Rajiva Shanker Shresta
It would be better to review the past few months though not that easy considering the history so glorious with heritage least bothered about. Some stories of unsung heroes yet to be written and many tasks ahead to accomplish. These all make me going contributing yet another episode to share this week to keep the show go on. As long as possible that one should try to instead of quitting it unless some compulsion creeps in - the fear that lurk behind every thought of mine these days. These notes may or may not help others but helps somewhat to understand the things here. It is not that easy either at this age having spent all the while away - more so in recent years. A lot has happened here to see the sea change in the life and society while our own people drifting away due to the compulsions of being small family. With new settlements in and around the neighbourhood not only the basic amenities like water and electricity but even the labour has become scarce.This has invited many from outside to change the demography. Pollution in the air can be felt occasionally people resorting to burn the garbage with no systematic collection though garbage van reportedly passes through to Chalisey without a stop-over here. This leaves me disposing of the kitchen waste into pits or containers to feed vermicomposting while vegetable waste goes to feed cattle/goat with my milkman Arun Bhai taking them happily. Most of the carpenters use power plains these days and the wooden waste is taken by Shyam for his poultry unit. Foul smell emitting from the open toilet made by the labour working in the vicinity or from exhaust-pipes of numerous houses often spoil a beautiful evening who come out for a walk.
If we look back the life here, there is everything to find out here that any of the big cities have in their command - good things might not often go unnoticed but bad things always escape the due attention to tackle and hook them out. It might be due to time being the best healer of the wound inflicted upon leaving a deep scar not on the face but deep inside one's heart. But we have to carry on whatever be the bitterness people faced in the past. But one thing to observe from the incident in the recent past, i.e., within the last half of the year 2016 here would be the public coming to the street to attract the attention of the power that the Black Hill badly needed to come out of the darkness as things were going beyond their patience/bearing. It was defused just an hour before the ultimatum people served the concerned local authority. Soon to follow was to have here the brightly illuminated Vishva Vinayak Mandir blessing all with the almost uninterrupted power supply not seen ever before but again only to find early hours drowned in pitch darkness. Since my six-month stay would not be enough to vouch for such a tall claim but to congratulate everyone for this much coming to our share.
It was 150 years ago that the place was blessed for over a century with many good things happening after that sour episode of the local history when we fought each other a battle, some claim to be skirmishes when one section of the old settlers swearing to skin and play drums to the music of victory. Things were not so as to let go easy by the new settlers too and it was the grit, determination and foresight of Taksari Chandrabir Newar to win over them and their heart too by swearing in blood brotherhood tying up bond of friendship with the most prominent influential of them all the Rhenock Kazi. As a proof of their cordiality, we have an old picture that the Facebook group 'Vintage Sikkim ~ Rare Old Pictures, Videos and Arts of Sikkim' posted titled "Denzong Chogyal & other Dignitaries. Date Photographed: 1894" To correct them my comment along with the picture of the cover page of my book The Newars World~Wide Connecting the Dots Sikkim that showed the same picture they had posted, "NOT Denzong Chogyal - Know who the dignitaries are from this book." Such is the fate of an important aspect of our history covered with the dust of time that the book tried to remove. Mistaken identity was that of the Rhenock Kazi taken as Denzong Chogyal while the other dignitary seated along is Taksari Chandrabir Newar with the Britisher who authored a book with this picture standing in due respect along with many local gentries on a busy Hat day at Rhenock Bazar. It is, as such, the only picture of the Taksari known to us.
Their unity led to many good things to happen not only here but from here to take the tiny Himalayan Kingdom to reach the world map. Such an accomplishment was not just possible by exchanging of words in vow but by flowers blooming thereafter to spread the fragrance here, there, everywhere. Much fabled The Chandra Nursery was then a household name in both the hemispheres. Next generation too saw them contributing their best to the State much after Sikkim becoming the 22nd State and the sheen has not faded. Like the present day saw Anna Hazare doing in the village Raleygaon Siddhi was building a temple to unite the people to bring in brotherhood and instil sense of comeraderie in the society to usher in much needed progress and development, centuries ago Taksari Chandrabir had done the same thing to amalgamate the society by understanding well the role religion play therein by establishing Sri 3 Dhaneshwar Shivalaya Mahadev Mandir still to be seen in the heart of Rhenock Bazar. That was in the year 1887 as Dr. Shanti Chettri born and brought up here told me recently of having seen a copper Jaldhari with the name of the builder and year it was built inscribed along the rim some years ago when the previous Pandit* showed it to her. Unfortunately, such antique things there are no more to be seen much to the dismay of the concerned and progeny. This way many think that with the New Age following the inauguration of the Vishva Vinayak Mandir, which has many unique features of its own to make a landmark not only in Sikkim but in the entire region, country nay the world to augur in though the people had to digest many an unpalatable serving. It was like catching the right nerves to feel the pulses of the local residents as they have always been found in the wrong side of the fence. Let us hope with such a superb temple there would be change of heart in them to lead the place in right direction in the days ahead. Khamtu Tsering, who worked as the school peon when Buba was the Head Sir, was mentioning how he starts the day every morning having a darshan of the temple from the ground. He is heard chanting prayers while going out for the walk while me working on my laptop. The first thing for Muma while here was to visit with Thulo Maiju and Ranjana when Bijoy-Sunira had come to the Kothi last month. It would perhaps be possible for me too to be there soon in near future to be showered with blessings to lead a happy, peaceful and contended life. What else does one need these days of monitory crunch when one cannot get and spend one's own money as the many lament but agree and accept that cashless ATMs/Banks turning lesscash society have made many perforce save something at least, which is otherwise a feature lacking in most of us in the hills. As Achyut Bhai shares a line from Swami Vivekanand, 'Our first duty is not to hate ourselves, because to advance we must have faith in ourselves first and then in God. Those who have no faith in themselves can never have faith in God.' 'So did you visit the new temple here' was the question asked recently, I had not yet and 'could be due the faith one has with the one already here since ages' comes the reply for me as well. The old temple may not be the centre of attraction but omnipotent has been here blessing all irrespective of the caste, creed or gender. Yet with the time attempts made to marginalize the heritage temple we all should be proud of rather as being something private property belonging to the Kothi. Doors are yet kept open to welcome all whosoever wishes to step in and offer prayers.
Rungdung GPU in the vicinity of the new temple and the Mata Golai and as far as TCP Junction abuzz occupied by tents when some units of SSB wanted to settle down here in the Black Hill some years back. They were interested in some land near the Reshi for the purpose but land-owners refused to part away with their ancestral property at the then prevailing Government rate, perhaps. Otherwise, the revised one is said to be quite attractive that favours the seller. Ultimately the SSB had to decide in favour of place somewhere else much to the dismay of many here. It was, for some, very much like missing the training school for the Sikkim Police or for farmers coming up here in the past.
Though Rhenock lagged behind in the race for having the first Higher/Senior Secondary School in the sub-division, it has, however, bagged the first Degree College at Rungdung. For some years, like the Sikkim University, the college was run in private building to start with as the new premises was under construction nearby. This place reminds me a club there with Bhai Anup*, who was a great help to get chairs and utensils when we had organized the landmark ceremony of the Sahasra Chandra Darshanam/Maharatharohan or Jankwa of our Buba Jai Shanker Lall Shresta* and Muma Indira in 2000. It was also blessed by the Rain God Indra, when we had, much to our relief, showers at night that helped us clean utensils used for the three-day celebrations with guests from Darjeeling Hills and Nepal.
Rungdung was recently in the news for doing a commendable job by some youth under the banner of 'Kids Interaction for Better Society' to organize the 15-day long Winter Recreation Camp to divert the mind of the students from bad influence and save them being spoilt attracted to social evils remaining idle during their winter holidays. Such an inspiration could be the outcome of the Chief Minister's speech during the inaugural ceremony of the Vishva Vinayak Mandir here and taking a hint from reportedly caustic but true remarks about the students here in general that needed some positive steps by the society like this to curb the menace from spreading further. It was good that some 92 students from different schools here were there to benefit from the training imparted on karate, music and dance. They were themselves resource persons providing the training with the knowledge they possessed while a room was provided for the purpose of running the class free of cost by a generous resident. Unlike many such events held under some patronage or sponsorship, this one was held on their own with initiatives that deserves a mention.Many more such initiatives are needed not only in the Black Hill village but even in towns that would guide properly the young mind to mould them into good citizens which is the need of the time for a better society, of course. It could not, however, be gathered from the news-report if the kids had to pay some fee for the knowledge gained. Even if they had to, parents would heartily welcome and be grateful for having such a programme organized and support a good effort like this always without any doubt. "To expect an unexpected show thoroughly a modern intellect." as Oscar Wilde opined.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The Newars World~Wide Connecting the Dots Sikkim is available at the Rachna Books.