Roses Red and Papers Brown: Five Years at Delhi University

Surjit Mansingh


Surjit was brought up in many different places in India, went from Delhi University into the Indian Foreign Service, and subsequently joined her husband in academics, shuttling between India and the United States. Now a semi-retired professor with two grown-up sons, she lives with her Himalayan cat, music, books, and walks in Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally written for “Down Memory Lane: The Platinum Year 1922-1997”, Delhi: University of Delhi” 2000 when the author was a Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The author was a Delhi University student over 1953-58 in Miranda House.

Roses. Roses. It was not roses all the way, not by a long stretch, and there was no myrtle strewn on the muddy paths. But it is roses I remember best, in serried ranks of yellow and white, pink and flame and hectic red, encircling the fountain. Where on its steps I was accustomed to pass winter afternoons, book in lap, heady with the scented air\; until a sudden chill, a change of light, or a dry throat, reminded me that it was time for tea.

Growing Up in Small-town Rajasthan

Kailash Mathur


Kailash, called Chanda by his parents, is an electrical engineer, who was born in Tijara, which is even now a very small city in Rajasthan. He lived in East Germany from 1965 to 1971, where he married Annemarie, a German, in 1969. Since 1971, he has lived in Vienna, Austria. He became a widower when Annemarie died of cancer in 2004.

It’s transfer time! 1946-57

My father was a civil servant in Rajasthan, who was transferred frequently in the early part of his career. So, as children (six brothers and two sisters) we never stayed in one city for more than four years and in some not even for two years. Between 1946, from where my memory starts, until 1958, when I started to go college, we lived, in succession, in Alwar, Bharatpur, Alwar, Udaipur, Jhalawar, Bikaner, and Ajmer, all in Rajasthan. It is often said that children suffer from transfers because each time they move to a new city they face a new school, a different way of teaching, new classmates, new books, etc.

Fortunately, I do not remember suffering in my school performance from these transfers\; instead, I can clearly remember having enjoyed the transfer upheavals.

The transfer news was always a big shock/event and it changed the family life like an earthquake. Mummy always had to do the biggest share of the work for transfers. We children were of no help to her and did not take part in any serious activity. A lot of food and snacks were cooked in preparation of the journey and packed in various boxes, so that we hardly ever bought anything at the train stops.

Memories of Village Bihar

F. Tomasson Jannuzi



I arrived in Bihar in 1956 as a student from USA. I was excited at the prospect of getting to know “village India” – I was on a mission to understand the dynamic features of India’s rural economy. I had got to know a little of India as a Senior Fellow at Dartmouth College in the United States, and as a post-graduate student at the School of Oriental and African Studies and at the London School of Economics and Political Science in London.

As it turned out, I had no idea how incomplete and fragmented was my knowledge of India, and especially “village India.” My sense of rural India did not differentiate between the descriptions of villages in the Punjab articulated by distinguished representatives of the British Raj like Sir Malcolm Darling (author of Punjab Peasant in Prosperity and Debt) and the writings of Harold Mann (who described agrarian conditions in Maharashtra).

What is more, my perceptions of village India were wrapped, in a sense, in the Khadi of Indian nationalism and the modernizing ideals enshrined in the Constitution of India, the writings of Mahatma Gandhi, and the polemics of some of the politicians and urban intellectuals who led India to freedom from the British. I was assuming, naively, that “village India” was infused with commonalities: twin bullocks pulling a plow, Persian wheels lifting water from wells, mud huts of uniform design, thatched with straw.

My memories of the air hostesses of the 1950s

Radha Nair


Radha schooled in the Convent of Jesus and Mary (Delhi) and St. Joseph's Convent (Bombay), and graduated from Lady Shri Ram College (Delhi). She taught English at Women's Polytechnic (Madras and Coimbatore) for six years. Since 2007, she has been a freelance writer for the Hindustan Times (Mumbai), the Deccan Herald (Bangalore), and for the online editions of Outlook Traveller, India Traveller Travelogue, and Mathrabhumi (Calicut). She won the first prize in a short story competition conducted by the Deccan Herald in 2007. She has written many short stories based on her memories of family holidays in Calicut\; one of these was published in Penguin First Proof, 2010.


In the mid-1950s, when I was in my senior school, we were staying at Dhanraj Mahal in Bombay (now Mumbai). At night, after lights out, our rooms would be flooded with the neon blink of Air France, Alitalia, TWA, Qantas, BOAC, and JAL billboards, which were mounted against the walls of our building, all brilliantly lit up. All these international carriers had their offices inside the premises of Dhanraj Mahal.

As I drifted off to sleep, these billboards created their own magical illusions of distant lands. In the mid-50s, air travel was possible only for the affluent few. But for the less fortunate, the sense of wonder which flying created was reinforced by each of these billboards.

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