18th March, 2012, Sunday…..Day (2) Sungal-Banuri-Andretta-Palampur 50 km
Though we slept very late the previous night, Mr Pahra got up quite early. A cup of tea and we were off for a light walk in the tea garden on the back side of the hotel.
We had a number of business associates at nearby places like Kandbari, Banuri, Panchrukhi, Baijnath, Paprola and Dhanag. We got a call from one of them in Banuri to join them for breakfast at their home.
Went to their home, had nice parathas stuffed with local herbs, butter and tea. The meeting was in the evening. In the meanwhile we decided to walk and explore countryside.
Later we drove to Andretta and visited Sobha Singh Art Gallery and abandoned homes of artists who once used to live at the place.
Norah Richards, originally from Ireland, came to Andretta in 1924 and made it her home. She built a traditional Kangra-style mud house, known as ‘Chameli Niwas’, employing local style and material, using mud, slate and bamboo.
She also built a makeshift stage and invited Punjabi theatre amateurs and professionals to perform plays.
In 1935, District Commissioner of Kangra gave Richards 15 acres of land, and the Woodland Estate came into existence. Soon, She established a school of drama and in those times the village was known as “Mem-saab da-pind”
In those days, travel to the Andretta was not an easy task, it took 12 hours train journey, followed by bus ride, the last 9-miles from Banuri on foot. It started attracting artists from all over, especially Lahore.
This included painter, BC Sanyal and noted painter Sardar Sobha Singh. Richards, nurtured Punjabi theatre through the 1940s and 1960s, and came to be known as the “grandmother of Punjabi theatre”.
Further on, Sardar Gurcharan Singh, a noted potter who started the Delhi Blue Pottery in 1952, also established base here. Active till the end, he died in 1995 at the age of 99. Freda Bedi, mother of actor Kabir Bedi, who turned into Buddhism also lived here for some time.
Later in life, Richards was made a fellow by the Punjabi University, Patiala…while in turn she willed her house and land around it to the university.
Today, the estate of Nora Richards has been renovated and maintained by the university. Each year on her birthday, 29th October, a Punjabi theatre festival is hosted by the students of the university.
We also visited Andretta Pottery and Craft Society. We were surprised to see so many young Indian and foreign students working and taking photographs there.
Came back to the hotel. In the evening we had business meeting. After the meeting my friend Mr Pahra decided to go back to Gurdaspur.
But I had a different plan in my mind…………………………………………………………………….BAROT.