Notable recent changes that have taken place are the Court Gallery which was once a Squash Court and the Pool Theatre which was a Swimming Pool. The Court Gallery consists of rare collection photographs of the Institute dating since 1888, which were procured from the Bowood Estate, Western Part of United Kingdom and the British Library, London in 2010. Verma added, “With help from the Middlesex University, we were able to get these photographs. The swimming pool built in 1888 is now a plush theatre where movies are featured for resident scholars and the Institute’s students. Conferences, meetings and conventions too are held here from time to time. Efforts are being made to open more and more areas for the tourists while at the same time maintaining the sanctity of the place”.
Guided tours started in 1992, initially there were no charges but after seeing the growing number of tourists nominal charges were taken as part of the maintenance cost. The guide would at lengths explain the history of the Institute and its passing owners. The elaborate wood work, the paneling and pilaster, usages of teak, deodar and walnut woods and impressive carvings are works of marvel. Gitesh Arora and family from New Delhi were ecstatic about their visit and went on and on about the beauty of the building and its architecture. Gitesh said, “The landscaping and the design of the building is very beautiful, but the guided tours are quite dissatisfying. The groups are so large that it is difficult to understand what the guide is saying and the rushed walk around is a little disappointing”. Justifying this Verma added, “Since last year the number of tourist has increased two-fold and weekend rush is huge hence the tour timings are decreased to 25 minutes from a 45 minute tour. This is something which we cannot control as the growing number of tourists needs to be accommodated and this is the only way we can do so. Weekdays are much more relaxed”. Purnima from Mumbai says, “The elements of Victorian architecture are just incredible and a walk around the Institute is equally charming and extravagant. The manicured lawns, the beautiful garden and all around greenery is breathtaking”.
As you walk towards the main entrance, you can see the huge landscaped lawns on to your left and the gravel stone walkway reminds you of the era gone by. Once inside you are greeted with a huge iron-wrought chandelier and immaculate woodwork, a reminder of the elegance, sophistication and grace which the Britisher’s embraced while staying here. Only two rooms are open for the tourists and the insides of the Library can be seen from the huge glass door, the upper floors are off-limits as these are now reserved for the visiting professors and the Director of the Institute. One of these rooms has the round table and chairs that were used during the Simla Conference and another amazing thing about this room is that its roof was built with walnut tree wood which dates almost 125 years now.
Dr M Pathak, Associate Professor from the National Defense Academy, Pune, on a one month visit to the Institute says, “I am here under the IUGC programme to present a paper on ‘Transnational Terrorism in Kashmir’, and there are nearly 20 other professors visiting from all over India from different universities. This is a unique Institute with amazing library resources, best hospitality and great people. The collection of rare books is the best I have seen and few particular books written on Kashmir were found here only. Even though this is my second trip, still every time it is quite refreshing and enlightening when I come here”.