Friday, November 6, 2009

Kanpur home again


We did make it to Kanpur which was one of my goals for coming here, however it rightfully deserves its current reputation as one of the most polluted cities in the world. India is relatively easy to travel at all levels of budget, there is a fantastic tourist network set up in all the usual places where westerners visit. Kanpur is not one of these as we found out; unless you fly in and out it becomes a real challenge.

Originally we had planned on staying 5 nights there but because of our going to Udaipur and tiger refuge, waiting for Kris to catch up w/ us we only could spare 2 nights there.

We arrived in Kanpur late at night, horrible shit hole of a place. It’s just a big industrial city, not even in our guide book. We had hoped to book in a nice hotel where they would be helpful to our quest but not so. They were very uninterested in us.

The next morning we were all depressed and worn out, at noon we got a driver who spoke very little English however he drove us to a Christian cemetery. We got real excited when the book the caretaker brought out listing all the graves was written by a woman that was my principal at U.K.C.A. school in Kanpur where mom taught with Zoe (Powell) Yarland. We had actually met her again in London in 1982 when she was researching the books on Cawnpore. However this graveyard (Kacheri) is now a National Heritage Site, people buried prior to 1900. Some incredible stories on the gravestones give a little insight to their life and times.

Next stop the Cantonment area, we were suddenly in a place that resembled old Cawnpore, wide empty, tree lined streets, open fields and no sign of the masses and filth in the actual city. All Souls Church, a large Cathedral type building with a bell tower, beautifully preserved. There was the garden behind the church with the guardian angle looking down on the grave of the 160 women & children murdered during the Mutiny. As soon as I walked into the church it seemed quiet, familiar and comforting, however there was no blue ceiling as I remembered, however as I turned and looked up at the area over the main alter there was the blue ceiling with the gold stars I remembered. I remember coming to this church with his Dad for Christmas Eve services, Mom being SDA let me go with Dad so I could experience the candles and carols so long ago. It was quite emotional remembering sitting there some 50-55 yrs ago with my father.

I surprisingly found my old house, down a long alley from the main road, I remember growing up in and met the family that is living there now. The son is a lawyer and spoke perfect English; the Father began working for Cooper Allen in 1962 and is now retired. He knew many of the people I remember Dad telling stories about and the names triggered many memories. The house has changed and seemed smaller than I remembered as a child but was definitely the same place. Hard to imagine at one time we had 13 servants. They seemed a little skeptical until I said “there used to be a big mango tree there” this brought a great reaction from the family their neighbors and all looking on. They had just cut it down 6 weeks ago. They invited us inside for a look around. They are Hindu so the place is now decorated in modern Hindu style. I think some of the interior rooms as well as the exterior has been changed thru the years and is quite run down since the Brit age! The water trough, grass/reed fan coolers were still in some of the windows. I can remember the workmen building and installing them, they looked their age! Mom loved her roses and proudly proclaimed she had 200 growing in the back yard, sure enough some of the roses are still there, sharing the yard with the Buffalo and goat.

We attended Sunday services and met Pastor Carroll after the service, he took us back to his office and pulled out the old ledgers and I did find Winifred Beatrice Bason listed as passing 1964.
To have Kris sitting next to me in a place which for so long has only been a memory of Christmas Eve’s 55 years ago was an amazing feeling. We went to the old graveyard, which was terribly overgrown and weren’t able to find the grave but we knew we were at least in the right cemetery. According to Pastor Carroll most of the records at Christ Church were lost, we went there but I didn’t get a chance to follow up on this, they were having a service in Hindi and we needed to catch a bus so couldn’t wait around.
Our Taxi driver yelled at a local bus going the other way and before we knew it we were crammed into the seats along with the locals for a 9 hr ride to Agra, stopping at all the villages as we went, cost each $2.

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