It was five years ago that a group of 29 young brave hearts escorted by the District Sports Officer Munna Pradhan, was sent to Manali as a part of the newly launched Skill Development Programme for Unemployed Educated Youth of the Government but not before myself as the Principal Secretary in the Sports and Youth Affairs Department visiting the place along with the then Joint Director to familiarise me with this adventure sport and be satisfied with the arrangements there for their stay and the training in paragliding. Earlier, it used to be once-a-year-affair of joyride to watch at the Maghey Mela at Jorethang with paragliders invited from Manali displaying their skill. A firm believer in giving a rod rather than the fish, a proposal was moved and the Minister-in-Charge found it very good and readily agreed. More than the fund, inspiring the youth was necessary to make such a programme successful in the long run. Giving a fair chance to all, we wrote the Members of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly for nominating two candidates from each of the constituencies but finally only 29 came forward to jump into the fray.
Sharing his experience for the group, Mahesh Davadi from Khamdong in South Sikkim starts the article that appeared in the Nepali news-daily Hamro Prajashakti dated November 28, 2006, “ It was Saturday the 4th November that we were busy preparing since the morning for our Manali tour. By seven we were all dressed up with our bags and baggage ready. We had to board the train at 10.30 in the night. So, we kept ourselves busy watching football till 11 in the morning. Heavy hearted we informed our home and proceeded to New Jalpaiguri. We had been motivated enough the previous evening by our Secretary and his family shown paragliding in video clippings. It was but natural for us to be a bit hesitant to this sport never seen and thought of before.” Thanks to the media Sikkim Now!, Sikkim Express, Hamro Prajashakti including the cable-network Nayuma Television that carried next day the reports of the send-off programme held in the lounge of the Paljor Stadium along with video clippings of myself, my wife Ranjana, daughter Rachna and Joint Director Karma Yougyal paragliding that left indelible impression in the minds of the youth to be inspired and prepared to accept paragliding as a challenging profession suitable for the hilly terrains of Sikkim with prospects of tourism abundant to flourish and support this adventure sport – Vir Bhogya Vasundhara or the Brave conquers the World - I had told them. Rachna having enjoyed sky-diving and parasailing as well in the US felt fortunate enough to join us for the Manali experience.
While there we met the Director Col. Choudhary in the Directorate of Mountain and Adventure Sports. He was earlier at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling and had accomplished the rare feat of 16-month Trans Himalayan Trekking from the Myanmar Border in Arunachal Pradesh in the east through the terrains of Bhutan and Nepal to Leh in Ladakh in the west.
Besides, we also visited other paragliding spots including Dhelu, Bir and Billing in Himachal Pradesh and Mussoorie, Bhim Tal, Noikuchia Tal and Nainital in Uttaranchal. On way to Shimla, we stopped for a while at Bir-Billing, the place very similar to many of our own hills and vales in Sikkim, I was just thinking someday our youth too would be participating in the Himalayan Open Paragliding Championship, a Pre-World Cup here and this too came true when reports reached of three Sikkim pilots participating and progressing well there last month.
This tour had given me the opportunity to visit the Institute of Himalayan Biotechnology at Palampur associated with while in the Science and Technology Department and Tibet House the residence of His Holiness Dalai Lama at Mcleodgunj and the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives at Gangchen Kyishong, Dharmashala. I left a copy of my Sikkim: Three Decades towards Democracy that covers pictures of his visit to the Sikkim Legislative Assembly the previous year though we could not meet as he was out of station.
When life gives lemon, make lemonade out of it and I did exactly the same thing - Out of the ill fate meted out to me I made it the turning point of my life in 1998 determined to repay the society grateful for all it gave me so much so far. Immediately on reinstatement posted in the Department of Cultural Affairs and Heritage, I could organize the concluding month-long functions for the year-long celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of India’s Independence in a most spectacular and historic way unsurpassed till this date. Soon, I was sent to Labour but before I could do anything with the Child Labour menace, I was posted in the Science and Technology Department for the better, I suppose. With the then Director ML Arawatia, and Joint Secretary KS Tobgay (his newsletter Infinity with my Anant in Nepali no more) assisted by a dedicated team of scientists in Dr. Pushpa Tamang, Dorji Tsering Bhutia, Bharat Chandra Bashishth and Dhirendra Gopal Shrestha and all, we could make the State Council of Science and Technology for Sikkim one of the best performing in the country. I owe them all - the scientists and organizations in and outside the country whose tried, tested and proven low cost rural technologies – compiled in my Vikasko Goreto – Grameen Proudyogiki in 2000 (the first ever book on the subject and its CD-Rom too in Nepali). It was during this course that I met Anna Hazare (now acclaimed Mahatma) at Ralegan Siddhi to see for myself the wonderful things he had done to earn a name for himself and his village worldwide.
Perhaps for all these, I was rewarded in my next posting as the Principal Secretary in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly to start with the rare opportunity to be along with the then Speaker Kalawati Subba and Deputy Speaker Palden Lachungpa in the Second Commonwealth Parliament Association Asia Region Meet in 2003 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. This tenure saw me repaying the society best possible ever so far with my magnum opus, Sikkim: Three Decades towards Democracy – the history of legislative system that somehow finds place in over 22 university libraries the world over!
The decade left for the journey onward from the turning point of my life was not yet over and so I was posted in the Sports and Youth Affairs Department on the verge of retirement. Not a person in me a sportsman but a sport he proved of himself when there – paragliding! It is that spirit which I see taking off with wings growing stronger and spreading out for the sky in this brief span of time of 5 years in 2011 when paragliding had first arrived in India only in 1991.
It would not have taken that long perhaps, had I continued there till the end of my tenure or the remaining fund was not diverted for holding the state-wide Annual Rural Sports Competition. After the XXI North East Sports Festival 2007 in Gangtok was over - me soon finding myself cooling off as the Advisor in the State Planning Commission to retire few months later four years ago this month end.
I wish them all - who have now ventured out to find their own horizon though we all have the same sky for they were amongst those brave hearts who continued their training in spite of a scary start that witnessed the tragic end of one of the experienced instructors crashed to death while paragliding at the Solang Valley to make us change the venue to Pithoragarh in Uttaranchal - All the Best! contact : firstname.lastname@example.org