In praise of Heritage
New Year Old Memories
Taking Life Ahead
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
New Year has been Old and familiar to me each year as it comes and goes but brings in me a fresh lease on life to taking it ahead that I look forward to welcome and accept with gratefulness to what the past year had been and thank for everything in my share - fair enough, I believe!
With each passing year accumulated to a number of years that life means to though many say that it is not in numbers but in deeds you accomplish that counts and matters so much in the end. So far so good, I feel. Sharing Old Memories in New Year is what I intend to do here today. Like for many, for me too it means calendars, greeting cards, diaries, picnics, parties and resolutions, of course. With age my interest in these too is in the wane but I like recollecting how I enjoyed welcoming the New Year in the past just to connect with my friends and relatives and greet them on the occasion.
The best way to welcome the New Year is to change the calendar on the wall and people here in Sikkim have the government Almanac as for the most of them government has been the source to sustain with in one way or the other. Many things have changed over the years but not the Almanac that is in the same shape, size and format since the days of yore in the Chogyal’s regime. Completing two year foundation course as a probationer I had just joined the Home Department as Under Secretary (Accounts) in the Home Department in 1974. I had once said to my senior colleague Joint Secretary R. K. Gupta* that Nepali calendar could easily be accommodated therein. Pointing out to Panchang written in Devnagari script somewhere at top, he said, Look, it is there! I had replied it to be a Hindi word as well. Patro was the word instead in my mind and wished dates were also there. I have a few old Almanacs hung behind the new but some people fancy a heap from previous years for record and easy reference.
It was in 1963, we went on calendar-collecting spree from the shops in Gangtok just for the sake of fun and to see the variety available. I had collected around 30 while my friend Mani* had a few more. Punam Motors had given us nice one in poster size for the company it represented, while Gopalji had from Sikkim Distilleries and the Student Shop had printed its own. This year a Nepalese model is featured for the first time as the Kingfisher calendar girl.
In my assignment as the Secretary in Information and Public Relations Department, I thought of bringing in some freshness to the calendar with its timely publication. Manoj Agrawal had bagged the tender and we had 6-sheeter with the theme Flowers of Sikkim 1997 Calendar for which all the slides but one were provided by K. C. Pradhan, who himself once held this post. Those were the days with limited funds in the budget yet there was scope for some improvement including the annual publication Achievements of the Government. A promising young man, Manoj later excelled himself with his brand Metroprints bringing out not only quality calendars (Sikkim 2004 on Orchids) for some more years but was also into producing view-cards and even a coffee table book Celebrating Sikkim. Tourism boom here must have prompted him to get diversified into hospitality business with his showroom giving way to fast food joint. He but told me once when we met at the Ridge that he was very much in the profession of photography that brought him there that moment too.
New Year was also the time to send and receive Greeting Cards that came in scores though the practice is in the decline due to Facebook and e-Greeting Cards. Rachna Books made available not only cards and calendars brought out by World Wildlife Fund (DFO W.T. Lucksom* supported) and UNESCO but had also made humble attempt publishing for 1981 its own depicting Nepali Wedding Procession and Lama Procession with sketches done by local artist Shyam Rai. As late as 2005, we had greeting cards depicting Sikkim Legislative Assembly and Rachna Books.
A pocket calendar Greetings 1996 compiled and brought out in five different languages English, Nepali, Newar, Tibetan/Sikkimese Bhutia and Hindi (Lepcha font then not yet developed) had select quotations in each of the page that people liked. We felt rewarded that our efforts bringing it out working late winter night during Lossong holidays shutter downed at Metro did not go in vain. Manoj shared with me that Umesh Agarwal of Laxmi Stores was his Guru to learn the rope. Rachna too got her first lessons with home computer those early 1990s from Umesh, who was happy to find her as an IT professional in the US when she was here last time.
Courtesy demands that one should reciprocate and respond to the greeting received and thus the trend flourished of exchanging greeting cards to last beyond February every year. One such I received was from SDF Supremo Pawan Chamling in beautifully written lines in Nepali as Shubhakamana for the year 2005. So, acknowledging his kind gesture, I had the following lines that I would like to share here with its English version for those not at ease with Nepali. It is equally relevant and appropriate even a decade later with him entering for record fifth time as the Chief Minister:
Vigat dashakka anubhav batoree Gathering experience of the decade past
Teeta meetha sabai jati Sweet and bitter all that came on the way
Manaspatalma saanchee Smriti Keeping memories stored in the mind
Lagaun sabailai liyee unnatipatti! Lead us all together towards the path of progress!
Naya saal 2005 sangai With the New Year 2005 ushered in
Navyugma padarpan garee Let us enter the New Era
Naulo varshko pratyek bihanee Each and every morning of the New Year
Pugaun himshikhar sunaulo Kiran saree Reach the snowy peak like the golden rays
Laagaun chautarfee vikas-pathma Let us tread the path together for progress
Kuna-kapcha sabaitir pasee Corners, crevices everywhere
Narakhee bhedbhav kati pani Without discriminating anyone whatsoever
Samajma samaan drishti chharee Taking all at par in the society
Din bharee raat bharee Day in and night out equally
Nilamban sthagit nagaree katai pani pragati Without suspending progress even for a while anywhere
Snigdh, snehapurna bhratritva bhaav Brotherly cordial affection well-maintained
Bhayi jan aasha-aakankshako paripurti Each one’s hopes and aspirations fulfilled
Safal banaun sabai – Let us all accomplish it together
Lyayee Sukh, Shanti ra Samriddhi! Bringing in Happiness, Peace and Prosperity!
(SIKKIM EXPRESS 18 JANUARY 2015 To be concluded Next Sunday)
Diaries used to be ideal New Year gift along with calendars those days but with the passage of time it seems has apparently lost its significance. Otherwise, I remember receiving once India Today diary with my name printed on the cover, while I used to pass on these gifts to others as quite a number came to me. Collection of those my Buba wrote gives a picture fair enough of different kinds each year that he could get to write in. These days I get calendar and diary every year courtesy Life Insurance Corporation agent Nirupam Mukherjee though the size reduced over the years.
Picnics and Parties
Best way to welcome the New Year for many is to enjoy it together with friends and family in a picnic that we children used to go with food from home. Growing up I found Thulo Mama* always enthusiastic of family picnics to nearby places like Aritar, Lampokhari, Reshi and Rorathang. It is still a joy recollecting how someone inebriated in the picnic refused returning home unless an elephant was brought for him. I somehow do not like New Year Eve parties and avoided going to office picnics. Long time back Bijoy had some problem while attending such a New Year bash held in the White Memorial Hall but for timely intervention by his friend T. P. Dorji saved situation. A tall and well-built person he was – could fit into the role of a bouncer in such an eventuality at places where brawls are common. He was God sent for me too when returning from Siliguri our vehicle broke down somewhere between Singtam and Sang Khola on way back bringing Census of India 1991 documents. He stopped his vehicle and gave us a lift thus we could come home. He was no less than a Good Samaritan for me and my family that winter night.
Office picnics I rarely attended and never on hearing of some brawl had taken place after I had returned from the Ipecac Garden and more so after we unfortunately learnt of having lost a colleague. He was found dead next morning near the Council House gate frozen all night in the rain following New Year’s Day picnic. None of the colleagues Dushyant Lama*, G. P. Yonzone*, N. B. Subba*, D. K. Subba* and N. P. Thapa * then working in the Development (Plan) Finance are now amidst us while Basant Lamichaney like Namkha Gyaltsen who joined there later left the job for good.
New Year is also deemed as an occasion auspicious to launch a new venture and for me it was a new book. On return from the US when in Nepal visiting relatives, I received a proposal from Daya Ratna Shakya from Portland then heading the World Newah Organization to bring out his book. We got the Newah Bhaye Learner printed in short notice at The Commoner Press with the help of its owner Usha Shrestha readied for its launch in the award-giving ceremony organized by the Shankhadhar Sirpa Samiti at Thimi on the New Year’s Day 2011. Along with the book our website was also launched by the leading human rights activist and litterateur Padma Ratna Tuladhar in presence of luminaries like Laxman Rajbanshi and many others.
I would have been happy bringing out a book every year like in recent past but 2014 went blank in spite of my best efforts. Bringing out books, however, may not bring along readers in this part of the world but contributing articles to the news-dailies helps get some readers and appreciation as well. So, should I be happy and contented thus with the Sikkim Express sharing its space and readers every Sunday while for Nepali Hamro Prajashakti, Samay Dainik, Himali Bela (from Gangtok), Swarnabhoomi and Himalaya Darpan (from Siliguri) have similarly contributed much. Let us hope my efforts materialize this year!
With no vices, no resolutions to make thereof either. For many the most difficult thing is to quit smoking. We were then in the Yarrow’s (IA&AS Officer’s Mess) undergoing our training at Simla. After dinner I and my room-mate Norbu Dadul Chingapa were chatting when fellow-probationer James Joseph joined us as usual for a fag. It was Christmas Eve I suddenly decided to quit smoking and off went my packet of cigarettes out of the window of our room and vowed never to smoke again all my life. It was so simple and quite easy for me! That night we had season’s first snowfall to enjoy though water supply was disrupted due to pipes frozen. Years later my junior in Darjeeling Government College Surendra Kumar Pradhan (came to work here in the Sikkim Government College, did PhD and was Principal) brought me some imported packets of cigarettes but not to lure me anymore. Last month Dr. Sujib Rajbhandari asked me when I smoked last and I said ages back in 1973. Readers may be wondering when I took to smoking then – just wait for story My Tryst with Smoking!
Dr. Geeta Mathai in KnowHOW/The Telegraph gave choice of Happy New Year resolutions like I will lose weight/exercise/reduce stress/keep diseases such as diabetes under control – change for better and see them magically disappear. In reality fewer than eight percent of these people will manage to keep their promises for longer than a month. A week has already passed and many may have already forgotten their declaration, she further said.
Another vice people love to make a resolution of not only on the eve of New Year but every now and then is to quit drinking liquors. I have no problem with this as I am often on and off of it and do not wish to part ways with either once for all considering its health value/aspect as doctors find it ok if limited to two drinks (one drink is equivalent to 355ml of beer, 148ml of wine or 4ml of 80 proof Distilled spirit i.e. 40% alcohol containing beverages such as Whiskey). It is half the dose, i.e., one drink only for our better halves or ladies. Even my wife Ranjana says that with none of the vices like chewing tobacco, betel nuts or pan and gambling let this one remain with me - hanging between my will-power and temptation. Like To be, or not to be - that is the question intriguing me this time around. So, I may switch on for one more time and raise the toast for the health, wealth and prosperity of my relatives, friends and readers on this occasion once again just to say Cheers and Happy New Year to All!
A parting gift from the year past for those residing in Gangtok was the streetlights along the National Highway changed bright with LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes.) With the New Year, it soon also came to our share but partly with two distant lampposts in our neighbourhood of the Manan Bhavan - leaving a few more to be desired as lighting is not sufficient - the vicinity being a cultural hub abuzz with activities frequently. We may recollect here that the Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 was awarded jointly to Isamu Akasali, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura “for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources.” Interestingly, recent evening news from the All India Radio Gangtok was telling us of a national programme promoting LED lights in the country when our Prime Minister Narendra Modi reported to have said that it was far more economical by way of saving from using the LED lights than generating the electricity consumed and that the Corporate bodies could think of giving LED bulbs as New Year gifts in place of diaries and calendars. An LED bulb utilizes one-tenth of energy as compared to a normal incandescent bulb and half as much energy as Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) to produce the same amount of light while LED are just 30-40 per cent costlier than CFL at a price of Rs.204/- and has a life that is 4-5 times more than CFLs and, therefore are cheaper option on life cycle cost basis. Government plans to offer Rs.400/- LED bulb at Rs.10/-. So let us hope 2015 will be better and brighter with our unfulfilled dreams realized! Concluded
Author is an ex-Bureaucrat, who writes and translates both in English and Nepali and has books like Saral Jiva Vigyan (1967/1970), Sikkim: Three Decades towards Democracy (2005) and Newar : Haami Yastai Chhaun (2010) to his credit. He shares his memories in this personal account to cherish and treasure often on a detour here and there en route to share the joy of the journey called life. Some names and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. Names with *asterisk denote those no more amidst us. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 9434022677 / 03592-202677 and at Rachna, opposite Manan Bhavan, Development Area, Gangtok 737 101 Sikkim India.
(SIKKIM EXPRESS 25 JANUARY 2015)