Pratyush Sinha, IRS
It was a drizzly Mussoorie that welcomed us on the 3rd of July 1969. The academy campus was slowly filling up with the probationers. New faces, new friends.
We had hardly settled down in our hostel rooms and to the new routine that buzz began concerning the imminent announcement of the cadre allotment. I still recall the day and more so because of Late K.K Gupta standing next to me near the notice board and with some apprehension struggling to accept the fact that contrary to his preferred option he had been given Nagaland. Within four years this bright colleague of ours was gunned down by the Naga insurgents in an ambush. Had I noticed some signs of premonition on his face that fateful day in Mussoorie?
After the din of the cadre allotment and the excitement of mutual introductions had died down, another activity took off. The election to various committees charged with managing the Mess, Club, film society et al was taking place and for a brief period the academy resembled a college campus during the student union elections.
I particularly remember this election because of who became the first PMC of our batch. Bipin Sinha of U.P cadre was what one would describe as a jolly good fellow. He was liked by almost everyone because of his easy ways with people and unruffled nature. So, it came as a great shock when he passed away while still a joint secretary in Government of India.
I found myself as a member of the film society after this election. Film society was often the butt of ridicule and frequently received brickbats for showing movies which were badly mutilated and in poor physical shape. Our woes were multiplied by the cine operator who sometimes ran the film end first and then one of us had to run to the projection room to get the film sequence right. But still we managed to show some outstanding films.
Tambola, plays by probationers, classical dancing by very talented Kumkum Das and a soiree by Talat Mehmood had kept us busy on some evenings. Other evenings were spent on the library point mainly the whispering Windows. The latter was a popular watering hole for the probationers. The Tibetan food joint just outside the main academy gate was equally popular.
One cannot describe the experiences of 1969 foundation course without mentioning two other institutions. Harry’s canteen run by one Mr. Hari was a source of a variety of services including casual dining. He also participated in a couple of cricket matches with us and was a handy all-rounder. He had begun his retail journey with the Metcaff house in Delhi and so knew a large number of officers on a first name basis. The other institution was that of drapers /tailors who frequented the campus and quite often succeeded in relieving a part of our meagre salary towards buying something from them.
Trekking was a pastime that many of us enjoyed. Two, I remember vividly. One was a trek to Dehradun by way of the hilly slopes to the valley and then to Dehradun. In those days the sides of the Mussoorie hill were very barren and loose soil posed a hazard and negotiating some turnings was quite tricky. So, we heaved a sigh of relief after reaching Dehradun.
But the more memorable was the trek to Dev-van which lay beyond Chakrata at an altitude of almost 10000 feet.
On a November morning three of us, P.K Laheri, N.K Aggarwal and I began our journey by bus to Chakrata on way to Dev-van. We reached this small cantonment town in the evening which ruled out the possibility of reaching Dev-van that very evening because it was late. We had to find a resting place for the night and after much effort could find a small place on top of a tea shop. This had enough space for three of us to spread our sleeping beds for the night.
It was a cold night and continuous noise of moving rats added to our discomfort. However, we were thankful to the tea shop owner for saving us from sleeping rough on some outdoor corner.
We commenced the final leg of our trek to Dev-Van next morning. On our way we passed through some enchanting scenery dominated by stands of Deodar and other conifers. Dev-van derives its name from the preponderance of deodar trees in its vicinity. Higher than the surrounding areas Dev-van commanded a stunning view of the valleys and distant snow-covered peaks. We were in the midst of entrancing beauty that was at once spiritually and physically elevating. We wanted to spend more time there but had to cut short our stay because the last bus to Dehradun from Chakrata was to leave in less than 2 hours.
We were keen to catch the last bus to Dehradun as we were not prepared to spend another night in the company of rodents.
The academy house magazine kept some of us busy specially if any cultural activity or sporting event took place. Mr. Bagchi, the affable deputy director was always after us chasing features and articles for the magazine. On the whole our literary efforts were generally appreciated by a captive readership
How can one not remember the ordeal associated with riding and the whiplash commands of the riding instructor, Nawal Singh? The riding venue in the happy valley was witness to many amusing and embarrassing moments for the IAS/IPS probationers.
The above are some vignettes from our shared sweet-bitter memories of the academy days during the foundation course 1969.