Re-visiting Carbery Acres


The high point of our visit was the meeting with the last survivors of truly illustrious Anglo Indian families of the zamindari era. We met with Dr. Jimmy Skinner, at 91, the last male survivor of Col James (Sikander Sahib) Skinner’s family and Jennifer Mann, now 76, who along with her sister Maureen are the survivors of the Carbery family, inheritors of the Powell estates.

Greg tells us of the days when Jennifer shot a leopard with a .22 hunting rifle the one she is displaying to us in the photo. The only addition to the rifle is an infrared sight. Jimmy  was excited as a school boy as he recollected shooting a deer in the days when hunting was an open sport .

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Jimmy Skinner taking us through albums of treasured memories. The ones he liked best where those with catches of huge fish measuring several feet long.

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Jennifer and son Gregory Mann. Gregory has followed in the footsteps of his mother and is an educationist and social worker. He is likely to be the representative of the Anglo Indian community in the Uttarakhand Assembly.

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Jennifer lives in the farm house at Carbery Acres, a hunting lodge built by the Carberys over a century ago.The old hunting lodge has been left largely untouched and still has heritage furniture.The walls are splattered with the Carbery and Mann family photos.

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An old smithy located on the Carbery Acres resort is still run by  Shyamlal, a third generation employee with the Carberys.

Carbery Acres continues to be a beautiful location for a week end getaway. It’s early April and the mango season is around the corner. The trees are in full bloom and a bumper crop of mangoes  expected this year.

Bright pink bougainvillea flowers over look the splash pool where we spent over an hour before leisurely drinking glasses of hot tea and eating delicious pakodas.

A view of the tree house and the cottages at the resort.

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With my wife Deepa

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With Pat Kerr, JVR, Saraswati, Col. Raj Sehgal and Deepa.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay once again due largely to our gracious host Pat Kerr.

The Grand Assembly at Kannur


They came from all the lands of Jambudvipa .The Barathans from the South, the Baskarans from the North, the Vasudevans from the East and the Dhananjans from the West.  It’s been long since these great families have met together and now with the sale of Krishna Nivas and the passing on of most of the earlier generations, it is unlikely that such an assembly will ever take place again .If only it was seen as the last grand assembly for the family, and not one of legal compliance, we could have had a larger gathering and the spirit of togetherness would have pervaded all the activities.

For me the assembly was homage to one of the great tharavads of North Malabar. The branch of Choyi Butler’s family ,ably championed by his daughter Devaki .Krishna Nivas itself is a great tribute to the grand vision of Devaki , our Grandmother and Govindan , our Grandfather. It was apparent from the sentiments of Goyo and others, that the grand old lady was the keeper of the families’ values and traditions. There was more reminiscing of her idiosyncrasies than the grand old man who served in the British army and went missing in action during the Second World War. The story goes that he was shot in the leg and was so seriously unwell that he was almost given a sea burial. Months after he was presumed dead, he came back home, albeit with one leg a trifle shorter than the other and a rocking motion as he walked.

Krishna Nivas was a magnificent dwelling. Double storied with a solid wooden staircase leading to the first floor from the veranda. It was build way back in 1939 but most of the wooden doors, windows and rafters are still in very good condition. Now it was dilapidated, after more than a year of lying vacant .The gardens that would have been a hive of activity for the children who grew up there and who had joyfully clambered on to the trees to eat myriad of fruits, now lay over grown and in ruins. So it was that the Barathans who sometimes consider it their very own home ,more than anyone else’s, choose not to visit the house, baring Radettan , when the rest of us wandered around the empty, dusty high ceiling rooms  for  one last time . Goyo had earlier arranged a large ceremony, where the spirits of our forefathers who had died in Krishna Nivas ,were called up and appeased, thus cleansing the house of restless spirits if any.

The Barathans and the Dhananjans had spent their childhood and early days in Krishna Nivas and were understandably full of nostalgia and stories of the good old days. When the call to partition and sell the property arose, Jayakrishnan who was then residing there didn’t want to leave and a legal battle had to be played out. Devaki’s foresight had ensured an iron cast will, duly registered, that left the property equally to the four branches of the family. This was the defining argument that led to the court ruling in favour of the partition and sale of the property as per the terms of the will. In these matters, there is no room for emotions .In the current splintered life styles we lead and with differing needs for funds among family members, it is only natural to partition and split the property or jointly agree to sell, so that we get the best deal.

We answered the call of some of the family to have a get together, as this was a great opportunity, and Anand, Shankar and I went ahead and made the arrangements in the seaside resort we were staying in, a nice place facing the Payambalam Beach. An inordinate delay in signing the sale deed almost killed the programme. The diehards managed to reach after 10 pm but the Barathans choose to stay away putting a dampener on what could have been an unforgettable evening, late though it was. The Barathans are great entertainers and the evening lost its zing, because they choose to stay away.  It was after 1 am when Anand and Nandi escorted Sathy home. He richly deserved the stiff drinks he downed, in sheer relieve that his persistent efforts over the last few years had finally paid off and the sale of Krishna Nivas had taken place.

The Payambalam beach beckoned all the time. The roar of the monsoon laden sea was a treat and the weather held out all through our stay in Kannur, baring a few brief showers and the heavy burst as we set off on a visit to the Muthapan Temple at Parasinnikadavu. But we just couldn’t make it to the beach .There were danger signals posted along the beach and the sea was turbulent. We may still have made it but the late nights and packed programme didn’t allow us this treat. Besides there were just Anand, Shankar and I staying there .The rest of us were staying in other houses across Kannur. This visit would be remembered for the quality time we all spent together. We do meet Sathy, Aruna, Cho ,Shankar and Nandi more frequently. It has been ages since we meet Renuka , Juju, Rupa, Goyo and Jaykrishnan .It’s sad our children hardly know each other . The great tradition of the tharavads no longer seems to exist.

The Parasinnikadvu visit was a bit of a letdown. Last time I witnessed an awe inspiring and unforgettable experience .I still remember the thunderous beating of the drums, the immaculate rituals and the Theyyam dance sequence. This time the drums seemed muted and less awe inspiring. We probably missed the pre dance rituals and were only privy, as we walked into the temple, to see lines of people approaching “Muthapan” for an answer to their problems. For the uninitiated and a non- believer like me, it was a big disappointment. The last time around, the romanticism around the unique practices of this temple made a lasting impact. Speaking to the Theyyam was not what I had set out to do and didn’t feel the urge to do so when in the temple. Goyo’s association with religious practices and his connect with the temple establishment got for us special treatment but this still didn’t make for a visit to remember.

I was keen on a visit to what I am told is the temple adopted by the Kotieth family .We had last visited it on our return from Tirunelli for a special puja for our departed family members . All of us were keen to visit the temple then, as we drove down to Kannur from Tirunelli. We were afraid we would be too late as the temple would have closed for the day. However when we reached the gates of the temple the doors were still open, we saw the most appealing of sights of lighted lamps and a view of the deity. It was almost as if the Gods were waiting for us!!! Most of us were keen to go to the temple on this visit as well, which I am told is the Kalari Vadukal Temple. This was again a serene experience and we were all so very glad we had gone there.

Thus ended the grand assembly at Kannur. Will such an assembly ever take place again??