‘ We arrived here in the middle of a downpour around midnight of August 28, 1959,’ recalls Narendra Sahni, an old resident, whose father worked in Old Delhi’s Metcalfe House.

The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration is India’s premier training institute for our Civil Services. Located in Mussoorie, we are justifiably very proud that many of its alumni have distinguished themselves in the service of the country.

Among those early lamplighters who came was Karam Chand Hari, he accompanied a team sent to check out the Charleville Hotel. They found everything basic – hot water meant firing steam-coal boilers and the dining hall was too small for two or three hundred officer trainees. He gave the Academy its blazer, monograms, buttons, cuff links, visiting cards, crested name pads, hats for riding, sport equipment and many other things.

By the 1960s, you could have cleaved the hill station town in two: first came the shopkeepers, keen to do business like Kulri’s Jai Krishan Khanna or ‘Jackson’s Drapers’ stitched bandhgalas for the officer trainees; Library’s Milkhiram & Sons and Prakash Brothers offered other accoutrements and Kundan cobbled dress shoes or riding boots. We local college going youngsters saw the officer trainees as the crème de la crème, one-in-amillion who had cleared the toughest exam in the world and conquered the Everests of the mind. Over the next decade or so, a veil of mystique fell around Happy Valley, not unlike the one in James Hilton’s The Lost Horizon.

Briefly this curtain parted in 1970, when Sanjeev Goyal, the son of Raghukul Tilak, the socialist luminary, joined the Central Defence Accounts. Lamentably we lost both father and son to another of Delhi’s senseless road accidents. Next year, Mahavir Nautiyal, a retired headmaster’s son, working as a library assistant in our college, cleared the exam. Legend has him in Rishikesh when the news trickled in, but a wildcat bus strike delayed his return. Affronted, the Principal issued a show-cause notice for absence without leave. Gleefully Mahavir threw his resignation on the Principal’s table before storming off to join his foundation course.

Avadesh Bihari Mathur was in the science faculty of the local college when his father was transferred as the Principal of Ghananand Government College. Years later he tells me: ‘Naturally, my spoken English was a touch rustic. I had, after all, schooled in Lakhimpur Kheri. Though I was good at the sciences.’ Topping the faculty, he cracked UPSC to join the ranks of the Indian Police Service in 1975 and remains a much decorated officer with a bouquet of awards, citations and medals. Whilst Padam Vir Singh began with Hampton Court, when his mother, a maths teacher at Mussoorie Girls Inter College, took him to the nuns of Hampton Court. Qualifying for the All India Merit Scholarship, he entered Doon School; graduated from St Stephen’s and finished his Masters in Mussoorie. Clearing the UPSC, he was the hill station’s earliest Indian Administrative Service officer, and returned to the Academy twice: first as a deputy director and later as the Director, a post he held until retirement.

Sandhya Gaekwad, daughter of the Physical Education Instructor at the Academy, cleared the UPSC in 1978 to join the Indian Customs Service. Anil Raturi, from one of our old Mussoorie families schooled at Hampton Court; went to St George’s College and joined Ramjas College in Delhi University to crack the UPSC in 1987 and joined the Indian Police Service. He recently retired as Uttarakhand’s Director-General of Police. Whilst Trikalagya Rabha, whose father taught Assamese, Manipuri (and often Bangla too!) in the Language Faculty, qualified for the Indian Railways in 1989.

‘Whilst studying in college, images of turning into a kabariwala briefly flitted through my mind,’ reminisces Deepak Rawat, adding: ‘Especially when my father threatened to stop sending me pocket money unless I made something of myself!’ True to form, three years later, in 2007, Deepak cracked the UPSC to join the Indian Administrative Service.

And that is as vocal we get about local. Of course many other locals excelled in their own fields but then this story is about those who made it to our Civil Services.

Ganesh Saili born and home-grown in the hills belongs to those select few whose words are illustrated by their own pictures. Author of two dozen books; some translated into twenty languages, his work has found recognition world-wide.