Mc Cluskieganj: Sojourn to an Unrealised Dream
A trip to McCluskieganj is mostly about relaxing and enjoying the beauty of nature – walks along the streets of this small hilly town in Jharkhand will give you sights of many colonial houses with their rich architecture
The two centuries of colonial rule in India had ostensibly left behind an indelible mark of legacy. One of these is the Anglo-Indian community – a class that sprang as an amalgam of the British and native origin. However, they were caught between two worlds: one dead and the other powerless yet to be born. The Britishers disowned them and the natives suspected them. As the struggle for Indian Independence gathered momentum and there were prospects for the British leaving the country, the Anglo-Indians felt insecure about their subsistence. Owing to this paranoia, many from the community started migrating to other countries. It was during this phase that a businessman named Earnest Timothy McCluskie, born in Calcutta, and having represented the Anglo-Indian community in the Bengal Legislative Council floated a dream – a homeland for the Anglo-Indians in the heart of India. He took a lease of about 10,000 acres of land from the Maharaja of Ratu, in the interior region of Chotanagpur Plateau. Subsequently, he formed the Colonisation Society of India (1933) – a joint-stock company offering a plot of land to every Anglo-Indian shareholder. Thus a small settlement or a hamlet was born, now called McCluskieganj. It saw a congregation of about 400 families. Eventually, McCluskieganj earned the name of 'Little England' for it emanated the essence of British life embedded with mannerisms.
McCluskieganj soon bloomed into a locality having sprawling bungalows with gaudy tapestries, extended porches, decked gardens, and embellished firesides. Schools were set up to educate the children and amenity centers, in the form of clubs were built to entertain the adults. There were departmental stores and bakeries; post office and local market; churches and cemetery. Christmas and New Year would be celebrated in a dalliance of gay and romance. Silence of the place would be taken over by the redolence of music ringing out of a piano and the pit-pat of legs, rolling their waists over a ball- dance. The inebriation of liquor would intoxicate the entire mood and ambiance.
That was what McCluskieganj represented: a canvas of a serene retreat where the commuters preferred to remain cabined within their small world of loving and lilting joys. The place provided Anglo-Indians with a kind of feel-good factor, that they had been yearning for years. Not only the place was opportune with the state of contemporary decent living, but more importantly, it cushioned the Anglo-Indian community in face of the identity-crisis, which otherwise was looming large upon their minds, particularly as India was inching closer towards independence.
The devouring effect of time would not spare McCluskieganj; soon the roseate glow of romance be shed off and the reality clashed with romance threatening this solace inhabitation. With the sudden demise of McCluskie, infrastructural development came to a halt. Enticed by the opportunities for higher education and economic prosperity, the young ones moved to bigger cities, turning the place almost into a larger "Old Age Residence". By the middle of the 1970s barely 40 Anglo-Indian families remained and the bungalows that once reveled in joy turned into stony silence, being either abandoned or left in the custody of trusted servants who neither had the means nor the mood of their masters. Thus McCluskieganj was reduced to a glorified reminiscences and the distant echo of the mirth and merry of the past.
As McCluskieganj was gradually losing itself in the abyss of obliteration, suddenly occurred a phoenix-like rebirth of this desolate land. Though this rebirth cannot match the foregone charm of the place, yet McCluskieganj emerged as a popular tourist destination. The establishment of the Don Bosco Academy in 1997 by Alfred George D'Rosario navigated the path for a vocational revival of this place. Soon many educational institutions have been set up and today the place is a small educational hub having more than fifteen educational institutions and, boarding facilities like the Mother Teresa Hostel and a sports academy named Revolution Sports.
McCluskieganj has all the ingredients of a tourist destination where one can just lose oneself in the lap of natural splendor. As one approaches McCluskieganj, the landscape seems to change dramatically. It is greenery all around and the trees are almost in the form of a canopy over the road. The distance ahead conjures up a dream. It is as if nature is swooning here amidst its own nest. Carpets of fallen leaves cover both sides of the road and soon we enter into a vicinity that itself justifies the locale to be once chosen as a land of dreams. McCluskieganj offers a panorama of natural beauty. Here one will find the meandering rivulets, churches hidden among trees, hills on the horizon and above all the unmistakable aura of the colonial era. The whole setting appears to have a kind of eeriness that more often than not creates a sensibility of willing suspension of reality. Here the mind is free to wander in the enamouring nature that stretches the imagination to a sense of sublime, something we dearly long for in the maddening crowd and busy buzz. The fall of night transports us to a state of strangeness added to the beauty. The local crowd settles on a simple life without the conundrums of modern hurries.
McCluskieganj is well connected by road and rail. It is a two and half hour ride from Ranchi. The spot has a railway station of its own. One can easily take a tour itinerary featuring Ranchi and McCluskieganj, where on the way from Ranchi one can enjoy popular sights in the Patratu Dam and the Kanke Dam. An extension of the same itinerary can be made by visiting Netharhat. The best time to visit McCluskieganj is between October to March, when the clime and the weather are gratifyingly conducive, although the winters are slightly chilly. Places that are a must-watch in McCluskiegunj are the extant Bungalows, the most popular of which is that of Kitty Memsahib, considered by the locals as the face of McCluskieganj. There is also the bungalow of the Gordons, a part of which is now open to nice boarding facilities for the visitors. The local places like the Dugaddugi rivulet and Jagriti Vihar captivate people's attention. The local village, Duli, has a unique spot where a temple, mosque and a gurudwara stand within the same compound. The Dream Destination Resort of Jharkhand Tourism is not only a place to stay but also to visit as one is led to a feeling of the enchantment of pastoral galore. The food prepared by the locals is delicious, particularly the curry of country fowl and meat. As one leaves the small settlement, a plethora of mazy feelings crowd the mind and we start dwelling either on the memoirs of the past or on the fancies of the future.