove ambulances in the First World War. She hoped she might find her husband. There was much chaos at the beginning of the war and many soldiers were not at first issued with identification tags. Dog tags, they became known as. She thought, 'Maybe he was lying wounded in a hospital and had lost his memory,' She never found him. Hilda returned to England at the end of the war. There were not enough marriageable men left in England after the war. My grandmother decided to sail to India where she heard there were many men of her social class looking for wives. The women who did this were known as 'The Fishing Fleet'.'Aah, yes, I have read about the fishing fleet women. So your grandmother must have fished for and caught your grandfather here in Jorhat?' 'Exactly, Jayanta. And that is why I thank The War, and now I must thank this lonely young woman lying here in this grave . for giving up her life so that my father and, then later, I could be born.' We stood there in silence looking at the granite slab. I thought of fate, and chance, and genetics. 'And, you see this name here Jayanta? Fettes. That name I am very proud of. I do not think there is another person on this planet with this as a first name. Westerners call their first name a Christian name. I have never thought of changing that name even though a few ignorant people have hurt me badly by knowingly corrupting it.' 'Like what?' 'Fetus or foetus or fatarse or fartarse or even faeces. The clever people at university did this more than most others. It was one of the main reasons why I took up boxing at University. I wanted to defend my name. I wanted to learn how to punch their lights out!' 'Anyway, we must leave your name lying here in this granite. We must move on to Kaziranga.' 'It will eventually disappear as this granite weathers. It will probably disappear in another 200 years.' 'I will tell you in the car on the way to the rhino in Kaziranga what has also excited me about finding this place. It is to do with the man who brought tea to Assam. The name I mentioned before, Maniram Dewan. He is famous in our history. That sign at the gates, that one in Assamese writing mentions him'. 'Jayanta you are a very good guide. Thank you for finding for me this grave. I leave sad but happy.' 'Let us go.'

 
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