It is difficult for anyone to believe his ears that Sunita and Uday are no more and both have left us together!
They were coming to Gangtok as it had been usual for past several months to take care of their ancestral properties with issues never settled down and a new problem cropped up as soon as one was settled. Uday was seen running from pillar to post furnishing documents and seeking solution to establish the rightful ownership.
It was so kind of Sunita to insist us to stay together at her sister Anita’s place so that both could take care of Ranjana convalescing after the eye surgery in the Siliguri Lion’s Netralaya in March. Otherwise, it was the retiring month for Uday whom I had said that they should be together in this important phase of life. Instead he said it would not make them any difference as both would keep in touch with each other over their mobile phones whenever they felt like. It was only because of Sunita, Anita could have this rare opportunity - for us too - otherwise not possible for her as both she and Balkrishna were busy completing fast constructing their new house where they were to shift around the same time while attending to their respective work as well. Sunita had then told Ranjana that she was tired of coming to Gangtok again and again but then some problem crops up and they are needed here again! Often she used to tell Anita that one should do all the good things possible well in time, otherwise, who knows when one is picked up like the chick lifted by the crow!
Sunita had gone to Darjeeling thereafter just the previous week as some new tenants were coming and they had to be there but both had to be here again to get their land surveyed. I had then admired Uday for his energy always running after and chasing files and in one single day that week he had covered Government offices right at the top of the capital hill, then the Secretariat and again the District Collectorate trying to understand why it was taking unusual delay in settling the matter even after three years their land at Rangpo was to be acquired.
So fond of our house at Rhenock that Uday once retired was to help us renovating staying there with us together.
It was not to be so and now none to call us every other day to enquire about.
He taught for a while in 1974 in the Municipal High School at Darjeeling and in the Nagari Farm Junior High School before joining the Himul, Himalayan Milk Union Limited, an Amul pattern West Bengal Government undertaking, where he served for 38 years till a fortnight ago before this tragic death. Uday used to give talks on agriculture and rural life over the All India Radio Kurseong and was also associated with the State Council for Science and Technology for Sikkim in disseminating his immense knowledge on awareness programmes to rural populace.
Not only by his training or profession but by nature itself Uday was very friendly, simple and mild that gained him popularity through the cross section of the society. With the religious bent of mind that his wife Sunita too complimented in true manner akin to the Hindu culture and tradition, they both took part in social functions and gatherings religiously. Kind hearted they both were and made it part of their life to devote to the needy with fervour whenever an opportunity came across to them.
Associated with the activities of the Karuna Devi Smarak Dharmarth Guthi from the very beginning, he was a great support to their efforts - be it organizing the Sahasrachandradarshanam or Maharatharohan or Jankwa of Late Jai Shanker Lall Shresta and Indira Shresta in 2000, promoting and reaching its publications to the mass, not only raising life membership subscriptions in the Uday Bachau Abhiyan we started since 2003 in a drive to save the 1937 circa Nepali literary quarterly Uday published from Varanasi but also by contributing his own writings and coaxing and urging others also to join in the noble cause. He did not get to see the Uday Smriti Ank commemorating the Birth Centenary of the Founder Editor Kashi Bahadur Shrestha with his latest and the last poem Kashibahadur ra Uday (read it in our Literature /भाषा-साहित्य) dedicated and published in it but writer Gopi Chandra Pradhan was kind enough to bring a copy and get it read out by nephew Pravin Pradhan in a befitting tribute to the departed amidst the mourners just before the departed were taken for their last journey. Before this, a neighbour bade farewell to the departed followed by Vedic hymns recited by Khush Narayan Pradhan and his friend.
It was his magnanimity that he mentions in his first book Laxmi (Nirman Prakashan 2009 Gangtok) that he owed much to this Karuna Devi Smarak Dharmarth Guthi for his articles finding space in their publication Vikasko Goreto : Grameen Proudyogiki (2000) that he would never forget the inspiration thus received. He again writes in his second book Rudraksh (Sri Satya Sai Pustak ani Prakashan Guthi 2010 Darjeeling) he shall ever remain grateful to the Karuna Devi Smarak Dharmarth Guthi, Jaisri, Rhenock for the plenty of vim, zeal and vigour, encouragement and inspiration received for writing books.
Another field he was actively associated was the Study Circle, a forum that meet every Wednesday in the residence of Kamal Chandra Rai at Hari Das Hatta to discuss on materials prepared on different topics given beforehand based on research and study. Rudraksh was an outcome of such an effort that he owed to them.
It was only last year that Uday was felicitated by the Hari Das Hatta Sudhar Samiti on their Golden Jubilee for the social services done by him and for the additional piece of land donated for the construction of the Community Hall. Here his last rites, Antyesti Kriya, was performed that was attended a many relatives, friends and well-wishers in spite of the inclement unusual windy and rainy weather on 28 April 2012. Condolence Messages conveyed by the Akhil Bharatiya Newar Sangthan and Nepali Sahitya Sammelan, Darjeeling were read out by the officials/representatives from the social and literary organizations there.
He had just retired and handed over the charge on Monday 2 April 2012 and signed his papers for the retirement benefits from the headquarters at Matigara near Siliguri on Monday 9 April 2012 before the untimely death struck on the fateful Monday 16 April 2012 when the Mahindra Max jeep he was travelling with his wife Sunita from Darjeeling to Gangtok plunged into the river Teesta near the Lepcha Jhora bridge between Teesta and Melli along the National Highway 31A.
Sunita, the eldest of my three sisters, was born to Late Jai Shanker Lall Shresta and Indira Shresta on June 24, 1956 at Rhenock, Sikkim. After initial studies in the Government Junior High School there, she did her schooling at St. Philomena High School at Kalimpong. Being the eldest to be with the parents, she had seen much ups and downs of the life family passed through together. She was a big support to all of us and more so afterwards. She was married to Uday on the Akshaya Tritiya day 1980 and they were blessed with a son, Nilabh alias Guddu, on 2 February 1982.
A dedicated home-maker, Sunita was known amongst their relatives, friends and neighbours for her hospitality served with lavish spread of culinary delights. Both possessed a short memory and they never spoke ill of others however harsh and rude the people had been to them. Instead they would take the blame upon themselves believing it to be so written in their fate. Both were so cheerful that glow on the face we always found. She had acquired thorough knowledge of our custom and tradition including various aspects of our culture and of different rites and rituals. She was simple natured and religious minded to the core of her heart like her husband and devoted so much that the death too did not dare to part them. In the Bhajan session held in their house the previous Friday, she was even heard telling her neighbours that one has to go alone from this world and wished it could be together. Lucky she was that God heard her wish.
Had any one of them survived, it would have been difficult rather not possible for one to survive without the other – so deep was their love for each other as our octogenarian mother puts it in grief!
They had assumed the name ‘Sunitaday’ while writing letters to us and had named the house they constructed next to the ancestral one as ‘Shubhsri’- the auspicious beginning.
They are there in their heavenly abode. Only their memories are now left with us.
May the Departed Souls rest in eternal peace!