A morning walk around the sprawling combined 11 acre campus of the Harriet Benson Memorial Hospital and the RE Mission School is bracing and beautiful in the cold of January.
So cold that yesterday the District Collector decreed that all children below 9th standard should stay at home and not go to school because it would be too cold for them in their unheated classrooms.
But today the chill was abated a bit by the precious rays of sun-light.
Come with me on a walking tour of the campus. We will start on the road near the RE mission school. This is a Hindi-medium school for over 1000 students. We are considering putting Yohan in this school when we shift here as a family.
The school is near the original mission bungalow, named the ‘Bacon Bungalow’ after Mary Mercy Bacon who helped establish the mission. A plaque on the bungalow says it was purchased in 1890. How much older than that is the building itself? The details lie buried...somewhere.
Here is the front view of the bungalow.
The screened veranda is now used as the hospital mess – I currently eat my meals here and have been encountering new folks almost each time so far. The un-married nurses (male and female), community health staff, store keepers, doctors and yours truly break our bread together here.
The Bacon bungalow has been restored and is currently used as a training centre for palliative care. There are c lass rooms inside and dormitories for course participants.
On the other side of the bungalow is a sprawling porch with an old swing on it. And a badminton court which sees active use each night. I have played there one night so far and can vouch that the players are pretty fiercely competitive – but all in good spirit.
Lets walk through some of the more overgrown parts of the compound. Behind the Bacon bungalow is what must have been an ornamental garden at one time.
On ahead, through the bush and you come to this scene – the campus water tower, next to the well. Looking like something out of the magical start to CS Lewis' Narnia tale Prince Caspian when the Pevenses come back to the ruins of Cair Paravel and they find it all over grown.
I have always found the opening of Prince Caspain stirring, as the children slowly discover that what looks an overgrown jungle was the place where they had ruled and reigned in another era.
And of course we need to peek into the well.
It is clearly an old one!
Shall we cut across the campus now?
Right in the middle of the campus is the Calvary Church – which is run by the Reformed Episcopal Mission but is very much a community church these days. Most of the hospital staff worship here on Sundays.
Here is a look at the church building framed in arch of its small bell tower which is 10 m away from the main structure.
Shall we walk past the fields.
Fields you say?
Yes, smack in the middle of the campus are fields
There has been a shortage of rain (though you wouldn’t think it was so on this oasis of a campus) but it has meant that the demonstration field that the community health and development programme has sown has gone to seed. Not enough water meant that their efforts went in vain.
Now lets look at the back of the hospital.
There is some construction going on – with a large tin roof being erected over the main hospital buildings. The idea is two-fold. Protection from the rain in the monsoon (the flat concrete roofs inevitably start leaking) and protection from the searing heat in summer.
A team from Kerala has come to build it. The overseeing engineer and his workers are here for the duration of the construction.
A peek into one of the gardens of the hospital shows that it is still early in the morning. The patient’s relatives are all still indoors. When the sun comes out properly, they will be sunning themselves in its warming rays.
The campus has plenty of old buildings = it just drips history. You can sometimes wonder which century you are in.
But some of the old is making way for the new. This is the site for new staff accommodation. I have been drafted onto the building committee and we talked at length today about the plans to construct 6 new housing units for staff. There was a dilapidated building there which made way for what is to come…
We will end out walk around part of the campus knowing that there is more to explore.
This a paradise for kids. Where do you find trees like this these days?
It’s still cold, and I am dressed in my various layers of black. Time to step into the mess for breakfast of hot puries and alu sabji – washed down with some hot tea.
And then on to the 8.30 AM prayer time that starts the day at Harriet Benson Memorial Hospital in Lalitpur.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!