Black Hill Joys - 3
Back to the Past
To a Golden Era
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
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Earlier that Saturday we were at Pradhan Gaon of Aritar to pay condolences to the bereaved family of Hukum Chand Pradhan on the Antyeshti day. Bejoy and Buhari Sunira were also there and had accompanied us to see us enter the house before we went to see Thulo Maiju at the Kothi. They did not like our idea of staying there without cleaning the rooms properly though Ranjana and Anita had done it worth occupying when they were here last time some months ago - before our departure to the US. They wanted us to stay with them for a few nights and move in after cleaning not only the house but outside as well since the entrance and lawn all were covered by grass and bushes overgrown with the return of the rainy season. Some seepage here and there damaged kitchen cabinets and wall paint badly and something had also to be done to save them from further damage. So, we were at the calm and peaceful place aptly named Shanti Kutir once again in the same house that I had known since my childhood days spent under the love and care of Thulo Maiju and Thulo Mama Bhishma Pratap of the Woodland Nursery with the premises also known as Kothi commonly - that grand old house of Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan descendant of Taksari Chandrabir Newar who started now-fabled The Chandra Nursery of Rhenock in 1910. Following his demise in 1946 and family partition thereafter, its name / goodwill was retained by his brother Babu Durga Shamsher Pradhan, who had constructed in 1932 his house Nirvana with sprawling lawn and a water fountain in front. Their workplace Office building was located couple of yards before reaching this majestic house - equidistant from the main place. It was another beautiful double storey bunglow of the British Era that was built out of the earnings from a single order obtained by The Chandra Nursery. This was told by my Buba once to give me as a child an idea how well and successful was their business those days worldwide. Incidentally, it was here that the well-known leader Ganesh Man Singh worked as the Krishna Bahadur Typist when in self-imposed exile during the Rana regime in Nepal. As time and space here do not permit me to elaborate further details, readers may kindly go through the article The Chandra Nursery Centenary (1910-2010) - A Tribute in my recent book and you know its name by now; if not see at the end of this article.
A regular supply of milk had always been a problem in the past but this time Beekee Bhanij found out and arranged one for us soon but would come around eight at night. It was really surprising to get it such an odd hour when we all have been accustomed of getting the supply in the morning or in the evening. Weather was no problem and even in the rains, the milkman assured of regular supply even with an umbrella and a torchlight besides a shining steel can of milk with a measuring mug. He revealed that the can was from someone lucky enough to get it under some government scheme and he to get it but at a price that was not that bad. He saves himself a lot with this investment as no complains of milk turning sour/cuddled had to be heard like when carrying in a plastic can previously. Back in Gangtok, milkman Bhim Chettri brings it in pet mineral water bottles of a litre or small can if more to each home poured from his bigger poly-can as he comes all the way from Luing in a taxi arranged by other milkmen from the village. Bhim has a clientele of some 60 houses in Development Area. He had taken the place of Dal Bahadur Chettri of the same place, who supplied us for past thirty years regularly ever since we were in the Eight Unit Quarter near the Happy Valley of my TNA days. Before him, Passang Sherpa from the Government Agriculture Farm at Tadong used to deliver us the milk every morning. He stopped coming once he became a driver himself and/or the Farm was closed down thereafter. It gave place for the Central Referral Hospital /Sikkim Manipal Insitute of Medical Sciences which at present giving birth to many a promising doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, etc. not only from Sikkim but from all over the country and even outside perhaps. Besides, it is also provides re-employment opportunity to many of our qualified/experienced doctors retiring from the government service recently in the past much to the convenience of the public and local people known to them. With the Central Government announcement of extending the services of government doctors to the age of 65 years throughout the country, many in the profession are immensely benefited. Many of them are into private practice concurrently to the benefit of those patients who cannot see them in the government hospitals. Coming back again to the Tadong Farm, we were few of the lucky government employees to have the quality milk from there. Eldest of my cousins in Rhenock, Ramesh Kumar Pradhan was the first B.Sc. Agriculture Graduate from Naini near Allahabad who used to work there along with J. K. Thapa, the maize specialist having undergone some training in Australia and who was my predecessor as the first Director of Census Operations, Sikkim for the Census of India 1981 whereas this writer was there for 1991 in that capacity a decade later. When I had approached him about the possibility of getting some employment after my M.Sc.with Entomology as special paper, he had flatly turned it down saying I was much ahead of time for Sikkim. That was the year 1969 when I was found by the then Education Director overqualified even for the post of a teacher It was a rare opportunity to work in the Census and be at service of the Government of India staying at home town to fulfil the mandatory one tenure outside the state for All India Services Officers that many of my colleagues perhaps never could dream of, rather avoided such a posting at all cost as they could rather meddle with petty office politics back home.
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Back to the village and the milkman - our respect to this kind soul to reach door to door our much needed milk-supply even at night. He has four cows and could gather the information that his wife delivers milk in the morning in the locality. Labour is not available these days and people do not come to work for you unless you too go and help them - a system commonly known as Parma. He loves to talk a lot and last evening he was mentioning that there are only two other places (Kothi i.e. two building of The Chandra Nursery circa 1932 and his Binod Dhaba's) where the house is built with Baghey Dhunga (tiger stone) like ours. I showed him to look at the steps that has some samples of long single pieces from the days of yore. It reminds me of the Chapleti Dhunga just in front of the place where Sri Krishna Cinema (now abandoned and waiting demolition) is located. When I met our childhood day pal Gotame Kancha or Harka Bahadur Gautam he told it was they who broke the stone while broadening the cobbled road there in 1970s. Wish we could stop them then and kept as the heritage piece where many pedestrians used to rest before a climb uphill while going to Aritar after hectic Friday Hat shopping. For me it was often many night climbing up after spending time with friends at Kutcheri where newly started Nav Jiwan Sandhya Club was housed. Later, I had started a medicine store there as only one shop then kept medicines also. Sundar Kumar Pradhan Mama was more popular as a practising physician than as a Maila Babu of Badi Dokan till this day as theirs was the biggest shop those days. He used to reach far off villages even at night without any hesitation when people needed medical aid. He used to go there on foot with pulto accompanying the person coming from far off places all the way to his door steps. It was purely with a sense of service and dedication that we find lacking in the present time as home visit is flatly refused/denied even on payment of fees unless you are well-placed or known to the physician. There were no modern day conveniences like road, car or even electricity those days. Continued ...