For those nourished on a diet of English fiction that revolves around a large house spread across rolling acres in a picturesque location, a taste of that life could be yours for the asking in Kalimpong, at budget prices, complete with the English weather!
Kalimpong is situated on a ridge connecting two hills, Deolo and Durpin, with the Teesta flowing through the valley below. On one of the commanding heights of Durpin stands Morgan House.
Built in the 1930s for a jute baron and his young wife, the six-bedroom house was designed for large parties.
The grey, ivy-covered main house with its original casement windows could be mistaken for a Victorian rectory in the home counties, had it not been for the magnificent views of the Kanchenjungha that it affords on a clear day.
After Independence, it was refurbished to receive Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962. Later the house was taken over by the West Bengal Tourism Department and was known for many years as Singamari or Durpin Tourist Lodge. It has hosted Kishore Kumar, Nargis Dutt and assorted members of the diplomatic corps posted in India. Uttam Kumar too has stayed here. And Utpal Dutt apparently was a regular for many summers.
The driveway to the house climbs past beautifully maintained lawns and overlooks the Army Golf Course. The drawing room and the study on the ground floor have French windows opening out to terraces.
Just above the drawing room is the enormous master bedroom, with a grand view of the mountains and valley. The dining room serves up sumptuous roasts and cutlets. If you want, ring a bell to attract a servitor’s attention (all rooms are fitted with bells), ask for a sundowner to be served in the drawing room and then retire to a four-course repast.
Between Morgan House and the adjoining property, Tashiding, there is a tiny cottage. In a Wodehousian mood, one would possibly think of it as a Dower House, but half-hidden as it is in an overgrown garden, it could very well belong to Enid Blyton’s world of fantasy too. Tashiding, which is part of the Morgan House Complex now, used to be an independent property with a history more illustrious than its bigger sister.
Kalimpong used to command the trade routes to Tibet and Sikkim once, and the powerful Dorjis of Bhutan used to operate from Kalimpong.
Tashiding House was originally acquired by Raja Sonam Topgay Dorji, who married a daughter of the Maharaja of Sikkim and the house was passed on to their eldest son, the late Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigme Palden Dorji, who retained it till his assassination in 1964.
The West Bengal government apparently acquired the property in 1980 and converted it into a tourist lodge. Recently Sandip Ray’s Brown Saheber Bari was shot in Tashiding, which along with the Dower House, are now being renovated to open their doors to the public.
No stay in Morgan House would be complete without a visit to Larks, Kalimpong’s answer to Darjeeling’s Keventer’s, to stock up on Kalimpong (and other) cheese, cold cuts and the increasingly rare Kalimpong milk lollipops, and the 3Cs Bakery & Restaurant — the closest Kalimpong gets to Darjeeling’s Glenary’s.
The state government has commenced construction of buildings on the front lawn of Tashiding and also on the land between Tashiding and Morgan House. Hence, I strongly suggest a quick weekend at Morgan House before its landscape gets blighted!
Take a train to New Jalpaiguri or fly to Bagdogra. Then it is around a four-hour drive to Kalimpong
Bookings for Morgan House can be done at the WBTDC Tourism Centre at 3/2 BBD Bag. (033) 44012660