Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

18 April 2010

I am going to my own hearthstone, Bosom'd in yon green hills alone— A secret nook in a pleasant land,


My introduction to Penelope Chetwode was somewhat unexpected. I was in Europe, had run out of things to read (an extremely unlikely scenario for me usually) and was in a city which wasn't primarily English-speaking. In sheer desperation, I scoured second-hand bookshops. There, in a dingy corner, was she. Being somewhat partial to travelogues written by women, I grabbed both her books.
It was to be love at first sight and a long-standing love affair.
The first was "Two Middle-aged Ladies in Andalusia": a wonderful account of one middle-aged lady (Chetwode) and her trusty (and equally middle-aged) mare exploring Andalusia in the l960s. Chetwode came across as a no-nonsense woman whose sense of humour redeemed many a peculiar situation she encountered in a remote and almost savage country, with its primitive peasant population and inns evidently medieval in their crudity!
I saved up the second book so that I could savour it slowly, it was an account of one of my most favourite parts of India: Himachal Pradesh. "Kulu: The End of the Habitable World" turned out to be a treasure trove of information, recording not just details of temple architecture of the region, but also a sound knowledge of local customs. Today, many a critic accuses Chetwode of adopting a British Raj attitude, but wasn't she only a product of her times, possessing all the good and bad qualities that went with it? The book essentially recounts Chetwode's journey through Kulu in the 1960s, a full thirty years after she had left India and is a must-read for anyone who loves this region.
Penelop Chetwode's story can be found on my friend Nityin's blog A Taste Of Life. It makes as interesting reading as do her books!
Quite by accident, then, I found myself tracing the route she had taken almost five decades ago: going from Fagu to Ani to Khanag to Jalori, passing through Sojha to head for Banjaar.
In the garden of the PWD guesthouse in Khanag, I found these two interesting memorial stones. Having become somewhat familiar with Chetwode's story, I would love my epitaph to read as hers does: "She died in these hills she had loved so long".






8 comments:

Mordu said...

Read Penelope Chetwode's book "Kulu: The End of The Habitable World" back in the 70s (in Canada) and have always wanted to explore that area once again, having lived there during my childhood in the early 50s. Your wonderful blog has more than rekindled that desire and am now planning a long trip in June this year. Thank you!

nandita said...

You are terrific....

Bibliophile said...

Another author to add to my wish-list. Thanks, G.

Gallimaufry said...

Mordu: Wow! You don't say! Stop by in Shimla so that we can have a cuppa on the Mall :)

Nandita: blush Thanks.

Bibliophile: Definitely. Hope the ash isn't bothering you too much?

Mordu said...

Sure thing! How can I contact you in early June?

Gallimaufry said...

You could leave a message here. Since I always moderate the comments before publishing them, the details won't be aired to the reading public :)

Stan R. said...

Travelogues written by women?
This reminded me of "Ends of the World" by Cecily Mackworth; Carcanet, 1987. I was living in Paris that year when she had her book launching, and have prized my signed copy ever since (still, I'd send it along for you to read, but researched and it is still available); you've inspired me to re-read it! It covers travel reminiscences over a 10-year period beginning with the onset of WWII, and includes encounters with famous literary figures of that era.

Gallimaufry said...

Hello Stan! Long time, no see, if I may say so. I'm going to hunt for Mackworth's book :)

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