Srinagar: Nedou's reborn?
(... and read to the end for the story of Khruschev's chandelier ...)
In the first half of the last century, there was one commanding hotel in Srinagar - Nedou's. It's still there. At least, the building is. But it hasn't had guests for many decades. Indian security forces were billeted there, but they have now gone. The site, on M.A. Road (photographed as best I could through gaps in the fencing and barbed wire) is a mess. But word around town is that Nedou's is to be reborn, with the old facade retained. What a heartening prospect!
The Nedou family story is fascinating. Michael Adam Nedou - I think that's him on the right, photo courtesy of the Nedou's Gulmarg website - came to India from Dubrovnik (then also known as Ragusa), now in Croatia but at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Nedou was an architect, and in the 1880s opened smart hotels in Lahore and then in the Kashmiri ski resort of Gulmarg. Nedou's Gulmarg is still going, and featured memorably in Molly Kaye's thriller, Death in Kashmir. (Nedou's have also recently opened a small boutique hotel in Srinagar).
The writer on post-colonialism Nyla Ali Khan has retrieved the story of the Nedou dynasty in Kashmir - a family of which she is part (by my reckoning, she is Michael Adam Nedou's great-great-granddaughter). The best known Kashmiri Nedou is Michael Adam's son, Michael Henry Nedou, universally known as Harry, who was born in Pune in 1877. So he would have been in his early twenties when the flagship Nedou's hotel, on what is now Srinagar's Maulana Azad Road, opened in 1900. It was the city's first round-the-year, 'European' hotel - previously European visitors had usually stayed in houseboats. Francis Younghusband commended the hotel in his 1909 account of the Kashmir valley, and clearly found life there agreeable. 'Srinagar is indeed a gay place for the summer months', he wrote, 'with games going on every day, dances nearly every week, dinners, garden parties and picnics.'
Nedou's was well placed to ride the wave of tourism and colonial-era 'rest and recreation' which enveloped Kashmir from the 1920s and hits its crest during the Second World War. In 1947, there were a few hundred all-the-year-round European residents of Srinagar. As a lashkar, an army of Pakistani tribesmen, advanced on Srinagar at the end of October 1947, Leela Pasricha told me how she fled from Baramulla to a well appointed lodge at Nedou's. It was where the foreign correspondents covering the conflict stayed. And in Nedou's bar, journalists got first-hand accounts from Indian army officers of the progress of the fighting and sought out the pilots who could hand carry their copy back to Delhi.
In the National Army Museum in London, there's a letter written from Nedou's in early November 1947 by a British woman, Gwen Burton, who found herself unwittingly caught up in the first act of the enduring Kashmir crisis. 'We never thought we would be in the siege of Srinagar! Not at all pleasant + very nerve racking. Food is beginning to get scarce, no butter in the hotel now + flour very scarce. ... We have had lovely weather here so far + only hope it goes on.' She too found a pilot to carry the letter to Delhi and post it there.
I am not sure whether Nedou's was still taking guests right up until the insurgency started at the end of the 1980s.By the time I first came to Kashmir in 1993, the site was under Indian military control. And that remained the case for about twenty years.
Now the security forces have left Nedou's, there's an opportunity for renovation. And according to a contractor I was chatting to in Srinagar the other day, plans are taking shape. If I find out more, I'll update this post. A couple of other commercial institutions from the colonial era (technically Kashmir was a princely state, not part of the Raj, but let that pass) - the Suffering Moses handicrafts store,and onetime society photographers Mahatta's - are still in business on the Bund, the riverside walk, a short distance away. It would be nice to have Nedou's back.
And as a footnote: the Nedou family married in to the premier political dynasty of modern Kashmir. Here's the story -
Harry Nedou married a Gujjar woman, Mir Jan. Their daughter Akbar Jehan (they had several sons too) married Sheikh Abdullah, the 'Lion of Kashmir', the foremost Kashmiri nationalist of his generation. (Tariq Ali has suggested that Akbar Jehan earlier entered into a brief marriage to T.E. Lawrence, but Lawrence experts are unconvinced).
Sheikh Abdullah's grandson, Omar Abdullah, is currently the chief minister of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. So the Nedou family have played quite a part in Kashmir's history.
LATER - NEWS FROM NEDOU'S: A family member has got in touch to confirm that there are indeed plans to refurbish and reopen their Srinagar hotel. The intention is to keep the atmospheric colonial-era exteriors, and to thoroughly modernise the interiors. I'm told Nedou's still has a chandelier presented to the hotel by, of all people, the Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev - unlikely as it may seem, he and Bulganin visited the Kashmir valley in December 1955. The chandelier is apparently structurally sound, but bits of the glass have been smashed and splintered over the years. (Is that a metaphor for something?)
Exotic pictures. Loveable and love it...
I am delighted to read your article on Nedou's. It brought back a flood of memories of my trip to Kashmir with my family way back in 1966. We had stayed at Nedou's! What a lovely hotel it was with it's old world charm, cosy rooms all the more at night when the iron oven in the middle of the room radiated a welcome warmth. The dining room was stately, the meals enjoyable. So wonderful.
Many thanks for your comment - very kind of you.
.it is wonderful to read about Nedous. I knew Harry's wife, Saleema
I spent three weeks in Nedous in December 1962. I was marrying a young Englishman working in Srinagar. The hotel charged us the princely sum of one rupee a head for the reception and gave us the wedding cake. During the winter the main hotel was closed and I lived in the much smaller roomed annexe. I remember looking at the deserted dining room and ballroom and being told of the lively times of the past by some of the old residents who were 'staying on'. MM Kaye's book is very evocative. We both have very happy memories of both Nedous Srinagar and Gulmarg. It would be wonderful if it could be brought to life again.
Thanks so much for sharing this Margaret.
I stayed at Nedou's in 1967 in the upper floor of the left wing, the right wing housed the UN monitors policing the Kashmir truce line. I well remember the UN General breakfasting in splendid isolation in the vast dining room to the right of the lobby beneath a framed endorsement from Mountbatten the last Viceroy and the retired English Indian Army Brigadier and his wife who lived permanently on the lower floor of the block behind the main building. There was an excellent library for guests containing virtually every book published in English about Kashmir.
Intriguing that there was still a retired British army officer living in Srinagar in 1967. Thanks so much for your comment.
Thankyou for the fascinating article.I was recently in Srinagar tracing my father's wartime footsteps in India. When on leave in Srinagar he went to dances in Nedou's. Alas, the building still looks exactly as in your photos. I too took photos through holes in the wall, dodging barbed wire. Sadly, the puddles of water are still there, the military are still guarding the property, and there is no sign of any redevelopment. But yes, it would be wonderful to see it returned to it's former glory.
Many thanks for your comment, Deborah. It's a pity that the planned renovation of Nedou's is taking so long. What was your father ding in Srinagar? Have you got letters, photos, a diary - anything of that sort?
My father was with the RAF/RAAF in India during the war. He went twice to Srinagar, on leave, via Murree. I have his diaries which are very brief: he went to a dance at Nedou's, though he didn't stay there. He stayed on a houseboat, spent time at the Club, went swimming at Gagribal Point on Dal Lake, and his portrait taken at Mahatta's, which is magically still there on the Bund.
Wonderful article. I think most people who have commented, stayed there in 60s. I happened to have stayed there in 1987, in first week of March and loved it. Just after we returned from there, turbulence started in Kashmir.
Excited to know about the re-birth of Nedous hotel srinagar
The construction has already started,though it is in early stages (piling for the new blocks) and is proceeding rather slowly.I am an Engineering Intern there and If everything goes on as planned,hopefully the lost glory of the hotel would be restored again.
Wonderful to hear of the Nedous Hotel re-building. I spent 2 weeks at the Hotel with my father recuperating from a heart issue in the summer of 1971. We were trekking in Kashmir with a group from Mountain Travel in California. A great family friend was a travel agent in Srinagar, Kai Suri. A wonderful man. Thank you for retaining the history.
I worked for Kai Travels owned by Mr.Kai Suri,and did guide most of the Mountain Travel Trekking Groups,do you recall or remember which group and the trekking rout you did.our office was at Nedous hotel and I worked there from 1967 till 1975.Nedou’s Hotel, is like back of my hand and so are the staff and owners. Prem.
We have a group of dedicated staff with enough professional expertise to make your vacation memorable. We offer facilities like in room LCD TV’s with all national and international channels, Centralized Air Conditioning, Luxurious king sized beds, fully fitted bathrooms and many other on room services. We are among best Luxury hotels in Kashmir. Our well experienced staff is available 24*7 to help our guests with providing all kinds of services.
Im so pleased the Hotel is to be brought back to life ! I spent almost all the first 7 years of my life living at the hotel in Sirinagar and Gulmarg .Michael Adam Nedou was my great grandfather his daughter Enid was my grandmother.I have recently been researching the family which has been very rewarding !I was born in Lahore in 1935 to Mary nee Gilbert grannys married name and Norman Burrell I now live in Devon England.
Honey Georgina Walton
I am responding to Patricia Anne Graham's comments as I believe she may be a relative. My great great grandfather was Michael Adam Nedou, my great grandmother was May Bazin (nee Nedou) and my grandmother was Barbara Pengelly (Nee Bazin) who was born in Lahore in 1911. I remember her cousin Betty (nee Gilbert) and met Mary at her home in Eastbourne in 1981 as well as Sonny during the 19070s. I would love to get in touch with Patricia if possible. I live in Wiltshire.
Hello I believe I am also a relative you both through the Stewart line, in fact I was looking through family albums and found a newspaper cutting about Barbara Pengilly which I would be happy to share. Feel free to contact me I would love to connect regarding our shared histories!
Mr Keith Tibbitts
My great Aunt Rene nee Mackrell and her husband John Stewart ran hotels in Gulmarg and Srinigar for 15 years pre war. I have her memoirs if of interest. Sarah Thomas says she is a relative through the Stewart line like me. The name Barbara Pengelly is familiar to me. I would like to contact anyone with links to the Stewart line including Sarah Thomas or Honey Walton. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I live in Gloucestershire. Many thanks, Keith
These photographs and the connections that people have made are really fascinating. I am looking for anyone who knew one Nawab Maula Bakshsh who lived in a beauthiful house called Iram in Srinagar in the 1930s.The property was on the main Jammu-Kashmir road about three miles from the city, near a village called “Batwara”. He left for Lahore in 1947. He was my great grandfather, Ruchi Ram Sahni's best friend. I have photographs of the house. I was trying to paste a photograph of the house but couldn't. If anyone knows what happened to his beautiful house, do let me know. I have just edited a book, A memoir of pre-Partition Punjab. Ruchi Ram Sahni 1863-1948 and now I am trying to find all the people he mentions in his autobiography.
I live near batwara,some old houses are still there,most of them were under Custodian department belonging to those who left during 1947 and are occupied, I will try to find out the one owned by Moula Baksh and let you know.in the mean time if you could mail me picture,it will be easier to locate and let you know......Prem.
My family has been in Jammu andKashmir since 1840,I am a retired chief engineer retired now 82 year sold,my father retired as Financial Commisioner,in 1960, his grand father wasa DFO with chief of forest Clutterbuck,and his father Ali akbar was wazir Wazarat Ladakh in 1870,involvedinthegreatgame.we have been in touch withNedou family
A few years ago I found a postcard in London UK, of an old Kashmir lady black and white photo. A lady called Mary was sending this to her nephew I think called Nigel Burton. The post cards were addressed Roberts heights near Pretoria south Africa. does anyone know of any Mary in kashmir maybe in the 1920s...there is no date on the postcards so I am guessing. Pease let me know. Thanks
It is very interesting to read about this Presentation ConventInstitution at Srinagar. I am a teacher of Social Science in DAVPublic School, DVC,MTPS, Mejia, Bankura,West Bengal. I am also a writer. I want to know about Salima Salaam Shah and KusumMehra, the aluminis of the Institution, their parentage. Please send in my email.Thank You. I want to know about the Nedous also. GoodNight.
I am looking in to the life of my grandfather, Arthur Gravell (1878 - 1949) who was an engineer and worked at the Nahan Foundry from about 1900 - becoming Superintending Engineer until his retirement in 1944. I believe that he spent the last years of his life residing at Nedous - his wife Vera Ainslie (nee Morton) went to live in the south of England in the late 30s/early 40s. They had 4 children (Ruth, Alison, John and Claude - who were educated in the UK. Any information about the hotel, the foundry or the Gravell or Morton family would be very welcome.
Many thanks for your comment. Was your grandfather in Srinagar through 1947? If so, then Alan Moorehead's novel 'The Rage of the Vulture' gives a sense of the embattled mood among the English community in Srinagar at that time. I am afraid I don't have any information about the Foundry.
Ainslie Claire Waller
Just got back into my research and found your site and comment. Thank yo so much for the book recommendation. Yes, my grandfather was in Srinagar in 1947 - I assume he was living at Nedou's at that time. He was due to visit, Ruth, my mother in Singapore in 1949 but died before he made the trip. I wasn't born then and don't know much about family life in Nahan but my sister (10 years older than me) has more tales, memories and photographs that she is sharing and I am hoping to find out more through FIBIS connections and the British Library Indian Records.
I have just found my fathers memoires. He stayed at Nedous Gulmarg in 1930 and fell in love there with a girl named Brenda. At the time Maurice Coleman was in the Scots Fusiliers, later a Brigadier in R.I.A.S.C.
Can you please advise me who was Anderson Alias Nedou?
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