Following the Black
Life in monochrome
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
This piece is not only following the aftermath of demonetization here in the Black Hill that was onslaught on the Black Money countrywide but to account the colours of life that I saw here since my childhood and praise. Those were the days monochrome that too turning sepia fading with each passing day gathering dust and me trying to uncover some of them.
It was the Black and White era of Indian Cinema that celebrated 100 years in 2013 and we were all enjoying films like Raj Kapoor-Nutan starrer 'Dil Hi to Hai', more than once at it was being screened here at Rhenock School Hall by the Army Unit stationed at Chalisey. We used to go even up to the helipad at Aritar to enjoy the movie in the evening with public put to wrong side of the screen while the jawans on the side with projector, but that hardly mattered as every one enjoyed it for free, there being no other source of entertainment those days half a century ago. It was a big news if a movie had a little portion of the 3-hour long saga in technicolour like in 'Mughale Azam' showing the Sheeshmahal dance sequence with immortal song 'Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya'. This movie along with 'Naya Daur' and Hum Dono were re-released in 2004, 2007 and 2011 made fully into colour with the technology developed during past few years. These were just for experiment sake with lukewarm response and not many takers. This makes me conclude that monochrome cannot be substituted as they had their own value during their time that nothing could be added or reduced from what they were meant to be. Many might remember 'Haqeeqat' the 1964-movie on 1962 war saga with that patriotic number still ringing in our ears sung by Mohammad Rafi with music composed by Madan Mohan to the lyrics penned by Kaifi Azami filmed on Dharmendra, Jayant and others - "Kar chale hum fida jan-o-tan saathiyon, ab tumhare hawale vatan saathiyon." Yes, the song is also mentioned earlier often and along with some others in my magnum opus "Sikkim : Three Decades toards Democracy - Evolution of the Legislative System"(2005)
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While it is so difficult to grow a few plants these days more due to shortage of water for irrigation/gardening purpose that the dry winter days taking over this time of the season, I wonder how our ancestors used to grow such a large varieties of native as well as exotic kinds of flower, fruit and local botanical varieties of plants that had least commercial value to meet the demand world-wide. Such products were catalogued in different price-lists in form of handy booklets, some of them even had cover beautifully printed in multi-colours - very much like the variety of plants they produced to cater to the connoiseurs spread over both the hemispheres and down the Equator to Australia and New Zealand even. This was about the time in the hey days of The Chandra Nursery. Following the family partition, the business was divided between 'Shanti Kutir' and 'Nirvana' - two Kothis 'wallo kothi' and 'pallo kothi' as locals know them here - belonging to Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan and Babu Durga Shamsher Pradhan after the demise of the elder in 1946. Its present condition is much to hurt many a family members as well as the well-wishers but simply wishing do no magic unless some miracle happens as Keshab Mama put it to conclude in his memoirs. It was no wonder to find most of the flowers like gerbera, dahlia, chrysenthemum, etc. being hybridized and named after some of the dignitaries and family members. Such a tradition of dedicating some orchids hybridized and named so even today by a Taksari Chandrabir descendant Keshab Mama on very special occasions and VVIP visits. When I visited the government farm at Namli/Marchak along with the then agriculture secretary Hare Ram Pradhan, director K. K. Singh and others for my book "Vikasko Goreto Grameen Prodyogiki - Kam Dam Dher Gyanka Satheek Sujhauharu" (2001), a horticulture officer tried to pass off showing a large gerbera flower to have been developed by them there in the garden. I could not stop myself and bring to their instantly that such a variety known as the 'Black Heart' was grown hybridized for quite a long time ago by our Ramesh daju at his home Ramalaya at Rhenock. He was the person who left the government job to chase his heart and pursue the dream project of plant tissue culture that made him, his work and this place in the Black Hill known in the horticulture world of the region if not of the country. Later some other descendant in Kalimpong followed him with this technique to make a name. It was way back in 1960s much before Dr. B. S. Basnet* joined and later to take over the Department as secretary from Dr. A. T. Sanyal*, officer on deputation/contract from West Bengal to head the department those days. His senior J. K. Thapa had by then served a term on deputation as Director Census Operations, Sikkim for the Census of India 1981 to become Secretary in the Health and Family Welfare and few other departments thereafter. When he was a deputy director in the Agriculture department, I approached him for some job since I had Entomology as Special Paper in my M.Sc. but much to my dismay he found me much ahead of my time for Sikkim those days in 1969. Who knew that I was to serve the same department as Plant Protection Clerk for a few months in 1963 to be a Principal Secretary who flied high in the sky (past an age when many here get superannuated) besides his wife and daughter in order to bring home the idea that paragliding was possible by ourselves (not simply clapping hands while afew pilots showed their skill during Maghey Mela at Jorethang) to see many youth taking wings to put Sikkim in the world paragliding map thus - me to retire as an Adviser State Planning Commission after a stint as its Member earlier. This is what the colours of life meant
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Everything is not Black here nor I need not write all in black and white with my head turning almost white from nearly black hair I had in my youth. It did not turn so drying up them in the sun - 'yo kesh ghaamma tyasai pakayeko hoin' - as some boastfuls usually tell younger folks whenever we have to put our point across from the experience gained in life with age. Earlier black then burgundy Garnier colour help garner my ego but accepting things of life as we edge past with age, wisdom come to most of us to grow old gracefully much to the advantage or disadvantage that depends on the takers and not for givers like us. Many try hide their age but not to go without remarks a young writer made fun of seeing the brilliant parliamentarians not ageing with life and wished to be always seen as young as possible though though on the wrong side of life. It might be due to the maxim keep so as long as possible till the turf is green. We have been deprived of such writings of late like the one not seen in local print for a while after a few brilliant works and some sojourn for in-house writing.
I do not know if Black Magic too could be found here. Unaccounted money as the Black Money has the respectful name in the current scenario. Like many other places , the Black Hill too is not free from the people taking advantage of the location in the border. It is, as such, not an exception as some shady business thrive on clandestinely here too blessed by the Reshi. For many the dream destination Jalepla being not yet open for cross-border trade, Nathula might be far off but Rangpo is not that far away!
Disclaimer: This is author’s personal account of memories updated to cherish and treasure often on a detour here and there en route to share the joy of the journey called life. Some names (*asterisk for those no more), quotes, places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached at email@example.com. The Newars World~Wide Connecting the Dots Sikkim is available at the Rachna Books.