Rhenock School - My Buba Dreamt of
Diamond Jubilee Year Incarnated
It was a primary school for next 70 years until 1958, when my Buba Jai Shanker Lall Shresta, M. A. (Com.) joined the school on request of the people and authority there in one of his visits to his in-laws at Shanti Kutir/Woodland Nursery. After the closure of the Indo-Tibet Trade, he had wound up his business establishment with its branch office at Kalimpong. Harishankerlal Ramshankerlal Nepali established in 1886 at Chaukhambha, Banaras was more popular as Nepali Kothi as all the people who visited the place for pilgrimage, trade and printing of books from Nepal, Sikkim and other places in India found it a focal point to meet. Litterateurs like Pandit Dharanidhar Sharma, Suryabikram Gyawali and Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala had moved to Darjeeling from there while in the present day Prof. Dr. Pratap Chandra Pradhan from Darjeeling did a stint there in the Banaras Hindu University before joining Sikkim University soon after his tenure in the Tribhuvan University. Prof. Dr. Diwakar Pradhan, Dr. Sanjay Bantawa and others have been serving in the Banaras Hindu University since long.
After the Britishers left, the primary school was run by the public with a School Managing Committee headed by Babu Durga Shamsher Pradhan of the Chandra Nursery with Bhishma Pratap Pradhan (Thulo Hazur) of the Woodland Nursery as its vice-president and Sunder Kumar Pradhan (Maila Babu) of Badi Dokan as secretary. With my Buba s the Head Sir besides a host of local gentries. When history teacher recently met him to know about the school, Sunder Babu in his nineties told him that it was them who had started it to give shape to the school what it is today. Buba had infused fresh lease of blood to the school thereby to the education system here. Soon class V was started that year and class VI next year to raise the status of the school as Middle School. While the Primary Section was still located at the two-storeyed stone-masonery house with ekra and wooden floor upper storey just next to the place where the road to Police Station leads. I remember attending Dhungey Class there with my teacher writing alphabets with chalk on the floor and me writing with maize/corns over it. Thana used to be opposite this school and I recollect of having seen a 'thyangro' to chain the offenders of law. A Dispensary was in the ground floor on the other side of the school building with Compounder Sada Babu giving the medicines to the patients visiting him. He also used to stay there, perhaps. Prior to my Buba joining the Primary School was run by John Lepcha, later served Kopchey School. This Dispensary was the earliest form of our Rhenock PHC located little above its earlier site. There used to be an Orange Orchard at the place where the Police Station is now located and used to hear that the land belonged to Topgey Raja of Kalimpong. The Silk Route passed through the place with stone-cobbled road and a huge Chapleti Dhunga was the huge flat stone little above people used to rest a while while climbing up after their marketing errands.
The Primary School had a teaching staff comprising of Mohan Prasad Pradhan*, Bani Prasad Thapa* (who soon moved to Gangtok and joined Forest Department as a Forester), Phurmit Lepcha*, Hari Prasad Bhandari (elder brother of Uday Chandra Vashishtha), Pushpa Kumar Pradhan, Polo Tsering Lepcha (who later went back to Temi-Tarku) Krishna Kumar Thapa and a few more, whose name I cannot recollect but a picture of that time show. I had the privilege to work as a teacher with my Buba in 1962 on the advice of the School Managing Committee President Babu Durga Shamsher Pradhan, who wanted me doing better things than whiling away the time watiting for the result of my School Final Examination (i.e., Matriculation and we were 20 students in the last Batch to pass out from Tashi Namgyal Academy).
We used to actively participate in organizing Saraswati Puja in a grand manner during the winter holidays every year, when no such Puja was held elsewhere in and around Rhenock. Preparations started weeks in advance with students raising fund by organizing Flag Day at Rhenock Bazar on Hat days and used to go even to Rorathang Maghey Mela in Fund collection drive. I well remember the school fete organized in the year 1963 December before the school closed for winter holidays. That was perhaps the first and last ever fete of that scale held there. Such functions were well managed by teachers like Pushpa Kumar Pradhan and Krishna Kumar Thapa. P. K. Sir used to be the main brain to take school football team to Pakyong, Pacheykhani, Rongli and even to Pedong to participate successfully in tournaments that often used to being home the sheild/trophy. My school batch-mate Shyam Sunder Pradhan later started teaching in the school and a good footballer himself, he encouraged students to play football and volleyball. Durga Prasad Sharma, (elder brother of Dr. Rajendra Bhandari) from Kalimpong and Hemant Chettri (son of Harka Bahadur Chettri, once Post Master at Rhenock) of Kurseong used to work as teacher in 1963-64. Early 1970s Buba had some good colleagues working with him viz., Tulsi Ram Sharma* (who later became Area MLA, Minister and Speaker of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly representing the Regu Constituency), Pemba Tamang (who later became President Sikkim Akademi after his retirement from the Government service) and Passang Norbu Bhutia (who served in the Animal Husbandry department).They used to come from Rongli in service jeep everyday as therewas no easy convenience like the present day when many teachers drive their own car to work.
Rhenock is perhaps the first and only school in Sikkim, rather in the region, to have a statue of the great teacher, educationist, philosopher and president of India, Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishanan installed in its park named after him. It can still be seen as we enter the premises. Dr. Radhakrishanan was teaching in the Calcutta University, when my Buba was doing his M.A. (com) and later in the Banaras Hindu University from where he did his B.A. It was on the request of the then Director of Education, S. R. Ghosh in a tour to Rhenock met him and finding his high qualifications, Buba joined the teaching fraternity in 1958 to serve till 1976. With him the Rhenock School was taken over by the Government and upgraded to the status of a Junior High School. Life was not full of roses for him who had adopted Rhenock School from its early days to reach it up to the level of Junior High School, one of the first in Sikkim. It lost to the race of being the Higher Secondary School as the Area MLA was successful to give this honour first to the one at Chujachen, Rongli. In 1975, the changed political environment wanted some undesirable favours from the Head Master in the shape of Transfer Certificate, which his conscience did not allow and thought it better to say it a day and go on voluntary retirement rather than to bow to the political pressure to post him outside at Phensang in North Sikkim. He served perhaps twice for sometime as a Commerce teacher to fill the gap on the request of the Government at the newly started Tashi Namgyal Higher Secondary School at Gangtok. He was once posted to Dentam which he declined went on a long leave. Public delegation made representation and demanded his posting reverted bringing him back to Rhenock School in late 1960s. Buba Jai Shanker Lall Shresta was remembered for his devoted lifelong services to the Rhenock School and was felicitated during its Centenary Celebrations in the year 1979. A souvenir Wall Clock given to him as a token of love, affection and appreciation to his concerted dedicated services to the Rhenock School is still a priced possession and a treasure for his family. His students and the public of Rhenock besides many of his family members had the unique and rare opportunity to honour and felicitate him in three-day long celebrations of Sahasra Chandra Darshanam /Maharatharohan or Jankwa in common parlance. On the occasion of sighting of a thousand moons attaining the age of 83 years, four months, four days, four hours, four minuts and four seconds, a socio-religious function was held by his family body, Karuna Devi Smarak Dharmarth Guthi in association with Rhenock Newar Guthi and Sikkim Newar Guthi from May 30 to June 1 in the year 2000 at his residence. A public reception was held in the Sri Krishna Cinema Hall when he was felicitated in the Newa Cultural Evening organized on the eve of this great historic occasion. A 'Smarika' brought out on the occasion highlighting the rich Newar culture, tradition and heritage was also launched along with the souvenir Wall Clock. Next day people from far and wide and all sections of the society had come to his residence to felicitate him individually and seek his blessings. A procession was taken out chanting Bhajans and on entering Rhenock Bazar was joined by the Sikkim Newar Guthi volunteers dressed in customary attire displaying for the first time ever the Lakhey playing of Dhimay and other musical instruments. On the concluding day, all who made the celebrations a grand success were thanked profusely offering each of them a souvenir Wall Clock as a token of gratitude from the Karuna Guthi and it can still be seen displayed at many homes even today.
A large chunk of land was donated by Rhenock Kazi for the school. The path leading to Kazi Kothi from the Reshi-Rongli Highway was the boundary between the school and our land adjacent to it. The fencing done by the school a few years back included this footpath as well. With public contribution a school complex was developed that had a big hall constructed having wooden floor and ekra-wall construction in the upper floor that accommodated junior classes with a long veranda in the ground floor. On its either sides there were rooms that had office of the Head Master and a staff room with a library while the rest were class-rooms. In between there was a badminton/volleyball court, while the playground took the present shape and size gradually increased. Huge Dhupi/Junniper trees planted during my Buba's tenure were recently felled along with other trees in and around the premises to make way for the road leading to buildings. The School building and its Hall of those days constructed with donations from all the public are no more there. The Hall crumbled down due to a cyclone that hit the area and is beautifully remembered how life of many students escaped death by allowing them to leave the school well in time before the mishap by one of the students of that time, Dr. Shanti Chettri in her tribute to their Head Sir in the 'Shraddhanjali' brought out on the occasion of 45 Day ritual held at his residence. It was launched by Muma Indira Devi in presence of once his colleague K. K. Thapa and other dignitaries. Thapa Sir has also recollected his memories working with my Buba ever since he joined the Rhenock School. Buba used to maintain a good rapport with the Army authorieties posted there, who used to screen movies in the Hall and on the ground in fair weather for the benefit of students and public alike.
Best to remember that rose in the political scenario to represent the constituency and become our own Area MLA is the present incumbant Bikram Pradhan also from the home GPU Aritar, who has made a niche for himself and proved to be a popular figure not only among the youth but old alike. Remote GPU of the constituency, Lower Khamdong adjoining Lingsey Simana in West Bengal border is happy getting new link roads being recently approved and tendered after years together of neglect. What could he do the best for the Rhenock School was black-topping of the approach road though a small stretch of a few hundred meters but had to wait all these years till 2017 when much water flowed down the Reshi and Rorathang rivers with many of the political leaders from the area utterly failed in this regard. Water supply provided by the PHE connection has also reached recently there in Kingston the far end of the Aritar GPU and better flow of development is expected here by all. Not only the School but the adjoining areas also look forward for better days with boost in tourism like in other places in Aritar known known for Lampokhari Tourist Festival (under the patronage of Dhiraj, Bikram and many others) every April bringing in increased number of visitors each year. Rhenock though late in getting the recognition as a senior secondary school, is proud to have a Government College besides a private senior secondary level school and many other schools to feed ever increasing hunger for better and higher education of the present youth who have aspirations to reach the sky in this competitive world that has turned out to be a global village due to internet connectivity expected to improve in near future.
With these developments taking place not only the soul of the founder-members of the School Managing Committee with my Buba as the beloved Head Sir but of all who were behind establishing and raising it directly or indirectly, each contributing their best as students, teachers and parents to the present status of the Rhenock School reincarnated way back since 1958 would feel their dreams fulfilled and all their blessings from heaven go on showered to them on their Annual Day coming Monday the 24th December that also happens to be is Diamond Jubilee Year to look forward for more laurels and achievements with renewed vim and vigour in the years ahead.
Wishing all our readers A Very Happy and Prosperous New Year - 2019 to augur well, full of happiness, peace, prosperity, success along with healthy long life!
Disclaimer: 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 (asterisk* for those no more), quotes, places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached at email@example.com. 'The Newars Worldwide – Connecting the Dot : Sikkim' and 'Sikkim: The Newfound Home of the Newars in the Black Hill – Newars : Here and There' by the author are available at www.rachnabooks.com.