there he stood, in a dark greyish black sweatshirt and with a calm, quiet voice he said, “please gather around, we will begin shortly. i am a research student here and i will be your guide for the day.” what followed was a 30 minute treat where we roamed around the indian institute of advanced study, listened to stories, checked out exhibits and clicked a few pictures… and all by someone who lived there!
but go back before the walk and it was tight! we were one of the last few to get passes to the walk. honestly, we didn’t know there was a guided tour till we got here.
here are 8 reasons why you should definitely visit the indian institute of advanced study when you are in shimla!
1. it is a lovely walk through shaded roads. it is the last stop on the heritage walking tour i mentioned in my previous post: why shimla surprised me. makes for a nice walk, with lots of lovely buildings to see on the way
2. this is a lovely gothic revival building with all the gargoyles peering over you. there is a wonderful grass lawn in front of the building, but you aren’t allowed to walk over it as what lies beneath is a water tank, as old as the building itself and so not safe to walk over it. (didn’t really understand why however – think they were fooling us!)
3. very well-maintained building, right from the lawns to the wooden panelled interiors. it is all supposed to be teak wood and it still looks lovely. there is the lovely walnut wood roof that still looks gorgeous. some walls have this elaborate fabric covering which is even more special
4. this was not any old building. this was the viceregal lodge. the headquarters of the british raj in the summers, the summer capital of india… the seat of all power, all authority and all decisions – decisions that affected our forefathers, and maybe still affect us even today (will tell you about that in a couple of ‘scroll-downs’
5. there is a guided tour of certain key rooms. if you are from mumbai, you will know that beautiful buildings like the high court do not allow you to enter. so, i think walking around a heritage building is one of the key reasons you should do it! also, it is always good to have someone walk you around and tell you all the stories. you get to see the building through their eyes, and where do you find someone who lives in that ‘monument’ taking you around? there are tours through the day, the last is around 4pm – get there in advance to get tickets.
6. there are interesting photo-exhibits covering important meetings that took place here… there are photos of all the leaders from nehru to sarojini naidu arriving for meetings, their modes of transport and overall look. and all the photos are very well preserved.
7. you can ogle at the table where the key decision makers took the call on the partition. yes you heard me right – this is where that decision took place. and that round table they sat around is still there. you cannot touch it or sit at those chairs, but can observe it.
8. it is one of the best places to observe the sunset at shimla. we didn’t wait as we wanted to head elsewhere and fit more into our cramped schedule. if you plan in advance then you can fit it into your schedule. there is also a small shop to buy souvenirs, a cafe to eat if you are hungry that is set in the erstwhile fire station! it is a short tour, so not one of those long ones that children could get bored at. you can go with a family across age groups. note: the cafe shuts early in winters, so stock up in advance.
you can either visit it the way we did, or study really hard and be one of the chosen research scholars to be offered these premises – think only 5 scholars are chosen every year. the first option is was easier, don’t you agree?
make it happen: www.iias.org/