Trailing down the memory
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
We were at Martam with Bhansari Family to condole the death of a centurian, Dr. Hitler Pradhan's father as well as that of octogenarian mother-in-law of my cousins Usha/Gitanjali, also Dr. Arjun Pradhan's mother. My Buba* and me had the opportunity to meet the former, a World War II veteran, in one of social gatherings we attended - my sister Anita is married to Bal Krishna Pradhan of Duga from the family. While we have the Newar Guthi in Rhenock since the days of yore - first formed by Taksari Chandrabir Newar - the Bhansaris have their own to come under an umbrella organization since 2003 in the name and style of Charman Singh Nyabhu (Kasa:) Khala: after the forefather. He is supposed to have come to Sikkim around the same time Taksari Laxmidas and Taksari Chandrabir Newar entered Sikkim invited by the authority to usher in development of the tiny Himalayan Kingdom some 150 years ago. He is best remembered for constructing the Jhingeti Ghar built at Duga, now in a dilapidated condition in spite of being a heritage no body cared. They have also brought out a family-tree/directory tracing out the roots in the mainland Nepal like most of the people here have. This reminds me of the family tree Mama Keshab C. Pradhan compiled and brought out for the Taksari Pradhans (Kasaju) of Sikkim - Genealogical Chart of the Descendants of Taksari Laxmidas and Taksari Chandrabir Pradhan (Kasaju) of Sikkim a decade back in 2007. A copy of this can be had of Rachna Books as well.
There at Martam a colleague from the Kharel family of Ranka, Ramesh too mentioned of having enjoyed my column till the last it appeared. His elder brother K. C. Kharel* (remember the flamboyant trio he, Ganesh Kumar Pradhan and Pradeep Chandra Pradhan with Kalawati Subba firebrand leader of the Sikkim Government Employees' Association in those tumultuous post-merger days of 1975. With her as Speaker I was the Principal Secretary in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly to bring out my magnum opus Sikkim : Three Decades towards Democracy) known from my school days were with us when we had gone to condole at a similar social gathering at Darjeeling. Jwain Saheb Uday Chandra Pradhan*(whom we lost with sister Sunita* five years ago in a tragic road accident near Melli) had lost his father (also of my another colleague Pradeep and architect Prakash) first Bhanu Puraskar awardee / first municipal commissioner Manik Chandra Pradhan* at Haridas Hatta. We all - K. C., Hare Ram Pradhan, Binod Kumar Century, Bijoy Pratap Pradhan, Ganesh and me - escaped with minor injuries while the hired Tourism jeep we were travelling in went off the road soon after we crossed the Ghoom railway Station. Driver was a young lad from Development Area, who too is now no more. Familiar with the place during my long stay there in Darjeeling, we rushed to nearby dispensary for the first aid. Meanwhile, our good friend Rohit Kumar Pradhan, who too was returning from the same place, happened to see and helped us (me and Ganesh) get admitted in the Victoria Hospital for observation overnight. Next day, when we reached home, Gangtok was all white due to thick carpet of hailstones to remind me of such a scene from the veteran evergreen hero Devanand*-Vyjantimala-Ashok Kumar*-Anju Mahendru* starrer Jewel Thief first Bollywood movie to be shot here way back in 1967! Besides, it is also remembered for a local artiste Madan Kumar Pradhan* who played a key role. He later functioned as Treasurer of the Sikkim Newa: Guthi when first constituted with Mohan Pratap Pradhan* as the president and Bhim Singh Pradhan* as the general secretary. Incidentally, this Guthi has elected a new executive committee to infuse fresh lease of blood to the august body of the Newars in Sikkim. Besides many other things, the much ambitious and long awaited Newar House (proposed to be constructed on a site purchased nearby in the capital) is expected to be possible during their regime with yet another instalment of generous grant of Rs.50.00 lakh received from the Government. Worthwhile to share Daju Mitra Kumar Pradhan, a founder/life-member SNG wrote pertinently on wall of the Newars in Sikkim sharing the news portal e-Samata post, "I would heartily congratulate the Team of office bearers, some old and some new, a blend of both, and I also would like to felicitate the entire team for their success. To make their work successful it is equally important to lend helping hand by all in all manner. The office bearers are all honorary and their work is purely voluntary and free. However the works needs to be transparent. So, it is the community's responsibility to support them in making our organization a success and complete our projects etc. Great that we are coming together for this and I wish all a very great success GREAT."
Another incident related to the Kharels was that some years back a guest came with a reference from Durga Dai (of the Uday, Varanasi and Govind Prasad Shrestha of Ratna Pustak Bhandar Kathmandu.) We also just back from Siliguri after a Delhi tour, sat down to know each other. Medini Kharel introduced me to be their nephew while his wife Sandhya was a Shrestha from Kupondole. I too had a good friend Maheshwor Shrestha from the same place with whom much connections were possible through NESOCA over a decade ago. It was his dedicated and sincere efforts through the aegis of NESOCA that much road was paved for starting the World Newar Organization (WNO) in 2010 while in the US to get a formal global launch (and also that of our www.karunaguthi.com) with friends like Tribhuvan Tuladhar, Daya Ratna Shakya and Dr. Bal Gopal Shrestha followed by its First Convention in London next year. Dr. Shrestha is known for his major contribution by doing the scholarly work on the Newars in Sikkim, whose findings later came out in the shape of a book. He was unanimously elected as the president of the august world body till 2016 when he handed over the charge to another able friend and former general secretary and president of the Newah Organization of America (NOA) Season Shrestha, the present incumbant elected during the Second WNO Convention held at Baltimore, USA. Soon we could know Sandhya to be Maheshwor's sister. What a pleasant surprise and I immediately contacted him over phone to share the joy!
Last month I was at Lifeline to replenish my stock of medicines with new prescription from Dr. Suresh Mohan Rasaily. There I met Thakur Prasad Koirala another colleague while doing a brief stint as Special Secretary in the Finance before moved to be the Secretary in charge of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs department (1994) and complimented me for my writings. He shared that many then found my notes in files thoroughly good and explicit but never thought of me to turn out such a writer to share in my Thinking column so regularly. He too was good in his notes those days and wish he could use his skills in jotting down his experiences especially his long innings there to retire from. Such goodwill gestures too made me come back as readers like him have always been a pleasure to meet through my writings and to know about their feedback!
I thought that the episodes for the Black Hill Journals would end without a single response in writing from the readers, but some known to me doing so whenever we come across. Once I even asked the editor if he received any feedback while he continued with my articles for years on but never let me be known. My email address and contact number were given in the Disclaimer with every episode in the hope that someone would use it but rarely happened. Some years ago a reader and retired teacher R.S. Chettri from Melli had rang me up one evening after going through the article to find some factual error about the portfolio held by the then youth leader R. C. Poudyal as a minister in the Kazi government. Upon checking found that the editorial desk had erroneously corrected what I mentioned in the article. The popular local vernacular newsdaily had honoured the much valued response and brought out a corrigendum the very next day. This time, I had one at last and it was from Bimal Kafley who wrote to email me "Ref. Historic Literary Pursuits... Sikkim Express 30 April.. Nirmohi is not R.K. Pradhan's novel.The story, though filmed by R.K. Pradhan, is mine. Also published in magazines. RK Pradhan's novel is 'Neelam'. May kindly be rectified." Thank you dear reader and the position is rectified accordingly here and now itself.
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We would be out to the another part of the world for a much deserved vacation but hope to be with you all from there too sharing whatever possible in spite of all my limitations being in a foreign land. So, I was once again at Lifeline to stock up medicines to last for whole course of our sojourn. Niranjan Bhai was kind enough to leave the shop and rush to fetch whatever shortage. Met outside B. N. Sharma, who retired from Mines and Geology, to share his views about and soon to join was Dorji Tsering to tell why he liked reading my articles compared to others. I met him first in 1974-75 as our head assistant in Home department, where I was under secretary (accounts) in my first posting after two years' course as I. A. & A. S. probationer. Sonam Wangdi was seen passing by in hurry but to know from Dorji of their younger days together schooling here both being from Martam at 'Khadge (Khadga Bahadur Chettri*) Compounder's place and later to work together when he was the chief secretary. He, however, found his popular column Little Knowledge quite critical while for most of us quite informative with full of data and statistics well documented in support of what he propounded. By the way, Khadge Compounder's elder son Prem* (Piku to his friends who likened him to the evergreen film star Devanand as he used to hum sometimes Dil ka bhanvar kare pukar, Pyar ka raag suno, Pyar ka raag suno re ..... from Devanand-Nutan starrer Tere Ghar ke Samne 1963 Mohammad Rafi/S.D. Burman/Majrooh Sultanpuri) and me were together in school (TNA 1956), while we worked together in Agriculture department (1963) and later he was in Land Revenue where I served a stint as district collector south at Namchi (1986.) Younger son Lal too worked with me while in Information and Public Relations (1995.) Lal helped get our son Raman a camera his friend Mithun from Bangladesh lost when visiting Gangtok. They contacted a photo processing shop in the hope the founder would try selling it there. But no, it was found by his sister on her way to bazar just on the road side in front of Rachna. Mithun had dropped while coming out of taxi. She informed Lal and they got back leaving both grateful and happy to find the lost camera, unbelievable indeed to carry back home sweet memories from Sikkim!
Before I wrap up and take leave from the Black Hill Journals with this episode, it could be deemed concealing something if I do not share a few lines about the Historic Literary Pursuits of this writer himself. It was soon after my B. Sc. (Honours - Zoology) from Darjeeling Government College second batch under the newly established North Bengal University in 1967 that I was in my usual visit to Nini's place in Birgunj. There I was offered teaching assignment in the Maisthan Vidyapeeth during winter vacation. Seeing the need of a good textbook on Biology written in Nepali language that was medium of teaching as well there, students depended on textbooks in Hindi. I immediately entrusted the responsibility upon myself and reposed to prepare one for the benefit of the students and society there in Nepal. Saral Jiva Vigyan with scientific terms first ever attempted into Nepali, profusely illustrated with sketches mostly by the author himself was thus ready in these three months or so. A local publisher Rashtriya Prakashan was also ready to bring it out. More than the royalty that was meager, it was the joy and thrill of bringing out one's book printed that too with his name as a writer. This book has turned out many of the students to be a doctor, a great satisfaction even if I could not be one even after being selected to undergo the course with the Government of India Merit scholarship way back in 1963 as the Education department failed badly to arrange seats spoiling a precious one year of my youth but for good as life later turned out to be grateful for whatever I had. The other candidate so suffered was Tashi Yangzum. In the Preface of this book I could pay rich tribute to my Guru Dr. B. Dasgupta*, longest serving Professor/Principal there. I am grateful ever as a student could be to his teacher/s. He summoned me one fine morning to his chamber and asked me to pay more attention to my studies rather than extra-curricular activities. Besides, told me also to shun from affairs like contesting in the Students' Union election. I was elected to be in the executive body and to be the assistant editor of the College Annual Pines and Camellias 1964. My other editorial contribution was magazine Yeti brought out for pen-friend club Yeti Exchange from Birgunj, where we with friends like Pushpa Prasad Amatya and Bhupendra Bahadur Shrestha had also revived Juneli Pustakalaya started by some seniors like Dhruva Chandra Gautam, Ishwar Chandra Gautam, Lav Prasad Amatya and others. It was in 1963 back home at Rhenock that we had started Navjivan Sandhya Club (name suggested by Buba to see the charm it reads Navjivan backward as well besides reminds of the Najivan Trust of Mahatma Gandhi) Santosh Pradhan and others to take social works to some height to be noted. Thulo Mama* recollected that he and others too had started one in their youth and such bodies die natural death with career and other compulsions of life take you away to many other challenges to pursue. It was my principal's love and advice that prompted me to complete my M.Sc. five years hence. Being a science student I needed someone to help me look into the niceties of my language in the said book. It was none other than our friend from Rhenock doing her B.A., whom the Nepali literary world today know as Dr. Shanti Chettri, in the same college. Along with her Prem Pradhan and Desh Ratna Subba were among other friends to fill up the form for my admission while away doing this book. Buba rushed that winter to Birgunj to bring me home to pursue studies further and so my first ever book had to be and was dedicated to my parents, whom I owe for everything, naturally! No wonder, many of the acclaimed writers and litterateurs, my contemporary there then had not even a streak of such inclination, forget about bringing out a book. This book, therefore, made my friends, teachers and family proud of me. It was half a century ago, quite a contribution from the Black Hill, which I would like to put forth in record humbly but without any hesitation, of course!
Next week : New Series - Off the shore again
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 by him is available at the Rachna Books.