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Nostalgia On a Platter

T.C.A. Srinivasa Raghavan

By Rajika Bhandari
Roli Books, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 132, Rs. 250.00


In a few more years, perhaps as little as fifteen, an entire generation of persons to whom dak bungalows mean something will have gone on to the circuit house in heaven. For that reason alone this book is welcome. Indeed, it was waiting to be written, and if the publishers can do no more than to send mailers to IAS officers who retired before 2000, they will sell a few thousand copies, no problem.   The book is full of arresting anecdotes, especially about the dak bungalows and circuit houses in MP. Rajika Bhandari has written with zest and curiosity, though every now and then she also writes about circuit houses, which were quite different. Compared to a dak bungalow, they were five star hotels.   Dak bungalows and circuit houses were a ubiquitous part of the process of running India and, therefore, of the life, to use Phillip Mason’s book title, of the men who ruled it —British till 1947 and Indian till about 1980. They were where the district officers stayed when on tour and the tour was as much a part of ruling India as the gharriewala, the khansamah, the bearer, the bhishti, etc were. The khansamahs, it seems, if properly approached, were a source of many delectable stories about the love life of the sahibs).   You arrived at dusk, had tea, then dinner, slept, woke up for an early breakfast and then went on. Often, these hostelries would be in the middle of a dense forest—many without electricity until the 1960s, or any kind of modern conveniences for that matter.   My father, who was in the MP cadre of the IAS, took his touring seriously. Often, during vacations, he took all of us along and dak bungalows and circuit houses are where we stayed. Some of them are mentioned in the book. The memories are uniformly wonderful which is saying something, considering we must have stayed in around 30 and even by the standards of 40 years ago, quite a few were pretty ramshackle.   I was too young when we went to Chikaldah near Amaravati. It seems leopards used to sleep at night on the verandah. Then there was the Circuit House in Rewa with huge four-poster beds and tiger heads on the walls, glaring at you. There was the one in Jashpur with litchi trees where you ate them off the branches.   We would arrive just as the sun was ...

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