Off the shores 5
Rejuvenating Life in the Black Hill
Sequel Indrajatra with the NOA
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
On reaching there we had found no dress code and all in casual, me and my Jwain Saheb Bipin donning Bhatgaunle Topi in respect of the occasion special. Seen first was the NOA President Ram Lall Shrestha himself quite busy running here and there to get things readied for the show to take off. We helped ourselves with some refreshments with whatever snacks we all had taken along and spread on a table there as per the tradition common in participation and some more were there covered in rows for the feast later to follow. Soon I saw Rajesh Shrestha and congratulated him for his remarkable contribution making the Pulu Kisi/white elephant Indra’s Erawat and donated that attracted many like us to take a shot with standing beside. I congratulated Season Shrestha profusely for his great contribution strengthening the NOA establishing five chapters before he could tell me of having escaped with a minor mishap when his car was hit from behind by another. Thanking, he corrected me that the fifth was possible with efforts of the present team while the one at Portland thwarted as Daya Shakya shared with me the previous day was due to his being occupied in similar other activities in Oregon. Missed Tribhuvan Tuladhar an advisor here
After meeting those around, some from different communities, we started hunting out for known faces and there saw a tall figure just arrived in a similar search. It was not difficult either for me to make him out identified as Basav Rajopadhyaya, a Facebook friend sharing some matters of common interest right from culture to rituals helping perform his host individually or in groups for the benefit of the community as a whole all these years since he arrived here. Years ago P. L. Joshi of Mirik had sent me his copy of our book Newa: Varna ra Lipi Parichaya (1996/2001) with some suggestions from him and I remembered this name Basav Rajopadhyay mentioned in our telephonic talk and longed till this day but did not know that the auspicious Indrajatra organized by the NOA would bring this opportune moment to meet him in person in a foreign land away from home. By this time he gained popularity and called Bajey/Priest here. We had an image of him in our mind that he would be seen here performing the rituals in some customary attire as done back home in Gangtok Indrajatra by Guruji Surya Bir Tuladhar. Contrary he was a young man well-dressed not in ceremonial red robe and hat of a priest seen in a recent picture posted by him performing Ihee ceremony in New York. Yes Basav too remembered the book and told me of having been to those parts of the Himalayas while in Nepal and loved being so associated with people in Sikkim and around Darjeeling those days. He shared with me that he was doing quite well coming here that kept him busy with appointments more so in weekends and the next Sunday in Arlington Texas for similar Indrajatra celebration belated. When I told him that my wife was from Tengal, he exclaimed happily that he too belonged to Tengal in Kathmandu. I introduced him to Ranjana and he introduced himself as the son of Ashtanand Bajey who happened to be the family priest and a teacher in the Kanya Mandir she went there. Life sometimes gives surprises like this and later we found that her brother Samir knows him well while cousin Bikash in Piscataway New Jersey had the opportunity invite Basav perform Puja. I could gather getting him is quite expensive in the US and he preferred staying with the host family rather than in some hotel booked for him but an invitation should invariably include round air ticket. After Ashtanand Bajey’s demise his brother took over the mantle as the Tengal family present priest for Samir, Bikash and all. Young and energetic Bajey was seen adding zest and spirit to the Indrajatra celebrations delivering a brief talk on significance of Indrajatra but more dancing with Pulu Kisi or befriending Lakhey wonderfully shaking hips and body in rhythm to the sound of Dhimay and Jhyamta performed by Yagya Man Shakya, an executive member of the NOA. Yagya Man shared with me that he had been to Sikkim and related to the Shakya in the capital Gangtok generations of goldsmith Shakya family famous for but lone left now all moving back to homeland. Some early settlors have assumed the common surname Pradhan but prominent pierced ears could identify them still as proof of it though I myself have it done too at Vindhyachal as per common Hindu-Buddhist ritual. I forgot to ask Basav if he knew Rudra now in Sikkim contesting the last Assembly poll from the constituency that his father Narendra Narsingh Shakyavansh represented in the Sikkim State Council in 1950s from Rongli during the Maharaja Saheb / Chogyal days. Rudra’s uncle Hem Narsingh was my class-friend with some ornament in ears to pass out of Tashi Namgyal Academy in 1962 together and retired a doctor back home in Patan never met so far.
There was a stall selling Tee shirts with motifs of NOA and Maicha-Baucha (that Rachna-Vimal bought) for Nepal Earthquake Victims aid along with other merchandise. Handouts and copies of my article Celebrating Indrajatra with the NOA both in English and Nepali and Sikkimma Indrajatra – Ek Parichaya were being distributed. Soon I was informed of a news-channel crew already there interested to record my interview and introduced by Ram Lall to Bishwa Raj Thapa, editor-in-chief of the e-nepalese.com bureau to talk in brief how of late the Newars in Sikkim have been keeping up with the tradition including Indrajatra alive (https://youtu.be/M3A4Wg8FuVk). Ar. Suroj Raj Rajkarnikar had done his. Shanker Shrestha introduced me to Saroj Prajapati lady presiding Nepa Pasa Pucha Amerikaye another group since 1991 devoted to similar activities like the NOA. It was nice meeting there Bikram Man Singh who contacted over phone soon after our arrival here wanting to see me since 2008. Empty stomach no charity so we kept the handing over ceremony of the Jai Smarak Samman post-lunch and Ram Lall made all his colleagues past and present gather for theirs being joint efforts all combined and a rare honour for both the NOA and Karuna Guthi to express and exchange the goodwill and friendship from the Newars in Sikkim on this great occasion of Indrajatra!
To be frank enough here I had the opportunity to have a taste of the one what they do in homeland the Yenya literally meaning Kathmandu Festival. I was wondering/asking Ranjana what does the tagline shown in the flier for Yenya Punhi/Indrajatra Celebration the NOA had – La chhaku wayeka, Samay baji, Pulu Kisi wala wala literally meaning “Come my way a piece of meat, Samay Baji and here comes Pulu Kisi”. All went chanting rather singing it loudest as the Celebrations advanced towards the end with the eldest of them all invited to the shrine where Indra and Bhairav were installed with offerings of decorative Samay Baji with different components arranged in rows and grace the occasion to mix together and each devotee given a fair share as the divine blessings passed on also to those who could not be present there themselves.
Announcement of the Jai Smarak Samman being awarded to the NOA this year brought me Daya Shakya nearer to keep our friendship alive on cell number provided. Much water flown down the Potomac or the Teesta dried up these five years. What he had best be summarized just in a single word ‘balance’ - between the groups like everywhere else. Good wishes/blessings from Keshab Mama make me come up to his expectations as he wrote, It is just GREAT. Have a nice time and looking forward for your renewed interactions with Newa community in US as true Newa Ambassador. My Buba’s words in advice embedded deep in my mind - never split the society nor be a party to it even. Standing alone is better than standing with people who don’t value/hurt you. You might feel worthless to one person but you are priceless to another don’t ever forget your value. Ultimate aim is to pay back the society wherever you are in as one has to reach the destination whichever path you choose provided you deliver the best! I have been invited to be with them too and I do not have any inhibition to stop me obliging there either. It was NOA who recognized me first to invite to their Convention and talk on the Newars in Sikkim and over the years again this time to Yenya Punhi/Indrajatra celebrations to share on Indrajatra in Sikkim. Acquaintance brings friendship, friendship develops into closeness and mutual understanding grows to a bond Better Stronger Together! Any step towards togetherness is welcome attitude to develop mutual trust to look forward in anticipation out of the friendship grown. No souring or bitterness back home should deter us in our understanding toward solidarity towards universal brotherhood amongst us and the community as a whole should derive the benefit. Decade of the Newah People propounded in 2010 and half way through is it worthwhile here to remember/remind where we stand now with me wishing if a quick review would help us all at all!
My efforts would be incomplete without a word admiring the NOA for organizing Indrajatra so well, full of joy and spirit profusely splashed with camaraderie and hospitality well enjoyed by all, young and old alike, without having to pay - a feat possible without spirit/liquor unthinkable back home in Sikkim or Nepal. No exorbitant hall rent but the Park free for the community service. No costly gifts/decorations, banners/appreciation letters or expensive frames but warm gesture simply enough to wild applaud. Kudos to all in the team NOA, keep it up!
Having celebrated Indrajatra with the NOA at the other end of the world in the Black Hill Regional Park with family and friends gave the same satisfaction having accomplished something superb very similar to the one when I had the rare opportunity to organize under the auspices of our Karuna Guthi the Maharatharohan or Great Procession on the occasion of Sahasra Chandra Darshanam i.e. Sighting of a thousand moons or Jankwa of my parents attaining 83 years four months in May 15 years ago year 2000 in another Black Hill called Rhenock. An epoch making three day celebrations that make me sometimes ponder in wonder if the Maharatharohan/Jankwa was not the inspiration behind the Indrajatra celebrations started back home in Sikkim that led to such replication/emulation thereafter worldwide, who knows! Next week-: Long Weekend – Wish it was Longer
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 while in the US. Some names, places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org