The Lidder river north of Pahalgam
Pahalgam is the last major settlement in Kashmir before mountain tracks take you up into The Himalyas. It is the meeting place of fast-flowing rivers and the starting point for Hindu pilgrimages to the very holy Amarnath Cave. It was here that my father and his trekking companion Arnold arrived in the springtime of 1944.
As urged by visitors to "Yorkshire Pudding", I am currently typing out and lightly editing my father's account of his trip to the Lidder Valley. So far I have managed to type twelve pages or 10,060 words. That means that I have another thirty eight pages to go. It is a labour of love and I have enjoyed the intimate absorption of my father's plodding expression. There's so much I would have liked to ask him about the adventure and I would have appreciated his approval of the small editorial changes I have been making.
I am determined to take this project to a proper conclusion seventy six years after my father Philip wrote about these special two weeks in his life - before marriage, before returning to post-war England, before children and before a long career dedicated to primary education here in Yorkshire.
For your interest from the typing so far - Philip and Arnold took a rickety local bus up into the hills beyond Srinagar. I found this section rather endearing - especially the sly glances at the beautiful Hindu maiden:-
I climbed into the bus and took my seat between two Hindu ladies – mother and daughter. Arnold was lucky and occupied the only “first class” seat alongside the driver and so he was not only able to stretch his legs but he was also in a position to pop off the bus at various stops while I was condemned to remain wedged in there with no room to move my legs with my knees pressed against the seat in front – painfully jolted as we drove over each bump in the road. Some compensation for my discomfort was afforded by a most interesting conversation with the older Hindu lady who spoke excellent English. She told me much of pilgrimages to Amarnath Cave, of the reasons for undergoing such a trial, of the horrible sights and sufferings along the route, of the cave and what goes on there during the “Puja” season. Today the pilgrimage is still a test of faith and physical endurance but the gradual opening up of Kashmir has enabled richer people and the less fanatical to complete the journey in a less rigorous manner.
The younger lady spoke very little but it was quite an enjoyable experience to just look at her. She was most graceful even to the movement of her hands and her grace was rendered even more delightfully by the striking emerald silken sari that she wore. Her face was quite pale and ornamented by the customary jewel in the side of her nose and a pair of ornate diamond earrings. In the centre of her forehead was a small bejewelled caste sign. A touch of fragrant perfume had evidently completed her toilet. When she did speak, the few words she uttered were most beautifully modulated. From her demeanour I should imagine that she was a most subservient and obedient wife to some pompous Hindu merchant. It is not to be wondered at that I stole many sly glances at her while conversing with her mother.
And I found this section funny - by their campsite at Pahalgam:-
On our return we found that our camp was in a state of commotion. Sidi had purchased a duck at one of the villages on the journey up. This duck had ridden in comfort and peace in the back of the bus. On our arrival at the camping site, Sidi had tied its legs together before turning it loose on the grass. Evidently the sound of rushing water had attracted Donald, and in no way abashed by the fact that his feet were tied he had made a beeline for the water in the proverbial duck fashion. When we arrived he was sitting on a rock in midstream preening himself and quite justifiable too, for he had braved and conquered a thirty knot current of rushing, icy water. Yet however clever our duck was we could not let that save him from the warmer comfort of the cooking pot at a later date. Besides it would be suicide for him to continue testing himself against that fierce river. Consequently our Sidi, ably assisted by Lusul the cook, laid plans to recapture our webbed friend. Looking as if he had no interest in the proceedings, Lusul proceeded downstream to a place where, if need be, he could make his way to the centre of the torrent by leaping from rock to rock. Sidi meanwhile entered the water from above the duck’s position and hanging onto a staff he gently stalked the errant dinner.
The duck continued to preen himself, apparently oblivious to the scheme that was developing with a view to recapturing him. However, when Sidi was about a yard away from him and it seemed certain that the duck was going to be a victim of his pride he suddenly without warning took to the water. Sidi gave one despairing cry and throwing caution to the four winds hurled himself at the escaping creature. In some miraculous manner Sidi seemed to get a hold of Donald and held on to him even though it meant full immersion in the stream. With a look of supreme satisfaction and triumph on his face, Sidi emerged from the water clutching the duck which quacked aloud its indignation. So our future dinner was saved and the whole incident had been a source of uproarious mirth for both Arnold and I for about a quarter of an hour. It was unfortunate that our sympathies were rather biased against Donald who had been both the source of amusement as well as the rescued main ingredient in a forthcoming meal. The direct result of the recapturing of the duck was that Sidi served our dinner that evening clad in a suit of new and impeccable white.
I love this. Your father had an eye for detail. 76 years later, he has described a scene so perfectly that I feel as if I had stepped into it. These words are the ones that will allow your little Phoebe to know her grandfather's father, although they never met.ReplyDelete
Neither of my children ever met my dad so they will know something of him too.Delete
I like your father's descriptive word pictures. He brings the bus journey and the escaped ducks swim for freedom to life.ReplyDelete
Thanks for reading those extracts Dave - and for this nice comment.Delete
I am sure that this must have been the most exotic and memorable experience of your father's life. Thank you for sharing these pages with us.ReplyDelete
He was just a Yorkshire lad like me. Lifting him up and plonking him India during a world war was like a fantasy.Delete
Well now, finish your transcribing and have them printed and bound and hand them out at Christmas! It will be almost as if he had come to celebrate with you all once again. I really love this project you have taken on! Do you read these words hearing his voice?ReplyDelete
I am lucky to have a proper recording of his voice with an authentic North Yorkshire accent so yes I can "hear" him as I type Debby.Delete
A very enjoyable incident. I hope that there are more.ReplyDelete
Thank you Graham. Soon I will make a similar post... just for you!Delete
Are you still having problems with unwanted commenters or are you approving comments on a more permanent basis?ReplyDelete
I feel that I need to maintain the barrier as unwanted commenters have not entirely disappeared. I even had one horrible person likening me to Gary Glitter because of the love I feel for my grand-daughter. I do not want nasty comments like that appearing for others to read.Delete
I'm sorry to hear that, Neil.Delete
Well, it is certainly a labour of love which you have set yourself, but how exciting that this is all part of your family history.
The detail is extraordinary and conjures up such vivid images of what the times, people and places were like. And, such a shock to the system to return to an England much changed after the War, marriage and a very different life.
As you read and transcribe, you will go deeper into what made this man you knew as your father.
I agree with your last point but when he wrote this he was only twenty nine years old with a lot left to learn but there was goodness and genuine curiosity about him.Delete
I am so happy to see that you are going forward with your Dad's manuscript! Just from what I have read here, I see no reason why you would not be able to get this published. Your Dad had a real talent with not only words but also relaying the sights and feelings which is what good writers do. Aside from the possibility of publishing this you are giving a great gift to your children, grandchildren and future generations.ReplyDelete
I will probably publish it as an e-book. The main thing is that I feel I am honouring his memory. Those fifty pages of tight typing have not ended up in the trash!Delete
What a great story. Your dad must have been a very entertaining fellow.ReplyDelete
I am very partial to a succulent roast duck so this story appealed to me, and my stomach.
My father had a plodding, patient personality - rather like his writing. Glad you liked the duck story JayCee. You must be quackers!Delete
This is wonderful. I do hope you will publish more. Thank you.ReplyDelete
Thanks for reading these extracts JayCee.Delete
Your Dad can tell a very interesting story.ReplyDelete
Less interesting since he was cremated.Delete
What a great read, a real treasure.ReplyDelete
Luv a duck, that was a good story.ReplyDelete
It sounds like one feisty duck. I have not read ahead so I don't know if we will later see it on plates.Delete
Pretty girls and petulant ducks--your father had a good eye and a flair for getting what he saw and thought down to paper. Did I ask this before--you're transcribing this to digital media?ReplyDelete
When it is done I hope to publish it as an e-book Joanne.Delete
A good story to continue on and the the Lidder river looks like heaven on Earth, just breath takingReplyDelete
The riverside track led to Shangri-La...Delete
Thank you for sharing your father's memories with us, it really makes for very good reading.ReplyDelete
Doesn't the name of the river Lidder sound like it could be in Yorkshire?
I can't help but feel sorry for the duck - he was so determined to be alive, and yet ended up in the cooking pot.
I hadn't thought of that Meike. Wheer did tha go fer tha walk? Oh, ah went reet up Lidderdale!Delete
I must admit to rooting for the duck, and hoped it would get away! It must have made an amusing diversion, but still ended up in the pot!ReplyDelete
There are companies who specialise in printing and binding private manuscripts. Have you tried asking Mr Google?
I may well do that when the donkey work is done CG>Delete
Poor duck! But hey, I guess they had to eat. The woman and her daughter sound like they must have been quite well-off, even if they weren't in the first-class seats.ReplyDelete
Actually they WERE in the terrible first class seats Steve. My father referred to three classes of seating on this bus - BAD, WORSE & WORST. He was in the BAD section (i.e. FIRST CLASS). It certainly was not a Greyhound bus.Delete