|SAAREMAA - A dream come true....|
1. How it began……
It all began with our dear friend way back in 2003.... She was the one who wanted to buy land in ‘Pari Tibba’ or ‘Witch’s Hill’, and suggested that we should too. Little did we know just what we were getting in to! Land, on the outskirts of Mussoorie, just a few kilometres from Woodstock school ! Wow, we would have a lovely little cottage and a much needed get-away from the dry, hot plains of Delhi in the summer. How very simple it seemed..... Mussoorie has always been the most sought after hill station for both my husband and me, purely for happy memories and nostalgic reasons.
For me, Mussoorie brings the most wonderful memories of my beloved grandmother, who left her homeland Estonia, to marry my Bengali grandfather. They met in England, and after a brief visit to inform her parents in Estonia, sadly, due to Russian occupation, she never could go back to the country where she grew up. India became more than home to her, and she learnt Bengali, both the language and cuisine, wore a sari effortlessly and had it not been for an old, faded, blue photo album of her childhood she showed my younger sister and me in Dehradun during one of our many summer holidays there, I wouldn’t even have guessed of a life beyond India and more important, a life beyond her grandchildren for her.
The album had old sepia tinted photographs of her in her little sea side home town called Kasmu, just a two hour drive along the Baltic coast from the capital city, Tallinn, in Estonia. There were pictures of her home, her family and her friends whom she talked about so lovingly. She must have had deep regrets at never meeting them again as many among her family and friends fled Estonia and the rest were sent to concentration camps in Siberia during the cruel Russian regime. However, she never let us know it and was always so wonderfully cheerful and positive. It’s only as I grew up and actually visited her home town, Kasmu, did I realise what she gave up and what a lot of adjustments she must have had to make in a country where just about everything was so alien – food, dress, religion, language, culture. The thought always brought tears to my eyes.
My Estonian grandmother who lived in Kasmu, Estonia.
My grandmother’s father (Alexander Kaskni) died when she was very young and her mother remarried one of the pillars of North Estonian Maritime business and Headmaster of the Kasmu Maritime School (Eduard kristenbrunn) who adopted my grandmother. The Kasmu Maritime School is now a famous Maritime museum full of memorabilia. My grandmother’s cousin (aunt’s son) also came and lived with them in Kasmu as his mother had passed away at an early age. My grandmother tells me how she was initially quite jealous of my grand uncle as he took a lot of her mother’s initial attention as a little 3 year old would, but within a few days they were inseparable and thick as thieves. He finally settled in Denmark after escaping Estonia during the Russian regime.
My darling grandmother is no more, but Saaremaa, our home in the Himalayas, just outside Mussoorie, has been made in her memory and all the wonderful times as children - my brother, sister and I spent with our grandparents, our ‘Dida’ and ‘Dadu’, as we called them, in their Dehradun bungalow. We would also rent a little annexe cottage at in Landaur, Mussoorie , where we would lazily spend our summer holidays. My husband and his brothers too, stopped several times by at my grandparent’s place in Dehradun, on their way up to Mussoorie. They were very fond of my grandparents, and my in laws' and grandparents’ friendship goes back at least 60-odd years to Kolkata, then of course, known as Calcutta. Thereby, lies another fascinating tale....