From my own turf - 2
Getting Updated with Rhenock
Back home in Aritar
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
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On reaching the Rorathang River bank that noon, the first person to meet was Hari Prasad Pradhan of Aritar who has devoted himself to the society after he was relieved from his responsibility as the head master in the Government Secondary School at Khamdong, Rhenock. He had served as a teacher for 35 years to retire two years back and settle down. I recollect meeting him first during the Sahasra Chandra Darshanam / Maharatharohan or Jankwa of my Buba Jai Shanker Lall Shresta* and Muma Indira Devi on May 30 – June 1, 2000 at our residence ‘Jaisri’, Rhenock. This three-day long historic occasion was celebrated in the most grandeur way for the first time ever in association with Rhenock Newar Guthi then headed by septuagenarian Sunder Kumar Pradhan and Sikkim Newar Guthi then based at our heritage Namthang Kothi with Khagendra Pradhan at the helm of affairs. He was looking for a right occasion and an appropriate opportunity to bring before the society talented youth who had just learnt the art of playing traditional musical instruments learnt in just three months or so with the finesse of established artistes we saw during the three-day long Cultural evening organized by the Nepal Bhasha Mankah Khala: led by the Newar icon from Nepal Padma ratna Tuladhar for the first time ever in Sikkim invited by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Heritage headed by Jayshree Pradhan to celebrate 50 Years of India’s Independence in 1997. People from different/remote parts of the state and neighbouring hills had braved the inclement weather in late evenings to witness the historic occasion. Hari remembers me meeting me first even earlier when he was in Class VIII at Rhenock Government Junior High School, my Buba had seen growing from a simple primary school at Rhenock Bazar when he joined in 1958 invited by the then Director of Education S. R. Ghosh when learnt from the then President of School Management Committee Durga Shamsher Pradhan* and Vice-President Bhishma Pratap Pradhan* that a well-qualified (M.A. in Commerce from Calcutta University 1940) was there to dedicate rest of his life for the cause of education for he had himself been a student of stalwart educationists like Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya there and Dr. S. Radhakrishanan while studying in Calcutta. His family business since 1886 Hari Shanker Lall and Ram Shanker Lall Nepali at Chakhambha Banaras with a branch at the Kodamull Building at 10th Mile Kalimpong had collapsed after the closure of Indo-Tibet Trade in 1956. Before he had lost his dear five family members one after another that found in consultation with my two Mamas to leave me under the care of Sanu Mama Mohan Pratap Pradhan*. Sanu Mama was invited by the then / first Dewan of Sikkim J. S. Lall to join the civil services when he saw certificates from the SUMI, Kalimpong, St. College Calcutta and Banaras Hindu University during one of his visits to the Woodland Nursery erstwhile The Chandra Nursery. So, it is 60 Years for me in Gangtok when I came first time to be a student of Sir Tashi Namgyal High School, my class friend B. B. Subba Muringla Ron well remembers me a little boy entering the room as we talked over phone some months ago. Here both my Mamas had been a student of Dudley Saheb as well as Bhishma Narayan Singh alias M. A. Sir (and Pandit Satya Narayan Mishra), who was the Head Master to get me admitted in Class VI after qualifying in a test in which I excelled in arithmetic but my poor Nepali saw me repeating the class and learning it from Bhai Chand Pradhan. I could honour and felicitate him in gratitude some four decades later in 2000. It was in a grand function held at the Nepali Sahitya Parishad Bhavan attending by ministers besides dignitaries like Keshab Chandra Pradhan, Padma Singh Subba*, C. D. Rai, R. B. Mukhia*, litterateurs and many others to see felicitation of eminent scientists to witness the screening of the CD Rom for my Vikasko Goreto – Grameen Proudyogiki : kam Daam Dher Gyanka Satheek Sujhauharu. It was turning point for me as Chief Minister Pawan Chamling was kind enough to fund it with his generous Discretionary Grant and to see its launch by the then Governor Kedar Sahni* at a state function held to launch the ENVIS Sikkim that made Sikkim proud once again at the national level very recently. Many may not know that this book was presented soon to our village Aritar by my Buba in presence of local gentry at the historic Dak Bunglow and thereafter at Rhenock Bazar in the Forest Bunglow. It was also introduced in a function held in the Nepali Sahitya Sammelan Bhavan, Darjeeling in august presence of Dr. Gambhir Singh Yonzone and litterateurs.
Hari Prasad devoted to social works and also as the General Secretary to the Regional Branch of the Sikkim Newar Guthi with writer-filmmaker R. K. Pradhan, who too retired two years ago, as its President. He need to be informed some 14 days in advance if someone wanted him to invite for some function as Ganesh Kumar Pradhan, my another student while working in the said school in 1962. Hari Prasad was from humble family background in the neighbourhood as I could later know from ailing Hukum Chandra Pradhan, when we visited him recently. His elder son, an engineering graduate, presently employed outside Sikkim while younger son he could get back home when he found government job not well-paid he joined Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences for his MD that also help him doing service to those who need most there. Two of his daughters married off while the youngest was working in the Law department here. How about Yoga; he practised but his neighbours could not be brought into the fold even after getting Yoga instructor at his own cost for their benefit. He has been holding Puran every year for peace and wellness in the village but conversion taking place there has been a worry for all concerned. Traditional way of inviting kith and kin during a marriage by sending Supari/betel-nuts was now being refused and they wanted an invitation card sent in its place. That means not only the extra burden to the pocket but also trouble of getting it printed elsewhere. May this Budget with the RURBAN policy of the Central Government could be of some remedy to such an unwanted situation people are facing in rural areas like Aritar like in the rest of the country soon. Wish our Aritar could be covered as a smart village (as some people have turned smart with the western influence) under the SPM NRUM with ‘soul of village and facilities of city’ to cope with such conflicting situation taking place of late there!
Lampokhari Tourism Festival Memoirs of Silk Route to Dream of Mansarovar now in its 9th Year later this month when Village Tourism could be seen at its best with Bed and Breakfast Homes, guest houses, hotels and resorts that give superb view of the Mount Kanchanjungha range from the top of the hill above the Lampokhari Lake. I remember sending a guest (who loved trekking) first in 1996 and he was a Bengali from Kolkata who stayed in our house at Rhenock. It was much later that some of the youth like Dhiraj Pradhan of Tin Talley Aritar and his younger brother Bikram Pradhan, the present Area MLA and the chief convener, whose brilliant idea and dedicated efforts have proved that tourism is the new age profession to be adopted by our youth. Their brother Sunil who owns one of the several such units just on the way to Lampokhari named after the historic rather nostalgic Silk Route the place is famous for. Sunil was sharing with us how it takes care to entertain the guests with cultural programmes with karaoke and a DJ to perform besides bonfire arranged after they come back from visiting Zuluk, Kupup Lakes, Baba Mandir and Nathula or trekking to Manghim at the top of the hill. Muma too wanted to visit after we had been to Hukum Mama’s place but we had to return to Gangtok that late evening, so we kept it for some later date. Bidhan Mama stayed there a night while attending the Antyeshti Kriya of Binod Daju.
Another memory from the past is of once going up to Chandaney Forests with Kazi Mama / P. K. Pradhan to see the champ trees we got for constructing our house Rachna in the year 1978. Earlier in 1963, I had gone to Rachela towards Tri-Junction where the border of Tibet, Sikkim and West Bengal meet together in a week-long trekking/camping with Block Officer B. B. Pradhan* and his retinue of forest guards and workers to open up a foot track. Buba too had mentioned me of going to Kupup- Sherathang along the Silk Route in Botanical excursions with Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan of now fabled The Chandra Nursery and about the War Memorial there at Kupup. Later we had gone from Gangtok when he offered coin with prayers at Chhangu Lake as well as Kupup Lake. In another visit I made it a point to go there and offered homage to the Unknown Soldier. I ask Hari Prasad how well the tourism has impressed upon the people there, it was found that not only Aritar but the entire area right from the bank of the Reshi Khola to the hills of Zuluk all were well covered and improved the life of the common people, who adopted this profession of the New Age linked to the glorious days of the past. He too was into it with a five-storey building being constructed that would take a year or so. A clear view of the Himalayan range could also be had from his place in Pradhan Gaon.
It was nice visiting second time in a week this place with Ravi Bhai and Buhari Nisha to be with friends and family visiting the bereaved house Kamalalaya and taking time to be with ailing Hukum Mama to wish him fast recovery with his health improved to tell us many stories from the past with wonderful memory he has to connect us well with Aritar.
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, quotes, places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org