In praise of Heritage
My Tryst with Old Guards
Celebrating the Age
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
Having performed the Shraddha last Tuesday in fond memory of my forefathers I thought why not I pay some tribute to my elders, the old guards of our society, who are active to inspire us all in their own way and style attune to the ensuing Dashain festival.
For this Pitri Paksh I had my favourite old story Ma Shraddha Garnechhu that the news-daily Samay Dainik carried incidentally coinciding the solemn occasion of the Punya Tithi of my late father Jai Shanker Lall Shresta. I had translated it from the Hindi devotional monthly Kalyan from the Gita Press stable about a decade back that was then carried in the local news-daily Hamro Prajashakti, weekly Wichar and the quarterly Uday courtesy their editors Anjan Upadhyay, Subhash Deepak and Durga Prasad Shrestha. I do not remember if the English version that I sent to Pema Wangchuk Dorjee was then carried by the Sikkim Now! like most of my writings till recently but the Sikkim Express published I shall perform the Shraddha this Pitri Paksh. Otherwise, Amit Patro shares the space that helps me reach my readers every Sunday these days. I wish we had more Sundays and me more days each week to share my writings to be known as a prolific and well-read author. Otherwise, I am now facing a space crunch in my laptop (external hard-disc supported) besides those in the old faithful desktop computer that my son Raman avoids using unless compelled for some printouts from the printer dedicated to it. Some friends want them all in the shape of a book they are willing to support, if needed. I had not noticed that the Samay Dainik had Dilliram Dulal as its editor in its print-line with Paras Mani Sham gone pursuing his PhD on the subject he likes best journalism and I wish him all success. I do not know the person behind in the Hamro Prakashakti who brought a change in content and style trying to reach out to its readers more outside Sikkim these days perhaps that my stories on Thinking local are not of much relevance to them - acting regional perhaps. Otherwise, I am always with them since our early days and online edition that others lack. Himali Bela with Bhim Rawat and Swarnabhoomi with SR Sharma also share their space and readers occasionally as my friends reach me the news of having read there.
Writing about the media we have the news of opening of the Kailash-Mansarovar route through Nathula in Sikkim being agreed upon with the Chinese President Xi Jinping now visiting India. I recollect my second tenure in the Cultural Affairs and Heritage Department as the Principal Secretary when I had the rare opportunity to propose vote of thanks to the visiting Vice President of India Bhairav Singh Shekhawat* in the public reception and cultural show held in his honour on 18th August 2006 in the Chintan Bhavan. The Nathula trade had just started and I had voiced that we the people in Sikkim want more than this trade route from Nathula, "The presentation was our effort to showcase the ethnic composition of this Himalayan State that bridged the gap between two great Asian nations after a lapse of 44 years just a few weeks ago with Sikkim attracting the global attention on this historic moment! In fact Sikkim is looking beyond Nathula and cross border trade. We are thinking of the day when we could reach Kailash Mansarovar besides a bus service plying between Gangtok and Lhasa to promote tourism in the region.” I do not know if this remains recorded in the Information and Public Relations Department archives but the visiting dignitary must have taken the message back home that could have made the BJP government initiate the matter on assuming the power in the Centre. “It makes Kailash Mansarovar accessible by a motorable road, which is especially beneficial for older pilgrims. It offers a safer alternative in the rainy season, makes the pilgrimage shorter in duration and will enable a much higher number of pilgrims to go there,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
Pradyuman Shrestha was here last Tuesday with his copy of Indrajatra 2014 Smarika edited by him for the third year in succession successfully in spite of all the hurdles usual. I must congratulate him for this brilliant work this year too. Inspired by my writing style taking a cue he tells me that his other article is an attempt recollecting 1997 days. I do not wish to write much about the Sikkim Newar Guthi as I have many other good things to share about with my readers but what I miss here this year too is their Annual Report with Balance Sheet for the previous year/s like the other Newar organization for the Bhansaris carried in their annual not very long ago.
Pradyuman also updates me about the senior citizens who are in the Sikkim Senior Citizen’s Society who met the other day for the change of guards. They found an executive body of 9 heads was better than some 27 members earlier and two years was enough for a term to serve and look for fresh blood to instil in the body, which should honour the good works and re-elect if they wish. This they have done with the top three while six others are in support. Since I am confined to my cocoon as friend since college days D. B. Shrestha finds me trying to rope me in their fold while my senior in school D. K. Gajmer tried it too.
A few days back while in the town to get my monthly dose of medicines, it was nice meeting Alok Kumar Srivastava, who greeted and complimented me for my writings. He enjoys reading them and finds nothing that reveal my age taking me over. I tell him I have one written with a picture on meeting him first time as a young probationer at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration when there with P.T. Gyamtso, L. B. Rai and Lobsang Bhutia for a month-long refresher course. He recollects his 1985 days and I congratulate him for conducting the recent Elections successfully as the chief secretary in Sikkim. I see former chief secretary Sonam Wangdi inside the Lifeline - crowded I go to their next shop. I had read once Bharat Prakash Rai of Darjeeling wrote that medicine shops are more crowded than the ration shops these days. There at Lifeline we meet quite often old guards including C. D. Rai, whom I mentioned of his article on the illustrious Taksari Newar family of Rhenock and requested for a copy of the same as one with me was misplaced. He said that it was there with him in the file of the Gangtok weekly he used to edit and bring out in the 1990s.
Dr. M. R. Kotwal has been kind and quite helpful in getting some of my problems solved while I was about to retire and thereafter. Earlier in 1980s I had doubt of my shaky hands and he got my blood tested from the Lal’s Laboratory in Delhi to find nothing wrong with me. Later in 2006 I mentioned him of my flowing ear and he advised me to get tympanic surgery done at Prof. S. K. Kacker’s as he had his own got done recently there. Otherwise, Dr. Ongden Gyatso used to help me its regular examination and eardrop after Dr. D. K. Subba retired. He has his clinic nearby to take my wife Ranjana for her sore throat after attending the Indrajatra celebrations at Singtam and still to come out of it back to her best as always.
Dr. S. M. Rasaily too helped me to get over with my GRD that his senior Dr. Kotwal had diagonised. Later in 2010 I had a sudden bout of diabetes in an alarming way to leave me shattered that I could soon overcome after some weeks on his medicines and eye check-ups courtesy Dr. Hitler Pradhan. Otherwise, the previous evening while returning from Rhenock I found each and every electric bulb on the way back lighting with as many as eight in a circle. Reaching home to find pictures on my television also blurred but my reading glasses making them crystal clear! Dr. Rajen Pradhan at the Lion’s Siliguri was also of help later when we were there for Ranjana’s surgery. Little changes in my lifestyle has made things better to keep in control after almost a year that I took to overcome and enjoy my life as usual at its best writing reminiscences like this every morning. My age is definitely overtaking me slowly but gradually and I try keeping it away thus before my regular Yoga practice.