Dispatches from Charleville
The emotion-packed Diamond Jubliee celebrations with former employees marked a vibrant weekend at the Academy
The Academy held a reunion on August 10 and 11 for all its employees who worked here and superannuated after 1997 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the Mussoorie campus and to acknowledge their contribution in making LBSNAA one of the finest institutions of the country.
The main celebrations will be held on September 1 when Minister of State for Personnel Public Grievances & Pensions, Jitendra Prasad will deliver the keynote to members of the 94th FC, lay the foundation stone for a new 900-seat auditorium, launch the coffee table book 'Karmasu Kaushalam: Excellence in Action' and release the special first-day cover on the Academy, besides interacting with existing employees. We had over 400 of our ex-faculty and employees ranging from ex-Directors Wajahat Habibullah, DS Mathur and Padamveer Singh and Joint Directors VK Agnihotri and Prem Gera to our Mess employees, horse riding assistants, housekeeping, and the watch and ward staff coming in with their families. Many came with their grandchildren to show them the place they had worked for their lifetime. Many of the children who grew up on this campus hold responsible positions in the civil services, defence forces, academe and the corporate world. There was a general sense of cheer and some wonderment at changes in the Academy. For those who superannuated in the last century and were visiting the Academy after two decades, the changes were quite stark. Almost everything was now on an auto mode, and most transactions were paperless. Gardens were cleaner, sports facilities had improved, and most importantly, power-cuts were a thing of the past – both on account of the much-improved power situation in Uttarakhand, and the presence of back-up gensets.
The highlights included a welcome High Tea in the Officers Mess on August 10 which opened its portals to all employees, irrespective of rank – many ex-Mess workers and bearers were quite overwhelmed at being served on the same tables they had waited upon earlier in their lives. Many eyes were filled, including those of your columnist when they held hands with the Directing staff to convey their joy and delight.
The celebrations on the next day started with morning ragas by Ayan Sen Gupta on the sitar and Indranil Bhaduri on the tabla playing the Rag Lalit and Rag Bhairavi in the verdant lawns. What a mesmerising performance with the clouds and the mist flowing by the lovely Deodars, Himalayan Cypress, Chinars and Magnolias and Silver Oaks which adorn the Director's lawns. Even the artists were so happy to perform the morning Ragas in the open – for an auditorium can be air conditioned but it cannot recreate the morning in the hills of Mussorie!
We then had the children of the academy faculty and employees – Sanvi, Yusra, Maitreyi, Anaya, Shalu and Yumna – perform the Ganesh Vandana and kids from the Balwadi, our kindergarten school – Kavya, Anisha, Avani, Shivangi, Ruhi, Ananya,Tanisha, Kanishka, Anshika, Avantika and Harshika – sing a very cheerful welcome song, a quiz on the Academy and Mussorie, an exhibition of pictures, portraits, souvenirs and memorabilia from the times Mussorie was established, and an afternoon of painting, sketching and creative expressions by all employees. Your columnist also got a prize for spelling out the acronym of MALL – Military Area Limited Lines! Growing up in a cantonment town has many in-built advantages!
The ex-Directors and senior faculty colleagues also spoke on the occasion. While recalling his time, former Director, Habibullah spoke of how the Academy remains eternally young – it has the ability to bring out the best in everyone. Another former Director, DS Mathur mentioned the great and significant changes made in the infrastructure and the transformation of LBSNAA. From being the centre for foundation training alone to research and mid-career training as well, the Academy was also now a respected think tank on governance and development interventions. Padamvir Singh wanted the Academy to strengthen the research and global outreach programs. Dr VK Agnihotri offered to assist the Academy in updating its publication "Skills for Effective Administrators" and Sarojini Thakur promised her help to make the National Gender Centre, the 'Numerous Uno' centre in its genre. Ashok Thakur recalled how he got over the fear and inhibition in the use of computers and IT during his stint in the Academy and my batch mate Prem Gera offered everyone a great Garba treat in Baroda where he currently heads the GACL. Your columnist also shared with everyone present the expectations which the government has placed on the Academy. From next year all the successful candidates in CSE will receive the FC training here at one place – rather than at two or three Academies which really affected the esprit de corps – the raison d'être for the Foundation Course, and this will involve the construction of a new 900-seat auditorium to accommodate the entire batch.
The souvenir shop received a large number of visitors – and stocks nearly ran out for several key items like Academy T-shirts, tracksuits and walking sticks! The weather gods were kind and the evening dance and dinner to the accompaniment of the Gurkha Regiment band marked the grand finale to the two-day event which made the hills come alive to the sound of music, dance, remembrance and fond expectations!
(Dr. Sanjeev Chopra is Director, LBSNAA, Mussoorie, and Honorary Curator, Valley of Words: Literature and Arts Festival, Dehradun. The views expressed are strictly personal)
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