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'A daughter of the Empire': Beryl White In India 1901-03

Sikkim

Watercolour view of SimlaWatercolour view of SimlaAs her father was appointed Political Officer of Sikkim in 1889, most of Beryl White’s early adolescence was spent in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, a remote Himalayan outpost of the British Empire bordering Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.

Mountains at GangtokMountains at GangtokAt the time it ‘was the furthest outpost...and end of all things,’ and life far away from a colonial centre was not comfortable, as John Claude White recalls.

‘Sikhim was a place where one had to be entirely self-sufficient, so cattle had to be bought in order to have our own dairy for milk, butter and cheese, a flock of sheep for the supply of mutton, a poultry-yard, an oven built and baker engaged to bake bread, a blacksmith taught to shoe the ponies, who otherwise would have to take a four days’ walk to Darjeeling every time their shoes wanted renewing.

Stores had to be carried on coolies from Darjeeling or Siliguri, sixty or seventy miles, and this meant large supplies being arranged for beforehand, as transport often broke down, or bad slips occurred on the road, and we had to be prepared for all emergencies and to supplement other folks’ commissariat.’

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