My Reminiscences Part -A

A trip down the memory lane – 1957-2013
(Experiences: sweet, sour and bitter)

I was born in Gurgaon and brought up in Shimla. My family had migrated from Lahore (now in Pakistan). Ours was a simple family comprising my parents, me and my two sisters, and my younger brother who was a rather late addition to the family. My years at school were quite interesting. My father admitted me to one of the best kindergartens in Shimla, the Lady Irwin School, which was co-educational up to the fifth standard.

I remember the days when, as a child, I used to visit the Government Art School at the Summer Hill after my school. My father taught art there. Often I played with the students who were much older than I was. They would doodle my portrait in their sketchbooks – especially featuring my ‘mischief’. Once, I tried to enter the Principal’s room facing the open window. My father pulled me back, saying that the room belonged to ‘Barre Sahib’. However, after few days, I got a chance to enter the Barre Sahib’s room in his absence. I sat on his chair and started writing on a pad lying on table. When my father came to know of my naughtiness, he came, pulled me out of the chair and “banned” my entry into the school thenceforth.

My father shared several memories with me. Once, he recalled a historical instance when he had taken me to the Ridge to welcome Dr. Radha Krishnan, then the President of India, who was visiting Shimla. I was wearing a new white suit – shirt and chooridar. Rastrapati ji was in an open jeep, he was wearing a milky white long-coat and chooridar. When the jeep came near me, it suddenly stopped. President Radha Krishnan alighted and walked towards me. He picked me up in his arms and embraced me. It certainly was a great moment for us. If father had a camera, he would certainly have captured the moment for eternity. It would have been a great picture of my life.

Our family shifted from Shimla to Chandigarh when the latter became Punjab’s new capital. The Art School was relocated here too, in a new building. Later, I came to know that the great French architect, Le Corbusier had designed the building. For some time we stayed with our grandparents in Delhi, because my father had yet to locate an accommodation for us – which was not an easy task those days. But, eventually, he found a house in Sector 22. My sister and I were admitted to the Senior Model School in Sector 22. Later, we got government accommodation in Sector 27; and I had to shift to the Senior Secondary School in the same sector. By that time, cousin Sanjogita had joined us from Delhi for higher studies in Chandigarh. She joined the College of Art for a diploma course in Fine Arts. She showered lots of affection upon us, took care of us like a mother and even helped us in our studies.

I was a normal student throughout my academic life. Extra-curricular activities like writing, drawing, crafts, etc were my favorite pursuits. However, I struggled a lot in curricular studies. The standardized procedure of education never interested me; it did not serve any purpose in motivating me to take up studies seriously. I enjoyed understanding the concepts more than just memorizing readymade notes. Satish, Gian, Pawan, Shashi and Yogesh were my close friends. We used to study together in the evenings in each other’s house by rotation. The families of my friends, especially mothers, were very kind to all of us.

After completing the school, I joined the Government College for Boys for Pre-University classes. Although my father wanted me to be an architect, I chose to become an artist, which at that time appeared to be a bit weird decision. My fine arts teacher, Balwinder Singh, helped me a lot by getting my father to agree with my decision. Eventually he got me admitted to the Art College.

The first day was full of contrasts – it being discouraging and motivating at the same time. I still remember the day when Prof. Sidhu tore apart my first artwork in front of my new classmates although my peers were confident that it would fetch me an “A” grade. I felt down in dumps; sitting on a ‘donkey stool’ in a corner, I wondered whether my father was right after all. Later on, Prof. Sidhu came and sat with me, and said, ‘Kaka, you had done a good job but I want you to be the best. The reason why tore up your art work was that it was not good enough to do justice to your potential.’ After that incident, he gave me A++ for my second work.

Indeed, the class proved to be a big platform for launching my artistic dreams. I used to worked eighteen hours a day. In the evening I used to study for BA (graduation course) also which I had join through correspondence course of Panjab University. There was lot of healthy competition, with everyone trying to create a new and unique work of art. I had very good friends like Paramjit, Jatinerpal, Brij, Nutan, Satish, Jasbir, Anju and Dalbir. Of course, we competed with each to come up with outstanding creative work in the class, and vied to earn appreciation from our teachers. Those were truly golden days in the College, the memories of which are still fresh in my mind. I still remember the All India Education Tour of thirty days’ duration; and the short study sketching tour, as also the College Annual Day especially when I won awards. Then we had gone on strike in support of our demand for awarding us Bachelors Degree rather than the Diploma; even while on hunger strike we kept up with our sketching and other assignments. Yes, I also remember the tight slap from my father in front of my batch mates because I had joined the agitation and thus missed my classes.

While still studying I had started earning through freelance work right from the foundation class onwards. I also used to teach art in private schools on part time basis. Since I had topped my class, I won scholarship right from 2nd year onwards. Our family faced hardships because of my mother’s ill health. She fractured her hipbone in a fall. Even after prolonged treatment, she could not recover and became physically challenged for life. My younger sisters used to look after her as well as the kitchen work, along with their studies. I contributed my mite to supplement the family income by working as a salesperson in a cloth shop in the evenings. The shopkeeper was a hardhearted person. Apart from making me work for long hours in the shop, he would make me teach his children; worse, his wife though nothing of ordering me around to do her domestic chores. Often, her children would call me their “naukar” – which was an extremely painful experience.

There are numerous touching memories of my college days. In fact, it was the golden period of my life. I can still clearly recall one amazing episode that happened on the college grounds. My father and I were going home. Suddenly, he dropped his bicycle on the road, and literally ran and lay down at the feet of a tall and bearded old man. He, along with Principal Jagmohan Chopra and Dr. Mulk Raj Anand, was coming towards us. Father asked me to touch his feet as he was his Guru at the Mayo School of Art, Lahore. The man was BC Sanyal, a great art educationist and eminent artist of the country.

During my five years of studentship in the College, I won a number of prizes, awards and appreciations. I stood first with distinction in Applied Art in the final examinations. Simultaneously, I passed my BA Examinations with Fine Arts as one of the subjects. I was doing the BA degree course through correspondence from the Panjab University, Chandigarh. My utmost dream was to do Masters from NID; Ahmadabad for Graphic Design, but due to family circumstances and financial aids had to drop this thought.

Meanwhile, my father had retired and no one in the family was earning. My sisters and brother were still studying. Therefore, employment became my top priority. I was lucky to get a job after the very first interview attended by me. I was appointed as an artist in the Central Government run “tractor training centre” at Hissar in Haryana. However, things went awry soon. My interaction with my superior was not good right from my tenure’s beginning. I was told to paint the director’s nameplate and then the number plates of a dirty tractor, which I refused since it was not a creative work and certainly not an artist’s job. Again, I was ordered to write the then newly publicized 20-Point Programme envisaged by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. My immediate Haryanvi boss shouted at me for not doing the assignment, which I had refused since it was more in the line of a signboard writer. His exact words were, ‘Thame tho tractor ko dhaka bi ligana pare hai’ (You will have to push the tractor also). I retorted, “Do I have to sweep the floor too?” I became so upset with such boorish behavior that I quit the job and returned home with my one-month salary.

My father was not happy with my resigning from the Government of India post. He said, “aisi naukaria kahan milti hain ….” (such jobs are hard to come by). Nonetheless, I started looking for a new job. One day, Prof. Raj Jain of the Art College called me to his cabin and asked me to meet Brother Walsh, who was the Principal of the St. John’s School, for the Art Teacher’s post. The school is managed by the Christian Irish Brothers Society. I took along my portfolio to meet him. The Six-footer Englishman, wearing a milky gown, welcomed me and saw my work. He called me a number of times for interviews. Finally, he said that everything was fine but expressed doubt whether I would be able to control the naughty boys, who came from the society’s elite families. I told him that I could do it.

The following Monday was set for my trial. Brother Walsh took me to the eight class and introduced me as their new art teacher. Well built, tall students with their blazers greeted me with a ‘good morning’. After Brother Walsh left, I made a still life drawing on the board and told them to copy it on their sketchbooks. The boys started shouting and throwing chalk and paper missiles at each other. Even as I began to realize that I was not fit for this job, a shy looking boy approached me for the guidance in drawing. He was followed by a few more students. As all got busy with drawing and coloring, an idea struck my mind. I took a pencil and sketched outlines in the art files of all the boys and got them busy with coloring. Eventually, the class atmosphere improved as I was able to instill a semblance of work culture among my wards.

Brother Walsh entered unobtrusively and observed the class. If not surprised, he was certainly delighted to notice that the students were doing the task assigned to them. He turned to me and said crisply, “Mr. Kapoor, your appointment letter is waiting for you. I have never seen such a good performance in the art class.” Initially, however, the students were making things difficult for me. However, one day Ms. Sayal, the geography teacher, advised me to appoint a naughty boy as the class monitor as he would know how to handle the other troublemakers.

Gradually, I managed to ignite the students’ interest in art. This had unexpected fallout. Now, their parents started complaining that the children ignored their other subjects and did only art! However, Brother Walsh said he liked it. I learned a lot from my stay in St. John’s School. Equally satisfying was the appreciation that my efforts won there.

When Brother Walsh received intimation of his transfer to the St. Columbus School in New Delhi, he insisted that I joined the Christian Brother community and go to St. Columbus with him, which I declined. I lost my job. I did not tell anyone in the family about it for several months. I kept up the pretense by sticking to my routine. I would leave for the school every morning on my blue bike, carrying tiffin comprising two ‘pranthies’ (baked-fried wheat bread). I would roam around doing freelance jobs in art, earning enough to match my monthly pay packet, which I would then hand over to father. Although I got a job as art teacher in the Guru Nanak School it was no match to the St. Johns as far as job satisfaction and overall ambience were concerned. So, I left it.

I resumed my commercial practice and took up home tuitions too. It was a hot summer day in 1982. I was very much disturbed due to the misconduct of one of my clients, for whom I had been designing packages for his masala products. Even as I was chafing, there was a knock on the door. On opening the door I was face to face with a smart looking woman. I recognized her. She was the mother of one of my pupils. She informed me of an assignment of designing brochures for the Haryana Government’s Directorate of Industries. She asked me to see Mr. Mahajan, the publicity Manager of the Directorate in this regard. I visualized some concepts and showed them to Mr. Mahajan the next day. He was so happy to see the graphics artwork that he asked me to join the department as Commercial Artist, for which a vacancy was available at the time. I immediately accepted the post on purely temporary basis, which was regularized in due course. I got the right platform to work on. My career in art began smoothly. I designed a number of publications, calendars, and especially the prestigious Journal “Udyog Yug” – an informative and industrial promotional monthly publication. I was so pleased to see the first publication layout designed by me. The calendars designed by me were pulled out from the walls by people who praised them for being attractive and artistic. Even Director’s room was not spared.

I was fortunate to have good friends as my colleagues. Friends like Ved Parkash, Balwinder, Yoginder, Vijay, Raj Kumar, Kiran Jain, Kamalpal and Bablesh comprised the team of journalists, photographers and artists that worked for the periodical. I was so enthused with my job that I gave it my all. There were times when I would bring home the official work to meet the deadlines. Since, in those days, publishing of colored publications could be done only in Delhi regular touring became a part of my job profile. During those times such comforts as travel by the Shatabdi were not available. One had to travel on the state roadways buses – and it was certainly not a joy. I would stay at my uncle’s house in Delhi. It was a joint family consisting of my five male cousins, their spouses & children as well as my uncle and aunt – totaling twenty-four members. I always enjoyed their company. They would all wait for me if returned late at night. Then we will together have dinner. My aunt used to serve food to all. After dining we would share stories. Since I was considered a good raconteur they listened to my tales with due attention.

I still remember the day when I, along with my colleague Ved Parkash, went to Delhi for publication of literature required for distribution at the India International Trade Fair. Our Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October. The next morning, I got the DTC Bus ticket for Delhi. I saw my friend Ved coming fast towards the bus on his scooter. He dragged me out of the bus and showed me the newspaper clippings of anti-Sikh riots in Delhi and other parts of the country. I cancelled the tour; I always thank my friend for saving my life on that day.

Since the Administration was insisting that my father should vacate the government accommodation allotted to him, we had to run around for a rented house. Eventually, my advocate friend gave us the upper portion of his house on a nominal rent. We stayed there for two years. My father was very concerned about our marriages. The tension caused him a heart problem, resulting in his hospitalization. Bunty, my younger brother, too was hospitalized due to a severe stomach problem. As my mother was handicapped, my sisters used to look after the kitchen work and other domestic chores. Those days were very depressing and trouble-filled. I realized my father’s anguish and took up the responsibility for my sisters’ marriage. With God’s grace one of them was married to a decent boy from engineering field; his family was from the Army background.

Soon it was time to change house once again. My friend and his mother wanted the house vacated for their own family purposes. After a hectic search we rented a newly constructed flat in Sector 44. But, even as we moved in the flat owner told us to vacate since he wanted to sell the flat off. The price demanded by him was Rs. 100,000/-, a considerable sum those days. Father’s Provident Fund and Insurance made Rs. 65,000/- available. Since we had made up our mind to purchase the flat outright I looked around for some source of income to meet the shortfall. As luck would have it I got an assignment for designing and printing a publication. I got it published at my friend’s printing press on credit and paid the money later on in installments. This helped us buy the flat. Having our own house was a great feeling indeed. And since lady luck was smiling, more good news followed.

Acceding to the family’s wishes, I decided to get married. I was fortunate to have a well-educated and nice-looking Harman – from Sangrur – as my life partner. She looked after my old parents with diligent care and carried out her responsibilities towards the rest of the family too. As time passed, happy moments revisited us when we were blessed with a son.

In order to improve my professional prospects I had also enrolled in the evening classes at Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan for postgraduate diploma in Public Relation and Advertising. Actually, art journalism would have been a better option but it was not my cup of tea. My friend Ved had joined as Publicity Officer at the BBMB and Vijay too had joined Nathpa Jhakhri Project at Shimla as Officer. In the meantime Balwinder had set up his own advertising agency. I was the only one left from the original team of creative persons. Although I had tried to get my post upgraded from that of a Commercial Artist to the Public Relation Officer, but my boss refused while observing that I was not fit for the PRO’s and I would remain a commercial artist all my life. I felt down in the dumps.

I had hardly completed eight years in the Department when I came across an advertisement in The Tribune announcing a vacancy for Lecturer in Applied Arts in the Chandigarh College of Art. Although I applied for the post immediately my father was not happy. There were two reasons, first the post was temporary, and second unhealthy politics was going on in the College. However I was able to convince father about the suitability of the job.

After applying for the post, Harman, along with our newborn son Charandeep, and I proceeded on a pilgrimage to the Hemkunt Sahib in the Himalayas to pray to the Almighty. I really wanted that job – it was my most cherished dream. On our return, I received a call for interview and appeared before the Board comprising senior officials of the Chandigarh Administration. I was the last amongst forty-five candidates who had appeared for the interview. My interview went on for thirty minutes. Later, I came to know that the board members had reconsidered their earlier decision and selected me as first choice; the person selected earlier was put on the reserves list. My parent department created several huddles before relieving me as they wanted to retain me in view of my hard work and excellent performance.

However, after availing a few extensions, I was finally able to join the Art College in February 1990 without being officially relieved from my parent organization. The college authorities withheld my salary for not submitting the relieving letter as I had applied through proper channel and followed as per the prescribed procedure for government jobs. After two months, I received a notice asking me to explain why my services should be continued since I had not submitted the relieving order from my parent organization. In spite of my best efforts my department was not ready for giving me relieving letter. I felt extremely distressed; to make matters worse father was unrelenting while berating me for going against his better judgment vis-à-vis applying for the lecturer’s post.

However, God came to my rescue once again. One day, while I was teaching Design to the foundation class, a student approached me for short leave. I noticed a white government vehicle escorted by a security jeep had come to pick her up. Later, she told me that her father was the Commissioner of Industries with the Government of Haryana. Clinging to a ray of hope I requested her to arrange my meeting with her father as I was in great trouble. The next morning I reached the Haryana Civil Secretariat to meet the Commissioner, but I came to know from his personal secretary that he was busy with some Vidhan Sabha work and could not meet me for a few days. I requested everybody there including the peon, attendants and the PA to help me meet him for a short while but to no avail. Eventually, I came down from the sixth floor.

However, while riding my scooter back to college an idea struck me. I returned to the Secretariat and told the peon that the Sahib had invited me to meet him. I asked him to take my chit inside saying that if the Sahib did not call me I would go back. Luckily, the Commissioner called me in. He listened to me patiently, and offered me a cup of tea. He then, showing consideration to my career, ordered my relieving from the department with a lien. Thus the hurdles were cleared for me to work where my father and grandfather had served throughout their lives. I never looked back and co-operated with all the principals and my senior my colleagues. The Principal, Mr. V N Singh was very friendly with me. I used to do all the administrative and designing works for him. My friends used to call me “state designer” as I was always available for any creative exercise for any event. I made some very elegant artist friends. Our group of eleven new teachers was popular. Friends like Sanjeev, Nirmal, Jyotica, Toni Sumangal, Ishwar, Purnima, Anita and Alka were great company. However, later, Toni and Jyotika left for better career.

When our second son was born, we named him Genius. Since behaved very intelligently. Soon he became my father’s little friend, as Harman got a teacher’s job. Papaji used to look after him all day; and played and walked with Genius sitting in a pram. Those were good times.

Now, it was time for a suitable match for my younger sister. After a long search we got her engaged to a boy from Delhi who was working in Chandigarh. We had to defer to his parents demand for conducting the wedding at Delhi. We stayed in our uncle’s house there. Two days before the wedding, I met with an accident that injured my upper jaw, which needed several stitches. The entire family, including my cousins, helped us in solemnizing the marriage, which was attended by a large number of relatives.

My mother started remaining ill. We all looked after her. Even my sisters would come to help whenever they could get time. It was Holi in 1995, when all of a sudden my father became sick and died. We could not even get an opportunity to serve him. He always used to pray to God that might he not become a burden on anybody. perhaps, He listened to my father’s prayers. Within a month of his demise my sick mother to passed away. Since I was the eldest, everybody advised me to look after my siblings as they were left lonely after our parents’ demise. Strangely, nobody spared a thought for me and my sense of loss and loneliness. Father’s demise hurt me particularly not only because it was unexpected but also because I used to literally worship him as my God. Now, the responsibility of securing my younger brother’s future lay on my shoulders.

Since our flat was too small for two families I started looking for a separate accommodation. Soon, we were able to purchase a good flat by pooling in our savings and whatever money had left behind in his bank accounts. Eventually, an army officer’s good-looking daughter became my brother’s bride and the couple moved into the newly purchased flat. It was an emotional moment for us brothers as we were parting after having stayed together for twenty-six years. But, such is divine will. Our father had taught us to respect divine will. Now Harman, I and our two little sons stayed in the flat. In order to get over the sense of loneliness I became absorbed in my work as well as various college activities.

Coincidentally, I came into contact with Rabinder Zakhu was active in various cultural endeavors, especially the society named Indradhanush which was set up by an IAS officer to promote art and culture. I joined this society, which provided me with a platform. I conceptualized many 3-D backdrops great performances in the Chandigarh, like the Ghulam Ali Night, An Evening with Mehdi Hassan, Dance by Hema Malini, Sham-e- Ghazal by Peenaz Masani, Independence Day Mushaira by the country’s eminent poets, Musical performance by the Singh Bandhu and many more. I entered the charmed circle of the city’s elite and earned friendship of Senior IAS officers. Thanks to my artistic endeavors people began to know me. with the help of my dedicated students I was able to conceptualize and execute the huge gate for the inaugural ceremony of the Kala Gram. The famed film director, Yash Chopra, who was a guest at the function appreciated my work and gave me an open offer to join the Film Industry as a set designer, which I could not because of my responsibilities towards my family, brother and sisters after my parents’ death. During the Navratras I decorated the Palki of Mata Mansa Devi Temple with embossments and gold powder; it was a memorable week in my life. KK Khandelwal, the executive officer, recommended my name for honors to Haryana’s Chief Minister, Bhajan Lal. After that the Vishwakarma International Society, Ludhiana, approached me for designing a monument to be installed at the Vishwakarma Chowk. I conceptualized the project keeping in mind Lord Vishwakarma’s great gifts bestowed upon the technical & engineering profession. I designed an eight feet high globe in bronze, composed with the gifted instruments duly carved on the globe along with the development of industry. The then Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh, inaugurated it; he also honored me with a citation.

I worked nonstop to create works of art for various organizations. The most exciting assignment was the designing of the official memento for the celebration of Tercentenary of the Khalsa. I met Parkash Singh Badal the then Chief Minister of Punjab. I got executed 300 Mementos which were presented by Parkash Singh Badal to many important dignitaries and celebrities of the country and the world. Among those I remember the following are prominent: Dr. Manmohan Singh, Atal Behari Bajpai, Lata Mangeshkar, Yogi Harbhajan Singh, Sheikh Abdulla, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and many more.

I designed a number of mementos and trophies like the Gurmat Study Circle, Export Award, Safety Award, Industrial Award, Miss World Punjaban Trophy and Replica for Silver Jubilee for Bhakra Dam; there are many I cannot recall readily. I also designed the Postal Stamps for the Bhakra dam Silver Jubilee; it was released by the Union Minister for Power, Government of India, and I was honored. In 1997, I purchased my new Maruti car, which was among the happiest moments for the family.

At the College the then Principal, Ranbir Dev, gave me the responsibility for setting up computer labs for teaching computer graphics, which was a new subject in the curriculum. For the College’s Golden Jubilee in 2001 I researched extensively on the College’s history and wrote a full-page article, which was published in The Tribune’s special Saturday Supplement “Windows”. People of the city started recognizing me, and later many more articles were published in various periodicals. I introduced float making on vehicles during the Chandigarh Carnival. Hence, it became the most memorable golden moment for the students in their college life. Principal Prem Singh was my ideal; I used to learn many things from him even when I was a teacher. He gave me the responsibility of designing and producing of the college magazine ‘Chitrankan’ in a very short time, as his retirement was imminent. I completed the assignment within the set deadline. He patted my back heartily and said “jera college lai cum karda hai, oh mere vaste rabb hai (whoever works for the College is a divine being for me)”. He recommended my name for the State Award which was the first award given to me by his Excellency, the Governor of Punjab in the year 2000. This happy moment had visited me after a long time.

Prem Singh’s tenure as the Principal was of a short duration. He retired after the Golden Jubilee celebrations. Brahm Parkash succeeded him. He was a good friend, apart from being my boss. We used to have lunch together. If was late he would wait for me. Sometimes, he would send me a message to come soon by scribbling, “come, khana khana hai!” Sometimes he used to wait for me till evening for lunch! He took initiative for introducing the Masters Degree course in the college.

The Administration continued to take my assistance for creative and art works. I designed the symbol of Chandigarh’s Municipal Corporation; the Education Department’s Symbol – for which I feel proud when I see it on the dresses, stationery and schoolbags of children; I also designed the Logo for the Medical College; and many more for which I was awarded and rewarded by the Administration from time to time. Until today, I have received four State Awards and Teachers Day Award from the Chandigarh Administration on Independence Day and Republic Day. I also got the Lalit Kala Award for my best work in Digital Art apart from a number of commendations from several organizations and the Punjab and Haryana Governments.

The idea of forming the alumni association named Kala Maitri came to my mind while attending a wedding. There, I met some of my seniors and batch-mates, with whom I reminisced about the college days and our teachers. I discerned an intense desire among them to reconnect with the alma mater. I also realized that although our college had a rich historical background it was bereft of a bridge between its past and the present. Thus, I joined hands with Suraj Mukhi Sharma, Ishwar Dayal, Anil Sharma, Ram Pratap Verma, Ashwani Narang and other like mined artists of the city to give shape to the long cherished dream. This is how Kala Maitri was born in 2004. Kala Maitri went on to organize one of the biggest exhibitions of the alumni’s works, Yaadein, leaving sweet memories in its wake.

One day, my younger sister Bulbul unexpectedly suffered brain hemorrhage and died. We did everything, including a brain surgery, to save her, but in vain. After a long struggle, she left us all in tears. At that time she had two little sons, who lit her pyre and performed the last rites – a poignant moment.

We, the college faculty, face severe uncertainties regarding the regularization of our jobs. We even had to approach the Punjab & Haryana High Court. After a lot of struggle the historical moment arrived in 2004 when the bench of Justice Singhvi passed orders for regularization of our jobs. But, things did not end there. the Administration took another four years to implement the Honorable Court’s judgment. Imagine, we were being regularized after having put in more than twenty years of service! Nonetheless, I celebrated the occasion by replacing my old Maruti 800 with Maruti Zen.

Harman always wanted our two sons to be engineers. She would often say, “Bahut ho gaya art ghar wich. Merey betey taan engineer hi banangay. It was 2007 my elder son Charandeep Singh cleared the entrance test for admission to the NID Ahmadabad and selected for the Product Design course. This was another happy episode in the family. Once, I too had attempted the test for NID after my Diploma but my father didn’t allow me as he could not bear the expenses at that time. The filled, but un-submitted form for admission is still lying with me, which I showed to my son. Now only we three, Harman, Genius and I were left in the family.

Charandeep did well at the NID and won several awards for his concepts and creativity, which included an National award for a designing lavishness Tractor for Farmers. Meanwhile, we had acquired a new and more spacious flat, which I designed according to my taste style. I took a loan for furnishing the flat and moved into it in April 2008. The flat proved to be very lucky for us. Genius got good a position in his tenth standard exams, I won a cash award for doing a logo Design for the National Mehalla University. His Excellency, the Governor of Haryana, and the Chief Minister Mr. Hooda jointly gave the award to me. Again, the Governor of Punjab honored me with the State Award for my contribution towards the conceptualizing and designing of Sampark Centres in the City, for which the state had won the Golden Eagle Award for being best in Information Technology.

Principal Brahm Parkash retired in 2008 and Principal Archanna Sashtri succeeded him. But she could not stay for more than 11 months. She was a friendly and cooperative person. During her tenure I organized a paper-folding workshop for foundation students and did a research based project on Nuclear Energy for the applied art students. I was asked by the principal to accompany the All India Educational Tour of our college students, which was an unforgettable experience since we faced the terrorist attack at Mumbai. It was a heartbreaking incident in my life. Soon after the tour, God blessed me with a very simple intelligent and talented friend, which turned my life towards a new work culture, taking me towards “Chardi Kalan” higher and higher. His name is Amarjeet Singh. He gifted me the tiny Gutka “Choupai Sahib” Hamri Karo Hath De Raksha - a Bani of Guru Gobind Singh and advised me to keep it in Pocket,Guru Sahib will be with me all the time. Sometimes, I think my friend is a farista of God gifted as a true friend to inspire me and motivate me all the time.

After Archanna Sashtri one of my close friends Manohar Lal, whom I called Lal Manohar out of affection, took over as the Principal but he left soon. Eventually, the Administration entrusted me with the responsibility of running this great Institution as its Principal. I still remember the day; it was 22 December, 2008. I was attending the last day of my refresher course at the Panjab University when I got an unexpected phone call from the Chandigarh Administration’s Home Secretary. He congratulated me, saying that my selection was on merit.

During my first official meeting with the Home Secretary, I outlined my plans about developing a creative work culture among the College’s students. My development plans too were discussed. The Home Secretary and other senior officials appreciated my ideas. Frankly, I have never felt as the Principal but a sincere worker who considers the Institution as a shrine wherein my father and great grandfather served as teachers. I was more than happy to avail the much awaited and cherished opportunity.

Indeed, it has been an honor to be the Principal of this prestigious art Institution, where great personalities like Lockwood Kipling, Parsi Brown, Sr. Ram Singh, SN Gupta, SL Prasher, Jagmohan Chopra, Prem Singh et al were my predecessors. Every night, before going to sleep, I thought deeply for hours together about how I could make some positive contributions during the short span of my tenure. I had full support of the Administration and my faculty staff. Things were made a bit difficult due to some unhappy happenings in the college in the past. Parents were reluctant to send their wards to the college where politics of intrigue had adversely affected the College’s public image. I decided to give top priority to the College’s development, for which the Administration supported me wholeheartedly. I gave the College a facelift by improving its studios and adding more facilities for students. More labs, Wi-Fi and photo studios were added. I removed the central wall in the main corridor, which divided the institution into two parts, and supervised the beautification of the campus. Thereafter, I organized various events to improve the work culture.

Today one contemplates with satisfaction and pride the fact that the Institution has completed 60 years of its establishment in India and is presently celebrating its Diamond Jubilee. This Institution was established as the Mayo School of Art during the British Raj in 1875 at Lahore. I availed of this opportunity to organize many events as part of Diamond Jubilee. Some of the most memorable events during my tenure with the college are: Inauguration of the Bhagat Dhanraj Sculpture Park by the Home Secretary; the exhibition, Life and Earth, in which the Green Saint Balbeer Singh Seechewal was the Chief Guest who interacted with the students on global environment related problems; then there was the fantastic live demonstration by Sidharth – an eminent artist and alumni of this College; the exhibition on India’s Tribal Art, wherein His Excellency, the Governor of Punjab, spent 2 hours 40 minutes as visitor and Chief Guest; the College Annual Function where Harbhajan Maan was the Chief Guest, he sang and danced with the students and also gave them wonderful tips for leading a better life; the last event was the Diamond Jubilee exhibition of all the former Principals, great teachers of this institution, and veteran & senior artists, which was opened by Shri Pawan Bansal, the MP and Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs. Indeed, my desire to keep working forever and ever remains strong.

My elder son, Charandeep, performed exceptionally and made me proud by winning International and National awards at the age of 22 in Product designs created by him. Out of sheer joy, often I would hum the famous lyrics “Mera naam karega roshan jag mey mera raj dulara.” On the other hand, my younger son Gurgenius Singh, decided to become an architect. Unluckily, he could not get through his first trial of CBSE entrance exam, falling short by a few marks. He was very much depressed, so were we both. Harman prayed every day for his career. Soon he got a seat in Architecture at the Guru Nanak Dev University. However, he was not happy with the environment at the GNDU. Once again he appeared for the CBSE entrance examinations. This time, he topped the merit list. He was selected for the SPA, Delhi and the CCA, Chandigarh. Ultimately, he opted for the CCA. When I said to him that he had wasted one year, he replied, “I have wasted one year only and not my life!” Well, only a genius could have come up with such a riposte

I retired from the College on 30 June 2012. However, I was confident that I would get two years of extension in my tenure, considering my achievements and services to this Institution, for which I had been honored on four occasions. The Administration too wanted me to continue. It was a hot Saturday; I was busy in clearing the pending files and preparing for handing over the charge as the College Principal. All this took the entire day. Although I was expecting my friends and my colleagues to be with me on my last day in office, none came. It is difficult to express how I felt then. Only my artist friend Malkit Singh, and my colleagues Karamjit Singh Sahi and Ishwar Dayal came, and we had tea together. Sahi and Dayal helped in clearing the files and transfer of the charge. It was like having the triumvirate of Brahma Vishnu and Mahesh with me on my last day in office. When they left in the afternoon, I felt very lonely. But I kept a tight lid on my emotions.

After clearing all my files and collecting my belongings I gave Rs. 100 to the sweeper to clean up the office which was littered with torn papers etc. While leaving, I placed flowers on a table and locked the room after me. I came to the entrance and bowed onto the floor to pay my last respects to the Institution where my family’s three generations had served. I was getting very emotional. Only the chowkidar Onkar was there to bid me farewell and embrace me. I started alone for home in my Vento. Tears were rolling down my beard. While I was driving, Harman called and asked where I was. I was not able to speak a word. My Friend Amarjeet Singh called me, I was in no state to converse; he realized my agony and counseled me patience. I reached home with my eyes red. Harman offered lunch but I refused. After taking rest, I asked my sons to join me in an outing. While returning, I purchased some green plants for home as a sign of prosperity.

After June 2012 my lively life stopped without any financial support. Not a single penny was given to me and my pension and other dues were delayed. I remained busy with my book “History and Heritage of the Art College”. A few days later when I asked for some money from my wife, she refused by saying that I should have saved for precisely such days when income would be on the decline. I realized, it was my mistake that I had not saved money for the future. Actually, I spent all on the education of my sons and the purchase of a big flat and a luxury car too. I prayed silently and God responded. The BHU, Varanasi invited me as an expert in connection with the selection of students for the Masters Degree course. I, along with Harman, went to Varanasi. On our return, I got a phone call from the Director, NID, Ahmadabad, who informed me that he had proposed my name for appointment as the Dean cum Director of an art institution at Rohtak, being set up by the Haryana Government. I met Haryana Government’s Financial Commissioner cum Chairman, Technical Education, Dhanpat Singh who was a friend; I also met the Registrar, Manish Jindal. I got the appointment letter and I went to see the Institution with Harman. I was impressed with the large institution designed by India’s famous architect Raj Rewal. I joined the same day. I was allotted a guesthouse and other facilities for my stay. Although I have to travel to-and-fro every weekend, I like the new opportunity as it presents a fresh challenge.

I thank the Almighty… Waheguru for all the blessings bestowed upon me and my loved ones. I thank for strengthening me to reach my goals. Looking back, from where I am today, it was a long journey. I would say life has been very generous to me. It has brought me in contact with some wonderful, inspiring and generous people, without whom I would not have achieved what I have.

Today, I am happy with my life and enjoy it to the fullest. The positive attitude to face hardships brought out the best in me. Today I am looking forward to face the challenges of life in a positive manner. My life has been a wonderful journey, full of ups and downs. My book on “History and Heritage” of the College of Art, is under publication which I have complied with wonderful illustrious memories – a glorious history from 1871 to the present. My second book, ‘Gatka the Sikh martial art’ is also under process. My concept, the ‘Sikh Chess a Game’ is also ready for launch; it is based on Guru Nanak’s Philosophy, Chhardi Kallan and Sarbad da Bhala.

I am grateful to life for giving me a chance to dream and then to realize most of these dreams. It brought me many opportunities and some recognition as an artist, what many people do not get in their lifetime. “I believe in God. The Divine Energy flows through me and that I am but an instrument in the hands of the Divine. I never consciously pray for anything material. It is mean and sordid. On the contrary, I try to repeat to my mind ~ ‘Thy will be done’ ~ in a spirit of self-surrender.”

I do not follow where the path leads. Instead, I go where there is no path. Thank God for staying with me all the time.