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A trip to Mussoorie in 1961: Part I
Next morning, after breakfast, I happened to come across Narayanan and asked him if I could call on the Director. "Not necessary", he said and added that the Director was out there "under the greenwood tree" and pointed towards the front lawn telling me to walk across.

Sure enough a clutch of young men were gathered under a big tree around a tall, hefty, impressive looking man in a light-coloured suit pulling at his pipe. That was Dr. AN Jha of the Indian Civil Service (ICS), the director of the Academy.

As I walked over to the group Dr. Jha noticed me and asked me my name. As I told him my surname he rattled off my full name "Proloy Kumar Bagchi". He seemed to have scanned the entire list of trainees - almost 280 of them - and remembered my full name, an amazing feat of memory. He shook my hands and asked whether I was from Agra. Agra had sent two Bagchis into the ICS, and, hence, perhaps, the question. I answered in the negative and told him I was from Gwalior. That was my first and last meeting with the director.

It was only 14 years since independence and the legacies of the "British Raj" were yet to be shed. Efforts were still continuing to produce bureaucrats who were earlier disparagingly called "Brown Sahibs". We were advised to go around always with a tie with a suit or a combination or a blazer that we had to get stitched.

An alternative was to go around in a buttoned-up suit or combination buttoned-up jacket. We also had to have black buttoned-up coat with a black or white trouser for banquet nights which were not quite frequent. It was expected that one would wear a black pair of shoes with laces to the banquets and in no case a brown one; moccasins were not in fashion then, anyway. For banquets the table was carefully laid with several knives and forks on two sides of the plate in their proper order and the soup and dessert spoons above the plate.

A circular in the form of a poem was issued indicating the way to use all the cutlery. I remember last two lines and these were "When in doubt, Look about". Something still was in use then which one doesn't see these days; the knife and fork specifically meant for use for fish dishes. These are now no longer seen seemingly having become extinct. Most interesting part of the Dining Room was its veranda that faced North. One could see from it white ranges of the Himalayas - a fascinating sight. Located as it was on a hill feature with deep valleys on two sides, one could get an unhindered view for miles.

During the first week all trainees were asked to take lessons in musketry. We had to leg it down the kuchcha pathways past the newly established camp for the Tibetan refugees. I wasn't an adventurous type and was somewhat diffident about handling a gun. In any case, I thought it wouldn't be useful in any manner in the central services.

Even then for the duration of the training I got up in the morning and trekked down to the make-shift firing range. But, when at the firing range the colleague before me screamed with pain and sat up holding his shoulder that got a severe hit from the recoil of the .303 rifle, I decided guns were not for me. I walked off the range telling the instructor I was not for it. That ended my brush with fire arms.

The Academy was, kind of, a fantastic melting pot where boys and girls came from virtually all regions of the country. To start with, the heterogeneity of the group was very evident. One would find people from the same state flocking together and then there were even subgroups of colleges, like boys of Madras Christian College and Loyola College of Madras or, for that matter, those of Presidency College, Calcutta, sticking together. Even the St. Stephen's products seemed having insulated themselves. Since I was from Madhya Pradesh I was, kind of, at a loose end. Even the Bengalis who would generally hang around together wouldn't own me up.

One even remarked seeing my decent mush that I did look like a man from the Chambal. Slowly but surely, the barriers came down and the process of homogenisation commenced. Within a month or so the Academy appeared to look like a slice of India - diverse and yet friendly. We all mixed around very well with those from Kerala or Tamil Nadu, West Bengal or the boys from the up-country or the Khasis and Mizos drom the North-East.

The training was, as usual, a bore. There were lectures and lectures. Among the faculty none was interesting. The lectures delivered by the Director were very interesting. He had a way with words and he could make any subject interesting. Besides, his good humour held the attention of his audience. The other person whose talks carry an impression with me till today are the ones delivered by Swami Ranganathanada of the Rama Krishna Mission. He delivered a series of, if I recall, four lectures and all were very elevating. His fluency was remarkable, content captivating and English impeccable.

I cannot somehow forget Prof. Ramaswami who used to take the Economics classes. For those of us who were stranger to the subject what all he said in his bass voice flew over our heads. What I remember, is his lengthy discourses over numerous sessions on the economic developmental model propounded by an American economist Walt Rostow which made no sense to us at all having hardly any knowledge of economic modelling for growth. He dilated at length on Rostovian concept of the "take off" stage of an economy, on which he had written a book that had just been published.

The Indian economy was nowhere near the "take off" stage 54 years ago, limping along as it was then at the "Hindu Rate of Growth", that was perhaps more than neutralised by the predilection of our people to produce more children than goods and services.

To be continued

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