Indira Misra, IAS, Chattisgarh
It was the 4th of July, 1969, when I joined as an I A S. Probationer in the National Academy of Administration (later re-named as LBSNAA), at Mussoorie.
It is an overwhelming experience, when over 300 faces from different parts of our country, and belonging to your own age group, suddenly appears before you. So, it took me about a week to know who’s who, and what it means to be here for quite a while (though in two phases).
We, the new batch of I.A.S. officers and Allied Services, were here to do a 4 Months Foundation course together, where after, we were to go to different suitable Agencies to become ready to undertake our works.
To begin with, we had to gain the grip of our Universe, to know and follow the Indian Constitution (in fact, the first thing we did, was to sign an oath that we shall always abide by the Indian Constitution).We were to learn the foremost laws for our magisterial functions, as quite until thereabout, the D M was also the judicial head in a District. Also in our essential readings was the Indian History, Mahatma Gandhi, The Five year Plans for Economic growth, and social Welfare .One of the goals of this phase was also to introduce to us each other, so that in later years, we always had a friend, our batch mate, even in the remotest corner of India, to reach out to.
We were formed into groups. In my group there were some brilliant persons, and I would always listen to their remarks, and be guided on the good things to do. Deepak Naiyyar ji used to sit next to me, and also Prodipto Ghosh. In free time socially, people would like to mix with others guided by their language, and other affinities. As I enjoyed the good humor of Kumud Sur (alas, she is no more), and her love of music we had a group indulging in songs and picnics in which Adarsh Kishor and Navin also were regular guests. Vinay taught me Bridge, which was a wonderful thing, which continued even 1 or 2 decades thereafter When the T V came, it spoilt it all.
A healthy routine was soon formed. A morning exercise for 30 min, a lavish breakfast, Lectures, Coffee Break and Lunch. Then group discussions, Tea, sports for those who liked them, Dinner and Sleep. Often, there would also be some entertainment programme mostly presented from amongst ourselves.
For example, how to give a speech, I practiced my First speech standing on the Academy stage I dare say I also acted in a small play directed by Adarsh Bala Puri (later, Misra).
There was a time, when shifting the Academy to Delhi or Gaziabad, was very much in the air. Mr. Sathe, the Academy Director wanted to explore our views on the subject. We all vehemently protested, and he appeared to be on our side, too
And why not? At present we were in the lap of Mussoorie, the queen of Himalayas. It is a place of great beauty, flanked by mountain ranges, cool weather, long quiet roads, studded with daisies and other wild flowers on the upper side, and rhododendron trees on the lower side. Small streams are flowing everywhere. Himalayan snow ranges can be seen from Oct-November onwards, and the valley view of Dehradun delights us all the time Kempty and other water falls attract tourists from all over! Why would we lose all that? At no cost would we like to lose the view from the windows of the Academy Lounge, which overlooked waves and waves of quiet, mysterious hills, like Mermaids in a Keats Ian poem (Alas! that Lounge got burnt in a devastating fire in 1980).
The Foundation course ended, and we were sent on a short, familiarisation trip to our respective states. That was a different world altogether. But soon thereafter came the Bharat Darshan, on which the I A S people are sent for 10 to 15 days It was a grand education, and an exhilarating trip .The train Compartment was our home .Shri Ajoy Bagchi was our Mentor, and K Swaminathan (We are Sorry to have lost him too) our course mate, our group leader. I went to the Eastern side of India i.e. Vishakhapatnam, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Manipur, Dimapur Gohati, Nagaland. Thus, the whole of India, nearly, became us.
Two more trips are of great interest we were taken to the office of a Distt. Collector, in Narendra Nagar, nearby. The District Magistrate there, Mr. Neel Bannerji was introducing the several officials in his office to us He said, you see that Johnny keeps a record of … and that chappy……Then, Nirmal Andrews our batch mate asked innocently, and what about that Charlie…?
We don’t get to know about one more, and a very important segment of our workforce, namely, the Army normally, in life. I must express my gratitude to the then Director Sri D D Sathe, for organizing our Military Attachment I was sent to Kashmir for about a week. The Army there was very courteous, and showed us Chhamb Rajori and Baramula. But the most memorable part of this trip was the ascent to Tangdhar. It was a steep hill, and I preferred to go riding on a mule. But I tell you, it was not easy my riding lessons in Mussoorie had taught me that the animal tries his utmost to throw you off its back. But you must not let it. All through the journey, the mule was trying to rub my dangling leg on the trunks of trees we crossed. But I saved myself holding on to the branches of the trees
But hats off to my friends Chitra and Kosturi. They did the whole climb and back of 17 km each, nimble -footed!
One last word, about the Academy Staff I want to place on record my appreciation and admiration of all of them, including of my uncle Sri Om Prakashji
Not only did he make sure that I stayed in the company of my most illustrious batch mates but also that I sat next to them
So, this is my little past which I would not like to forget.