Jaipur :This is the family tale of three adventurous Australians — Susan Glasfurd and her elder brother Peter Glasfurd (and his wife Jeniffer) — who were on a mission to trace their missing roots in Incredible India. They travelled to India in November, clueless about where to look, finally found the rich legacy of their forefathers and managed to pay homage to them at Sironcha in Maharashtra, thanks to “the wonderful Indian hospitality”.
The brother-sister duo had grown up on a large farming property in Western Australia, but their hearts had always yearned for India, where their forefathers had lived many years ago. Their father was born in Poona (now Pune), his father and two uncles were born in the adjacent Matheran hill station and his grandfather was also born in India (but it’s not exactly clear where) as were earlier generations.
“Many were the tales our father told; they were never ending, but then, we knew he was a great raconteur, a great story-teller, and where was this place India anyway? As children, it seemed just another of his exciting fairy tales,” Susan told IANS.
“However, we yearned to visit this place to retrace our family history. We had heard of stories of the forts, the tribes, the fleet, the magistrates, the commissioners and the story of their return to their ancestral homes in Scotland. We have also seen their homesickness and their regret over leaving their adopted country which at times became overwhelming,” she added.
“Finally, in a quest to find something, we came to India with a sense that this is where we belong; but the basic question was: Where to start? From much detective work, we knew of houses that had been built and of a village named after our great grandfather, Charles Robertson Lamont Glasfurd, an engineer and surveyor and Commissioner here in India. In such a short time, our plan became one where we would try and find some of these houses (if they still existed) and if possible discover the village,” Susan explained.
Travelling as tourists, they visited various villages before arriving in Jaipur — where they hit paydirt. Their local tour operator, Manoj Vardhan, located the village — Glasfard Petha — and also suggested a plan to reach Sironcha, an off-the-beaten-track place located in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, bordering Telangana.
“No hotel or motels there, yet our desires were fulfilled, courtesy Indian hospitality,” she said.
“Our father, Duncan Angus Glasfurd, was born in Pune and spent a long time at various places in this country. He narrated stories which became the inspiration to explore our family history. Duncan John Glasfurd was our grandfather who rose to become a general in the army. Charles Robertson Lamont Glasfurd was our great grandfather who served as Commissioner at Sironcha. It was an important place ruled by the Nizam of Hyderabad during late 19th century,” Susan said.
“Our first port of call was Glasfard Petha. An internal plane trip, an overnight stay and a long car drive (with a multi-lingual driver) eventually got us heading along a road in need of much repair, winding in and out through the jungle. Then we reached Glasfard Petha. The welcome we received was beyond description,” she said
The excitement was infectious and the crowd grew bigger; men, women and children speaking excitedly, merging into one collective, gleeful crowd. They asked to meet the school teacher as they hoped he may have further knowledge to impart.
“We slowly walked with the headman and the school teacher along the track between the houses, noting that it was a neat, tidy and clean little village. We were ushered into the headman’s garden and were seated as honoured guests. We spoke for some time, a very emotional time for us, and then it was time to go.
“The whole village escorted us back to the car. After many farewells and promises to keep in touch we slowly drove away, surrounded on each side and behind by a crowd of villages who had gathered to see us off,” Susan said.
The next stop was not too far away — the police station.
“We arrived at the gate to a very bemused group — the local police. The premises was one of the homes that Charles resided in while doing important business in the area. The police, amazed at our appearance and story, invited us inside. They showed us the old well that was used for drinking water. This visit also included much clicking of cameras and much chatting and laughter.”
“While on our way, we had discovered that Charles had built a house on the highest point of Sironcha out of the stones of a derelict ruin and sure enough there it was in all its glory still standing and now a government guest house. We managed a full tour of this house as well,” Susan said.
Altogether, it was an eventful day.
“We were here to find history from fragments of historical notes, here to piece them together and create a story for our family history; and it was here that we discovered why our ancestors had such emotionally strong ties to India. This is a holiday that will remain in our hearts for all time,” Susan concluded.