THE CHAPSLEE FAMILY
The Chapslee Tapisserie
The Chapslee vision is akin to a tapisserie (tapestry) which is entirely hand woven, and is resplendent for its intricate and delicate pattern. Its underlying theme is that of self-preservation, a yearning to survive and the adaptation to change. Its substance is woven through a narrative of interlaced threads that collaborate with each other as ‘warp’, and ‘weft’ and ‘a pick’. Eventually, what breathes life into this fabric is the heart and soul that has embodied its making and continues to inspire its keeping. The Chapslee Tapisserie is only as glorious as the labour of love of the “persons” who have enriched it along the way, and the “people” that preserve it each day.
Preservation of a Legacy; Enduring of Tradition; The Will to survive; The yearning to stay relevant.
“There is nothing permanent except change”
Greek philosopher, Heraclitus (c. 535 BCE-c. 475 BCE).
When Raja Charanjit Singh purchased Chapslee in 1938, Simla was the centre of power and British Imperialism was the order of the day. With Independence, everything changed. The balance of power, priorities, perspectives, economics. Shimla was no longer the cynosure of all eyes nor was it the seat of authority. In this sea of change, many families perished, many ancestral homes were put on the market and many more just fell by the wayside to rack and ruin. But family values, traditions, and the ancestral legacy “must endure” ruled our Patriarch and so we set foot on a road less travelled. However, the severest storms were yet to come. With Himachal getting statehood and Shimla becoming its capital, acquisition of Chapslee by the Government became an immediate threat. Even with Reggie and Pronoti permanently relocating to Shimla to protect their family heritage, the challenge of maintaining and preserving a 150 year old property loomed larger than life. ‘Adapt to change or perish’ was the clarion call. Staying committed to principles and core values, but being flexible in approach was the only way this ancestral legacy could survive and more importantly, remain relevant.
The Warp & the Weft & A Pick- Independent Threads so Entwined.
- The Warp: Chapslee Hotel - Conservation, preservation and a labour of love
This was the ultimate goal. The preservation of the family legacy. The maintenance of an ancestral home and a piece of history. The showcasing of a way of life; An era of gracious living. And so Reggie, the mentor and master of The Chapslee Experience, started Chapslee Hotel in 1976, which although registered as the 8th heritage hotel in India, was an exclusive home which he and Pronoti would share with their guests. This entire website speaks of Reggie’s, passion and hence it is left for the reader to judge the success of these endeavours.
- The Weft: Chapslee School - Social responsibility.
An Illustrious family, an ancestral heritage, a life of entitlement. After independence, the eradication of poverty, illiteracy, social and economic backwardness for a young nation became the need of the hour. Thus it was only in the fitness of things that those who hitherto enjoyed a life of privilege should give back to society and contribute to the scheme of nation building. And what better way than by providing quality education and lighting the lamp of knowledge in children who were the agents of change.
Thus in 1973, only 2 years after the state of Himachal Pradesh came into being, Pronoti Singh decided to open Chapslee School in the premises of Chapslee Estate with just 3 children in two little rooms. Slowly and steadily as numbers increased, the old godowns and basements were converted into classrooms, the tennis court into a playground and soon the school began to grow from strength to strength. More importantly it was done in a manner that the premises of the house/hotel and the school remained independent and did not impinge on each other.
Given the key location location that Chapslee commands in the capital city of Shimla, the property could well have been put to far more lucrative use in terms of commercial space for offices, shops, eateries, or even residential units. Instead, the family resolved to hand over prime land to The Chapslee Educational Society for the expansion of Chapslee School with the income earned to be ploughed back entirely into the institution for its betterment and growth. In their view, this was the most befitting tribute to the family name and it’s age old legacy.
In the years that followed Chapslee School grew by leaps and bounds and needed more space. By this time Pronoti had inherited Northwood Estate from Mrs Hermoine Montagu where the campus of the senior school was set up. And so the school became a full-fledged educational institution from Kindergarten to Class XII. Reggie had already stepped in as Administrator while Pronoti continued to be the guiding light as Principal and later Director of the School.
As we speak today, Chapslee School, with the Junior School at Chapslee and the Senior School at Northwood, is one of the most prestigious educational institutions in Shimla. Established with the aim of providing affordable, quality and value based education it has over 1100 students and provides employment to nearly 75 teaching, administrative and subordinate staff.
Needless to say, the children of all the staff employed by Chapslee Hotel are provided free education at Chapslee School.
- A Pick: The Naina Devi Foundation: A story of empowerment