Serching in the past.

In order to find the house where Santhal was born, our journey took us to Mussoorie. She has been a friend of Susanne for many years. Her parents lived in Mussoorie at the time when Santhal was born. Since that time she has not had the chance to visit India. So we took a rattly local bus for the six-hour-long journey on a hard bench to Mussoorie in the state of Uttaranchal.

We had chosen a nice hotel from our guide book: Carlton's Plaisance, very victorian, with period furniture, peaceful orchard, spacious, charming and attentive service.

After long negotiations we were able to agree on an acceptable price, but had to pay in advance for three nights. We should have been warned then. Only after repeated requests, was the mouse dirt in the bathroom cleaned away. Events reached their peak when in the late evening a man stared through the bath window as Susanne was getting ready for bed. I was frightened to death.

Early the next morning we packed our things and took a taxi to Sisters Bazar, to find a new lodging. First after looking at the fifth room we had the feeling to be in the right place. It was an appartment with a small kitchen, bedroom and lounge. The landlord, Mr. Ganesh Saili actually only lets to long-term tenants. We told him our mission and he told us that Mr. Prakash still has his shop in Sisters Bazar. Mr. Prakash had been mentioned to us by Santhal's father as the landlord of their house at that time.

With the sketch of a map that Santhal's father had given us, we went to find Mr. Prakash. We found his general merchants shop without a problem. He could not clearly remember the German family, however thought that a German family had had a baby in "Oakland cottage" 30 years ago. We took a photo of the house and thought to be at the end of our mission.

During the night it started to rain heavily and the tin roof was leaking because the monkeys keep jumping on it and loosening the nails. So it constantly dripped on our bed and explained too why the duvet smell even more musty and fusty than in other places with this damp climate.

When we wanted to give the rent for our apartment to Mr. Ganesh Saili the next day, he asked whether we had found the house. Suddenly his wife remembered having a photo of Santhal's older brother, Vajra, together with their two daughters. We had a long and interesting talk with the couple. They could lively remember how Santhals parents had got stuck in the bazaar with their olive green Hanomag bus. They had to deflate a tire to get past. The wife could remember exactly the moment of the photo, when she went with three wild children to a large celebration. Their daughters were so delighted by Vajras blond hair that they kept pulling it. She also remembered Santhal's mother, who had taken many photos of her in costumes Santhal's mother had designed.

We experienced a real joy with this family to hear of Santhal's family after such a long time. They wooed in nostalgia of the late "Flower Power" era. Ganesh Saili gave us two books which he had written about the area for Santhal.

During our conversation it turned out that we had not seen the actual landlord. Santhal's parents had lived at "Prospect Point" at the time, a house that had belonged to the older brother of Mr. Prakash. Today the house has been sold and the former landlord is old and senile.

The following day we climbed the steep way in the pouring rain. After half an hour we reached Prospect Point just above Sisters Bazar. The guard guided us up the many steps leading to the house, one of the highest in Mussoorie. A somewhat surprised Mr. Bali Deol welcomed us and over a cup of coffee we told him our mission. To my surprise, Bali was hardly older than we. He lives alone with his servants in this large house with many rooms. The weather cleared up. From the glassed-in veranda we had a breath-taking view over Derah Dun (approx. 1800 m lower than Mussoorie) and far into the plains. Bali and we had a friendly relationship right from the beginning and he invited us to come to a barbeque in the evening.

When we came back in the evening we went up the small hill behind the house, from where we enjoyed a 360 degree panorama: The Himalayan summits in the north, the wide Doon valley in the east that opens out into the plains in the south and in the west the sunset. With the cell phone I called Santhal: "I am in the house where you were born!" How much I wished Santhal could have been here with us at that moment!

Before the other guests came, we had the opportunity to have an interesting conversation with Bali. Bali remembered a friend, Suhurdrpao, who would like to build up a hospital in Derah Dun and for this purpose has already bought a piece of land. We spent a great evening with a Masala of multi-cultural guests. We were catered for royally and spoiled by the servants with culinary delicacies.

As we left, Bali said to us: "Santhal is more than welcome to come and stay here!" We heard the same words from family Saili too as we continued our journey to Derah Dun.

Susanne and Elias
11th September 2005


Mr. Prakashes' general store

Mr. Prakash

Oakland Cottage, we thought this to be the house where Santhal was born

Landour in the foreground and Sisters Basar, the village of Santhal's birth house on the ridge in the distance

View over a part of Mussoorie

Further part of town

On the way to Mussoorie....

... view into the plains.

Sunset behind Mussoorie.

On the right Vajra with the Saili-daughters

Famyli Saili

Raining on to our Bed

Prospekt Point

View from the veranda

... and again

View from the smal hill behind the house

... to the west

... to the south

... and by night.

Who  might this be?

But this must surely be Bali!