Life in Retrospective
Making and unmaking of the book
Celebrating a Decade
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
Come the State Day and I fondly remember my Sikkim: Three Decades towards Democracy (ISBN: 81-901374-6-8 2005) - the book on history a decade past is now itself a history - more by its unmaking than its making. I should have done without like many of us thus wiser in this mundane world rather than taking all the pain sweating and braving the 40 plus degree Celsius summer heat of Varanasi and travelling to and fro more than once by train just to cover another historical event when His Holiness the Dalai Lama blessed the Sikkim Legislative Assembly with his visit. It was him who soon on entering the Hall detected to share with us that there was some flaw in the mural decorating the House. Was the book not augured well in its portal - it makes me wonder to ponder today when recollecting memories down the lane! Otherwise, it had carried much needed well wishes from all the dignitaries concerned.
I am grateful to the Government for sending me to serve on deputation in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly that gave me within days of my joining there the rare opportunity to be in the delegation to attend the Conference in Sri Lanka. This was amongst the best postings I enjoyed and its memories I still treasure and cherish. Otherwise, a predecessor used to tell me how was it possible to survive so long there amidst the politicians where everyone working there too turns out to be so. Not me only even some of my friends well knew that I was not the type to be in the nest when they found me posted there. Or was it I could not learn the ropes or lacked the knack while there imbibing the colour and spirit!
I wonder sometimes was it worthwhile all the trouble burning midnight oil and getting up early dawn to make the book possible for the great day. I knew well that the chances of my sincere ceaseless efforts being scuttled and had, therefore, sought to carry on and continue with the project with the approval of the authority even from the new seat soon after the change of guard there following the election 2004. Care was taken to make it a co-publication with some amount in advance towards its publication lest it would be aborted premature. A committee of officers was constituted to suggest improvement as it progressed while every weekend the manuscript was given to the authority so that he could go not only through its pages but each and every line and word therein sitting in the comforts of his home and family. Project was completed and also the book was published. Consequently, the fate this magnum opus met could best be termed as the unmaking of the book!
Though readied and slated for its grand launch on the State Day, i.e., 16th May 2005, the book Sikkim: Three Decades towards Democracy was released much later after much persuasion and personal requests as the then Speaker was preoccupied and not available to do this honour. When we had gone to invite the then Governor for the customary inauguration of the Budget session that year, he had told us of celebrating the State Day in a grandiose manner by inviting the Governors of all the States. Nothing such, however, happened. Later the book was to be presented to all the Speakers, Deputy Speakers and Secretaries from all the States in the Presiding Officers’ Meet in the Parliament and compliment-slips were prepared for each of us - Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Secretary – each of us would give the book to his counterpart. However, the night before our departure to New Delhi I was ordered over the phone not to take along the bundles of the book. It was, however, their kindness permitting me to present a copy on my own behalf and in personal capacity to the Speaker Mr. Somnath Chatterjee there – really A Proud Moment! Picture speaks a thousand words that could be read on the face of the author and those present there on the occasion well-captured.
As the then President of India was visiting Sikkim soon, his office needed some book on the legislative system here in Sikkim and it was this book I was delighted to send them as there would not be a better opportunity than this to be of use to the Nation. Soon I got another opportunity on 22 September 2005 to present this book personally to the President of India Mr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam when he visited and addressed the august house. Along with it my following poem dedicated to him in Sikkim was also given and got it acknowledged on the title page of his latest book The Life Tree – Poems, which readers may like to see:
I owe you all!
I owe the blood to my father
‘Cause I have to pass it on the bloodline to the eternity.
I owe to my mother as well for the milk
She has fed me with all through these years.
I owe these all to my motherland for all I received so far
To make worth of life I am here in this world.
It’s more so for I have two mothers
If realized to care -
The one who gave me birth (Sikkim) and
The other who rears me up till this day (India)!
To repay my society whatever received all these years
I am so in hurry before it is too late and waiting till the end.
God’s providence is my inheritance and
His grace is forever
For everything is eternal in the nature
As the majestic and divine Kanchenjunga
Protecting and standing behind
to fear and care.
To the eternity
I owe you all!
It was when I had called on the then Governor to present him this book, he had expressed his displeasure on a colleague* for his action found unbecoming of a responsible officer showing a publication brought out by the Institute he headed. Raj Bhavan had extended support to my book by getting its copies for their guests. It was very inspiring experience working in the Raj Bhavan twice earlier under the stalwarts like Shiv Shanker* and Chaudhury Randhir Singh* though this part of my career go unrecorded with the department of personnel.
It was my keen desire to offer a copy to His Holiness the Dalai Lama as photographs of the visit were included and seek blessings for the book. I also had the opportunity to go to Dharmashala on way to Manali to see arrangements for the Paragliding course but to our luck, found him away in a foreign tour. I left a copy to their library there at Mcleodganj. This trip also gave me a chance to visit the Institute of Himalayan Bioresources Technology (CSIR) at Palampur to thank them for their support while in the Department of Science and Technology that saw my Vikasko Goreto: Grameen Proudyogiki (2001) published.
Looking for the book
It was history again when the octogenarian politician, who was decorated with the Sikkim Sewa Ratna on the State Day that year (2012), Mr. B. B. Gooroong (born 1929), visited Rachna our 35 year old business enterprise looking for my Sikkim: Three Decades towards Democracy. It was so kind of him to share with Raman that it had become a useful reference book for him for quite some time and he could not do without it. He further told him that he was the only living signatory now amongst the fifteen to have signed the historical event the May 8 Agreement.
Soon after the release of this book, I remember the then Speaker of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly telling me once that a copy was given to him for going through and giving his comments. His much appreciated comments could not be known until this visit. Mr. Gooroong wanted a copy as his own was lent out some time back to someone and was not returned as usual with mostly of books useful!
He had a wonderful memory at this age to tell Raman that he had met his grandfather Jai Shanker Lall Shresta* way back in 1958 – the year my father dedicated himself for the cause of education in the village he adopted as it was also his in-laws place. Rhenock was again a history in itself by giving The Chandra Nursery (established 1910 by Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan* and Durga Shamsher Pradhan* in fond memory of their father Taksari Chandrabir Newar) which made Sikkim find name in the world floriculture map a century ago! Further, Mr. Gooroong recollected of the cordial friendly relationship between the two families.
Mr. Gooroong reminds me of the Chyakhung Dairy 1958 by another veteran no more – Badri Narayan Pradhan* (1927-2010) who was “an active political worker, a studious person, a serious literary writer and a very sincere man” as litterateur Indra Bahadur Rai mentions of him. It has been an invaluable addition to our Jai Smriti Shodh Granthalaya. My mother Indira in her 80s too enjoyed reading the book that helped her connecting to many memories sweet and sour of the past besides that of her relatives and friends in Kalimpong which also included his wife Shankh Gooroong* during her Convent days.
Not believing my ears, Mr. Gooroong while speaking to me over phone previous year had to identify himself as the former Chief Minister (was also the Speaker once) when he wanted to help a good old acquaintance of him from Kalimpong give shape to his writings bringing out a book from Rachna which we had to regret. The crux of the matter – even if published we somehow find it difficult to handle the distribution part and believe that if we cannot reach the target utmost – the readers, it serves no purpose though we aim at always through our humble enterprise.
(To be concluded)
This is a retired civil servant’s personal account of memories 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) and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached on shrestars@gmail or phone 9434022677 / 03592-202677 and at Rachna, opposite Manan Bhavan, Development Area, Gangtok 737 101 Sikkim India.