The University gave me accommodation in the Holiday Home complex of Punjab University. In addition to its main building there was one other building, called St Bernard House, which Punjab University used to give to its visitors with family during the summer months. Himachal Pradesh University had rented St Bernard House from Punjab University and I was given one of the four furnished apartments in the building. Though it met our needs there were two problems we faced with it. The foremost was its electrical wiring. There were no power points in it. The wiring could not carry more than 5 Amp of current, which was suitable only for only light bulbs. Ashas attempt to use a toaster resulted in overheating. Wiring began to burn in no time with crackling sound. I was eating breakfast and managed to switch off the main switch in time and prevented the burning down of the wooden St Bernard House. The other problem was that only the corridor received rays of sunlight and that too for a few hours. The plus point was its location. It was near the Victory Tunnel and not too far below the Cart Road. It was about 500 feet below the level of the Mall Road. The AG Office could be reached in 10 minutes walking up a path with slope of medium gradient. From the AG Office there were two alternative routes for reaching the Mall level. One was short but involved climbing up the steep slope to Kali Bari and the other was a longer path with a gentle slope by the side of the buildings of the Western Command. Both Asha and I were young and energetic. Climbing up 1000 feet at a stretch with a baby strapped on one's back was a normal activity.
The Physics Department was in the Manse building a little beyond the Kali Bari and midway between the Scandal Point on the Mall and the entrance of the Grand Hotel. The Physics Department of the Regional Centre of Punjab University functioned from the Manse building. The Himachal Pradesh University also used the Manse building as the temporary location of its Physics Department. On a clear day the view of the snow covered Himalayan Range from it was the same as could be seen from the Grand Hotel.
Summer Hill was given to the University by the State Government for its campus. The permanent buildings for the Science Departments were under construction in Summer Hill. Similarly, St Bernard House was a temporary residential accommodation given to four teachers by the University. Flats for teachers were under construction in Summer Hill.
By the time I returned from Trieste all the sanctioned posts of physics teachers had been filled. I shared an office with Dr. R. P. Bajpai.He had joined as a lecturer when I was in Trieste. My other colleagues whom I interacted with were Dr. K. C. Sharma, Dr. S. Mukherjee, and Dr. K. N. Srivastava. We taught postgraduate students for the M.Sc. degree. We wanted to offer to our students a good physics course. We soon realised that students came to us with weak physics and mathematics education. They had studied in the colleges in the interior districts of the hill state. There was a big gap between what they had learnt and what we considered as a prerequisite background for the course curriculum designed by us. We therefore taught to them non-examination bridge courses along with the regular courses in the curriculum.
I used to go home for lunch. It involved climbing down and climbing up at least 500 feet each way. In the evenings Asha would bring Gargi and her feed to the Mall and I joined them there. Simlas Mall Road was full of life. We would either go to the Coffee House or to the Baljees restaurant for tea, or saw beautiful sunsets from the Simla Ridge or saw a cinema before returning home.
Mrs. Bajpai, Mrs. Srivastava and Asha got to know each other well. Their babies were almost of the same age. Asha was keen to ensure Gargi received exposure to sun rays and invariably came to the Ridge as the sunlight near the St Bernard House was blocked by trees.
I felt comfortable with Dr. K. C. Sharma and was happy to have him as a friend. He was a soft-spoken, pleasant person. I worked on some research problems associating him and we jointly published our research work. I started giving once a week seminar lectures to my colleagues on Feynmans path integration. Dr. K. C. Sharma took down notes of my lectures and got them cyclostyled by cutting stencils. With time the lecture notes began to take shape of manuscript of a book in the field.
I received a message that Dr. D. S. Kothari, who was then either the Chairman of the University Grants Commission or the President of the Indian National Science Academy, would like to meet me in the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS). The IIAS had been given the use of the Vice-Regal Lodge. I went to the regal building of the IIAS and met Professor Kothari in its Banquet Hall. Professor Kothari asked me to give a course of lectures on Einsteins General Theory of Relativity to the participants of a summer school being planned by the Department of Physics of the University of Delhi. The summer school was scheduled to be held in the premises of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in June 1973. He was happy when I told him that instead of the conventional approach to the general theory of relativity based on the Riemannian geometry I intend to approach it as a field theory of self-interacting spin two field. In addition to my teaching and research work I now became involved in preparing lectures for the course I planned to teach in the summer school.
On the 12th of April, 1973 we celebrated Gargis first birthday. Pitaji was the Additional Secretary to the Government of India and the Senior Member Finance in the Post and Telegraph Board. We could therefore invite our friends to the Guest House of the main post office of Simla. It was located near the Ridge and the Scandal Point on the Mall. Gargi was a loveable gifted baby. I used to show her pictures in the Newsweek magazine and also tell her names of persons on the magazine cover. One day I was browsing books in a bookshop on the Mall. Gargi saw an issue of Newsweek on display with a cover picture of Spiro Agnew, the Vice-President of the United States. On seeing the cover of the magazine to surprise of everyone present in that bookshop Gargi started chanting, Agnew, Agnew! She was never out of sight of her mother and was either in her lap or strapped to her back. As we did not have a TV or any other home entertainment we visited friends or the friends visited us in our home. Life was happy and normal.
We vacated St Bernard House for the summer use of the Punjab University. We shifted to a temporary accommodation in the Summer Hill. My lectures in the Summer School were well received. Asha with Gargi went to Delhi for attending the marriage of her cousin.
Although I had managed to spend my first year in Simla occupying myself with my research and teaching activities I was under tension all along. I had worked in institutions with world class research facilities unlike the unsatisfactory working conditions I faced in Simla. I now doubted my will power to sustain myself in such poor working conditions for more time. I found myself mentally spiralling into depression. As I am reliving my past by writing about it I have no reasons to concealmy weaknesses. I did not share my anxieties with anyone except with Professor F. C. Auluck. I met him when I was in Delhi for attending the wedding of Ashas cousin. I had experienced a similar bout of negative thoughts in Chicago. Professor Freund had pulled me out of it then. He told me, In your present mental state I see two options for you. Either on your return to India you join the Indian Army to fight against Pakistan or join some holy man and work for your nirvana. He continued, You are neither the first nor the last person among us who has gone through self-doubt on ones abilities. I go through it often and come out of it by shifting from the problem I am grappling with to a new problem and start working on it. This time also I managed to pull myself out of the sinking thought spiral before it did irreparable damage to me.
The American Physical Society (APS) made me its honorary member for five years. My membership dues were paid by an unknown donor who appreciated my research activities. I subscribed two APS journals at the subsidised rates given to its members. These journals were the Physical Review D and the Journal of Mathematical Physics.
Looking back at my professional life now I am losing track of events as there were long stretches in time when life moved in rhythm without significant changes and did not leave sharp impressions which I can recall now. So far my narration has been chronological. But from now onwards I may not be able to maintain chronological order of events. I will try to connect related events instead of exercising concern in putting them in chronology.
At the end of the summer we were shifted back from the Summer Hill to an apartment in Ena Lodge. It was less spacious than our apartment in St Bernard House but was brighter and more cheerful. It had a glazed living room with a view of the forest. We stayed here until the newly built 40 apartment complex below the Summer Hill Railway Station was ready to be occupied. I recall a pleasant event from our Ena lodge stay. Gargi was about two years old. One morning she woke up before we did. She went to the living form. She was excited to see snowfall for the first time. She woke us up with snowfall-snowfall.
Our links with the rest of the world were the newspaper The Tribune published from Chandigarh and the 9 pm radio news broadcast in English of the All India Radio. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Professor Chandrasekhar was conferred an honoris causa D.Sc. degree by the University of Delhi. The following morning I contacted Pitaji to get in touch with Professor Chandrasekhar and ask him if he would like me to meet him. Professor Chandrasekhar told Pitaji that he was in Delhi for two more days and would be happy to see me. I travelled by an overnight bus from Simla to Delhi to reach in time for my appointment with him. I took along with me a copy of my cyclostyled lecture notes on Feynmans path integration and the manuscript of a paper I had recently completed.
Chandra was happy to see me. He remarked, Maheshwari, you are in a perfect place to do theoretical physics. In Simla you are in beautiful natural surroundings. I told him, Chandra, natural beauty of Simla is indeed conducive for pursuing research in theoretical physics. But I neither have easy access to current published work as the journals reach Simla after a long transit delay by the surface sea mail nor am I able to refer to past research work. The new University does not have back volumes of physics journals. On the spot Chandra offered to give his entire personal library to the Himachal Pradesh University. He laid down his conditions for transferring his personal library to Simla. He would neither do the packing of his collection of journals nor would he arrange their shipment to India. I have described in my tribute to Professor Chandrasekhar how with the help of Shachindra who was living in a suburb of Chicago the entire library of Chandra got transferred to the Library of the Himachal Pradesh University within three months of my conversation with him. I showed him the two manuscripts I had brought with me. He told me, Maheshwari, you know your work is outside my mainline of research. It would help me if you can suggest names of experts to whom I can refer your manuscripts for comments. I suggested that the manuscript on lecture notes on Feynmans path integration could be sent to Professor Bryce DeWitt and the manuscript of the research paper could be sent to Professor Stanley Deser.
Professor Deser communicated my research paper to the Annals of Physics. It was published in that journal. Bryce DeWitt passed on the manuscript of my lecture notes on Feynman path integration to his wife Professor Cecile DeWitt. It resulted in my collaborative research with Cecile DeWitt. Our collaboration extended over a period of ten years. I met her on several occasions in Europe and went to the University of Texas at Austin to be with her. She made a trip to India and we spent three weeks together in Bangalore at the Indian Institute of Science. We spent four weeks together in Trieste at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics and wrote a research monograph published as a Physics Report. My brief interaction with Professor Chandrasekhar in Delhi put my research career on track. I was in touch with Cecile DeWitt and could manage my research work with the facilities available to me in Simla and by visiting TIFR or IIT Kanpur. I pointed out to Chandra the crucial role he played in my research career. He laughed and said, My role was merely that of a catalyst.
I received a letter from Cecile DeWitt enclosing in it her recent paper entitled, Feynmans Path Integral - Definition Without Limiting Procedure. She wrote, My husband has passed on to me the manuscript of your lecture notes. I wish Chandra had directly sent those to me instead of sending them to Bryce. Your work would become obsolete before it appears in print because of some recent advances in the theory of Feynmans path integral made by me. I am sending you reprint of my work. I was pleasantly surprised to receive her letter. I had heard of her as I had come across proceedings of Les Houches summer schools. She was the founder Director of Les Houches summer schools which were organised each year in France as initiative to revive physics in Europe after disruption due to the Second World War.
I tried to read her paper but could not follow it. I lacked background of modern mathematics. I realised what she had worked out was logical but I was unable to make sense out of it. The issue she had addressed was how to define integrals if the domain of integration is infinite dimensional function space. My mathematics education was limited to Real Analysis and to elementary aspects of Complex Analysis. I knew how to compute a line integral, or a surface integral, or a volume integral. I had also come across formal results such as volume of an n-dimensional sphere. What Feynman had described in his book was an algorithm for computing integrals if the domain of integration were a space of continuous curves or paths. Therefore, it was known as the Feynmans path integral. But the open question was how does one define in a mathematically consistent way integration if the domain is infinite dimensional space of continuous paths. Cecile had extended the work of the Bourbaki Group on projective measures also known as pro-measures. Using pro-measures the Bourbaki Group gave rigorous definition to the Wiener integral encountered in dealing with Brownian motion or the random walk problem.
I wanted to get in touch with a mathematician in Simla who could help me. I mentioned it to Dr. K. C. Sharma. He knew a mathematician who was a Fellow in the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. His name was Dr. Anil Kayande. Dr. Sharma had met him in Edmonton, Canada. I went with Dr. Sharma to the IIAS to meet Dr. Kayande. His field of specialisation in mathematics was Applied Mathematics. He could not help me with the concepts of modern mathematics I was struggling with. We became life-long family friends. Couple of years later a chance encounter with him in a train journey turned my career on its head and I became a teacher educator. That is an interesting story and will follow in my narration. I did take his help in showing the Vice-Regal lodge to Asha's sister and my brother-in-law from Calcutta during their visit to Simla. We ate lunch in the Banquet Hall of the IIAS. It was an eight course meal followed by coffee. It was perhaps served by the same staff as were there when the Vice-Regal lodge was occupied by the Viceroy of India.
I read and reread Ceciles paper. But could not make much progress with it. The University Grants Commission made me its National Associate for five years. I used this scheme of the UGC to visit the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bombay, where I met Ashok Raina. He was a Ph.D. student. He had a sharp mind. We became good friends. I discussed with him Ceciles paper. He could not help me directly but explained to me broadly some of the terms used by Cecile in her paper.
I returned to Simla. Gradually I could see a hazy picture of Ceciles work. It became sharper with my efforts to understand the key ideas in her work. The major contribution made by her was the generalisation of the definition of pro-measures to pro-distributions needed for formulation of quantum mechanics. It was similar to generalisation of the Dirac delta function as a distribution. I did not want to get bogged down with Ceciles generalisation and wanted to understand the work of the Bourbaki Group. I made rapid progress and submitted a research paper entitled, Functional Integral Representations of Partition Function Without Limiting Procedure. Techniques of Calculation of Moments and submitted it to the Journal of Statistical Physics. It was published by the Journal of Statistical Physics in 1975.
It was a breakthrough in my research career. Cecile recognised my abilities and decided to collaborate with me in pursuing the field further. She was invited to lecture in the Karpacz Winter School scheduled to be held in Karpacz, Poland, in February-March 1975. She asked the organisers to invite her collaborator from Simla, India. It led to an almost 10 years long research collaboration.