Helen and Randall on the road

A bit about our adventures 2011-2012

Monday 26th – Thursday 29th March: Dehra Dun

with 4 comments

A return to Dehra Dun after our last visit in 1996 and after living in the nearby village of Salangaon for months in 1994 was always going to be a bit emotional. We were very fortunate to have been invited by the lovely Daleep to stay in his family home, a beautiful turn-of-last-century house that they are in the process of converting to a high-end guest house/homestay. When it is up and running I HIGHLY recommend it!

When we arrived on Sunday night we were the only guests (although of course the full complement of cook, bearers, sweepers etc were installed) but the next few days were akin to a house party from Oscar Wilde or Noel Coward as people dropped in and out for meals, overnights, and the partaking of gin and tonics/scotch and sodas.

The beautiful home, built by a great-grandfather early 1900s.

View from the back

Our suite – four-postered bed, small sitting room and huge bathroom.

Breakfast on the verandah, back of the house

The back of the house – the central roof terrace courtyard around which the upstairs rooms are arranged can just be seen.

The next morning we headed into Dehra Dun itself to drop off some clothes mending, pick up some phone credit, and have fresh lime soda at the Hotel President (one for Charlie:)

Fresh Lime Soda in Presidents. Menu open to Veg Sizzlers.

When we got back, Dilsher (another house guest and old friend of the family) had arrived. By coincidence, he is the son of Mady Martyn who set up the John Martyn Memorial Trust and started the village school where Charlie and I volunteered in memory of her second husband and Dilsher’s stepfather, John Martyn. As a result Dilsher is one of the board members of the trust and very familiar with the school, so he was only too happy to volunteer to take us for a visit the next day.

Later on Daleep and his father Inder arrived, bringing Daleep’s new puppy – a 6 week old golden cocker spaniel – with them. We spent a happy evening on the rooftop courtyard drinking wine, chatting and playing with the puppy before dinner was served. The food was great and Inder had a brass bell on the table for summoning the servants, to our great delight. Tamsin asked to have a go – Inder said she was very welcome provided she paid the servants for the day too!

Randall is in love.

The next day were were out and about with Dilsher – first we called into the Forest Research Institute, The building is astonishing (possibly the largest brick structure in the world?) and both Dilsher’s father and Daleep’s grandfather were involved in the construction, as chief engineer and contractor respectively.

This is only about half the size of the building – on either side of the cupolas there is another huge wing, and it goes back the same distance.

The institute is set in formal grounds obviously planted with lots of trees, and with the various arboreta, nurseries and research areas (into insects, plant diseases etc) set around the edges. It is a real oasis of calm away from the traffic noise of Dehra Dun – it must be a delightful place to study, particularly if you get the opportunity to live onsite.

There are many research areas:

As well as a fantastic if idiosyncratic insect museum, and a huge slice of 704 year old Deodar tree with historical events marked on it.

We also visited the Doon School next door, where Charlie and I visited our Doon School friends in 1994 several times, and whose estate we learned had been the original site of the FRI before it was moved to the current building. The estate was then purchased and the Doon School was started, later becoming a member of the Round Square Conference (see also: Round Square) founded at Gordonstoun, hence my link with Doon and subsequently with the John Martyn School. The campus is quite beautiful with a number of new buildings since we were there last including a new swimming pool and a fantastic art school.

Then after lunch we all headed off to Salangoan village to the John Martyn School, where Charlie and I lived and taught English in 1994:

.John Martyn Memorial School main building, 1994

John Martyn Memorial School main building, 2012

This is me on the verandah where I used to teach my classes.

Here is me in 1994 teaching class on the verandah!

From the verandah looking into Charlie’s old classroom

In Charlie’s old classroom, now the library!

I brought copies of photos taken back in 1994 – they caused quite a stir, particularly this one:

The little girl on the right, Himani, is now the teacher in the middle of the photo above (the one with her hand to her mouth in embarrassment!)

Tamsin, Helen, Dilsher, and Asha. Asha was the school helper/dinner lady/cleaner in our day and now takes classroom assistant duties, kindergarten classes etc.

A second floor has been built onto the old classroom block.

Evidence of previous Round Square involvement.

Inside the new extension/top floor – a creative space used for the kindergarten and early primary activities.

Our old house! This building was new when we arrived. We had the flat on the bottom right.

Our old doorway. The two ground floor flats are now teachers’ accommodation, and the top floor is, of all things, the computer suite!

Where we used to hang our laundry and bury our rubbish there is now new play equipment.

With Asha. She was very emotional as I had brought her a photo of her with her sister Shashi, our friend too, who died shortly after we came home.

Asha in 1994 with her children Nitin (far left), Rekha (now a policewoman) and Amit.

Nitin now!

The school staff and me. The new headmistress is Ms Savitri and is an absolute star. She has all kinds of plans including adult education classes.

That concluded our visit to the school – I was very sad that Charlie wasn’t with us; even more so the next day as we planned to go rafting. We only had a day so we planned a half day trip (not the full 7 days on the Bhagirathi and Ganga that we did back then!) but still…

Dilsher kindly arranged for us to go to a rafting camp run by friends of his – Himalayan River Runners – as we had been trying to find a good outfit after being told how many camps are on the river now. We left Dehra Dun around 10 with Daleep’s driver taking us up to the camp some 17km above Rishikesh, and arrived in time for lunch:

This was the glorious riverine beach on which the HRR camp is based. It’s next to the spot where Shaukat had his camp back in 1994 (note for Charlie!).

The view downriver. It’s a residential camp and runs hiking trips etc as well as rafting, and seemed really well managed.

Lunch under canopies as the sun was beating down (it was 36 degrees!).

With our raft guide and one of the owners.

Helen and Tamsin, kitted up and ready to go.

Go Team!

Safety Kayaker

Happy Tamsin!

Happy Helen and Randall!

On one of the flat bits, Tamsin braved the (very chilly, despite the heat) waters of the Ganges, and is thus apparently cleansed of all sins and going straight to heaven/nirvana. Or something.

Jump rock! The green and red thing in mid-air is Randall.

View back up river – safety kayaker grabbing a couple of our ‘swimmers’ who turned out not to be!

It was all over way too soon – just before Lakshman Jhula we got out of the river, changed our clothes in the handy (changing tent) brought down by the HRR crew, and drove off with Daleep’s driver who had come down to meet us, waving a happy farewell to the rest of the crew who were busy packing the raft and kit into their own jeep.

By the time we got back to Dehra Dun and got warm and clean it was time for evening drinks and chats, this time in the drawing room where we admired the beautiful interior decor by Christopher Moore (who had also been a house guest for the last few days) and played with the puppy some more:

 Both flat out!

 Finally on Thursday morning after another wonderful breakfast on the verandah it was time to head off to Jim Corbett National Park, to once again be hosted by Daleep and family.

Byeee Everyone!

The rest of the photos are here:


4 Responses

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  1. Great to see you all having a great time.

    Helen's Dad

    April 7, 2012 at 3:15 am

  2. Sniff! Painful, but not as bad as I expected. All that aside- WONDERFUL to see the old haunts.


    April 13, 2012 at 2:35 am

  3. I really enjoyed seeing the picture of Himani!!
    and Manju and Asha. And all.

    I volunteered at the school in 1998.

    Thank you for sharing.


    June 8, 2012 at 12:10 am

    • Hi Shivani!
      I’m so pleased you managed to track down the blog! It was a wonderful experience to volunteer all those years ago and incredibly exciting and moving to go back. I’m just about to pop a USB stick in the post to the school with both the ‘old’ and ‘new’ photos so they can add them to the school album, and maybe some people can get copies of pics of them as children that they might never have seen!
      If you ever get back to India do try and visit – so much fun 🙂


      July 1, 2012 at 9:54 pm

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