22 May 2013

Sundernagar - HP - 1975

In the summer of 1975 my father was invited to convene a conference in Sundernagar, HP.  The erstwhile Maharaja of Sundernagar, Lalit Sen, wanted to start a college there.  He wanted my father to start it up for him.  This conference was supposed to be sort of an 'announcement' of the fact.

Sundernagar was a typical one road town back then. There was a one 'main' road that led from bazaar to residential area.  The rest of it was huts and cottages up and down the hills. It was a quaint and a beautiful town. 

We had to stay a while in Shimla and then take a bus from there to Sundernagar.  When we went there the first time, we stayed in the Circuit House.  We were given a nice room to stay in, which opened out into the garden.  It was full of climbing roses that covered the walls.  The cool weather made it pleasant to sit out all day.   The circuit house cook fed us some delicious meals.  I think this was a reconnoitre trip prior to arranging the actual conference.

The one-road town had a small cinema house as well.  As chance would have it, Pakeezah was playing.  My mother wanted to see that film and was all eager to watch it.  There were just three people in the balcony, my younger brother who was just a toddler, my mother, and I.  What an impact that movie made on me.  Watching the movie in  a beautiful hill station, in a tiny theatre, somehow made the viewing even more special.

I remember the Raja took use around, showed us his family temple in the hills, the various palaces that were now stripped of their previous finery.  They were left bare and shaky, wooden edifices that showed no signs of their previous glory.  The Raja's own house was like any other middle class man's house.  But there was no mistaking the esteem that he was still held in.  Everywhere we went, people bowed and scraped, as if he were still the Raja.

We returned in a few days for the conference.  This time we stayed in a cottage that was allotted to us.  On the next morning, after we landed up, a group of local girls showed up at our door.  My father went out to meet them.  They wanted to make friends with me.  Never again in my life have I met a bunch of girls so friendly and so open and so welcoming.  They took me around with them, talked to me.  I even exchanged letters with some of them for quite some time.

The delegates landed up with their children in tow.  It was a full house and while the elders were at their conference, we kids (I was about 15 years old then) would play around.  One time we even climbed a hill and checked out a quaint little cottage on top of it.

The last of the delegates to arrive was JP Narayan's secretary, our most respected delegate.  There was no room left for him, so we gave up one of our rooms in the cottage for him.  He was a down to earth guy, quite at home on a mattress on the floor.  I have no idea how long he was with us, but suddenly he had to leave.

Emergency has been declared and JP had been arrested.  The delegates constituted of political thinkers, teachers and journalists, and they were set abuzz by this development.  I remember being only mildly interested in all this at the time.

My father did not take up the project to start a college.  He never was an administration man.  But a college was started there, and still functions.  I am sure Sundernagar has developed a lot now.  Some of that development is good perhaps, some not.  I will always remember it as a scenic unspoiled spot in the lap of nature.


  1. Loved reading this memoir.
    I had no idea till now where this town lies. But you took me there and back into time. Time of simple ways and simple joys and pleasure and the coming of turbulent ones.
    Thank you for the journey!

  2. This made for a very interesting read. Life was so much simpler and fun earlier...
    Been going to Shimla since last year like 5-6 times in a year, but never heard about this town.

  3. Beautiful memoir!!! There is a blogger "Tarun" he lives in Sundernagar :)

    HP is beautiful. Period!

  4. Harvey : Thanks. I should have included a map :) Let me see if I can yet.

    Ajay: Right you are.

    Raj: Thank you. I try :)

    Shilpa: It is not exactly a tourist town.

    Smita: Ok Tarun hails from Sundernagar. Let me tag him on fb then. Thanks.

    And yes, I agree. HP is beautiful

  5. Very nice read. It is always good to be able to log one's memories from another era. Not just for the nostalgia angle but also for others to understand how things were in a different time.

    Enjoyed reading this. Thanks, Ava.

  6. Thank you Raja, for your kind comments.

    Just trying to put down my memories on (oops, almost said paper there) .. on my blog, lest I forget.

  7. Wah wah. You made it look all the more beautiful. That college is MLSM College and still functions. That picture hall is still there (if it wasnamed Link)

    Any pics? How old were you then?

  8. TG, thanks.

    I saw the website of MLSM college. Lalit Sen died pretty young.

    His son,Hari Sen runs the college now, I noticed.

    Link could well be the same theatre. Is it still single screen? Any modernization drive happened in SN? Or is it still the same?

  9. I quite liked this post, that was a vivid description of a different place, made for interesting reading.

  10. Ava di, a few years ago my brother was posted at Barmana. His family used to go to Sundernagar for shopping. He is now in Delhi. We visited him in 2008. We went via Chandigarh, so had the opportunity to see Rock Garden and Sukhna Lake as well.

  11. Shilpi. thanks. just trying to record my memories.

  12. Giribala, HP is all beautiful and chandigarh is like a gateway to it. The flyover that leads to.kalka is close to my house. Next time ping me :-)