Cor Blimey! Where ‘ave you come from?
by Winifred Tovey with sections by Frank Tovey
Synopsis by Winnie Tovey :
We spent eighteen months working for the Methodist Missionary Society in China just after World War II and had to flee from Mao’s Red Army; an experience that we have written about in our first book Strangers in Chaotung.
Then, after a brief stay in England, we got back on a passenger ship with two year old Rosemary and baby Jenny, to travel to post-Raj India.
For sixteen years we lived and worked in Mysore, South India.
Our four children grew up to mix with the very rich and very poor; one day at nursery school in the Maharaja’s Palace, and on the next going with me to visit remote villages, where the last few miles could only be travelled on foot and we would meet the villagers under the shade of a banyan tree.
When we first arrived in India in 1951, the old ‘mission hands’ instructed us to, ‘listen, learn and on no account express an opinion’. But we found too much need around us.
In no time at all we were involved in extending Frank’s work as a surgeon at the Holdsworth Memorial Hospital (also known as the Mission Hospital) to projects in the outlying areas.
The advent of ‘Dapsone’ (in 1950) as an effective treatment for leprosy made it possible for our team to rehabilitate leprosy sufferers and practically eradicate leprosy from local districts.
With help at home from an ayah, cook and mali, I was able to take on other projects as well, bringing bore wells and cottage industries to drought-stricken villages that had previously suffered regular famines, and assisting in the resettlement of Tibetan refugees in nearby Bylakuppe.
The book is also about so much more – the landscape of South India with its jungles and the beautiful Nilgiri Hills, the people we met who became our friends, the children’s escapades and those of our pets, Christmas concerts at the Palace, the annual Dasara with its world famous parade, and the history of Mysore and the Holdsworth Hospital.
When writing the book, both of us in our nineties, we looked back on the huge changes that took place in our lifetime and were glad to have been involved in events that shaped the India of today.
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