Monday, January 29, 2007

Prospect Point

About a year ago I discovered a picture of Prospect Point on the web. Guess that shows that anything that gets on the web’s machinery is retrievable. One just has to know how to search. I would certainly like to know more of its history...who built it, when, why that particular location, and how it got it’s name. Below it is a smaller twin, Prospect Lodge. Perhaps it was built by the same person. We lived here for several months of the school year from 1943-45 and again from 1949-1951 while attending Woodstock School.

Prospect Point was built near the summit of a small hill across from Sisters Bazaar near Landour/Mussoorie. Behind it and a little lower was the large British hospital where soldiers from Burma and other nearby countries from World War II were sent to convalesce. It’s just another tag with which to identify its general location. From the small front yard, looking over a two foot stone wall, one could see the roof tops of Ridgewood and Midlands, the Dune valley and parts of Mussoorie. The schools of St. George’s and Allen might also be identified if one knew where to look. About 150 degrees to the right was a magnificent view of Banderpanch and related mountains. If panoramas were important, this had to be one of the choice locations on the upper ridge as there was a clear view both front and back. Because it had no close neighbors there was a great sense of peaceful solitude surrounding it. A footpath behind the house led to a small knoll which was the summit. From there one could see even more.

From the porch of Parker Hall, at Woodstock School, you began the long climb to Prospect Point by going out and turning right up the long first zig-zag. On a summer afternoon it was a mile or so hike to the top. A long trudge led past at least five or six dwellings, one that was actually named "Zig-Zag". Several of the switch backs were quite steep and sometimes one had to stop briefly to rest. Going down in the morning was the opposite; neophytes soon learned not to run down steep mountain roads, for gravity inevitably won and there followed the tripping and the gravels were not kind to tender knees and palms. Eventually, we reached the steps that brought us to the road that went to Sisters bazaar to the left and the long loop to the right on which there were a multitude of dwellings, many with Irish names. There was also a community water spigot and watering spot. Turning right, there was a hundred yard respite and then began the last several short ramps up past Prospect Lodge and finally one entered the yard of our beloved Prospect Point. If you were lucky, you could stand at one of the two little walls and feel a cool breeze while surveying the immensities below.

Prospect Point was divided into three suites. For most of our times there we were assigned the "Sun" suite. It was on the right side of the building. At this end the living areas made an "L" shape and enclosed the right end of a large porch which had a concrete floor and two or three pillars supporting the overhanging roof. From the porch one entered directly into a small but inviting living room. The next room, straight back was the bedroom used by our parents. I somehow recall it being somewhat dark and subdued in mood even on very bright days. Next was the kitchen/dining area and this was a very light and bright room at all times. The walls were painted a light yellow as were the walls in the living room and it just felt friendly. Finally, there was the other quite small room at the back of the building where we boys slept in bunk beds. Prospect Point also had electricity but no phones when we lived there.

There was a small wood stove in the kitchen which provided warmth on early March days when a hint of winter would still chill the air. It was also used for cooking. There may also have been an electric hotplate. My father was the one who generally fixed breakfast while our mother prepared the other meals. He also met the milkmen at the kitchen door and tested the milk for water before buying. Breakfasts on the weekends were the best, because there was no rush to get out the door. The proposals for how the day might be spent were planned around the breakfast table.

The front porch was where a lot of activity happened. We learned to roller skate there and practiced turns and other moves around the pillars. Other toys, especially small wooden pull toys were played with there by the small children. On Saturdays the trunk wallahs would appear and spread their wares;small Persian or Tibetan wool rugs, wood carvings, silver and gold jewelry, kitchen utensils, anything that might catch the eye of a buyer. Sometimes the porch was a place of contemplative silence, or a brawl of kids getting into a fight before the adults could break it up. I remember hearing Margaret Brooks practicing Schubert’s "Serenade" on her violin from the porch. Because I, too, was learning the violin, the tune remained in my memory.

The small yard was one of my favorite spots. I could stand and look out over a vast scene of mountains, rivers, plains, cities, and hills. One could see small dots moving on Ridgewood’s play yard. With binoculars one could see that those dots were people. Crows and hawks circled below in lazy circles. There was a quail or some sort of bird that had a distinctive "kuwai, kuwai," call.
And then there was the fog. It rolled up from below and suddenly its wispy tendrils enveloped all in misty dampness and the sense of sight was denied to be replace by heightened touch and smell sensations.

One morning I was up and out before the others. Near the servants’ quarters. at the upper end of the yard. stood our venerable and short chowkidar facing out into the new day. He was chanting his prayers, as his ancestors before him, to his Creator. I was moved to see this old and wrinkled human so intently calling out and singing to his Maker. At night, not only were there stars in the heavens but also the myriad pinpoints of Dehradun city lights. Both universes twinkled for the same reason. The other side of the yard faced the high Himalayas. It was also the most fragrant side as there were many large deodars on the bank below.

When we returned to Woodstock in 1949 we were in the "North" suite. That was the year of the small snow storm. Having experienced snow in America we assumed there would be no school and so had the morning to make small snow balls. There wasn’t enough to make a respectable snowman (maybe an inch or so) and it was more of the soft snow pellets variety. I still have photos of that pleasant morning reprieve.

There was one disadvantage to living at Prospect Point, the monsoon thunderstorms! I have pretty much described them in my "Monsoon" article so I won’t reiterate.

Writing this has been a real pleasure. It has revived many memories of a beloved domicile.
If there are others who have stories about Prospect Point please feel free to share them.


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Jack Day said...

A pleasure reading your account. I was at Woodstock from 1954 and graduated in 1959. Jack Day.

Bill K. said...

Jack...we must be nearly the same age. Glad you enjoyed that part of my blog. Every once in a while I go back to see if anybody is reading my stuff and am pleasantly surprised to find a new one. Blessings!

Bawa said...

Would it be too imposing to ask you for some pictures of that time. The place is with our family now and we would be very interested in seeing old pictures, if any or anything connected to the house.

Bill K. said...

To Bawa: I just found some pics of a snow storm at Prospect Point in 1950 that I took with a Kodak Brownie (black and white film) My email is wkinzie@ If you'll send me your email I'll send them to you.