In fond memory of
Bidhan Chandra Prakash Pradhan
A tribute to my Mama, a friend as well
We had first met in Calcutta in 1955 as young lads attending the marriage ceremony of Sanu Mama Mohan Pratap Pradhan* with Laxmi Devi at Lower Chitpore Road. I was then in Banaras while he already in St. Augustine School at Kalimpong. I do not remember meeting him before though he once recollected of seeing me first admitted for Dhungey class in the Missionary Primary School Rhenock. Later I was in St Joseph's Convent for a while doing my primary reading Sing mother sing, as my Buba used to look after our business there at (the Kodamul Building 10th Mile) running the branch office of Harishanker Lall Ramshanker Lall Nepali (established 1886) in Banaras.
Bidhan Mama was born on 28 September 1944 as the youngest son of three brothers (Nirmal and Manohar) and five sisters (Kamala, Pratima, Sarala, Pramila and Saroja)to Bijali Devi and Babu Durga Shamsher Pradhan, younger brother of Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan of Rhenock. Together they had started the world-famous Chandra Nursery in the year 1910. Born as the youngest of five sisters and three brothers, he lost his mother while he was still an infant. He had two more sisters Shiela and Kalpana and a brother Uday from his stepmother Jamuna Maya Pradhan, who is 92 years old now. It was his love and respect for this mother having lost his own while still a milk feeding baby taken cared for by an Ayah.
After doing his initial education at the Missionary Primary School at Rhenock, he joined St. Augustine's School at Kalimpong as a boarder in 1954. He passed his ISC examination from there in the year 1964. He remembered among several others Palden Dorji Khangsarpa, Karma Gyatso and Norbu Dadul Chingapa* as his contemporaries there though last-named was a few years junior but familiar as his hostel mate. He was quite chummy with colleagues like B. Tsering* and Sonam Tenzing* though not in school together and used to speak to each other using common words only too close/familiar buddies shared with.
He joined St.Joseph's College at North Point, Darjeeling and did his B. A. with Honours in English along with C. K. Pradhan and C. K. Shrestha, if I remember correctly, in 1968. He stayed as a paying guest with Prof. Tulsi Bahadur Chettri near Dheer Dham Temple (1964) with Deo Kumar Gajmere, Kharga Jung Chettri*, Rajendra Kumar Khati and Mani Chandra Khati*. Thereafter he stayed at the College Restaurant (1965) with many other students from Sikkim like Deo Kumar Gajmere, Ganesh Kumar Subba*, Nar Bahadur Tamang, Nar Bahadur Bhandari*, Tensung Gyatso*, Tsering Gyatso, Tsering Pintso Bhutia, N. K.Subedi* from Sikkim besides C. P. Mainali of Nepal among others. In 1966 when I moved out of the Bellevue Hostel (of Darjeeling Government Collge) at Chaurasta, I shared a room with him as paying guest of a Gurung family (son-in-law of Pudke Jarnail younger brother of Nandu Babu of Algarah) near Sharadeshwari Girls' School at Hermitage Road. Tanka Ram Sharma* and Dilip Kumar Chettri were among others also stayed there.
Like his father Babu Durga Shamsher Pradhan* he was fond of good things to eat as he introduced me canned stuff of pork hitherto not cooked at home that used to come from Rajniklal of Calcutta and other sources by mail. His height did not come to his actual upbringing true to the Taksari Family he belonged. Thulo Mama Bhishma Pratap Pradhan* once narrated me of some military official visiting their Woodland Nursery and Chandra Nursery. They took fresh from School young man otherwise that Bidhan Mama paid back in the same coin using choicest words like bastard. The Army officer was someone of the kind/breed who deserved such a befitting nomenclature, otherwise, such people do not command such disrespect in the young mind. Fond of entertaining friends (among others Santosh Kumar Bardewa, Khada Nanda Uprety staying in the International Youth Hostel), he had an evening in the Firpo's at Park Street Calcutta while it was Moulin Rouge we met next. The year 1973 I was there for remaining six-month course of I.A.&A.S. Probationer in the office of the Accountant General (Central) in the Old Currency Building of Dalhousie Square. Of the seniors there I remember ever-helpful A. K. Deb, who later came to Gangtok as the Accountant General Sikkim while S. Saha served on deputation and after retirement for a long time giving me the opportunity to work with him and continue getting his valued advice on official matters. My batch mate B. K. Chattopadhyay served as Accountant General Sikkim while S. P. Singh frequented whenever he/someone was on leave and later in supervisory capacity brought him my home with his wife once. Obese wife working as a senior officer in the Income Tax Delhi had a tough time climbing four stairs and get through the roller shutter at my residence.
Soon after his graduation, Bidhan Chandra Prakash Pradhan (BCP to his colleagues) found himself working as an auditor in the Sikkim Nationalised Transport (SNT) department with likes of Hartnet* as General Manager and L. G. Ganeshan* Chief Accounts Officer on 12 August 1970. He underwent Chartered Accountancy course in the Price Water House Calcutta from November 1971 to 20 November 1975. On completion of this course, he was appointed as Officer on Special Duty (Accounts) SNT. He was transferred and posted as Chief Accounts Officer in the Finance department, where he gradually rose to the peak as the Controller of Accounts after doing a stint as Director Lotteries. He was the first person to hold this top post of the State Finance and Accounts Service (SFAS) from 31 May 1996 till he retired on 30 September 2001. Condoling his death Chandra Lal Sharma of SFAS working as Director in the Health care, HS and FW Department on behalf of the SFAS family had brought out an Obituary on the occasion of 45 Day ritual on 3rd November in a piece of popular news daily Sikkim Express from the capital with a line from Alan Sacha “Death is more universal than life, everyone dies, but not everyone lives.” Citing him as a simpleton and very honest bureaucrat, he was remembered as instrumental in making SFAS, the first organised service of the State. They all were with the bereaved family members in remembering him fondly and that he would always be in their hearts forever and missed. It would not be out of place/context to mention the name of the person matching with that of The Chandra Nursery. It was here that his late father worked and we all know by his popular name Parsale Bajey.
True to the Taksari blood in him, he was sincere and simple in his lifestyle though fond of every new product that hit the market, be it induction cooker, mixie-grinder, remote-controlled call bell and many other domestic utilities. Unlike me, he was a good driver until his eyes came on his way. He blamed for spoiling his glaucoma case to an STNM Hospital opthalmologist that took him to Vellore for a thorough check-up but no remedy. He continued with the hindrance with the help of Dr. Hitler Pradhan at Gangtok and Dr. Rajan Pradhan at Siliguri. His system in later part of life was affected to take a regular visit to octogenarian homeopath Dr. M. K. Chettri of Salbari every six months. Very careful about his health he sustained himself with a simple diet restricting pulses and protein products. Even water was taken in limited quantity as he often got his check-ups regularly. He was not a diabetic like most of us these days. Though himself remained aloof from hard drinks soon after his retirement, he developed a hobby of making wine at home to enjoy see us praising his product. Bijoy tells me how he had made a range of wine which he was to entertain all who reached for accepting his blessings during the Dashain that we took the opportunity every year. Drinks remind us of some happy moments together with Binod Daju and Hemant son of former Dak babu Harka Bahadur Chettri of Kurseong, who was working as a teacher in the Rhenock school and stayed at his place. Another person was Durga Prasad Sharma also a teacher there from Kalimpong (elder brother of litterateur Dr. Rajendra Bhandari.) We used to go hunting with the fall of the day in search of Tongba right from places nearby to as far as Aritar and even to the bazar. Such a wonderful time with Bidhan Mama was one evening together with Bijoy joining us to enjoy Marpha's Apple wine brought from our recent Nepal trip. It was so delightful that he too even recounted often and much later that he had to be escorted back home by someone else who happen to drop in that evening finding his car parked outside Rachna!
I did not expect him to leave us so soon as we were in touch even while in the US last year and earlier too. Very much like his eldest nephew Binod* from his eldest sister Kamala and Jog Narayan Pradhan, Kancha Mambajey of Tin Talley Aritar family, we spoke wishing a happy Dashain when away in 2015. He was my company in the 1960s and we cousins used to get together at his residence not only during the Dashain-Tihar on way to Tin Talley to go together to seek blessings from others. He was the first in our family and to marry Meena Bhauju. Together they were very loving and known for their hospitality with a sumptuous fare that enhanced our card-playing session where his brother Subodh* and cousins Binay*, Bijoy, Bigyan, Anup*, Ravi and others used to enjoy often. We had spoken just a week or so before the sad end.
He was telling me that since his sister Pramila who had passed away a few months back used to mention him about things like her feet getting cold. He too had been feeling so of late that made him too if he was nearing an end, he shared. As he often used to talk things taken lightly in jolly mood often - my reply was not to talk such a way as we have still several miles to go. He has to marry off his children and to see them settled down with grandchildren to fill our life with joy. He had been finding it difficult to move out of the house visiting Raman-Sarvada recently so blessed due to rainy days that Gangtok is famous for. Incidentally, I read some years back that Gangtok gets rain 300 days a year. Doordarshan showing in its weather report those days Sikkim always covered by an umbrella made the authority to remove it as it was hampering tourism prospects of the Himalayan State. How far this is true but the hospitality sector has taken a big jump over the years. Those were the days when we had started Rainbasera Guest House in the early 1980s that was later converted to West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation Guest House for three years or so. We have wonderful memories of running such a unit when Gangtok passed through an acute water shortage. Tourist yet enjoyed the fantastic sun-rise over Mount Kanchanjungha turning silver from crimson to gold. Those who missed getting up late were served with recorded video taken from the Sony Video camera my sister Nivedita sent home from the USA.
Bidhan Mama had a green thumb with a fair knowledge of flowers with biological names of most of the commercial and botanical varieties inherited from his father, of course. He too had a wonderful memory that Buba used to mention us that in spite of bedridden with eyes gone, he used to instruct his gardener Chettri Saila and collector Makhey Maila to get the plants from the faraway places and trees in high lying jungles remembered vividly. It was from these people that Bidhan Mama and his siblings used to spend in The Chandra Nursery during the winter holidays. Most of them, as such, had picked up quite a lot about floriculture and techniques besides typing, an added advantage those days very much like a car driving these days. Evening we two used to share taking long walks uptoKopchey towards Rongli and sometimes towards Rorathang till TCP Junction walking down all the way. For refreshment, we used to drop in his place with Bajai taking all the trouble as elder Manohar Mama*( who passed away last August) had not yet married Meera Maiju from Birgunj or at Thulo Mama-Maiju's place on the way back while it was our home this side with Muma savouries in tea. Rorathang Mela was such fun with him and all cousins walking down and climbing up without looking for a jeep as the only mode of transport was rare those days.
Bidhan Mama was interested in writing and journalism since his school days though I have no record to show this bent of mind. His taking up English Honours shows how interested he was and used to tell me about his keen interest to take up the postal course and must have done it with it too. He used to tell that had we been studying in big cities like Calcutta, we would have the benefit of taking up classes to enhance our hobbies/knowledge in the field we like. He, therefore, spent his later years doing things he was adept in naturally yes gardening. Not only did he started a nursery in top two floors of his five-storey building but also used the ground floor growing mushrooms that was ideally suitable for the purpose. He used to visit concerned departments to know about the latest techniques/gadgets and get seeds available with them. Not satisfied, he would order it from sources in the country and abroad as he was quite familiar with the trade with his family business of The Chandra Nursery. With earthworms given from my unit, he had used vermicompost to the best. He often used to share with friends and family the flowers and vegetables home-grown and excess used to find a way to the government departments and even to the Lal Market in Gangtok. He was keen on documenting materials with him on The Chandra Nursery and had passed on some of them to me. I had attempted to start with a website also but no further was possible due to insufficient information.
He was a sportsperson and a good footballer since I had seen some photographs clicked him winning 100 metres race and playing football tournaments for his school in Kalimpong. He used to tell me about the Postal courses to enhance our knowledge which I could not take to my benefit. He used to pass on magazines like Awake and others. He was also with us when the Nav Jeewan Sandhya Club was started in 1963-64. Those days too we had swept the Rhenock Bazar road to put across the message of cleanliness being essential to our life – very much like the present-day Swachchta Sewa Abhiyan. So much so that the then Principal Administrative Officer R. N. Haldipur* was with us when visiting there.
Marriage is one of the most important events of our lives and together we had ventured into it together when in Calcutta. There was some pressure from our family to tie the nuptial knot without any delay as both of us had secured a government job. He had some of his sisters married off in Kathmandu while my relatives were at Birgunj who could suggest us some good girls to marry. My friend Dhruba was then in Calcutta looking after forwarding Nepa Agency owned by the Rajbhandari. Knowing our plan he asked us whether we would like to travel by road and avail the facility of the newly imported Land Rover going to Nepal. We jumped into the offer and were soon proceeding ahead with our plan. When at Birgunj my Nini* came to know the purpose of our trip and Janak Devi Bhauju* mentioned about his sister's daughter. Her elder sister Bhakti Bhauju's daughter Madhuri married to Prof. Vishnu Man Shrestha* in the Tribhuwan University, Kirtipur would help me in reaching girl's home. Mine was thus done. Bidhan Mama's sister Sarala* and Shyam Raj Rajbhandari* had one proposal from Pokhra and we visited there. When we came back home his other sister Saroja and Mani Raj Kayasth from Banepa had come to meet us. One evening when we were sharing with him the progress so far, we could somehow know that Bidhan Mama had someone else already there in his mind. She was in that home itself and was none other than Shyam Raj Sanuba's niece. We too agreed with Bidhan Mama – trouble of travelling all the way from Sikkim to Pokhra was to further lengthen the journey those days. After some initial hitch, it was decided in his favour. By the year-end, Bidhan Mama brought home his bride Neera and next month for me to follow the suit and throw a reception party at Rhenock. He has left behind daughter Smita and son Atul with Neera Maiju while me too blessed with son Raman and daughter Rachna.
By relation we were Mama-Bhanja but more than that we were friends since our childhood days. I wish I should have written when he was amidst us so that how well I love/know him as a company since our early days! None of us had even the slightest hint that he would be leaving us so soon and so suddenly but life is like that when we end up with it as the ultimate does not come announced. Yet the Yamaraj gives as some say, some signals that we fail to note or pay heed to. The first signal when our hair turns grey, the tooth starts falling, eye vision lessens, knees pain, the system fails this way and that. Anyway, we have to face them all and bid adieu once for all to our friends, family/relatives and well-wishers. Some achieve the ultimate early while sometime thereafter, but all must take a final leave and no one can avoid the exit. It is a great relief for them all who depart as they obtain the Moksha to free them from all the worries what life is made of in general as far as I know and believe.
Before coming to the end of this story, if I were asked to mention the best ever thing Bidhan Mama had done in his life, without any hesitation it would the love and respect a child could do to his parents. He had lost his mother when not even a year old but he knew how much his stepmother Yamuna Maya*(we lost her early this year) had done to his bed-ridden father and the entire large family including her own three children. Every single ritual maintaining the family honour and tradition was followed to find a suitable match and see all married off and well settled in life. It was at his Gangtok residence, Sahasra Chandra Darshanam / Maharatharohan or Jankwa in common parlance with profound love, honour and respect was held to mark sighting of thousand moons by her. It is believed in the Newar society that a person attains divinity reaching this age. What could have been a more fortunate opportunity for a son to have performed this socio-religious rite that gave us all relatives the golden chance to seek her blessings. Unfortunately, her own son and elder daughter themselves thought it better to skip and miss this great occasion!
May his soul rest and eternal peace in the company of all those who are already there in the heaven to begin a score all-new with much of experience and knowledge gained while in this world! Tearful we all bid adieu for a long journey to the eternity!!
Disclaimer: This is an account of author's personal notes in fond memories of a relative. Some names of persons (with *asterisk for those who are no more), places and events have been mentioned here only to relate/connect with and no intentions otherwise whatsoever. Contact: email@example.com