Allahabad, that is. I went on a pilgrimage to Allahabad before Christmas. Why?
Because my mother’s mother’s father, James George Jennings, had lived there from 1895 to 1912. He taught at Muir Central College for the first ten years, then was Principal of MCC for the next seven. He and his wife Maud had three daughters while living in Allahabad, including my grandmother, so I took my mother to see where her mother had been born.
We wanted to see what could be found about George Jennings, his family, and his activities in Allahabad. To help us, I was fortunate to hook up with some alumni of the university, and we ended up doing an all-day tour of the sights of the town. Unfortunately it was a Monday, so the tour was largely a tour of the outside of the sights of the town. But we found where JGJ probably lived – in the Belvedere – and we took in the cathedral, Anand Bhavan, the Khusro Bagh, the Sangam, Muir College, and the early twentieth century university buildings. A thorough and very interesting exploration of the town, conducted by a very well informed and wonderfully considerate guide.
I did sing for my supper though, at least a bit, by giving a talk at the Museum, advertised as ‘India As I See It’. This was a marvellously flexible title, and one I intended to honour for only a small portion of the time allotted. Mostly I wanted to ask the audience what they felt about the future of India; I learned a great deal. There was also a woman there who is currently conducting research into the history of Allahabad University, and she came equipped with several stories about George Jennings that have not come down within the family. (In fact, very little has.)
But the main thing, as a traveller, was how difficult it was actually getting to and from Delhi to Allahabad. The flight on Sunday turned into a twelve hour marathon, with delayed take off, redirection to Varanasi, diverted luggage, and a three-hour bus ride being rattled about like ice cubes in a blender. As for the return to Delhi, my cosy assumption that it would be easy to buy rail tickets in India was wildly optimistic. It took our host half a day and the use of some senior contacts in the regional railway hierarchy to get any tickets at all. Anyway, at least we ended up in a sleeper berth on our way to Delhi and not hanging onto the roof.
Delhi – now that’s another story…