Bhishma Pratap Pradhan
My Reminiscences in Tribute
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
Since both my mothers are from the illustrious Taksari Family of Rhenock I feel blessed to be a descendant and owe to the Taksari Chandrabir Pradhan without whom we would not have been here in Sikkim what it is or we are today. It was Dr. Paras Mani Pradhan who reckoned him as one amongst 12 greatest sons of the Himalayas to include in his textbooks approved by the government for the people to know. I lost my mother early barely eight years old in 1954. Comparing my two mothers to Devaki and Yashoda and also to Sikkim and India to have given me birth and to rear me up I wrote a poem to offer along with my magnum opus ‘Sikkim : Three Decades towards Democracy’ to the then President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam in his visit to Sikkim. My mothers had two brothers and me two Mamas – Thulo Mama the elder Bhishma Pratap Pradhan and Sanu Mama the younger Mohan Pratap Pradhan to become the first Nepali Chief Secretary to the Government of Sikkim way back in 1980 - both showered me love and affection more so after I lost my mother when just eight years old in 1954. It was Thulo Mama as the elder son who had to bear the family burden after the sudden demise of their father Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan that facilitated higher education and better future of his brother. This is in fond memory of the elder who passed away this day twenty two years ago.
My earliest memory of Thulo Mama (14 November 1924 - 25 July 1992), dates back to one evening when I find myself along with my Buba, Muma, Thulo Mama and Thulo Maiju with present Muma in Darjeeling to see the movie Mahal all the way from Rhenock. Thulo Mama and Maiju were both movie buffs and he fond of Ashok Kumar that made them to enjoy the classic then a hit movie with Madhubala and more popularly known for the haunting melody Ayega … Ayega … Ayega Aaanewala … Ayega and the mother of all murder mystery films in Hindi. That trip is more remembered by me for spoiling their evening when after the movie we were going towards Chowrasta that I suddenly refused walking any further as I was after the toy I saw in a shop displayed. My Buba just refused it to discipline me that everything seen cannot be had and me to get good lesson- first and last ever. From that day onward I made it a point that I never hanker after things that could not be mine and my Buba never to say me anything even if he found me in the worst in my adolescent days. To put it right in simple words we have a Nepali adage that Lekhekole hunch Dekhekole hundain meaning you get what is written in the fate not what you find to see.
Next my memory goes back to the days when my parents were in Kalimpong looking after the branch office of our family concern Harishankerlall Ramshankerslall Nepali established in 1887 in the Kodamul Building at 10th Mile and more popular as Nepali Kothi in Chaukhambha Banaras. One evening we were just chatting in the drawing room of the beautiful cottage the family owned at 8th Mile (now where Cluny’s Women’s College exists) when suddenly someone knocked at the window with Darwaja Kholo. It was much in the style of what we read in one of the books later in the school – a character from the Nepali story by M. M. Gurung (?) - my Thulo Mama back from the town with fake things for his make-up. There we saw a mustachioed man in dark glasses with body and head covered in a blanket peeping in from the window that frightened us but him to laugh out loud at our plight. It was just to teach us - the children to be careful and close the doors and windows at night fall as when elders were away or ladies were with other domestic chores or in the kitchen busy for the dinner.
He was a jolly good fellow and used to keep a watch on us always as a protective hand so that we were not into some mischief or quarrel that we never. We were a big group there in winter of mid-1950s and all his nephews and nieces i.e. Bhanja’s and Bhanji’s were there sheltered besides son Bijoy and daughter Kala. Younger one Kavita was born much later. Two sisters Deepa and Sushila were there since they lost their mother early to help Thulo Maiju in domestic chores while going to school. Deepadi was lucky as a student to have been selected for a Bharat Darshan along with Bishnu Mama in 1959, if I remember correctly and now spending her golden days with Keshavdai and three daughters happy married life. Right from Beenadi, boys Bigyan, Anup and Bijoy we all used to enjoy a lot in all sort of manners those juvenile days. Getting up early in the morning to collect Lapsi from the ground around the tree, collecting dry twigs for firewood and Ningro from the jungle below the Kothi Shanti Kutir was some of our pastime. Looking for wild fruits like Amaro, Bhadraksh, and collecting coffee fruits in the garden for drying them up and roasting and grinding the beans in the imam-jasta i.e. mortar and pastel to enjoy with them together the freshly brewed coffee was my favourite thing to do there.
Soon after their middles from Sir Tashi Namgyal High School in Gangtok both brothers went to Darjeeling Government High School stayed at Carmichael Hostel there for matriculation followed by Intermediate in SUMI Kalimpong. During their time in the school here formed amalgamating the Bhutia School and Nepali School had C. E. Dudley as head master and Rashmi Prasad Aaley, Kashi Raj Pradhan, U. Narayan Pradhan, B. N. Singh alias M. A. Sir, Shiv Narayan Mishra alias Pandit Sir, Pingyuk, M. N. Pradhan besides others. An interesting anecdote Thulo Mama used to tell us when we were kids – U. Narayan Sir used to teach them Nepali and fond of chewing pan he used to make fun of his students in the class asking one of them to come near him and say Aama (mother) and he would say Phuphu(aunty) the plight of this student could be imagined with bits of pan and all chewing coming to him! In Darjeeling they had Surya Bikram Gyawali, Pandit Dharnidhar Koirala and Paras Mani Pradhan as their teachers.