I got home on Friday and, more importantly, got to be back with Susie after two weeks away. The long flight from Delhi to Newark and connections to Dallas (me) and San Jose (Dad) went smoothly; although a silent, empty Newark airport was a bit eerie at 4:30 in the morning. Now I just need to convince my body that falling asleep at 5 PM and waking up at 3 AM is not really what I need when I go back to work tomorrow. I want to finish this blog with a couple of final thoughts and some updates (see below).

My little journey back to India was a wonderful experience. Of course, flying business class, staying in luxury hotels, and using a car and driver was a very different India experience from what I had in high school (third class train tickets and cheap, dingy hotels)… but one that’s easy to get used to. I am grateful to my cousin, Lynn Mumby, who made it all happen.

I can’t explain how much it meant to share this adventure with my father. He and I have done a lot together over the years, and we quickly fell into an easy rapport. Re-visiting Woodstock and seeing the improvements with him was very special. He is an amazing man. He turns 83 on October 7th and has a bum knee, but he walked from the Hanifl Center to Woodstock, then all the way down to Hanson Field… and back! He was game for everything that was thrown at him during the trip, including speaking at the gym dedication ceremony. I can only hope to be capable of that much when I’m his age.

I also want to thank all of you who have followed along on this trip, especially those who sent comments. It made the trip even more fun for me.

Till the next adventure,
Marc

Updates

  • New Woodstock Gym – Here is a copy of the Woodstock Gym Factsheet that Woodstock prepared with everything you want to know about the new Win Mumby gym.
  • Dance Party Video – a short video clip from the dance party held the evening of the Win Mumby Gym dedication ceremony. Not exactly like the dances we had when I attended Woodstock! Yeah, I know, the sound sucks… sorry.
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You can’t possibly imagine what driving in India is like unless you go there. Every trip on Indian highways is a hair-raising experience. Here is a small glimpse of the chaos we encountered on our drive from Sattal back to Delhi.

There have been many improvements in India since I was there, but the roads are not one of them. The Indian highways (and I’m being kind here) are as bad as they were in 1969. The few relatively smooth sections of pavement are interrupted, for no apparent reason, by sections of rutted gravel road that require everyone to slow to a dusty crawl.

In addition to the poor road surfaces, there are hazards we don’t deal with in the U.S. Even on major highways, cars share the road with pedestrians, cattle, bicycles, water buffalo, ox carts, horse carts, bicycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, scooters, under-powered motorcycles, trucks, buses, and an occasional monkey. Can you imagine going 120 km/hr (75 mph) in the fast lane and passing an ox cart in the slow lane? Indian drivers think nothing of this! When combined with the total disregard Indian drivers have for traffic laws, it’s amazing there isn’t more carnage. Thanks to the quick reflexes of our driver, we made it to Delhi in one piece. We felt like kissing the ground when we finally got out of the car.

Oh… in case you’re confused by the photos, they drive on the left in India!

Top speed of this baby? ... 3 miles an hour!

Top speed of this baby? ... 3 miles an hour!

Centerline? What centerline?

Centerline? What centerline?

An Indian road hazard.

An Indian road hazard.

Another Indian road hazard.

Another Indian road hazard.

Not exactly sure what this is.

Not exactly sure what this is.

Indians take the Shared Ride concept to a whole new level.

Indians take the Shared Ride concept to a whole new level. Everyone has their seat belt fastened... right?

Believe it or not, this is a four lane divided highway. The guy driving the ox cart decided it was too much trouble to cross over to the correct side of divider. So, he just started driving down the wrong side of the highway into oncoming traffic.

Believe it or not, this is a four lane divided highway. The guy driving the ox cart decided it was too much trouble to cross over to the correct side of the divider. So, he just started driving down the wrong side of the highway... into oncoming traffic.

Our destination on Tuesday was Sattal (Seven Lakes) in the Kumaon region of the Himalayan foothills, 200 miles northeast of New Delhi.

The drive from the Corbett area was a long switchbacky route, much like the road from Dehra Dun to Mussoorie. It follows steep, densely forested hillsides with great views down to the plains below. Our route took us through the resort town of Nainital.

Nainital is a former British hill station (like Mussoorie) that has become a resort destination for the burgeoning group of middle class Indians (also like Mussoorie). While setting is spectacular, the natural beauty is obscured by the hotels that cover the hillsides and the place is overrun with tourists.

After a short walk around Naini Lake, we headed down to Sattal. Unlike the crowds and congestion of Nainital, Sattal was peaceful and serene. The hillsides enfold a series of small beautiful lakes. My grandfather (Ted Mumby) held month-long training camps at Sattal during the hot Indian summers and athletes would attend from all over India. The Mumby brothers traveled to the camp for a week or two during school breaks and Dad has fond memories of the place.

The main lake at Sattal. A beautiful setting... err... except for the goofy-looking paddleboats.

The main lake at Sattal. A beautiful setting... err... except for the goofy-looking paddleboats.

Although there have been changes, my impression was that it looks much the same as it did 68 years ago. The house where Ted stayed is still there. We could also see the terraces where the basketball court, sleeping tents, and dining area were located. The dry lakebed that was used as a track is also still there. Even though he was only 15 at the time, Dad’s memory of the place was amazingly accurate.

This is the house where Dad's father stayed during training camp.

This is the house where Dad's father stayed during training camp.

Behind us is the dry lake bed (Sukital) they used for track and field.

Behind us is the dry lake bed (Sukital) they used for track and field.

Another place we visited in Sattal was the Sat-Tal Christian Ashram, which was established by the famous evangelist E. Stanley Jones in 1930. The Ashram is up the hill from the camp and the Mumbys visited there occasionally and met Dr. Jones. While we were poking around, the current director (Rev. R. S. Verma) came out and invited us in to tea. Apparently the place is still going strong and has space for 150 shishyas (disciples) for sessions that last a month.

Standing in front of the original Ashram building where Dad met E. Stanley Jones.

Standing in front of the original Ashram building where Dad met E. Stanley Jones.

We left Woodstock early Sunday morning to Corbett National Park with a car and driver arranged through Momo Tours (Momo was in the Woodstock class of ’80 and is a very cool dude!). We went through Haridwar, a holy city where devotees bathe in the Ganges as part of their pilgrimage to Hindu temples in the Himalayas. Rishikesh is another holy city (30 km upstream of Haridwar) that made headlines when the Beatles visited in 1968.

We spent two nights at Corbett National Park and went on three jeep safaris. We saw lots of deer, exotic birds (like horn bills, peacocks and hupus), wild elephants, and a jackal (India’s equivalent of a coyote). We did not see a tiger, which is why everyone goes to Corbett. However, the best parts of the park are closed during the monsoon season (June 15 to November 15). The part we visited is the only one open all year and is not the best for tigers (although a female and two cubs were spotted the day we got there). The best time to go is April and May when things have dried out and the animals move to the watering holes. Access to the park is limited; you need a permit and must be accompanied by a guide. I’d be happy to provide more information if you’re thinking of going.

Although much has changed in India, one of the things that hasn’t is rural India. We drove through a number of small farming villages on our safaris. I thought things look pretty much the same as they did 40 years ago. Even though cellular telephone networks cover most of the country, there are still plenty of houses in the poverty-stricken rural villages that don’t have electricity and running water. Fields are still plowed using mules or oxen and the crops are harvested manually. Modernization just hasn’t happened for these people.

This is as close as we got to seeing a tiger. The big round print is from an elephant.

This is as close as we got to seeing a tiger. The big round print is from an elephant.

Sunset over a monsoon wash at Corbett Park.

Sunset over a monsoon wash at Corbett Park.

Lunch on the deck at Corbett Hideaway hotel. Kosi river in the background.

Lunch on the deck at Corbett Hideaway hotel. Kosi river in the background.

Rural India looks the same as it did in 1969. This photo of a ramshackle hut/house could have been taken 40 years ago... except for the sattelite dish of course!

Rural India looks the same as it did in 1969. This photo of a ramshackle hut/house could have been taken 40 years ago... except for the sattelite dish of course!

Ox carts a still an important means of transport in the villages.

Ox carts a still an important means of transport in the villages.

Drove from Woodstock to Corbett Nat’l Park yesterday. Doing the animal safari thing. Staying at a great hotel, but Internet not working. Hopefully tomorrow’s hotel will have access.

Lynn and Jane departed for their trip to Nepal this morning. It was our only day without any planned activities, so Dad and I took the opportunity to explore Woodstock. We tried (with limited success) to remember details from way back when, so we could compare to how things look now. I apologize to all of you who are not Woodstockites, but the rest of this probably won’t make a lot of sense.

Dad and I walked over to the Woodstock campus from the Hanifl Center on the Eyebrow Trail; a scenic trip that skirts along steep cliffs. We stopped off at the Lyre Tree (the most famous Woodstock landmark) for the obligatory photo, and then headed down the hill to the student residences. Our first stop was the Hostel (high school boys residence), where both of us lived during high school. The Hostel had deteriorated to the point where it was no longer fit for habitation and was closed a couple of years ago. Although the original plan was to demolish it and build a new dormitory, current building restrictions in Mussoorie made that impossible. The current plan involves gutting the place and completely renovating. Although I suppose it will be nice to have the façade from the old building gracing the Woodstock landscape, I suspect there are a lot of ex-Woodstock boys who wouldn’t mind one bit if the thing was torn down. From what I gathered, Sanjay Narang (of gym construction fame) is handling the entire project through his construction company (Mars) and is footing most of the bill.

Woodstock is growing and needs more student housing. In order to increase the number of dorm rooms without increasing the footprint of the building, a new wing of rooms is being built where the Hostel swimming pool was. The old pool is being replaced with 25 meter pool that sits out in front of what we called the “East Wing” of the old Hostel that housed junior and senior boys. From what I understand, this will be a “real” swimming pool (as in chlorinated and heated). The next generations of Woodstock kids will never be able to experience the joy of a freezing dip in a slime-coated swimming pool!

Sanjay has said that the Hostel construction will be completed by the end of the year. Although that’s hard to believe based on the amount of work left to do (see photos), we have to remember that no one believed him when he said the gym would be done in time for a Sept. 18th dedication!

Other big changes for us included extensive renovations of both Ridgewood and Midlands, and the Alter Ridge building (which sits at the same level as Ridgewood) and houses dormitories, kitchen facilities, and a large dining room. The new lower “bypass road” below Tehri Road really changed the way things look. Hard to believe it’s possible to drive a car to Ridgewood (and beyond to Hanson Field and Dhobi Ghat)! The walk back up the hill to school was a painful reminder that we’re not 16 anymore. I can remember running all the way up from the Hostel when I was late for class.

David Laurenson invited us to stop by his place, “The Principal’s House,” on our way into the bazaar for dinner. We had a very nice time chatting on his patio overlooking Landaur and the hillside. On the recommendation of many people, we ate at the Tavern. It’s just down the street from the old Picture Palace (currently an empty, dilapidated old building). A cold Carlsberg and dinner really hit the spot. I highly recommend the Rogan Josh (if you like mutton).

Dad and the Lyre Tree. Still there after all these years.

Dad and the Lyre Tree. Still there after all these years.

The first big switchback coming up from Ridgewood is now in the middle of the new lower (bypass) road. Really looks different.

The first big switchback coming up from Ridgewood is now in the middle of the new lower (bypass) road. Really looks different.

The front of the Hostel showing some of the construction.

The front of the Hostel showing some of the construction.

A view of the Hostel from the far end of the new pool. The East Wing that houses junior and senior boys is straight ahead.

A view of the Hostel from the far end of the new pool. The East Wing that houses junior and senior boys is straight ahead.

Dad is standing in front of the new wing, which sits on top of where the old Hostel swimming pool was.

Dad is standing in front of the new wing, which sits on top of where the old Hostel swimming pool was.

The big day finally arrived. The new Win Mumby Gym at Woodstock has now been officially dedicated. The school organized a great event for this occasion (see below).

Started the day (sunny and beautiful again) with a walk up the chukar with Jane (Downs) Wallbrown’s son Sheldon, to look at the Snows again. I can’t get enough of that view. We then walked down zig-zag path to Woodstock, doing a little exploring along the way. Had lunch at Woodstock cafeteria and caught up with Judy Crider (my classmate) again.

Marc and Judy in the cafeteria. Judy was kind enough to take pictures with my camera (I was sitting on the dias). All the pictures of the gym dedication ceremony were taken by her.

Marc and Judy in the cafeteria. Judy was kind enough to take pictures with my camera (I was sitting on the dias). All the pictures of the gym dedication ceremony were taken by her.

Before I describe the festivities, here’s a little more information on the new gym.  When I was at Woodstock, what was called the gym wasn’t really a gym. It was a concrete pad, smaller than regulation basketball court size, that was covered by a tin roof. It had walls on three sides but was open on the fourth. The open side faced out onto a gravel playground, which had some storage sheds on the other side.

A photo of the old gym and playground area. This view is looking out the open side of the gym, across the playground to the sheds on the other side.

A photo of the old gym and playground area. This view is looking out the open side of the gym, across the playground to the sheds on the other side.

Now, imagine that entire area (gym, playground, sheds) covered by one gigantic building. In fact the gym building covers more than that area because it is cantilevered out over the hill on two sides. It’s so big that I wasn’t able to get a picture that included all of  it.

The walkway going up to the gym is the same, but you can see the new building coming out over the hill at the top.

The walkway going up to the gym is the same, but you can see the new building coming out over the hill at the top.

When you get to the top of the walkway, you can see the gym entrance on the right ahead.

When you get to the top of the walkway, you can see the gym entrance on the right, just past the plaque.

Here's a shot of Dad and I standing in the gym foyer. Behind us are glass doors that lead onto the main gym floor.

Here's a shot of Dad and I standing in the gym foyer. Behind us are glass doors that lead onto the main gym floor.

We headed to school in the late afternoon to meet up with the other (for lack of a better word) dignitaries. We then assembled in one of the gym classrooms prior to our grand entrance. By this time the gym was completely full of people. This included all the students, faculty, and staff. I think someone said 750 people. This was the first time the entire Woodstock community has been able to assemble under one roof.

Here's a view down the length of the gym showing part of the crowd.

Here's a view down the length of the gym showing part of the crowd.

We were led out to a dias set up in the middle of gym floor that was illuminated by spotlights. Talk about being put on display… yikes!  It felt odd and a bit embarrasing to be sitting with people who had contributed so much, since the only reason I was there was because Winston was my Uncle.

We were introduced by David Laurensen (Woodstock Principal). This was followed by a few short (thank god!) statements from people, including Dad, on how the new gym came to be and what it will mean to Woodstock. Even though people tried to make things brief, you could see all the little kids sitting up front start to squirm and fidget long before it was over.

Here's Dad reminising about Win and their days at Woodstock. People on the dias include: Thomas Chandy (Chairman of the Woodstock Board of Directors), Sanjay Narang (seated behind Dr. Laurensen), Rick Downs, Lynn Mumby (behind Dad), me, Jane Wallbrown, Frederick Downs, Mary Downs, Susan Downs, Sheldon Wallbrown, and Ajay Mark (Athletic Director).

Here's Dad reminising about Win and their days at Woodstock. People on the dias include: Thomas Chandy (Chairman of the Woodstock Board of Directors), Sanjay Narang (seated behind Dr. Laurensen), Rick Downs, Lynn Mumby (behind Dad), me, Jane Wallbrown, Frederick Downs, Mary Downs, Susan Downs, Sheldon Wallbrown, and Ajay Mark (Athletic Director).

The ceremony was followed by a delicious Indian buffet (for everyone) back down in the quad and dancing back in the gym. Cousin Lynn even got ME to dance! This is the first time I’ve been at a dance with teenages in a while. They don’t dance as couples anymore. They stand around in separate groups of boys and girls, jump up and down, raise their arms when once in a while. Occasionally a girl and boy will wind up near each other and sort of dance together. I guess the big advantage of this style is that the guys don’t have to actually ask girls to dance. Wimps!
An amazing dance party was held in the gym after dinner. The light show and sound were fantastic.

An amazing dance party was held in the gym after dinner. The light show and sound were fantastic.