The Way I remember my Sanjauli College, Shimla…
I must have been in seventh or eighth class in the year 1967 or 1968 when I first saw the magnificent building of the Sanjauli College which at that time was a B.Ed.College. It so happened that the teacher trainees of the B. Ed. College would come to our school, Lady Irwin Girls’ Higher Secondary School, for teaching practice. But for the final teaching practice we would betaken to the B.Ed.College building. We would be so happy for this excursion as it would mean a different routine for us, a visit to a new part of Shimla and to a new routine where we would be so important part of the class, second only to the examiners perhaps!! The only thing that we hated was that we would be taken in queues to Sanjauli, such was the discipline. But even that was so enjoyable keeping in view the way we chatted throughout the way. Crossing the Mall, the Ridge, the Lakkar Bazaar we would march past the Snowdown hospital to reach the Sanjauli B.Ed. College. As this was the way that the dead would be taken to the cremation ground, we would be a little solemn once we would pass the public tap wherefrom the mood would become solemn. But, near to the college, the animated discussions would again be restarted. The records about the college building say that following the independence of India in 1947, the building was put to use as the B.Ed/B.T. College for Girls affiliated to the Panjab University, and it functioned thus till 1969. Little knowing about the historic importance of the building, we would scrutinize it from all sides as we wanted to explore it to its fullest. On the left hand side wall of the building, was a big bell hanging from the top. It would remind us of the famous “Bell of justice of the Jehangir”. Enquiries from my father told me that the building housed an orphanage during the Raj period and the big bell must have been used to time the activities for the inmates of the orphanage. My little heart would be full of sympathy for the orphans but would be envious as well for living in such a magnificent building. The building had an aura of mystery and majestic charm for me. Later I came t know that the main building of the college was raised way back in 1869 as Himalayan Christian Orphanage. In 1872, it was occupied by the Mayo Industrial
School for female orphans and girls of European descent. This was my first tryst with the college building. Little did I know that my infatuation would turn to love for this building in the near future.It was in the year 1970 that my elder sister passed her Matriculation from Dayanand Public School Shimla and was admitted to the Govt. College Shimla, that was housed in the same building. This college has the rare distinction of being the first Govt.College set up in the township of
Shimla in 1969. As earlier to it there were two colleges—St. Bede’s and S.D B.College, both run by private managements. It was then affiliated to the Panjab University, but a year later in 1970, when H.P.
University was founded; it became affiliated to the latter. In the year 1971 I, too, was admitted to this very college. Those were the days when the population of the college was quite less and it gave us the benefit to remember he faces of so many students of those times. Well. I remember vividly Anupam Kher to be a student of the 1970 batch as he was my elder sister’s classmate.
At that time the main building housed the administrative block, a few class rooms, offices of the principal and the staff. The stairs led to the library and physics laboratory. There was another block at the back of the main building that had Botany and Zoology laboratories. The residence of the principal was also in the premises and we could peep inside his courtyard from the stairs leading to the Physics Laboratory. There was another building on the right had side of the main building that had the college canteen in the basement and two class rooms on the ground floor.
The college days were non-descript except for some happenings that are deeply etched in my memory. One was a strike, and I don’t even remember what the cause was for the strike except that we would be taken to Chhota Shimla secretariat to protest against, god knows what!
And the second is the fire that burnt the building to ashes!!! I don’t remember the exact year but it must have been either 1972 or 1973 when we were taken to the firing range at Sanjauli. The firing range was where we have a concrete jungle of houses when we watch down from the Sanjauli chowk. Those days, the whole space was bereft of any house and was used as a shooting range. We walked down, all the college students, to the shooting range where the army personnel taught us to shoot with the help of very heavy rifles!! It was a wonderful experience to watch petite ad delicate girls take up rifles, balancing it at their shoulder and taking the aim. These were the idyllic situations and days. Others sat relaxing in the sun watching the scene.
It must have been the time when such training was made compulsory to all college students. In the evening, we were tired yet excited to have shot some rounds as it provided us wit a sense of having achieved something that needed strength, both physical as well as mental. Elated at our achievement, we started back home. The return walk had to be from the same route—from Sanjauli to the Ridge and to home. It was while we passed through the college that smoke was observed coming up from a part of the main building. And we found, to our dismay that the college building was on fire. All of us just pounded on the building to save what we could.The courage of the girls, including me, was worth appreciation. We tried saving whatever we could till the arrival of the fire brigade.
A magnificent building, a relic of the past was razed to ash, in front of our own eyes. The wooden work helped the fire to spread in no time. The present building has carried the same architectural plan as the stones used in the making of the building helped to raise the structure with minimum changes, but the image of the old building that I have in my eyes is gone for ever. I remember that after this incident the classes were shifted to the local DAV Boys’ school for some time and after that to S.D.B.College which was magnanimous to adjust our classes in the evening shift. Those days were full of excitement as we would feel like refugees in another college, but having the courage to excel and come up.
Another memory of the college days, that floods my mind, concerns the sinking of Shimla that we had to experience as we walked everyday from the Mall to Sanjauli through Lakkar Bazaar. It was a rumor first, but was a confirmed news later on that the Ridge and the Lakkar Bazaar were sinking. The road had sunk in and had become reclined. It would be an adventure to cross some parts of the road but we would enjoy it. Such is the vibrancy of youth that nothing can deter it with fear, even if the fear is grounded in reason.
The road was officially declared unsafe for use and we had to divert from the Ridge, through the little known connecting trails of Shimla, descending near the first gate of the Snowdown hospital. But it was a thrill. We explored so many small ways to reach home that ach day would be a new adventure. It was a time when such an adventure would not be questioned.
I loved my stay at the college though it made us experience diverse happenings but looking back I can relive all those days. About some other incidents that left a mark on my memory, I would dwell at some other time.