By Yvonne Eva Le Fort
[aka:Yvonne Hussein Le Fort at Facebook]
I do not think of JMP as a city..I think of it as a railway colony …bungalow dwellings …and Happy
valley was the place for picnics and group outings .NO tall buildings like Notre Dame Scjhool in current pictures .The offices of the EIR Works directly across from 14 Victoria Rd were not more than two storey IF my memory serves me right .
Going to school 5000′ above sea level at Jharipani then returning to JMP for holiday periods where was there any mountain in JMP? Intriguing …there were rolling hills at Happy Valley…and somewere not that far away we went to hotsprings near a river that had alligators in it …we were not allowed to go swimming in it.
I am talking about 70 plus years ago when I would be seven years old going on to nine in 1942 when I first went away to OG from March to December each year tlll June 1947.Those holidays thru December focused on Christmas festivities and the New Year’s Ball.New party dresses being sewn on the verandah by the durghi /darzi sitting crosslegged on the floor using our Singer sewing machine or later one elevated to a wooden table with wrought iron support with a rocking treadle to drive the needle .
I was thirteen for my first New Year’s Eve Ball in December 1946 ushering in an eventful 1947 .Such a grown up feeling to be going to that dance with my parents .Previously I had watched my diminutive mother dress in pretty long florals , made the same way by the tailor , for weekly dances .Our ayah would lay out two outfits across the double bed , complete with accessories and shoes to match .My dad was given the same treatment for his choice of sartorial splendour for any social event .the dhobi was in the godown at the foot of the compound anytime a garment needed the touch of a hot flatiron sitting near the coal embers just outside his abode with the sleepy donkey tied to the papaya tree . Cowpatties drying on the side wall of the godown.My dad’s 1933 Harley Davidson “Indian” stored in the next room to the dhobi’s room but not used anymore in the forties
Socially , every evening almost was bingo or bridge/whist or movie night , tennis/badminton or golf and swimming tournaments , Saturday night dances with live orchestra and vocalist playing/singing popular hits of the big band war era .Glenn Miller’s IN THE MOOD …and STARDUST AND MOONLIGHT SERENADE still are iconic music evoking those years for me This was a great place for the young men from the institute to meet the pretty young daughters of families….teenagers and parents …attending the dances
Then there were times for entertaining visitors at home in the garden on evenings that stretched into the dark with a sky peppered with stars overhead .Lots of spicy finger foods on demand from the bochi in the kitchen and served by the white-clad,and very respectful , turbanned bearer. An assortment of spicy channas to go along with Indian beer and shandies and gingerales and scarlet Vimto drinks plus delectable sweets like ras gollas .gulab jamoons and gelabis and yummy barfi .Sometimes kulfi too…we were one of the first familes to have a Frigidaire standing in our dining room…kitchen was not big enough for it !!
Youngsters playied hide and seek around the spacious , well tended compound , amazingly to me now , barefooted in the grass.Nary a thought of red ants or snakes .Deadly nightshade blooms spread beautiful perfume in the night air as the fireflies flitted around us adding to the galaxy of stars that spread overhead in the damp evening breezes after a rainy downpour and the frogs croaked and the crickets filled the air with their chirping
I’ve never written this before ! It is buried in my psyche as a very special memory .India was chugging relentlessly forward to independence with images of Gandhi and Nehru and Jinnah and Mountbatten and his wife Edwina [ to be revealed later in a romantic alliance with the brilliant English -educated Nehru ] , iin the Statesman everyday.Photos of abandonned bullock carts strewn with malodorous , fly infested decomposing bodies spread across them in the heat of the sun for three days when nobody emerged from their homes after a riot in cities like Calcutta or Delhi or Bombay . Those riots happened in JMPs marketplace but slaughter never approached the railway works and its employees to my knowledge .Fear permeated the atmosphere for many adults , I know; my mother described nights of dread after hearing the noise of a riot subside in the middle of the night ; would “they” be coming across the tracks to attack the people in their beds.Children were removed from the strife by sending them to the boarding schools in the hills but we saw the headlined photos in The Statesman while up there .Does that newspaper still exist ?