History A La Carte... Bon Appetit!!

It was a bright Thursday afternoon, The rays of the sun
sprinkled the wooden panelled walls…The fresh air just
made me feel I was in the fields surrounded by daffodils…A
little group of children just spread their picnic basket.
And in between all this, I heard someone say, “The new
species of ant discovered is…” The voice trailed off and I
woke from my slumber. Realised I needed “chai”! Walked
out of the conference room…and wandered like a traveller
of the winds. And voila, I had entered a new world. I was
walking into the big room right opposite the Faculty Hall
at the Main building. And to my delight, I found there
an entire collection of old documents, letters, pictures,
photos and so on. These were all part of the hundred
year history of our institute and were on display there.
That was the end of any interest I may have had in the
conference.

I spent the next few hours perusing those old letters,
gazing at the 100 year old black and white photos and
then I came across this entire set of invitations and
program lists for the cornerstone laying ceremony. The
beautiful calligraphy on the yellowed invites, the quaint
style and the list of the dances and the menu caught
my fancy. All these were glimpses of a story about the
cornerstone laying ceremony that was held on February
1st, 1911 and the various dinner parties hosted by the
director and other officials from the institute the night
before on January 31st, 1911.

The Maharaja of Mysore was the guest of honour and the
parties appear to have been very “British” in style. The
evening party (or “At Home”) held at West End and hosted
by the then director, Dr. Travers and his wife, seems to
have been an entire evening of dance and dinner. Sounds
like fun! If you glance at the dance programme, you can
see the range of dances that were included with two-steps,
and waltzes and even barn dances. I can just imagine all
the ladies and gentlemen dressed up in their finest, the
music, the graceful enthusiastic dances and the mouthwatering
dishes. The four course menu is in French and
it does sound delicious with the soups, salads, the fillet
entrees and casseroles and the dessert and coffee to sum
it up! It almost sounds like something out of the stories
about society gatherings in 19th century with exquisite
rules about etiquette and style.

And all of this in honour of a ceremony to be held at a
science institute. In today’s times this may almost seem
a contradiction. The grandeur and the very scale seem so
different from what we would ever expect from a similar
occasion in today’s world. I am sure the hospitality, the
importance of the occasion would be the same, but our
way of celebrating would perhaps be more Indian. Though
I must say, it is fascinating to know that our institute has
had such a varied and rich history and old documents
can tell such historical stories in an entirely different way.
They give you no descriptions…just an idea, a hint…and
leave the rest for you to imagine just as you wish! So,
live the gourmet of life like promised, a little herb, a little
hope, a little history! Bon appetite!!

P.S: This piece was primarily written by Mukta, i only frilled it up a little...

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