Photograpy, India, Portraits, Anglo Indians, Family and me

Grandpas tour to photograph in Simla 1947

To add a little more to Grandpa’s story I enclose a letter written to me from Derek Boddington who I have now had the pleasure of speaking with.

Mountbatten Shimla tour copy

Hi Jason,

Many thanks for the photo and for the link.

The photo was taken immediately after the Trooping of the Colour and Centenary parade on 7th October 1947. Customarily at the end of every ceremonial parade, members of the school Staff are introduced to the Presiding Officer and members of his party. It’s a nice picture and of course, I recognize everyone in it. I’m sure my usual visitors and old school friends will be pleased to see it. Your Grandpa’s account of the occasion is accurate and corresponds with mine, (see my earlier email) – except that he has confused the Lovedale school title with ours,  (probably because, coming from the south of India he would have been more familiar with Lovedale.  Sanawar was founded during Lawrence’s lifetime, whereas Lovedale and Ghora Gali were established as memorial schools, after his death in Lucknow, in 1857).

Have you checked out the image numbers I sent you? I’m fairly certain they are all PR photos, but I no longer have access to the prints so I can’t say who took them. They were all 1947, so it has to be either Sharma or your Grandad. I’m also pretty certain that your Grandpa accompanied the CGS General Sir Arthur Smith on his visit to Sanawar for Founder’s Day in 1946. I will look through my files to see what else I can find.

Thanks too for the links to your blog, all of which I found most interesting.  My mother’s folk are also from the south, (Malabar) and our Eurasian link is Anglo-Indian and Indo-Dutch, (Confusing)!  I have been researching my family history since 1999 and also have a genealogy site with the same hosts, (Rootsweb).  It is down for maintenance just now, but I’ll let you know when it’s up again. You’d be very welcome to visit.

Best wishes,


The Lawrence Military Academy at partition (Simla)

I have been spending quite some time recently, reengaging with my Grandpa Bert Scott’s work. I’ve been editing, sequencing, trying my best alongside  curator Rosie Addenbrooke from The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum Coventry chose the photographs that tell the story of my family’s life in India on the run up to partition and beyond.

There is one image I am very familiar with, it’s a group shot taken in late August in Simla just after partition 1947 which features Earl and Lady Mountbatten at the closing of The Lawrence Royal Military School Sanawar high in the Simla hills prior to the handing over to the Indian school services.

Group with Mountbattens1947partition


As a matter of cause I googled some of the details Grandpa had written on the back of the print which led me to a rather interesting blog about the schools history collated in photographs by Derek Boddington.

What amazed me is that within the many pages of images was a copy of one of my Grandpas photographs, now it was in-correctly accredited to Mr Sharma courtesy of a Mr Ron Bailey. I have no idea who Mr Sharma is at this stage or Mr Ron Bailey but what really excites me is that there are obviously other copies of my Grandpa’s photographs still out there and yet to be found.

Exciting times.

Sun glass reading glass

I recently heard from a friend that ‘Ahmed’ the man famous for selling ‘fake’ designer Sun glasses to foreign tourists along the south Indian coastline of Kerala had sadly died. His call of Suuun glassss reeeeading glass reverberated around the seaside resort of Kovalam and beyond for many years. I had the pleasure of taking lunch break with him on occasion; songs were even written about him which the late John Peel played on BBC radio. What a character Kovalam & India will not seem the same with out you.000015180003

Galli Magazine Visual Narratives from India

The manual worker Varkala Kerala 2006

The manual worker Varkala Kerala 2006

Pig House Pictures a Falmouth University publication

The Wedding Band man

The Wedding Band man New Delhi 2004

From The New York Daily News 19/12/2013

Marguerite Mumford Bombay 1936

Marguerite Mumford Bombay 1936


Grandpa back at school Bangalore

From the very start of this project in November 1999 in terms of distance I’ve travelled a very long way. In terms of an education and the many emotional traumas I have experienced along the way I think I’ve travelled even further. First Grandpa died whilst I was in Kerala South India, then Nan died last year and just four months ago we lost my father. My longing to be back in India has never been stronger.

Of cause at the moment I have a little boy who I adore being with and he is the only thing that stops me from packing my bags a leaving. He is the only reason for me being here.

Grandpa would have loved Max. This is a portrait taken of Grandpa sitting on the wall at Bishop cottons school Bangalore As I look back it was such a happy time.






Aware I have not paid due attention in showing more portraits taken whilst I meandered around India, and I could certainly been accused of blather as I’ve talked so much recently about my ‘interesting’ last decade.

So; here is a portrait whilst I was recovering from an ear infection in South Goa. Ok, Ok I was having a good time whilst recovering from an ear infection in Goa. Who would have thought that morphine tables could make you sleep for two weeks?
I’ve noticed a lovely little tradition in Goa; one day each year when the Banjara women collect money from foreigners on Palolem beach. These women are commonly known as India’s wondering gypsies.
I have yet to nail exactly where they come from as I’ve met with these ladies all over India.
Now this cannot be a centuries old Indian tradition can it? I’m fairly sure that tourists weren’t found in India before the 1960’s. Am I wrong?
These ladies own small shops. They make and sell cheep clothes to old hippies at Anjuna flea market. They bargain hard! On this day one day of the year they collect money spend it on alcohol and get pissed at the beach with every one else.
I’ve been told by many that India absorbs other cultures in to its own. There is a feeling of ‘well, if those foreign women can do that then so can we’. There husbands don’t seem to complain.

Banjara lady Goa 2008

Banjara lady Goa 2008



The Old Gurgaon Road

‘They can make you so paranoid’. These words were whispered to me.

Mid September 2002

Back then New Delhi still slept at night, but my introduction was loud and frightening. As if the hunt had begun almost as I arrived.

In the year before I left home, warnings became more frequent and direct. Not from my inner circle of mates but from dodgy blokes I’d befriended along the way.

Life had dealt me an eclectic mixture of interesting associates. There were journalists and informers, police officers and drug dealers, publicans and private detectives. Mum once said ‘be careful who you mix with in life’. I should have listened.

My journey started from Birmingham Airport close to home in the West Midlands. I was happy and relieved a new chapter in my life was beginning. I had wanted this moment. I had dreamed of it.

Most of my fellow passengers got off in the United Arab Emirates where we’d had a short stop-over. When we eventually landed in New Delhi I was almost alone, I collected my rucksack quickly from the baggage area and passed through immigration. I felt really good.

India is different, normal rules do not apply. On arrival you do not just hail a taxi outside. After I changed Travellers’ Cheques for rupees I went to the government-controlled pre-paid taxi booth where I ‘secured my taxi’. I didn’t think much of it, but I noticed two portly officials exchange my driver three times before we were allowed to leave.

I felt relaxed. More relaxed than when I’d first arrived in Mumbai three years before with my elderly Grandfather. I was not a newcomer to India I was aware arriving here alone could prove challenging.

Though I had been offered the middle seats I chose to sit next to the driver. Slight of build and dressed in regulation khaki uniform. We said ‘hello’. My knees were jammed against the plastic dashboard.

The pungent odour of post monsoon New Delhi filled my nostrils that evening. It has a unique smell quite unlike any where else I’ve ever visited. Whilst not entirely unpleasant it permeates your soul.

‘New Delhi, sir?’ ‘Connaught place please’ I said confidently, pretending I knew my destination.

We joined the Old Gurgaon Road.

Even early in the morning all manner of traffic occupy India’s streets. Cars and taxis auto-rickshaws, Lorries, along with bullock-driven carts, jostle for space.
My young driver thrashed the engine, hogging the outside lane for the first few miles, refusing to be bullied from position.

It was then I became aware that the chase had begun. I heard the sound of distant sirens. Police?

Surely not?

If I was their prey, their intelligence must have been spot on. I saw the red and blue flashing lights grow brighter, bouncing off every surface within the white Suzuki taxi van.
I looked over my right shoulder and tried my best to peer through the small square window in the back of the van. I couldn’t see much. I leaned out of the window. I saw it was police.

I glared at the driver. He didn’t seem bothered, he gave a gentle Indian head shrug but I was panicking. I’d just arrived in the country and now I felt on edge. Were the police after me? There weren’t any drugs in my luggage. I hadn’t smoked anything for months. Had I been set up? Had the driver switch been planned?

The intermittent glow from over-head orange street lamps made visibility inconsistent, the disorientation of this only made my anxiety worse. As the police vehicle swerved menacingly behind us I pleaded with the driver to pull over.

Hotels and guest houses of all standards and sizes lined our route. Stray dogs and street dwellers lurked amongst the shadows.

Words that had first been uttered in a Midlands pub were now ringing loudly in my ears. ‘These people can find you anywhere’. I’d been told.

The police car passed us. I was safe I thought, but immediately the chase began afresh. This time they were definitely after me.

Another police car caught up with us. My driver once calm began to panic but sensibly this time he pulled across the expressway and stopped. A police officer ran from his vehicle screaming at us. At this point I raised my hands in the air. He shone his touch in our faces in anger he smashed it against our windscreen. The windscreen shattered.

A huge lorry that was travelling at terrific speed passed within inches of the police officer, our taxi shuck. It was so close it caught our breath as it passed. More police chased behind. Of cause they were not chasing after me.

There was a moment of quiet before my driver put his hands to the top pocket of his shirt and he pulled out a Beedi. He struck a match, breathed, lit it then inhaled.

Welcome to India I thought.

Never alive until you are hunted

Looking back, I guess the warning was quite clear.

‘A man never feels truly alive until he is hunted.’

At the time, it came out of context. In my local, the pub where I felt comfortable and safe. From a man I considered a friend.
I was drinking a pint of draft Guinness. The landlord was a grumpy middle age man I had known since my late teens. I remember him slender younger but over the years he had allowed his girth to spread and the misery of his life told tales across his face. He had been collecting beer glasses from the empty tables behind me and I was leaning with elbows pressed against the bar.

It was tea time and the pub was quieter than usual he turned his head in my general direction and spoke those words that still haunt me, more than a decade on. Softly, for my ears only.
I felt he knew something. That he had a vague knowledge of my past and of my future. He seemed pleased with himself. I was left trying to work it out. Only now am I starting to appreciate what he meant.


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