KALIMPONG India, Reuter: In the Himalayan foothills of northeastern India, an 84yearold grandmother is battling against time and guerrilla war to maintain the lost charm of the Raj.

Victoria Williams runs the nine room Himalayan Hotel a 1920s Scottish style stone and wood mansion filled by Tibetan memorabilia with earthy humor and the energy of a woman a quarter her age.

Every tour group that stays at the hotel is welcomed by a 30minute speech on the history of the building and her father, David MacDonald, who served as British trade agent in Tibet at the turn of the century.

“My father was a genius in Tibetan and was a member of the first British expedition to Tibet in 1904,” Vickie declares to a newly arrived group of West Germans, Among the very few to have come this year to Kalimpong, whose tranquility in the tea growing district of Darjeeling has been shattered in the past 26 months by Gurkha militants fighting for autonomy.

The Gurkhas, known around the world as fearless soldiers, have blown up bridges, burnt buses and exchanged fire with police, dealing a blow to the once flourishing tourist industry.

“He helped the 13th Dalai Lama (Tibetan spiritual leader) flee from the Chinese in 1911 and was awarded this plot of land by the British government for his efforts”, continues Vickie, before presenting a scarf to the group leader in traditional Tibetan fashion.

Article extracted from this publication >> June 17, 1988