We are Bengali Christians, which I know sounds confusing but if you think carefully, it will be as easy as an apple pie. We are Bengalis who have the religion as Christianity and we go to church on Sundays. Maybe someday I will write a separate blog about us Bengalis Christians. Anyways this blog is all about a different community, which we call the “Anglo Indians”.
I studied at St. Thomas Boys School at Kidderpore, Kolkata which in the ’90s used to have a substantial Anglo Indian students thus many of my classmates were from this community. I found them quite different especially since I was from what you can call a typical middle-class Bengali family. These guys were happy to go lucky and always had a smiling face even during exams. They were brilliant in sports and their whole attitude when it comes to wowing the girls from the neighbouring St. Thomas Girls school was beyond what I can logically explain. They could just sway them off their feet.
Over the years, many of my Anglo friends or what the teacher in our school used to say “Anglo Boys” have left the city for better pastures and settled in Australia or Canada. These guys really didn’t mind the hardship and easily adapted to their new environment. Slowly the city lost a huge chuck from this community.
Around 500 kilometers from Kolkata there is a small village just around 65 kilometers from Ranchi is a small village by the name of McCluskieganj. This small village was once the “Promised Land” of the Anglo Indians in India. Once this small community wanted to have a place of their own thus was born McCluskieganj which started thriving with Anglo Indians who migrated to this tiny village in Bihar (now Jharkhand) and started settling down in small villas.
History of Mccluskieganj
For long, the Anglo Indian community in India was struggling with their own identity. They had the British blood but their cultures intertwined with the Indian communities and their cultures. The British when finally decided to leave India apart from the legacy they had left behind the Anglo Indians.
Ernest Timothy McCluskie decided to have a town where all the Anglo Indians could settle, a place where they could call their homeland. He was a real estate insurance agent based out of Calcutta (Kolkata) which was then the big town or the land of opportunity in British India.
Ernest Timothy McCluskie took a lease of around 10,000 acres from the Maharaja of Ratu who used to rule this part of Chotanagpur. TheColonisation Society of India Ltd. which was a cooperative was formed in 1933 which helped in selling plots of land exclusively to Anglo Indians and within a quick span, there were around four hundred such families who had decided to settle here.
This part of Bihar had forests surrounded by hills and many rivers running across the land. The climate was also very pleasant and apart from the very hot summer rest of the year saw pleasant hill station like climate which favored the community.
Things, however, did not go that well for Ernest Timothy McCluskie as he died in the year 1935 which is just two years after the establishment of McCluskieganj. Even though initially many Anglo Indian families did settle down in McCluskieganj but the original dream never materialized. While most of the Anglo Indian families slowly started migrating to Canada, UK and Australia some did not want to live in the isolation of a remote community in Bihar. They preferred to stay in the city and work rather than to do farming back in McCluskieganj.
Over the years, this Anglo Indian town became a ghost town, the houses remained abandoned and some who did manage to maintain sold them off at a later stage. The few remaining Anglo Indians in McCluskieganj are more Indian than us, they speak the local Hindi dialect and English just remained a subject in their school books.
How to Reach Mccluskieganj
The nearest airport is that of Birsa Munda Airport which is located in Ranchi. Since this is mostly considered as a weekend destination, thus people mostly reach this place by train. If you are taking the train then there are two options. You can either direct reach McCluskieganj Railway Station (MGME) but do keep in mind that this is a very small station and most station makes a very quick stop and that too at very odd hours. The next best option would be to go via Ranchi, you can take any train to Ranchi and then take a car/taxi to reach McCluskieganj.
Ranchi Airport to McCluskieganj – 69 Kilometres
Ranchi Station to McCcluskieganj – 67 Kilometres
Most of the guesthouses at McCluskieganj are located within a two kilometers radius from the station thus you can either walk it down or hire an electric rickshaw.
Where to Stay in Mccluskieganj
There are no big hotels around McCluskieganj and what at best you get are guesthouses, which are mostly managed by the Anglo Indian families that still reside in this part of the town. After doing a lot of research, I settled for Gordon Guest House, which is one of the most popular here and can easily be reached over the phone. The booking process is simple you just call to confirm the available dates and the type of room that you require after which you deposit a part of the booking amount directly to their bank account and they will confirm the booking. The balance payment can be made after your stay.
Food is mostly served by the guest house itself and you need to order it well in advance as depending on your choice it will be cooked for you. Therefore, lunch needs to be ordered by breakfast and dinner needs to tell by lunchtime. Food I found it to be a bit on the expensive side and since you have limited option you have to eat at the guesthouse itself so be ready to pay, which honestly I think is not justified when compared to the pricing of food even in a bigger city.
After the first day when we were charged Rs. 10 per piece of poori and sabzi, I realized that the guest house owner simply buys these from the neighborhood shop for Rs. 5 and served it to us. There are some snack shops near the railway crossing and do check them out for some delicious local snacks and sweets.
What to See at Mccluskieganj
The prime attraction at McCluskieganj is the numerous bungalows, which were once owned by the Anglo Indian families. Some of them are almost crumbling to the ground while some are now owned by their new owners and have been restored. At one point in time, this place was known as the “Little England” of India and the Anglo Indian communities thrived here with parties and fanfare. As you visit some of the worn-down bungalows you will be able to see the fireplaces and you just need to close your eyes for a moment to transport you back a few decades. The stench of bat droppings will bring you back to the reality that these have lived past its life and is just a relic of the past.
The local Don Bosco Academy is quite popular in the region and students around the state came here to study and stay at one of the numerous hostels that have sprung up like mushrooms. Some of the old bungalows have been converted into hostels for this purpose.
McCluskieganj is surrounded by rivers and forest thus you can easily take a day trip around the town. Some of the places that you can visit are:-
Sarva Dharma Sthal
Kuwaarpatraa River Canyon
This was known as the “Sorrow of Bengal” due to its fierce floods but now its just a small trickle due to several check dams but the mighty size can still be felt when you look at it from top of the bridge.
Sarva Dharma Sthal
We keep hearing about national integration but out here (Dulli) which is around five kilometers from the main town lies a small plot of land which is unique in its own way. This place has a temple, a mosque and a half-built Gurdwara. There is, in fact, a plot marked for church but there is just a wooden cross that marks the spot.
Originally, it was planned that this place will have all the four primary religious houses but only the mosque and the temple could be built. The construction of rest of the places had to be stopped due to insurgency activity in the past. With things cooling off the villagers have now started thinking of restarting the construction process.
Right next to Sarva Dharma Sthal is a place that the local villagers refer to as Sita Kund. This is basically a natural spring and there is a constant flow of freshwater from the underground. There are few ponds around these places which are full of lotuses thus making this place very picturesque except for the constant rumbling of illegal stone crushers from a nearby plot.
This is a popular picnic spot and is really indeed a very beautiful place to spend a quiet evening. The small flow of water and the sandbanks creates a perfect amalgamation. The water in the month of October was knee-deep and honestly, you wouldn’t mind a cool dip to relax your body. This spot is on the Kuwaarpatraa River before it meets the mighty Damodar.
Kuwaarpatraa River Canyon
This is the same small stream that feeds Damodar and up ahead we get Duga Dugi but the landscape is very different. This place is like a mini Grand Canyon but you need a guide to reaching this spot. Be ready for some steep climbing down steep stairs thus would suggest avoiding this place if you have some difficulty in movements.
This bridge is located on the same Kuwaarpatraa River and is used by the trains that go via McCluskieganj. Nindra
McCluskieganj has its own charm and it’s best to be enjoyed with the reminiscing of the past is the people and the houses that are left behind. Enjoy a weekend with a different feel.
Places to Stay at Mccluskieganj
Gordon Guest House (Bobby Gordon)
9470930230, 9835770679, 9430149692
McCluskieganj Government Guest House
72508 80777, 70043 86154, 85214 53541
Gulmohar Guest House
70335 4333, 91993 31844
Auto (Six Seater) – Akib 62010 49090
He knows all the important tourist places and sightseeing points. A six hour tour will cost you around Rs. 600 to Rs. 800.
https://www.deccanherald.com/sunday-herald/sunday-herald-melange/a-dream-called-mccluskieganj-743394.htmlA dream called McCluskieganj
McCluskieganj, Jharkhand | Remains of a promised land
Paul Harris Revisits McCluskieganj To Relive A Forgotten Anglo-Indian Colony