The King's Railway

The 50 something man who sat in the lavishly appointed waiting in the brand new train station, looked tired and haggard, but not beaten. He had been struggling to see his dream through for the last decade. Much of his time was spent in conceiving this project and bringing it to fruition, and the workload of handling the family and other responsibilities were bearing heavy on his shoulders. He had struggled, toiled and spent reams of paper corrrsponding with the new authorities of the land or what it was today. He had begged and cajoled with them and he had dug deep in augmenting the finances to complete the project. He thought wryly, sometimes, about how he, the king of the land, had to wait and beg permission from the new lords of the state - the British foriegner, to do something benifitting his own subjects.

The king was none other than the erstwhile maharajah of Cohin, Rama Varma XV. Soon the train arrived at the spanking new Cochin terminus, chugging along the shiny grey rails, all the way from Shornaur. The first railway in the Cochin kingdom had been completed, not by the powerful British rulers, but by the Cochin Raja himself. As the king waited in the royal waiting room, his heart swelled with pride, his eyes brimmed with tears. Sadly he spared a thought for the glorious ‘gold nettipattams of 14 royal elephants’ and the family land and jewels he had to sell and sacrifice for this project. But it was done, he had brought in the very first railway to his land, all by himself. It would hopefully benefit trade and help the many merchants who had been calmoring for connectivity to the trade systems. They wanted to get the materials across the ghats and from Malabar to the sea port that was being planned in Cochin. Today, looking back, they got not just one, but three passenger stations in the course of time Ernakulam North, South & Cochin Harbor.

Readers would have recalled my love for the Indian railways, I had written a couple of articles on it some years ago. This one is thanks to a tip with background info from my friend Venu. As I thrashed my way through the historic alleys and all the dust and bushes and twigs that prevented easy passage, the story that emerged was quite fascinating. While most of the historic aspects are known to very few enthusiasts, the story behind the story and the personna of the king came from the memories of Venu’s uncle.

However as I researched this story, I found it quite difficult to separate fact from fiction as I did not have a very important source, the autobiography of the King. This king, the Rajarshi Rama Varma of Cochin is mentioned in many places, but not many details could be gleaned even in the Cochin state manual by Achyutha Menon, inspite of the Rajah being a very modern thinking individual who should at least have been written about after the British left. In fact there is quite a bit written about the next project of the same king, namely the quaint Cochin state tramway, thanks to a railway enthusiast & historian Devan Varma.

First let us get an insight into the illustrious raja. HH Maharaja Sri Sir RAMAVARMA XV 1895/1914 (abdicated a.k.a Ozinja Vallia Thampuran) , Maharaja [cr.1921], G.C.I.E. [cr.1911], G.C.S.I. [cr.1903], K.C.S.I. [cr.1897], born 27th December 1852, died in 1932 at Trichur. It is said that he ruled Cochin during crucial times and was not only a legendary figure but also one of the greatest rulers of modern times. An erudite scholar in Sanskrit and English, and was considered to be ‘A scholar among princes and a prince among scholars’. Lord Curzon once remarked that among the native Indian States, nowhere had he seen a more progressive administration than in Cochin after meeting him. This Raja brought permanent reforms to the department of Revenue and Accounts. The Village Panchayath Bill was a valiant attempt to get the people at the grassroots involved in administration. The Tenancy Act was a personal triumph of Rajarshi. But after all these decorations and sucesses, he abdicated his throne in 1914. There are many versions for his abdication. One of the very talked about version is that he had differences with British Empire because of his proximity with Germans. There is also another version in his biography which says he resigned due to ill-health. Some mentions can be found about his disputes with the resident at madras and his high handed attitude and treatment of the monarch. He died in January 1932 (1107 Makaram 16th.)

He is also known as Ozinja Vallia Thampuran (Note that the king is typically mentioned in contemporary times as Kochi Valiya Thampuran, not as Kochi Rajavu as we know today).

This is the story as I first heard it - The British had already built the railway line from Madras to Malabar. Kochi was largely isolated from Malabar by the Western Ghats and it was very important to have a railway link to further its goals. The Kochi raja approached the British bureaucracy and requested them to connect Kochi too by rail but the British were not interested. He tried again by traveling to Madras and meeting the British officials there also but was told that they weren't interested. So he decided to build a meter gauge rail from Shoranur to Ernakulam, by himself. As he started construction, he ran out of money. So he sold most of his land and continued. Still the funds weren't sufficient, so he sold the "nettipattams" (caparisons of solid gold) of all the elephants except for a lone elephant maintained at their temple in Trippunittara and somehow managed to complete the construction. Of course the British didn't take lightly to the fact this small king managed to complete the railway line and managed to influence his brothers and relatives and declared that he was mentally unstable and forced him to abdicate. Since then, they ensured that there was no mention about him in historical references other than a fleeting reference to the ‘king who abdicated’. And the king walked out of the palace with just one trunk containing his and his wife's clothes and settled down near Wadakkanchery. He made sure that his house was close to the railway line and spent all his time watching out for trains. Later he was supposed to have moved to Cheruthuruthy and again found a house near the railway line so that he could watch trains go by!!

Was that how it was? Well it appears that the first railway ideas were conceived in 1861, after Malabar got linked to the British Southern railway system. Private businessmen mooted the idea of connecting Cochin, but none of them took off. The Madras government was not very forthcoming in support, until finally the king found able support from his Dewan P Rajagopalachari in 1892. Mr Frederic Nicholson was presented with a detailed plan which stated that the entire expenses would be met by the Cochin state. The state had at that point of time, a surplus reserve of 44 lakhs. The project was eventually sanctioned in 1899. After difficult period of project work involving bridges and tough terrain, the first goods train found its way on those tracks to Cochin on June 2nd 1902 and passenger traffic started in July 1902. Of the 65 miles, 18 ran through the territory of Travancore. The net investment rose to around Rs 70 lakhs by the time the project was completed. The railway was run by the Madras railway company until 1907 after which the lease was sold to the South India Railway Co.

British Library records stated thus - “The durbar promptly met the requirements on the revised and enhanced estimates of the Madras Railway Company who are constructing the line from Shoranur to Ernakulam and the line has been completed, so that a ballast train from Shoranur ran into Ernakulam on March 31st, 1902. But the delay on the part of the English manufactures in supplying locomotives and carriages prevents the opening of the line for passenger traffic.”

But what about the finacial difficulties the king had? British reports state that there was indeed a deficit in the Cochin state budget during the project and that loans from temples, sale of government paper at discounts etc were resorted to. At one point of time things got so bad that there was just 2 days worth of reserves in the Cochin treasury. The debt of over 13 lakhs crippled the king. “The boldness with which the Cochin durbar has not hesitated to borrow in order to complete the construction of the Shornur-Ernakulam Railway and has at the same time undertaken the construction of a forest tramway, startled the old fashioned officials of this coast, who were accustomed to seeing a surplus added to the hoard of the State. A British official wrote “It must have been difficult for His Highness the Raja thus to act against the solid mass of conservative opinion which surrounded him, and I think His Highness was enabled to do this only by the support given by Mr. P. Rajagopalachri, of the Madras Statutory Civil Service, who was Dewan from 1896 to 1901. Much of the blame lies with the British suppliers and contract execution. The construction of tramway supplied by a German firm was on time and within budget while that of the railways by English company was both over cost and behind schedule”.

But now let us see what the press has to say – Quoting Hindu - Records at the archives reveal that the Maharaja had a prolonged, detailed correspondence with the Resident of the British Empire since 1862 on the ways and means to establish the railway line. Finally, the State was asked to bear the entire expenditure involved in laying the lines. The State then was not rich enough to bear the substantial investment. But the Maharaja would not give up. He was bent on completing the dream project at any cost. He took the bold decision to sell a part of the valuables in his custody. Mr Raman Namboodiri, who retired from the Archaeological Department, says that the treasury records substantiate the fact that the Maharajah sold 14 gold elephant caparisons that belonged to the Sree Poornathrayeesa Temple and other ornaments to fund the project. Once the fund was sanctioned the project ran into another hurdle. About 18 miles of the railway line, between Angamaly and Edappally, passed through the erstwhile Travancore state. In October 1899, the Travancore state was requested to hand over the land required for the laying of the railway line. Construction began in 1899 and was undertaken by the Madras railway authorities, on behalf of the Cochin state.

The final shortfall of some 3.5 lakhs in 1902-03 resulted in the Raja taking a loan from thr Chidambaram temple. Another question people used to pressure the king was perhaps - Was using the Chidambaram temple funds for constructing a railway sacrilegious?

And so here is where we see the palace politics coming to play. The British certainly had allies in the Cochin Royal family. Why where those relatives upset? The sub story in the story related to the many members of the royal household who did not work and were living off the state subsidy of some Rs. 3.5 lakhs. The King and the Dewan felt that the allowances to the male member should be reduced and that to Amma Raja be increased. In 1899/1900, the suggestion is that the system of providing allowances to all princes after upanayanam be abandoned and allowances be restricted to the senior-most few.13 princes of ranks between 3rd and 18th objected to the proposed cap of 3.5 lakhs and to the suggested changes in distribution of the Royal family finances. The Raja Rama Varma decided that, “the only way I can thing to get out of this difficulty is to try and make them earn their own comforts. I do not think they can be employed in this state. I have no objection whatever of them entering service.

So there you see some rumblings here, 13 princes revolting against the reigning king. The royal house was in disarray. The king was fighting with the British resident at Madras on one side and struggling to hold his ship on even keel and trying to do some good for his people. It was a painful situation, one that his mind could not accept. I guess these relentless pressures eventually made him abdicate in favor of a life amidst scriptures and scholarly pursuits.

But let us get back to the railway tracks…for now – TK Sadasivan, in his Hindu report, states - JULY 16, 1902. Exactly 100 years ago, on this very day, the first train whistled its way to Kochi. Hundreds of people crowded on the narrow platform to welcome the first ever passenger train. Also waiting with them were the members of the Cochin royal family. They lingered around the exclusive waiting room, aptly called the `Kottaram', built for them beside the platform at the Ernakulam Terminus Station. The State band kept playing the popular hits of the day. As the enthusiastic crowd watched with bated breath, the steam engine, belonging to the Cochin State Railway Service, chugged in majestically, pulling in a few passenger bogies on a pair of parallel rails that originated at Shoranur. It was the fulfilment of a long cherished dream for the people of Central Kerala. For this rail track ushered in development to Kochi.

"There were only three or four trains that plied on this route regularly. They used to stop at Chalakkudy where the steam engines were refilled with water," recalls Capt. Kerala Varma. "There were exclusive waiting rooms for the royal family at Chowara and Trichur also," Mr Varma added. Incidentally, the Maharaja used to spend the summer in the palace on the banks of the Periyar, near Chowara. The Shoranur-Kochi metre gauge railway line, that was about 62 miles long, ended at the Ernakulam Terminal Station. Initially, there was only one track. A circular track was put up nearby to enable the engine to turn. Buses and rickshaws used to come up to the station to pick up the passengers. There was an exclusive saloon for the Maharaja that used to be attached to the train only when the Maharaja travelled. Admission to the royal, lavishly furnished waiting room was restricted to members of the royal family and VIPs. “The train comprised of only six or seven coaches, mostly made out of wood with steel frames. There were three separate classes and had a total capacity of around two hundred passengers. The third class was always crowded since they were cheaper than the rest", says Mr. Muralidhara Marar, former member of the interim Legislative Assembly (1948-1951), who was a frequent traveller by this train. When the Cochin Port developed, it became imperative to extend the railway track right up to the harbour. By 1929 the present station, south of Ernakulam, came up. The track was later extended to the Harbour in 1943.

Thus the Ernakulam terminus finally lost its significance. "Till the early sixties, the old railway station catered to passenger trafficThe Ernakulam Terminus Station, later renamed Ernakulam Railway Goods Station or the remains thereof, are located behind Rammohan Palace, near the Kerala High Court. This location was originally selected because it ran close to the market. A boat jetty was also situated close by from where people could travel to Mattancherry and Vypeen. It was a station that once played host to Mahatma Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Sastry, Lord Irwin, Curzon and a host of other personalities. It remains mostly unknown to the public even today, possibly because it is hidden from public view, though located in the heart of the city behind the High Court. A wall separates it from Mangalavanam, home to hundreds of migratory birds. It appears that N Class 0-6-0 locomotive was used before its conversion to Broad gauge.

When it was a popular haunt for people, "There was a coffee shop run by Spencer's at this railway station. There was no electricity those days, so the shop and platform was lighted up by petromax lamps," recalls Mr Joseph to the Hindu reporter. Nothing is left today but for some rusted track and moldy walls, a run down structure open to elements. Now it is home to animals and various anti social elements as Jimmy’s pictures document.

What was the German connection mentioned in the abdication rumors? I belive it was related to the purchase of the locomotives from the German firm and the fact that the German executed tramway project was concluded in time and within budget. The British resident could not stand that, especially at a moment when the axis powers were building up. However I have still not found enough details on the abdication.

Of course, there was one other person who was strongly behind this plan and who helped execute the project ably. It was none other than the clever Dewan, P Rajagoplachari. The book Madras rulers mentions thus: When he boldly launched the Shoranur Cochin Railway, he was met with opposition not only from the Conservatives in the Cochin State, this we can understand, but from such well-known advocates ot political reforms and advancement as the Hindu. Mr. Rajagopalachari knew what he was about, and his greatest advantage was that he had a highly educated and polished people, who after their first suspicions were calmed, rendered them a source of strength to him. If today Cochin is the advanced state that it is, it is not only due to Mr. Rajagopalachari, but it is the remarkable result of one man's work, in the face of unrelenting, though uninformed, critcism. He had, of course, the support of his ruler, without which he could not have done anything. It was also a time when Cochin had a population of 21,195 people out of which 11,000 were Hindus, 8,600 were Christians, 950 were Muslims and 500 were Jews. Lord Curzon visited Cochin, alighting from a train that traveled this route.
Curiously Rajarshi Rama Varma XV was also the man in charge during the Kuriyedath thathri smarta vicharam. Though people mischievously say he stopped the vicharam to prevent his name being spelt out, he was he first king who meted equal justice by ensuring that the guilty men were also punished in a Smarta Vicharam. Did all that result in more pressure on his throne? Or was he in some other way connected to the sordid episode? Ironically, it was probably on this railway and this very train that Kuriyedath Thathri left Cochin state and Kerala….

The story might have a happy ending - The 107-year-old Ernakulam Railway goods station located behind the High Court building could well be converted into a museum, if the Railways respond positively to a recent proposal by the District Tourism Promotion Council. The station which fell into disuse in the 1960’s is now home to a decrepit station building and remnants of the broad-gauge railway line that linked it with Shornur. Though Devan Varma, a Railway historian, had made a presentation a couple of years ago on how the precincts can be converted into a rail museum, the Railway Board and National Rail Museum did not go ahead with the project.


Nostalgic photos of the Ernakulam terminus by Jimmy Jose
Cochin state Manual – Achyutha menon
Anglo-Indian studies - Siddha Mohana Mitra
Hindu report 1
Hindu report 2
Hindu report 3

During the annual Cochin Royal Family Historical Society symposium in Dec 2003 Prof. Ramachandran presented some data from his research which I have used, thanks.

The Abdication
The abdication was a result of ongoing acrimony between the independent thinking Raja and the British government – Murali Rama Varma writing about Dewan Banerji opines –

It is very interesting to go through the reasons that led to the Maharajah Rama Varma XV of Cochin abdicating the crown on the 7th of December 1914. He used to have independent views on the administration and about his duties which often adversely affected the relationship with the Madras government.

For example, the British Resident took exception to the Maharajah addressing the Viceroy as "My Esteemed Friend" in one of his letters sent in AD 1913.The Resident reminded the Maharajah that the Viceroy should be addressed as "My Lord". This led to much unpleasantness in the letters exchanged between the Madras Government and the Maharajah. This was only the spill over of a continued dislike of the Maharajah by the Madras Government.

Tail note: This is an ongoing project due to a personal connection and so I will continue to provide updates on this subject and the Raja now and then. Anybody who knows more on this story are welcome to provide detailed comments

The picture of the building by Jimmy shows the Royal waiting room or Kottaram. The other picture is the HQ complex of the CSR.

Thanks and acknowledgement for all the picture posters..The Pic of PR comes from Sharat,  reader, referring it to History of Travancore by Narayana Panikkar


Behind the Veil

Sometimes it is difficult to comprehend human nature. Like in this case that was recently reported from Iraq.It show how war brings out the worst in us, when people start to behave like animals and show their terrible sides.

A man was suspected of something (!!); however the local police were not able to get a hand on him. So they took away his sister named Dalal, all the way from Baghdad to distant Tikrit hoping that the brother would follow to get her out. There they jailed her incommunicado in a mainly men’s prison and soon enough, she was raped repeatedly.

The lady became pregnant and fearfully wrote to her brother, pleading for help. Dalal lived through the horrible days behind bars in Tikrit, hoping that her brother would at least now come to save her from her misery. She was also quite worried wondering how she would continue her life after release, and what her family would think.

Her brother requested police permission to meet her. Permission was granted. He came to the police station one Saturday, for Saturday was visiting day, got through the guard lines without being searched and shot her dead in the name of honor (the disgrace of being pregnant out of wedlock) to his home. It was, as they all said later, a honor killing, just one among the many hundred occurring every year in Iraq.

On the other hand, did Dalal desire to be killed and escape the agony of shame and pain? A question which will never have an answer.

The prison guards were relieved, and the story would have ended there, but for the fact that the body was later brought to the Baghdad morgue. The lab attendant working there found it all fishy; actually she knew right away and did an autopsy discovering the dead woman to be pregnant with a 5 month fetus. She was determined to exact justice and raised a hue & cry. Eventually a DNA sample was taken from the dead fetus. Prison guards were ordered to submit their samples which they provided thinking that this case may never go the distance, as was the usual norm.

The father was found to be the head of the guards. The case quickly died a ‘natural’ death, but nobody had bargained for the dogged determination of the lab worker.

The implicated person was arrested, but released for lack of evidence. The third defendant was retained in custody but it was later reported that both were sent to Baghdad. It appears that blood money or tribal ransom was paid to the family to drop charges according to some.

For all practical purposes, the case is closed in Iraq. The police officers were apparently freed. After all they need more police to keep order on the streets, than shamed pregnant women.

Sad, isn’t it? It happened to Dalal because she was a defenseless woman. That was her only fault. At least 2000 such honor killings have taken place after the Iraq war started.

Much like the story of the Mannanars of Chirakkal, there are safe house being created for such victims and other ill-treated women, but where are they?

This note was based on a story reported by Tina Susman in LA times. Here is the link for the full story.

Pic - Courtesy MSNBC

The Nomad

And so here I am, in yet another place, after yet another move. Most people balk at moving from one house to another, let alone one state to the next. But our journey has been across vast distances, taking us to cultures differing widely and forcing our entire thought process and life style to be different. Thinking back, adaptation was the least of the worries, actually. Some days when I sit in great formal meetings arranged by some manager who has it in his action plan, teaching us how to adapt to multi and cross cultural working environments, I just smile, for I can assure you that not even one of those speakers or presenters have ever moved far from their city of birth, let alone countries, to know what it is really like for oneself, for ones family, for ones friends.

Starting from childhood, my life had been nomadic. Born in a remote estate region of North Malabar, I lived away from my parents who were in the British tea estates of Wyanad, where dad was a Doc. Lack of good schooling in those exotic estates took me to my dad’s sister’s care at the city of Calicut- the ‘adivaram’ or low lands.

Moving was in our blood I guess, for we moved soon to Koduvayoor, a bustling market town near Palakkad where my dad took up private practice after a few heart ailments and decided to rebuild family life after the children were scattered in various boarding schools or like me in a relative’s care and meeting only at mom’s maternal home (tharavad) at Pallavur or the estates for vacations. It was a short stay for we were soon to move to Trivandrum. That was a longish stint. Dad found it much to his enjoyment, so did mom. We studied there, passed out of high school but I was soon back in Calicut for my engineering college sojourn.

After I became an engineer, the natural course of action was establishing a heading to Madras, where I soon learned the language, started working and enjoyed life. A short two year stay and my extreme dissatisfaction with the job resulted in my 6.5’ tall (I am exaggerating) and massively built man with a booming voice but avuncular boss (what a fascinating character he was, I will write about him someday) deputing me to Bombay, so that I could find better avenues, possibly even a ‘gelf’ opening even. Looking back I must say that the stay in Madras was extremely enjoyable for various reasons, though short. I have not written much about it, but I think I will one day. Anyway I boarded the train to Dadar TT…

Well, Bombay life was definitely testing, and I was soon even more frustrated. So after four years there, I moved to Bangalore. I had written a couple of blogs on those days, but it can be quite voluminous if I chose it to be, for such were the days. So much happened, I was restless, though, still seeking something, but knowing not what it was.

By then moving was becoming a mere formality, lugging my steel trunk and holdall and boarding a train (See my blog about this Bangalore experience) to the next destination was all there was in terms of activity ( sometimes I would pay heed to my mom’s advice – do not travel on Tuesdays & Fridays, check the rahukalam etc, sometimes not). The trunk and holdall was all I had.

Not for long though. I got married after moving to Bangalore. Hopefully we would settle down, maybe even buy a home there in the distant future, or so we thought, as we would zip back and forth on our Ind Suzuki through Sankey road and commercial and Brigade and Jayanagar and all those places. Soon I realized how difficult that could be, with the meager salary that was paid in those days and the nomadic gene started twitching again. The iron trunk which was my faithful companion had by now rusted away and not fashionable anyway, the holdall was moth eaten and the rubber was peeling off.
A lucky break took us to Saudi Arabia and that was home for the next seven plus years. My trunk and holdall were of course not suited for ‘forigin’ travel and I had a wife and son in tow. So a trip was made to brigade road and a second hand (believe me pals – it is no bluff) suitcase was purchased. I still remember it, a blue soft shell suitcase, a rarity in those days when all the local market had to offer was the VIP line of hard-shelled suitcases. The Riyadh period was indeed the most remunerative of times, but it was nevertheless, not a home as a ‘hindi’ expat. After the 91 gulf war raged forth and after we experienced a near hit by a scud missile, and the adrenaline rush finally settled, life stabilized. But it was already becoming the longest stay of our lives and I soon got thinking about our next destination. The children were growing up, but I was not sure which direction I should take in continuing my travails.

But that was clarified soon, and settling on a north westerly route, we soon found ourselves living in glorious Istanbul. It was soon to prove to be a fascinating five plus years, for we enjoyed living in that vast metropolis, knowing the people and learning a smattering of the totally different language. I wrote quite a bit about my days there, but many of those ramblings are still lying as bits and bytes in a folder for hopeful future consumption, read by only a couple of people I know. I cannot but think back often about our friends, about our days of joyful goofing around in that vast city with so many avenues to explore and stories around each corner.

But life is life, the children grew up and schooling in Istanbul was becoming a problem, so we decided to cross the oceans again, this time the Atlantic and found ourselves in sunny Florida. But by now, moving was a daunting task, for it meant packers, movers, hotel stays, apartment stops and closing and opening of accounts and many other obligations. But as all this was happening I realized one thing. The friends that we started with, the friends we collected over the way, the friends we made and the friends we knew from childhood were all drifting away. Communication was still over letters and phone calls and the internet was only starting to take root. As we became older, we realized that making new ‘real’ friends, especially in America was proving to be a very difficult task, and something that you really had to go about as a task, to reach a conclusion. But thanks to one bright lady, we met by chance; we ended up in a very nice circle in Florida.

As they say, you never know, but a twist of fate soon got us traveling again, eastwards this time, fortuitously across the Atlantic, to the ‘Blighty’, to England. It was a quick two years in England, but very illuminating. This was about the time that history took a hold of me. But well, the green pastures, the prim and proper people, the gloomy weather and other reasons got mey feet twitching again, though the cricket ball and bat tried its best to hold us back. This spurt of low voltage current across the left and right parts of the brain through the various neurons helped me decide that the next port of call was to be California. Soon enough, we were in warm, dry and fiery California.

As I started blogging, I finally found a way of making new friends, friends like you readers, and many others who chose to communicate directly with me, though taking me to a virtual world. It took a while to adjust, but well, we were in California and there it was, during the last three years that I continued writing, studying history in spare time and discussing various issues with many of you I have never met or even knowing if I ever will. As I said many of the friends over the years had drifted out of contact, some had their own new circles, but new ones were acquired over time. But it was all very important to me, for they keep you company, they keep you going, especially the steadfast ones.

The forest fires, the smoke, the heat, the tequilas, the tacos, the fast roads and numbing traffic jams, the maze of highways and the Spanish lifestyle of California could not hold me long though. The packers and movers were in business again, coz Maddy was again on the move. Last week, we moved again, right across the US to North Carolina… As the movers and packers arrived and saw the various stickers and boxes they had to repack, they asked where I was previously. As I told them of the various destinations, I could see fascination, disbelief and surprise in many of those faces. They must have been thinking, what a crazy ‘loco’ this chap is… Oh! As you can see I am getting mixed up. You never say chap in USA, it is too British a usage. Only in Indian military circles, private schools and Britain (and old British colonies) would you come across this usage

It is colder here in North Carolina, and everything is hidden behind glorious trees. The place is quite pretty, though we do not know if the people match up. Autumn has set in and the trees have taken beautiful shades of orange and red, dropping leaves to lay soft mats of vegetation on the ground. The days are sometimes sunny, but chilly and the people speak with a distinctive southern twang. I am back to regular office work after a horrible few months working from home (I simply hated it). The place is definitely less remote compared to California (in terms of people and their aloofness) and there are plenty of Desi’s and related activities. Here I guess, there is less likelihood that I will be taken for a Hispanic. This is the first time we are alone, with the children doing their stuff in different parts of America. Until now they were all patiently traversing the world with me, thankfully so. One might ask, what were the reasons for each move, why did you choose to spend periods living out of suitcases? It was ambition in part, it was the desire to see the unseen, the desire to explore, but at times, it was not my choice and once it was even heartwrenching and traumatic.

Maybe now we will buy a home, maybe we will end up liking life here and maybe we will settle down this time, finally.So many maybe's, but then who knows what life has in store? Hopefully we will make new friends and hopefully many of you will remain steadfast. Until then thank you all for keeping me company, and for being my world….

Reporting from Raleigh North Carolina, Nov 2009…….

Pics - Off the web - Thanks uploaders, especially L Henry for the Autumn in N Carolina...