Off the shores 21
Closing in our Departure
Uncertain Next like Life
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
This weekend we thought of visiting Ranjana’s cousins Bikash, Bhushan and Rajesh in New Jersey and Prakash in New York but Vimal had to go to Dallas Texas. Rachna could not leave us alone and was ready even to drive the car for us there. Somehow the plan did not go through as we decided to remain home not to venture out in the cold weather with Ranjana was just had a bout of cough and cold. Vimal lost Nitin, once his colleague in Pune, to leave behind wife Shalu with two kids. So sudden was the tragic end that it shattered not only his family but also shocked all of us wondering about our life being so uncertain. Overworked, no and the cause could be some hereditary health problem that brought this untimely fateful day. They were here during Thanksgiving week just to relive the life together they spent last year with Nitin. Time flies so fast and a year past that Vimal went there to be with the family. He has been visiting there to help Shalu with accounts she never had to look after before as Nitin had been taking care of all such matters himself and his departure was so sudden and unexpected. A College Fund was also generated for the children. Ranjana understanding well the difficult phase Shalu was passing through but could only say a few words in sympathy. She told Shalu that she was strong hearted and had to be bold enough even for young girls, aged 11 and 6. It was her life and she had to face it all by herself for them. Even her parents or in-laws not here for her and nobody to lend a shoulder to lean on but it were only she alone to face the rest of life for the bright future of her children. She was back to work and life with bright and well-understanding kids though she only knows the pain they have to pass through unbearable and tough sometimes. Everyone has his/her own life to face and family to fend. Life was like that only and with time everything would heal though some scar left but she would overcome this adversity too. Once tuned and well settled to the way of life in the US, it was no question going back to India, at least for the sake of children doing well here, where the future lied bright not very far off.
Our long stay here had many inquisitive minds here and back home interested to know if we have made up the mind to settle down here. We know life here was easy to cope with especially our children earning and to be a dependent parent. But ways of life was not that simple enough too though. People visiting this place find it difficult to pull on life here soon after their arrival here within weeks. Lonely neighbourhood with no soul seen engaged in activities outside except similar looking houses and cars parked outside. Some find problem with food especially those vegetarian and some with loneliness once their son/daughter and spouse go to work. Crippled they feel with no transport in the locality and no shops/mall to while away their long days waiting for the weekend to come and again back to same routine day and night on. I remember here what a friend visiting his daughter for the second time had something worrying to share with. He used to tell me we should visit our daughter at least once when we had not made up our mind coming to the US. Instead Rachna used to visit us occasionally and it never struck our mind as I was not yet retired. He later mentioned about his experience so unfortunate. In their second visit his wife was soon so sick that no treatment could be of help here and they returned to India. They stopped in Delhi for thorough checkup but there was nothing that doctor could find out. She was gradually alright once they were home. He himself went through some heart surgery, thereafter and no more such trips perhaps. Some tell me the benefits we could have especially in the advancing age that may have to cope with health issues which were well covered. Such process does not take long either. Considering the plight my friend had to face, I do not think it worthwhile. Fortunately for us we both have relatives here that made our stay easy enough and festivals interesting. There is a Burmese saying, East or West Family is the Best and here we tried every time to make out the best for ourselves. My friend Subhas Deepak had a wise line to share on Facebook this morning, It is pain that ages us, not Life. No pain No gain. I am finding it sometimes so true when we are able to reach them even when they invite to be with them for the weekend. I do not like to bother my relatives off and on though willing to fetch us in such eventuality well realizing their convenience rather than ours. Next, weather was what we have to keep in mind while planning our weekend out especially during this season that forecast snow. Life though dependent is too much to enjoy all by yourself and you need someone to keep it going. Rachna-Vimal take care of us the way possible to make our sojourn pleasant and we two try the best of our heart and soul. It would, otherwise, have been very difficult indeed to pull on for such a long period at a stretch.
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Friday was Makar Sankranti and previous day we had gone for buying some Tarul to observe the festival to bring home tapioca, yam and sweet potato beside Til (sesame)-ko Laddu and Gud (jaggery) from the Bhavani Indian store. For the Newars this festival is Ghya Chaku Salhun i.e. Gheu-Gud Sankranti and these items are must in the food taken after eldest female member blesses putting mustard oil on the freshly bathed head of the rest in the family. It is believed that it protects them from the cold. During our schooldays, Sankranti used to be much awaited festival after Dashain-Tihar to be home for winter vacation spent with Thulo Mama Bhishma Pratap Pradhan*. This day early morning without speaking a word we used to go with our sisters to nearby Jogi Dhara to have bath from warm spring water. Later we brothers walked down to Rorathang Mela with few coins in our pockets to enjoy and it was fun to shake the suspension bridge there a little enough for Bigyan Daju to go dizzy. Later years, it was Binod Daju singing Ruk jaao janewali ruk jaa … (Mukesh in Kanhaiya 1959) complete with that melodious tyaaun ~ tyaaun ~ tyaaun ~… on way back home below Tarpin School to those who walked ahead of us. Still later years, it was preparing well in advance collecting donations having raised some amount on Friday haat days at Rhenock Bazar. It was for observing Saraswati Puja when little chits of papers carried school stamp to authenticate the flag-day taken to Rorathang Mela. Saraswati Puja kept even my Buba* (Head Sir) with PK Sir, Thapa Sir and other teachers and senior students busy preparing for the Big Day and at home Muma preparing tins and tins of Khurma and Bhujuri for Prasad distribution. Unlike present day, Rhenock School used to be the only venue to celebrate it; so it had to be in a grandiose manner complete with cultural programme in the evening. I remember Thulo Mama giving his madal to toddler Ravi’s neck who danced with full gusto. This went till we (me and Shyam Sunder) were back for winter holiday from Darjeeling Government College to establish Nav Jivan Sandhya Club with help of Bidhan Mama, Binoy Daju*, Sita Sanima*, Shanti Pradhan and other school students. We had started Swachch Rhenock Bazar Abhiyan sweeping the road there very much like people do these days in India inspired by Prime Minister Modi visiting Sikkim turned First Organic State of the country. Principal Administrative Officer R. N. Haldipur visited us from Gangtok on January 14, 1963 to see our efforts including a library started in Kutcheri that Thulo Mama had allowed us to use for free. Over fifty years or half a century later, it looks just like yesterday glimpses flashing back from memory. Mela had many shops selling junk-jewelries, toys, clothes but gambling stalls attracted more after the tea stalls selling selroti, chiura and aaloo dam. Rorathang Mela was famous more for Sonfi Rakshee from the Bhatti-house of Gaya Prasad* of Rhenock to attract people from neighbouring hills and far off places than for the water flowing in the nearby Khola people taking bath and making sacrifices or even releasing pigeons after some Puja early in the morning. Muma tells us story of her father Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan* and uncle Durga Shamsher Pradhan* going to the Mela on horseback, camping for days together with stacks of hay for the cushioning bed in the camp. Male members of the family for the company poured in from Amba, Pacheykhani, Pakyong, Rangpo and Gangtok while a retinue of servants including sais to take care of horses. Female members used to return home after the Puja same day without wasting much of the time and devoting more in the kitchen to prepare festive dishes. Later years, mobile movie theatre or some circus used to be the major attraction in the Mela, perhaps the biggest in this side of the Teesta. This year, it was the first ever Maghey Sankranti for Rachna in the US and had to be a good fare fair enough to share with her friends and relatives spread the world over courtesy Facebook posting they all liked.
(To be concluded next Sunday)