IIAS Simla for Strength, Support, Shelter and Succor

Advance Studies, Simla for Strength, Support, Shelter and Succor…

My small home in the lower Bazaar was like a burrow in the mountain. Where the door and two windows on the front wall were the only openings to the outer world. Though I would decry and delittle this house but at the time of any distress or  anguish, this home would seem like a safe haven to me. Just like my amma’s womb…safe and secure which gave me shelter, support, strength and succour!  When I would enter it, I would feel so protected. I felt that no harm can befall me once I enter it. 

Later, Simla substituted for  what this house was to me, Simla has been a place,  like my childhood home, where I would run to and would feel secure and safe…and strong! Just like Scarellet O’hara who decides to go to Tara, her childhood home, to regain her strength to take on the big world. But when I left Simla in 1977 I left it for good, or so I thought but was it true? I had never imagined that there would come a time in my life when I would need strength, support, shelter and succour but getting it from Simla was not in my wildest dreams as what was there in Simla for me to go back to? Nothing. No one! But I didn’t know that  my runanubandh with Simla was not yet over, Simla still had something to pay back to me, as it always had. It had to take up the role of Amma’s womb for me and to, once again, embrace me, a fifty-three years old woman, in its protective embrace, providing me the much-needed shelter, succor, support and strength, that I needed at that particular point of time. 

Growing up in Simla, in the Sixties and Seventies, has inculcated, in people of my age and time, a disdain for “doublespeak”, vanity, shallowness, and above all sycophancy. I am a very straightforward person coming to speaking my mind off, when I have to, am not much tactful. Sycophancy, for me, is slavish devotion, that I strongly dislike, the way I abhorred the Angrez for being our Masters! I had learnt my lessons this way from my home, my Bauji. And I paid a very heavy price for the same as the world still has the men-in-power with that snobbery which we thought had gone away with the British. 

So, it just happened that we got a Big Brother (George Orwell 1984) and being a combination of the inquisitive and defiant sheep, I got into trouble at my workplace as the Big Brother had a much BIGGER ego that a man could handle. But being a subordinate, I had to pay a price for his whims with termination of my services and impeccable career. If I say I was shattered, it would be a very mellow expression. I was in my middle age. Fifty-three years old, had dreams of many projects weaving in my mind but everything was finished. And here comes Simla, my strength, support, shelter and succor to welcome me with open arms. 

I had been, at  that time, selected for Fellowship at Advanced Studies but the Big Brother had malicious plans and I was removed from the job.  Without a job and the last date of my joining at IIAS being over, I was in a real Catch-22 situation. I traveled to Simla , with a heavy heart, to meet a lawyer and also to find the probability of joining the Fellowship. 

I wanted to make another request to IIAS to give me some more relaxation keeping in mind the special circumstances that impeded me from joining in time. So it was under these circumstances I was to meet Prof Peter deSouza. Ashok Sharma Ji was so very kind and helpful in arranging the meeting. I had a long talk with Sharma Ji and apprised him of all that had happened at my parent Institute. He was very sympathetic and advised  me, when I was about to go to meet Prof deSouza, to not to speak about the allegation I was implicated in. Honestly speaking, I myself was not very comfortable as my self-esteem had come down to ground zero level.

It was first time in my life that I had walked up to the Advanced Studies building. I had not seen it even when we stayed at Chaura Maidan, The window that is visible in the picture is the chamber of the Director…I walked up the wooden stairs, solid and strong…giving me a succor! These were very different from the stairs I had been going up and down si CE my childhood. The long corridor smelt of wood and the smell that oozes out from the woolen carpets in the rainy season. When I reached the entrance to the Director’s chamber, I touched  the brass handle on the door, opened the door and walked inside. ..a regal world of the Raj era welcomed me. 

I was …literally dragging my body forward because of the recent upheaval in my life. But then I thought of the poem. “Where the head is held high and heart is free of fear” and I took control of my mind and my mind took control of my body.

Viceregal Lodge ShimlaWhao! the spectacle that greeted me was wonderful. Deep blue patterned, two inches thick, carpet sprawled in a similarly elegantly decorated spacious room! I looked around to see where the Director is, and I saw another spectacle that took my breath away. In a sunny beautiful small office, at the west end of the sprawling room, was another room and there stood a man whom I had seen during my presentation at Delhi. What had taken my breath away was not the grandeur of the room, which once upon a time used to be the office of the Viceroy of India, but the unassuming simplicity of the man and that he was according welcome to me by standing from his chair! Now, those of you who have any inkling about how some of us the children-of-the-lesser-god are treated at most of other places, it was nothing short of a miracle to me. To my soul, starved for some esteem and dignity, it was a very pleasant surprise. Extending his hand to take mine in his, he said, “Welcome to the Institute!” I was shaken to my very being. I was on verge of crying as such compassionate treatment and that, too, from a person I barely knew, was enough to shatter the semblance of indifference that I had tried to mask myself in. Prof deSouza asked me in a very kind voice, “Sharma ji has told me about you,” and added, “I would like to help you.” These words opened the barrage of all that was lying so heavily on my soul. I told him plainly what I have been accused of, in a nonchalant manner. When I uttered these words, I was fully in control of my emotion though before this moment I would start crying at the allegation that was levelled against me. I don’t know where I got all the strength from but I felt so strong. It was Peter’s comforting presence, his warmth and succour that transformed me into an epitome of strength. I told him all that had happened. The expression on his face changed from disbelief to anger for the blind system and empathy for my situation. He didn’t sympathise but he empathised. And this was what I needed at that time. “I am with you,” he said. “Fight your case and don’t ever give up,” were his words to me. He promised to take the matter of my joining at IIAS with the higher-ups and assured me of all his help.

When I had gone to his office, I was a shattered, broken and bruised person. I had lost all faith in humanity but when I came out of his office, my faith in humanity and human values had revived. I felt stronger and empowered. I knew that I had reached a place where I would get support instead of sneers. I was, suddenly, among people who seemed to be my own though I had never known them before. When I came out..the wooden corridor seemed to smile at me, welcoming me. The wooden dtairs provided strength to my tired feet and soul, filling me with energy to go on. The magnificent building that had seemed so imposing to me, was reckoning me to an embrace….I felt I was home, my small home, with Amma giving me shelter, support, strength and succor. This is my Simla, the memories that zapp me up, even now whenever I feel low!!

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