You literally revisit the 'school days' at RIMC (the prestigious Rashtriya Indian Military College in Dehradun), as the contributors of Camphor Avenue, take you on an interesting yet humorous joyride in each of the short stories. Well-known journalist Sidharth Mishra's introduction, explaining the book's name, gloriously captures the essence of the exuberant tales, which revisit the days of 'unadulterated innocence'.
This is a witty reminiscence, as the authors – Jasbir Singh, CS Thapa, Unni Kartha and, last, but not the least, Sidharth Mishra, who has edited the volume – recall their experiences at RIMC. In 'Dehra Dun', late General KS Thimayya's biographer Humphrey Evans rethinks the time when Thimayya studied there in 1920s, being a part of the very first batch that passed out from the school.
RIMC was started as a preparatory school for Indians to join Sandhurst, the prestigious Royal Military Academy in UK, and this story recapitulates Thimayya’s life and times at the College, following which he was selected at Sandhurst, of course after a series of grueling interviews by the Brits.
Mishra introduces us to the pristine RIMC campus, as well as gives a brief biographical sketch of the other contributors who hail ‘from very diverse backgrounds’. This book, as he perfectly summarises it, is ‘the outcome of the battle which the entrepreneurs of this exercise are fighting at their personal fronts.’
Each of the stories contributed by them is a leaf from RIMC’s prestigious era that they have been a significant part of.
There are seven short stories by Brigadier Jasbir Singh – Ghost of the Quadrangle, Witch’s Brew, Phuntru’s Artwork, When a Fall from Cliff Saved Life, Theft of a Trophy, The Side Pike Dive and Footmark of the Shoemakers – each of them successfully elucidating the boyhood joys of mischiefs. It is through Singh’s recollections that you enter the domain of the ‘RIMCollians’.
There is always a similar story that strikes your mind, when you read his hilarious recollection of the pranks one played on their teachers or colleagues at school or college. Witch's Brew, in fact, makes every youngster’s dream come true and the strange concoction, which these pranksters discover, is definitely worth ‘rediscovering’. Phuntru's Artwork envisages recreating that one character that each of us remembers from our childhood as the decisive figure with a formative influence on our growing up process, leaving an indelible mark on our mind.
You are thrown into pits of laughter as Singh recalls his experience as a new learner of swimming and the incidents that follow thereafter. He tells us it was at RIMC that he invented the iconic 'side pike dive' and was rechristened as the ‘Diving Khalsa’. Entering the minds of these youngsters through such chapters makes you thoroughly enjoy and relive those days of childhood mischief and innocence. Be it love, secrecy, adventure-driven outings and camaraderie the RIMCollians stick together as glue.
CS Thapa endeavours to recapture the adventurous spirit of the young lads as they decide to ‘explore the Himalayas on foot beyond Mussoorie.' In the second story by him, titled Golden Escapades, he aptly summarises the essence of the book – ‘boys will be boys’ – as he recounts their capers on a Vespa scooter around campus. While Unni Kartha remembers one of RIMC’s legendary figures, RC Singhal (RCS), whose spirit is imbibed in each student, Mishra aptly describes his stature: ‘RCS shall live, till the last of his pupil lives’.
Sealing the sentiments of every youngster who has been at RIMC, the concluding chapter ‘Juvenile Days’ by Sidharth Mishra perfectly recounts the memories of a young boy who enters this mesmerising space and traces his exciting journey into finally becoming a true RIMCollian.
You know by the end of the book that the unsaid 'bro-code' for every RIMCollian is still sacrosanct and will remain so sine die.