Greetings, wallflowers, mountain-lovers and everyone else.

Hey people!

I’m a 21st century brat who sprung out of her mother’s womb in 1999. This world, howsoever ethereal or abject a predicament it might be in, welcomed me with open arms, and I can’t be more grateful, for the countless opportunities of getting on my fellow humans’ nerves.

Um, I guess that was a bit of an idiosyncratic start.

Well, I am just an ordinary face amidst the crowd that you jostle your way through on the bus or the metro every day. Yet I do wish to make this enterprise worthwhile for you.

 I intend to harp on topics like mountains, daily life observations and last but definitely not the least, my hopelessly gigantic problem of social awkwardness. The last problem has largely to do with my personality, and has begun to subside recently. But I do believe that such a problem is hugely relevant for a considerable number of people, hence my effort to discuss on a public platform.

I’m going to share a very frequent experience that I used to have out on the streets. The fruit vendor or grocer I’m talking to quite inevitably would assume that I cannot speak proper Bengali, or that I am not a native speaker, so they would switch to Hindi or ask, ‘Tumi Bangla jano na?’ (Don’t you know Bengali?)

(My head silently screaming and my heart stifling a sob)

A big round of applause to the habit of stuttering acquired in my childhood.

I silently accept the packet of fruits and go on my way, awaiting another chance to smoothen out my fumbling tongue.

Anyways I hope I’m not boring the life out of you with such a personal experience.

My blogs would also include, as aforementioned, tales of my visits to the mountains (with whom I have a lifelong relationship with) and arbitrary yet interesting snippets of the world around me.

Next week, I’m going to upload a piece on the value of existence (it’s actually a three-year old article, but I thought it wouldn’t be so bad to share it here).

Here does this week’s misery stop.


Memories of Partition in Shimla

The temperature had dropped over the past few days. It was early January, and people were awaiting the first snowfall of the year. We made our way down the steep roads of Jakhu Hill and noticed the grey clouds hovering over Shimla. The shivering cold and grave atmosphere almost harkened back 78 years into the past, when Shimla was the seat of a fateful decision for the partition that took a toll on two nations. 

Entry gate of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla

When we crossed Mall Road, we hailed a ride on a mini-bus. The closely arranged seats carried many local people donning Kullu caps and shawls. The stuffy air inside the bus took away the shivers for a while. The sun tried to claw through cracks in the clouds and occasionally reflected in somebody’s eyes. Our bodies shook and rose from the seats as the vehicle wound through the steep road and took sharp turns. Before long, it stopped at a crossing, and the driver announced that we had arrived at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study.

We treaded through the entrance gates and walked up a road lined by pine and cedar trees. As the institute came into view, it seemed like we had teleported to a different time and space. The regal structure reeked of European royalty. It had light blue-grey stone masonry and tiled pitch roofing. The English Renaissance and elements of castles of the Scottish Highlands lent inspiration to the style of architecture.

Formerly the viceregal lodge, the institute housed several Viceroys of colonial India, beginning with Lord Dufferin (1884-1888) and his wife. We walked noisily on the pebbled path winding through the English garden, and could almost hear the footsteps of long-dead people who had been there so many years before. The pristine garden had also been the venue of a political rift, as Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru had tried in vain to resolve ideological differences, thereby making the partition inevitable.

We time-traveled to a different time period

We had booked a guided tour inside the institute. Soon we were summoned to ascend a wooden platform that stretched inside the majestic interior of the lodge. Inside, paintings and photographs of the construction and embellishment of the grand structure were on display. Faces of historical figures as well as those of people lost in the throes of time stood smiling at us from behind the glass frames. The woodwork was as old as those bygone people- made with teak which was brought from Burma and supplemented by local cedar wood and walnut. The dim lighting from century-old lamps shed an eerie aura about the place.

But the truly eerie feeling crawled up our skin when we approached the carved walnut table responsible for the fateful meetings that caused the 1947 Partition. In 1945 Viceroy Wavell had called a meeting with prominent political leaders in that very room to discuss how to carve out Pakistan from India. Later in May 1947 Lord Mountbatten laid out the plan for Partition on the same table and entrusted Sir Cyril Radcliffe with the duty of surgically cutting through the body of the country. 

I brushed my palm lightly on the tabletop and shuddered at the horror and trauma that millions of people had faced in Punjab and Bengal. We could hear armies of refugees scrambling across borders, leaving behind all that they ever possessed just to save their lives from violent neighbors. Some made it safely across, while some suffered terrible deaths. Unheard screams of pain struggled through the decades to reach us in the future. The velvet red carpet and luxurious walls muffled the voices of people who never visited this place, yet had their fates sealed inside it.

The red-carpeted staircase inside the main hall

Impressions of guns still remained on the walls of the main gallery, where they were once hung. We could see the main library for research scholars, which was once the dining area for the political glitterati of the past. The red-carpeted staircase spiraled up regally, but we were debarred from ascending the stairs like the colonial rulers who did so decades ago.

The tour around the institute ended quite abruptly, as we expected to absorb more of the historical landmark. The ghosts about the place bid us goodbyes as we headed across the pebbled road toward the exit. The souls of millions of strangers whose blood stained the walls of the institute rested heavily on our shoulders as we remembered the horrific experience they had endured.


Indian Institute of Advanced Study, The Citizen, Hindustan Times


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