Peeping at the world of my father through his words…

When I put my hands on the Agni purana, I held it with love, delicacy and affection as it was a relic of my childhood days. its paper had yellowed, the cover had given way but the inside paper was intact. i was lovingly going through its leaves when suddenly I came across some papers inside it. as I have always believed that you can come across treasure kept secretly in big old books, with abated breath, I unfolded the papers and looked at them.

I was dumbfounded when I looked at the paper as it was in my father’s handwriting. How could I ever forget long and drawling hand that he wrote in.  The paper was sanctimonious. My father has been dead for more than twenty-one years now and holding in my hands a paper in his handwriting moved me a lot. More surprise was in store for at the revelation that this paper held. It was my father’s official communication after he had joined at Head Post office Simla in March, 1947, some five months before India became free! The fact that the paper was more than 61 years old and the ink he had used to write in was equally old, the letters on the paper were bright and illuminated the way my father always had been!

I went through the paper and two things struck me at the very start–one was the impeccable style of writing that he had and the handwriting. As a teacher of English, I always look for mistakes in any write-up so unconsciously I was searching for one in my father’s official communication  as well but amazingly found none! There were no cutting, no overwriting and no mistake–grammatical or otherwise. it becomes more important when I think that his only grouse with life had been that he was not able to continue his studies. He wanted so much to complete B.A. but had the satisfaction of having completed only F.A.! But he always wanted us, his kids, to do our best in studies and did everything possible within his means to see to it.

Holding the letter in my hands I was able to peep at the world of my father through his words! The old world charm, held in Agni Purana, opened up a barrage of emotions in my heart which I promise to write shortly!

A South Indian’s Tribute to the People of Himachal

An eighteen years old boy, coming all the way from a remote place in Tamilnadu, stands at the Chandigarh Bus stand waiting for a bus that will take him to Hamirpur, his destination. What is the problem? A common scene at any bus stand where passengers wait for buses, you might say. The problem was that he didn’t know Hindi, it was his first visit to any part of
North India, the next available bus would bring him to Hamirpur at 2-30 AM, and he was carrying a big amount of money as well. Now don’t tell me that an 18 years old boy should be capable of handling all such problems.

This was how one of the students of my class, many years back, related about his first experience about the people of Himachal. It was an answer to an assignment that I had given to the class. He wrote, “I felt lost.”and  “All the courage that I seemed to have, vanished in thin air” and reflecting upon how and where he would spend the night at Hamirpur made him look like a venerable young boy instead of a confident young man that he was hitherto had been posing as.

“The worst was the language problem” admitted he very honestly. “I could speak neither Hindi nor, for that matter English, properly”. He stood bewildered at the Chandigarh Bus stand unable to decide whether to board the bus or not. Then he decided to buy the ticket and start his journey for the destination, Hamirpur. “Throughout the journey, I kept on thinking about where would I spend the night?” Those were the days when mobiles were not at all heard of. He could not contact any other boy from Tami Nadu till he reached the college!

The bus reached Hamirpur at 2:30 AM and everyone got down, He, too, got down but thad no clue, whatsoever, that where could he stay for the night. NIT campus was at a distance of 3-4 Kms. from the Bus stand and the road was lonely and dark and moreover he didn’t know the way to the campus. “You can come and stay with our family” a voice from behind made him look back and he found a woman, his co-passenger in the bus, standing behind him. This woman had traveled from Chandigarh to Hamirpur and had heard the young boy ask about the whereabouts of NIT campus. “Come with me and tomorrow morning I would send someone to escort you to the campus” said she.

“I was in dilemma” acknowledged the boy later n in my class. “I was taught all the while not to trust any stranger” He confessed. But here he had to take a decision between staying in a hotel or this woman’s home and the fact that he carried a big amount with him made him all the more worried. “I decided to go with the woman”. He could not sleep for the rest of the night as he still could not trust the people and waited for the morning. In the morning he was asked to have a bath and a hearty breakfast was served to him by the affable family. The father of the lady escorted the boy to the campus and saw to it that the state seniors of this boy could be contacted and left the campus only when the boy was in th safe hands of his state seniors.

Relating the incident this boy from South India felt genuine gratitude for the people of Himachal as he learnt to have faith in the basic goodness of human nature. Whole of the class sat silently when this boy gave an account of his experience, though in smattering of English, and applauded. It was the genuine gratefulness in his account that held us all in awe. “This is my tribute to the people of Himachal” he finished this acount with a choked voice.

They Danced for your Glory…


The Myriad Colors of NIT Hamirpur

They Danced for Your Glory…

The Batch of 1986 and 1987 

Looking back at the old pictures, pictures of various events related to the making of NIT Hamirpur as you see it today, I reminisced about a number of happenings. Some brought smile on my face and some a rueful tear. But as they say life is a combination of the both so why to grudge? I thought of writing from my memory about some events that the old pictures refurbished.

To my astonishment I found that each picture had the ability to trigger a unique reference point, a story hidden in each of them. A story that seems to urge to be written about, to be shared with the present generation who despite having the best still rue for small things that they might lack!

The year was 1988, if I am not wrong. The then Governor of Himachal, His Excellency Vice-Admiral R.K.S. Gandhi was to come to our campus to lay the foundation stone of Civil Engineering Block (?) and the preparation for the same were in full swing. I was asked to get the girl students prepare some cultural dance item to be presented on the occasion of his visit. As we had only very few girl students at that time as we were running only two batches so almost all the girls had to participate in the event.

Those were the days when the girls would dance to the tune of local songs and not the popular beats of some filmy song. So half the girls were put in the dancing group and the other half in the singing group! We had some real talented boys who played harmonium and Tabla and provided the musical component to the song.

The first thought that invaded the mind of our girls was—“What would we wear for the dance?” We really needed proper dress for the dance and I remember how I scouted almost all the schools of the town to arrange for a proper dance dress. We were lucky that we got the colorful satin dresses for girls. At least one problem was solved.

The girls practiced hard and the harmony between the song and the action was just marvelous. Everything was set. The D-Day was sunny and bright and as the function was to be held in the open it really was a blessing. The girls needed a place to get ready but there was no building nearby except a make-shift store of Construction cell that was used as a “Green room” by the brave stalwarts. The presentation was announced by me as I was handling the announcements. Walked in the pretty damsels and stood on the floor mat waiting for the singers to start with the song. “La-a-a-a….” started they and the dancing group cam in action. Suddenly one of the girls in the singing group giggled and Lo—all of them started giggling—gigging right on the microphone. The spectators were surprised. I was angry at such display of indiscipline but they would not stop despite my icy stares. The Chief Guest, Vice-Admiral R.K.S. Gandhi, had a queer expression on his face. He never would have witnessed such a function ever before, I am sure. The girls stopped giggling after a while and all this time the dancing troupe stood bewildered in front of the spectators! The song resumed as did the dance also.


Why did your girls laugh???

It was the time for getting some prizes and I, too, was given one memento (the only one that I have till date :)).When I went to receive it from the Governor, he asked me, “Why did your girls laugh?” I was taken aback as I had not expected this question from him. I looked at him and asked, “Did you mind it?” “No, I didn’t” With an affable expression on his face replied he. “To amuse you, our girls wanted to amuse you” laughing aloud said I and he laughed with a guffaha. Everyone was laughing suddenly. These were the ways how dignitaries conducted themselves—openly and amicably—and not putting stiff and gruff expressions on their countenances. Life was simple and honest.

The Governor’s reaction saved the girls from the wrath that would have been unleashed on them that day by their warden; that was me!

By the way the picture has one very familiar face that you watch everyday—try finding it out! And don’t forget how these students danced in borrowed dresses, on the ground covered with a mat, and open in the sun, so that you could have an auditorium today!

Cheers to the Batch of 1986 and 1987!

Meet our Alumni…

Meet Our Alumni Batch of 1988-1992 

It was end of the semester when I had taken the last class of that batch and was a little sad. Suddenly I saw two students coming towards me—one was Nav Quirti and the other Rajesh Dharmani. Coming closer to me they handed me a piece of paper and when I opened it, I was overwhelmed by emotions as it had a beautiful poem written in equally beautiful hand! A poem that had a sentence something like “we feel human in your class…” I still must be having that piece of paper kept in some book. More than th poem it was the sentiments that the poem echoed. It was a gift for me from whole of the class. Could a teacher get a more precious gift?

And day before yesterday when Nav wrote to me,

I was talking to one of the professors in Singapore Management University, he liked my poems and I have been invited to his creative writing class for a poetry rendition! I have stopped writing poems, but writing as such has been a part of me

I felt so happy as he has still carried forward the tradition of writing. I thought of him and saw a very fair boy sitting in my class who told me, on being asked about his queer name, he sure had a very interesting story to tell. He had his choice in name to be known as! He was different and a good story teller! And I knew instinctively, here is another writer for our magazine!

And I was not wrong. I still carry some very interesting memories about him pertaining to an article that he had written for the College Magazine. The student editor of our Magazine came to me once that he has some issue to discuss. “Nav has submitted an article which is very lengthy so please go through it”. The write-up was on an all-time-favorite topic “Love”!  It was really a lengthy dissertation! I called Nav and asked him to slice it a little. “But Ma’am, I have already pruned it a lot!” with genuine concern in his voice, said he. I knew instinctively that he won’t agree to further pruning and we had not mush space to accommodate his twenty pages of foolscap hand written pages. A real Catch-22 situation! “But how could you write so much—where is the time? Quizzed I like a Sherlock Homes. “That’s not a problem. I have written about eighty to hundred pages” He shared this achievement with me. “And I write it in the period of …Sir when he thinks I am busy taking notes” I literally choked at the revelation! No, I am not going to give out the name of the teacher. Find out yourself if you can!I hope he is not writing poems even today when he is thought to be working for his employers! J

With Best Wishes…

Meet our alumni… 

February 13, 2007

It is a big day for Manuj, one of our alumni (Batch of 1997-2001), when he ties sacred knots with his life partner. I could not help traveling down the memory lane, gathering all the impressions, both old and recent ones, that I carry about him and put them in some form. As I have often mentioned that over a period of time, it is only the impressions of the events that we carry. Impressions—good or bad!

When I try capturing impressions about Manuj, a picture of a very tall and lanky boy comes to my memory. A boy who was the first one, in that class, to ask me for the Fountainhead and the only one who could not finish reading it in one go! And it was a surprise that after about 14 years when we met over net, he remembered it. It was a chance comment by Manuj that rekindled the old association and revive the relationship.

During my recent Hyderabad visit in December, 2006, I came to experience another aspect of his personality and the impression that I carry is really soothing. One fine day when we returned home from a visit to Charminar, I was pleasantly surprised to find him squatting comfortably on the mattress, spread on the floor, in my daughter’s room. It was the only place to sit for him. It was very late in the evening but Manuj wanted to take us out for dinner. It was Tuesday and I had my weekly fast when I don’t eat anything outside home but he would not just take a No for an answer! “You have to come, no excuses!” And as the next day we were leaving
Hyderabad so we agreed. He led us proudly to his waiting Black Beauty—his Ford! I was told that it is known as “Be(h)l Gaadi” by his friends! Its black upholstery and the HI-Fi music system made us rock! He selected a place to dine but as the place was full so we had to wait for some time. The little one wanted me to have a look at the Mall upstairs and now I found myself in a real trying situation. The escalators always intimidate me and that day I was wearing a Saree as well.  My little one was amused to see my predicament and walked up, laughing at me. My husband, too, left me to fend for myself. I was searching frantically for the stairs that I wanted to use to go up but someone extended his hand forward to hold my hand reassuringly and I clasped like a child to the hand—hand of Manuj. It was so comforting to be taken care of! I was happy and relieved. “Come on Ma’am, it is just normal” said he. Again while descending, he held my hand close and led me to the escalator!

And today when he ties knots with those very hands I am so sure of him taking care of the love of his life—his life partner. Though I cannot be with you at this moment but as I write this, the whole of my being prays for your happy future where you both provide help and succor to each other and seek support from each other without any inhibition and pretensions.
Wish you a very happy married life dear Manuj!

In Fond Memory of Puneet Dhingra (Batch of 1987-1991)


Nothing saddens me more than untimely departure of a young life that seems so very promising. We, at NIT Hamirpur, had heard rumours about one of our student’s tragic death but as it could not be confirmed so it was never even discussed. It so happened that once one of our colleagues, watching the unsolved murder mysteries in a programme being shown on the Doordarshan, overheard the name of one of the alumni, Puneet Dhingra and was shocked to know about the way he had died. No one knows how did he die? How did he fall from the running train when there was no reason, whatsoever, for anyone to have killed him He left behind so many unanswered questions as well as so good memories of all the four years that he stayed here. We all felt so sorry as Puneet was such a nice boy. We never talked about him but when Rajeev sent me a photograph and mentioned about Puneet’s not being anymore in the world, the painful memories came out. May his soul rest in peace.

Cherished Memories Revived


Looking Back Fondly: The Batch of (1987-1991)

Cherished Memories Revived: The Batch of 1987-1991January 18, 2007 It was one of those days when I felt drained of energy and getting out of the bed and readying for the college seemed nothing less than Herculean tasks to me. But when I thought of the busy day ahead I got up and immersed myself in my daily routine. It must have been 9-20 A when I was collecting my register to go to the class when the phone rang and it was a long-distant call from an unfamiliar number. “I am
Lt. Col Rajeev Sinha.” The speaker at the other end introduced himself. Rajeev Sinha, the name rang some familiarity in my mind but who could this person be? I wondered. “Is it Saroj Ma’am?” he asked. “Yes, I am.” I replied still not sure of the identity of the caller. The voice at the other end was full of excitement “Ma’am it is Rajeev Sinha from the batch of 1987!” I tried hard to think more. “I was so naughty” he added and then as an afterthought said, “But am not naughty anymore.” I was able to see some faces that came close to the name and when he named some of his classmates, I was able to place him but still was not very sure. He was excitement personified and his voice was animated with enthusiasm. Rajeev wanted to know all that he could about the college where he had spent four years of his life—years that transform a young boy to a responsible man! “Ma’am how is the college? It must have changed!” he wanted to know. Then even without waiting for my answer he carried on, “and how is Dr. Dhar, Jha Sir and S.C Sharma Sir?” He wanted to know all about the place and the people associated with the place. I told him all that he wanted to know. He was sad to know about Dr. Dhar’s demise. A true dedication from a student!
“Ma’am, I must be talking to you after a gap of about fifteen years but your voice has not changed” He continued, “Do you still smile a lot? I remember you smiling all the time?” “Yes, I do smile a lot.” I said but didn’t want to say that now-a-days this smile is an effort at times—a kind of a put-on plastic smile. I thought of the efforts that people in service industry have to brave when they have to present their best imager while dealing with the customers. But thank God , even today once I go to the class, I get into the flow of my job as teaching is not just a profession for me but is a passion. I thanked God for having given me strength to have braved so many years in the institute. “Ma’am what about your kids? I remember that they were very small at that time.” I told him about my kids and now I wanted to know about his family. “I have a son and my wife Renu is from
Patna, I want to bring my family to Hamirpur.” He was suddenly nostalgic about the old world charm that he felt attached to. “How are the new  students?” He had a feeling to connect to the present students. “I want to come to Hamirpur and meet th4e students and talk to them about a lot many things.” “Any day, dear!” I offered him generously. I really wanted him to come and see for himself the place as it stands today. He talked about so many of his friends and class mates and told me about how good they were doing in their chosen careers.
I remembered many of them as the names reverberated a familiarity and some impression about many of them would regale me. Ashish Kukrety and his dramatics! Rajneesh Chauhan with a full throated voice. The list was endless and so were the memories. Rajeev continued, “Ma’am I used to be very slim during college days but now I have put on weight but I a still very agile and active.” Rajeev had so much to talk about, learn about and listen to about the place and persons who had left this great impact on him. Like all other things the call, too, had to come to an end but we disconnected promising to be in touch now onwards. I left for the class, was rather quite late for the class. But was really feeling energized. All the feeling of drained-of-energy was gone. A phone call, a reconnection with an old student, did the trick. Back in class I looked at the faces of students and wondered would anyone of them call me some fifteen years from now! Yes, they would. I am optimistic as it is the investment in love, trust and affection that would pay us later. 

Tug of War


The Tug of War…March 08, 2006

The sports day last year heralded a pleasant change in the sports History of National Institute of Technology, Hamirpur when the guest item was a tug of war between the female faculty vs. the girl students! That day, as usual, the announced guest items were—a tug of war between the male faculty and the male students and a musical chair event for the female faculty. But this time we ensured that we were properly listened to and as that day i.e. March 08, 2006  was being celebrated as International Women’s Day so our wish was granted and first time a new freedom was given to our gender, albeit grudgingly! Now started the real show!

I was to lead the team but wearing a saree made me really difficult to focus all my energy and vision on the thick rope that we had to pull. And I was out of shape as well because of sitting more in front of the computer than doing some brisk warm-ups!  We needed some words of advice from our male colleagues but in the overall din that reigned all around such advice got lost. With zeal to give our best we all lined up with our best foot put forward on the ground. With saree palla and dupattas tugged tightly and with high heeled sandals put aside we looked life valkyres—so we thought us to be. It gave us so much of strength! But our opponents—young pretty girls, wearing track suits or jeans and sports shoes, were all bouncing with energy. And then the hostel food had put so much energy in their veins that they seemed to bubble with stamina. The show started. All the participants were as excited as were the audience. But the audience seemed to back up the pretty young girls instead of the aging teachers and who could blame them for taking sides with the fairer of the two? At one time we were just an inch away from the deciding line but someone in the back-up line giggled and that did the trick. We lost the tug of war that we had almost won. The last second misgiving!

Were we sad on losing the game? No. Not at all. The loss had been our biggest victory as we had won for all women of the Institute something that they had long desired to have. An opportunity to compete freely irrespective of the gendered entity that we possessed! We had won the war though having lost the battle.

Group Photograph for Team Srijan–2006



Team Srijan–2006

November 30, 2006

When I rushed home during lunch time to have a bite, Ashutosh rang the bell to announce that perhaps we would be having a group photograph for the team srijan-2006!! My God, I looked at my clothes, Horrible they were. I wonder why do I dress so casually these days? Then I looked at Ashutosh’s face and his clothes and a guffaw of laughter escaped my mouth. God it was as we both were competing with each other who looked shabbier than the other? Forgetting about my own self the motherly concern raised its head and I asked him, “but I m sure that you would have a shave before the photograph!” His week old stubble made him look more like an errand boy than the Chief student Editor that he is! “Sure, Ma’am! I would shave it off.” He promised with a laugh.

And now the million dollar question that all women face when they have to pose for a photograph came to my mind a swell. What to wear? It was first a Salwar suit that I settled for but when I thought of our Director and how smartly dressed he was today—I discarded the first option and settled for a saree. Women would be women only I thought to myself—would a change of clothes make me nay better than I am but then suddenly what I taught during my classes in Communication Skills came to support me. Clothes make an essential part of your communication but not any more when the other party knows you too well t notice what you are wearing. J

Walking towards the college, I felt a little uncomfortable as people were wondering why this change of dress? Even my colleagues were surprised. I was much embarrassed by this. Suddenly the whiff of perfume took me by surprise and wondering who could be using it during final examination days, I was in for the biggest wonder of the world! My own boys, the members of the Team Srijan—2006, walked past scenting the air with perfumes and after shave lotions!! All had very recently shaved the stubble of the exam days and looked so fresh that I was not even able to recognize many of them. When I pointed it out to one of them, “You look so clean today!” he felt shy!



There is more to write….



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