Students of the Year 1960
Class IX of Tashi Namgyal Academy
Our Class of IX of Tashi Namgyal Academy, 60 years ago, could well be termed as the Formidable 40 – a bundle of hidden talents as the things unfolded slowly but gradually later in our life. In this golden eve of my life, I look at them with awe and admiration because of the grandeur, strength, etc. we led to lay the foundation of this premier educational institute in this part of the Himalayas.
Down the memory lane, it is nostalgic indeed to retrieve and pen down a few lines recollecting the school days six decades back. Further, it is a joy to share it before everything is covered in a thin veil by the dust of time and lost in oblivion. These are from my memories - something that had captured my mind pondering over many times for the last few weeks. It is an exercise itself to recollect and jot down the names of the ultimate 20 who made to the last batch of Matriculates, i.e., those who appeared for the School Final Examination in 1962 conducted under the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. Thereafter, Tashi Namgyal Academy was divided into two – giving birth to Tashi Namgyal Higher Secondary School located at the far end of the Development Area. In fact, Sir Tashi Namgyal High School itself evolved into the premium educational institution of this Himalayan Kingdom, Tashi Namgyal Academy by the amalgamation of the two of the then existing boys schools known as Bhutia School and Nepali School. When I joined this school in 1956, it had passed through the first-ever turmoil that led to the resignation of the then Head Master R. L.Kapoor. Students like Krishna Chandra Pradhan, Garud Singh Lama and others had passed out that year thereafter. B. N. Singh alias M. A. Sir was the interim Head Master, M. A. Sir had welcomed my admission stating that the flow of knowledge is in opposite direction. People go to Banaras but me coming from there to the hills. He handed over the charge to a new incumbent V. N. Langer.soon thereafter. He happened to be the chief architect to transform the school into Tashi Namgyal Academy, himself becoming its first Principal. While L. M. Gurung alias P.T. Sir got we students work barbed wire fencing with eucalyptus and other saplings planted in the compound. Bidur La alias Carpentry Sir helped us carve out a map of Sikkim on the huge rock east of the playground, just near the upper gate. Many dignitaries including His Highness Sir Tashi Namgyal, Maharaj Kumar Saheb Palden Thondup Namgyal, Dewan N. K. Rustamji, Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, His Holiness Dalai Lama, Political Officer Apa B. Pant, Freedom Fighter Kaka Kalelkar were received here at this gate and passed through a welcome arch formed by the scouts from the school. Most of us went school barefooted in khaki shorts as Hawai Chappal or flip-flop slipper was yet to make an entry here. Black shorts and white shirt used to be our uniform for our weekly P. T. Class with all students divided into four groups named House A, B, C and D on Saturdays. It was only in Class IX that we got the first formal dress of navy blue blazer with a monogram inscribed with the motto Service through Knowledge besides white shirt, grey trousers and black shoes, but no ties. This colour continues till this date but the motto changed with the transformation. The first batch from Tashi Namgyal Higher Secondary School under the +2 system of education affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education, New Delhi appeared in 1965. Tashi Namgyal Academy reincarnated into a co-education institute under the Indian School Certificate earlier known to us as the Cambridge system introduced during the British regime.
Of friends who fared well, excelled and made exit while a few who left us soon within years thereafter. This is to pay a tribute to the array of achievers amongst us – a Gold Medalist, Municipal Chairman, some I.A.S. and I.F.S., a Padma Shri even, a tea tech, a Bamboo Expert worldwide, UNHRC official, some educationists, a Doctor, a Veterinarian, some Forest officials, some Police officers, some businessmen of repute, some leading Government Contractors and so on. If our life was a drama, each played the role assigned well and some fought their own battle in life to win and survive including that with dreaded cancer, renal failure and of life thus to bid adieu well ahead of many of us. Such is the ordeal of life one pass through before seeing the most significant pandemic of the century Covid 19 we are now passing through locked down for months together - of uncertainty, we do not know! We are but to overcome this phase too as everything good or bad has to end one day. No one knows yet when the vaccine to combat it comes out. Thus the fate lies shrouded in the veil of mystery as to when the COVID-19 pandemic ends, while efforts are on to unlock things back to normal, rather new normal!
1. Tanka Ram Sharma*
2. Bhakta Bahadur Pradhan*
3. Gyan Bahadur Chettri
4. Topgay Bhutia
5. Shyam Sunder Pradhan
6. Nar Bahadur Tamang*
7. Pinchung Bhutia
8. Nima Tamang
9. Dhruva Kumar Pradhan
10. Hom Nath Sharma*, Dhan Prasad Subba
11. Dilli Ram Rai
12. Nima Dorji Lama
13. Indra Kumar Basnet
14. Pratap Subba*
15. Ganesh Kumar Subba*
16. Bhim Sore Subba*, Tsering Tashi Bhutia
17. Legpal Bhutia*
18. Bal Chand Sarda*, Tsering Gyatso Bhutia
19. Samdup Bhutia*, Norden Tsering Bhutia
20. Krishna Prasad Dahal*
21. Rajiva Shanker Shresta
22. Ram Chandra Mundra*, John Karthak*, Narayan Bhakta Shrestha
23. Punya Prasad Poudyal*, Indra Bahadur Subba II, Wang Dorjee Bhutia*
24. Norchen Lucksom*
25. Hem Narsingh Shakyavansh
26. Topay Bhutia*
27. Indra Bahadur Subba*
28. Badri Nath Pradhan
29. Dup Tsering Bhutia*
30. Murali Dhar Agarwal*
31. Garja Man Subba*
32. Hem Singh Pradhan. (Some juniors seen intruded in the photoshoot.)
This batch, as earlier mentioned and things turned out later in our life, had a mine of talents to contribute to the motherland Sikkim even after it became the 22nd State of India. Let us have a look at each one of them. First, in the picture Tanka Ram Sharma from Pakyong, who joined the previous year in class VIII, was the First Gold Medalist for his First Class First in M. Sc. (Zoology) from the first batch of students to pass outright from the scratch - Pre University to Post Graduation from Darjeeling Government College under the aegis of the North Bengal University established in 1963.
Bhakta Bahadur Pradhan* was a good sportsman and was among those friends viz., Surendra Kumar Rai, Dev Prasad Khati* alias Sachin* and Shanti Kumar Pradhan*, who left school early for some technical course and join the Sikkim Nationalised Transport (SNT), if I remember correctly.
Gyan Bahadur Chettri, good in football and running, had left to complete his schooling from Kumudini Homes Kalimpong and was in touch with me after reading my earlier TNA articles in 2014. He came from Bhusuk and is settled down at Naya Bazar Pakyong.
Topgay Bhutia came from Aritar like two others Tsering Tashi Bhutia and Topay Bhuita* besides me. We all four had a stint early in life to serve in Bhutan. Myself a year before joining the State Civil Service in 1972 as a Game Warden in the Manas Game Sanctuary.
Shyam Sunder Pradhan, a fellow-Rhenockian was a good footballer with his tall figure of robust build. We were together while doing Pre-University at Darjeeling Government College as the first batch of the newly started North Bengal University in 1963. Ongchen Lucksom*, who was with us there, like Durga Prasad Sharma of Temi-Tarku, had left TNA for Birla Vidya Mandir Nainital in 1957. The latter joined me in B.Sc. class there and we were together as room-mates in the Bellevue Hostel in 1964 with Karna Bahadur Chettri*, Tanka Ram Sharma*, Tsering Pintso Bhutia from Ben besides Phurba Lama of Chimney Kurseong. I and Tashi Yangzum from Paljor Namgyal Girls' School had wasted a year waiting for an M.B.B.S. seat having been selected for the Government of India Post Matric Scholarship by the office of the Political Officer at the Residency. We had cleared the competitive written examination and thereafter a Viva-voce test chaired by none other than the then Political Officer himself. Educated outside the State, Ongchen Lucksom*, Dinesh Prasad Pradhan* and Hare Ram Sharma* were selected for the Engineering course that year. Pintso Bhutia was selected for B. Sc. (Agriculture), while Jai Narayan Sharma for B. D. S. (that I had refused, adamant to pursue M.B.B.S. only) become the first Dentist of Sikkim. Nima Dorjee Lama for B.V.Sc. becoming the second Veterinarian after his namesake Nima Lepcha (from Rhenock, a classmate of my Thulo Mama Bhishma Pratap Pradhan*). Pintso became the third Agriculture graduate after my brother Ramesh Kumar Pradhan, pioneer tissue culturist and Dr. Bhim Singh Basnet*, the first academic doctorate in Sikkim.
Nar Bahadur Tamang completed a degree Arts course from Darjeeling Government College and served the State Trading Corporation of Sikkim after teaching in Tashi Namgyal Senior Secondary School for some time. Pintso Bhutia to become Secretary Agriculture and retire. Nima Tamang was in touch with me from Kalimpong after his brother Norden sent a copy of the newspaper Sikkim Express carrying my earlier TNA article in May 2014. Both were with me in the last batch of 20 students to pass out for the School Final Examination 1962.
Dhruba Kumar Pradhan came from Samsing the previous year and left TNA next year like Nima Dorjee Lama and Punya Prasad Sharma*. Punya and Dhrubha graduated from Siliguri College and entered Kathmandu Nepal to seek their fortune. Punya returned to Sikkim in 2001 as a Bamboo Expert of repute after working in the USA, Japan and many Pacific islands/countries. He contributed whatever possible here and ended creating a Bamboo Park in his Bermiok Tokal before he breath his last in October 2012. Dhruba was a great help when I landed in Calcutta for my six-months training with the office of the Accountant General (Central) located in the Old Currency Building during 1973-74. He was then working for the freight clearing and forwarding Nepa Agency at Kanak Building . We met last time in 2016 at Kathmandu retired as United Nations Human Rights Commission official, where Punya also had a stint there before his long American sojourn.
Homnath Sharma* too from Rhenock who served Power Department, retired as a Junior Engineer in his home town and passed away. Behind him in the picture is Dhan Prasad Subba, whom I remember as a short fellow but fast football player and must have moved back to Darjeeling or some other place thereafter. Dilliram Rai from Ranka met later working as the Head Assistant in the Education Department. Nima Dorjee Lama left for his education in Darjeeling, later to become a veterinarian and retire as Director of Animal Husbandry. He wished to rear up pet canine pups but found him ended up to become an organic farmer growing luscious tomatoes here at Sichey. We were good friends in school to teach me bunking the last period of gardening class once.
Indra Kumar Basnet, more popularly known as IK, was once the Jail Superintendent but spent later life in his missionary works. Pratap Singh Subba* worked in the Forest Department and remember to have met him once. Ganesh Kumar Subba* started his career working in the SNT after his graduation and went for training as an Indian Revenue Service Probationer during the Chogyal regime. He was among the first to be inducted in the initial constitution of the IAS cadre for Sikkimand raised to become the Additional Chief Secretary / Development Commissioner. Post-retirement he was the Chairman of the State Election Commission. When I met him in 2012, he had faced renal failure to live the last years of his life under dialysis. Bhimsore Subba* was in our school football team and believe him to be in the Forest Department in his home district. Next is Tsering Tashi Bhutia* whom I met once when he was serving as the Superintendent of Police at Pakyong. Legpal* from Lachen was a Government Contractor at Gangtok when I met last once. Next to him is Indra Bahadur Subba II who left school in the following year. Tsering Gyatso Bhutia left to complete his schooling at Geyzing and retired as a Major in the Indian Army. Samdup Tsering* with Norden Tsering to his next was the trio with Legpal from our class to perform Lama Dance whenever there was a such an occasion, particularly during Worship of the Snowy Range (now popularly known as Pang-lhab-sol) at Tsukhlakhang Monastery. Further, Norden Tsering was the recipient of the National Award Padma Shri for his works on the Dictionary in Sikkimese Language, perhaps. Krishna Prasad Dahal* worked as a teacher in government his back home after a stint in the Private Estate Office of the Chogyal. Standing behind is none other than this author himself who needs no introduction for his checkered career, I suppose, and retired as a Member of the State Planning Commission after some 35 years of service. Ram Chandra Mundra* was a good runner in school and Government Contractor based in the capital. He chiselled his left heel once while learning the craft Previous Tashiling Secretariat Building and M. L. A. Hostel are known to be among his earliest works here. John Karthak was later working in the Health Department, if not wrong. Narayan Bhakta Shrestha was from Taplejung Nepal and nothing is known except that he was good in Mathematics in our class. Punya* has already been mentioned above and need not repeat it here. Norchen Lucksum* from Pakyong was the first to be trained in the Toklai Tea Institute, Jorhat Assam and worked in the newly established Temi Tea Garden but was moved out to serve as the first such designated post of Officer on Special Duty in the Education Department. I could not recognize the person next to him. Murali DharAgrawal* completed his schooling at Namchi and settled down in Kolkata. He was the first to operate freight service in the name and style of Crown Transport in the 1970s. A good friend as a fellow last bencher to enjoy freshly picked peach from the garden of my residence Happy Valley at Development Area, where the first 8-Unit Building is located. Fond memories as myself were among the first occupants to spend a major part of my career/life there!
Seen in the last row from left is Hem Narsingh Shakyavansh from Rongli. He went back to Nepal to be a successful medical professional at Lalitpur. Indra Bahadur Subba represented Geyzing constituency in the West District in the Second Assembly during the year 1979-84. He was a Cabinet Minister in the first Government formed by Nar Bahadur Bhandari besides once as Chairman State Trading Corporation of Sikkim as well. Badri Narayan Pradhan is a devout follower of a Hindu religious group since early life and had long innings in the Finance Department. The next two are not from our class as the one to my left and are juniors intruded in our photo session. Dup Tsering* from Pakyong was serving the Police Department but had a short life as he seems to be the first from this batch we lost early. Last but not least is Garja Man Subba* with robust health was a good defender in our school football team. He too was from West Sikkim we lost after Dup Tsering, and Krishna Prasad Dahal, perhaps. The latest to pass away recently on October 1 to fall victim to the dreaded virus was Bhakta Bahadur Pradhan.
Life is thus a drama where each one of us destined to play the role assigned and make an exit after a designated time-frame – some have a very small role while others a little more to experience the lot as allotted with purpose known best to the Almighty alone! We are to be happy on whatever falls in our share, fair enough – that too to pass through in due course of events. Let peace prevail to all – here and there.
Around 2800 words and reading time 10 minutes
Disclaimer: This is the 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