Darkness had set in as we reached the ramshackle cottage on the outskirts of McCluskieganj. A couple of stray dogs barked at us. We stood at the door of the cottage and waited. She soon appeared like an apparition, illuminated by the light of a naked lamp. She was Kitty Texeira, born of Welsh and Portuguese parents who married a local tribal and has spent all her life in the remote town of McCluskieganj in the Indian state of Jharkhand. She, along with a handful of others, is a living testimony to an English dream that dates back to the 1930’s, a decade before India became independent.
The Utopian dream
In the years preceding India’s Independence, a man called Ernest Timothy McCluskie dreamt of a unique settlement of the Anglo-Indian community. For this, he acquired 10,000 acres of land on perpetual lease in what was then known as the Chotanagpur plateau. 400 families settled down here and the settlement blossomed into a “Little England,” complete with afternoon tea parties and all. McCluskieganj became the utopia of a community that identified itself with its British descent and yet could not shake of its Indian roots.
McCluskieganj Today- A Handful of Memories
The only signs of the utopia of Timothy McCluskie’s dreams today are many heritage British bungalows in ruins and a handful of families clinging to the memories of a short-lived dream. People like Kitty Texeira, who has been doing odd jobs including selling fruits and vegetables near the town bus stand. But what has survived the vagaries of time is her regal demeanour and pride as she talks about the golden days.
The families of early settlers have migrated now to places like Goa and Delhi and even England too. But some stick on, like Kitty Texeira and the old Sergeant who has retired from the Air Force. “I too had left, but came back because my parents and grandparents and wife are buried here,” said the Sergeant with an air of melancholy and loneliness.