Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SIBA NARAYAN PRADHAN: LEGACY OF THE GRAND OLD MAN OF RONGLI

{I started writing columns in newspapers with an article on my grandfather some twelve years back and today when I flip over the pages of bygone days, I do see his intuition upon me in things which other people little care about. This article is my tribute to my grandfather, for what I am today!!]
The rain failed to mar the funeral procession of my grandfather at Rongli, his birth-place. Thirteen days passed by and since last two weeks it is a clear weather that has helped his relatives and well-wishers to give their last visit to offer prayers at his residence. I do notice a silence, emptiness around at my grandfather’s residence. Despite the moving crowds, his absence is felt. His commanding voice and the way he wanted his family members to unite in every occasion echoes in my small mind.
Siba Narayan Pradhan, more popular as Sibay Gurubau was couple of month short for his ninety birthday when he passed away, the oldest person in Rongli. A former school Headmaster, a silk route trader, official at GREF and a passionate photographer who had his Photography business till few years back. I have had heard about his hunting tales and on occasion he even accompanied the convoy of Prince of Sikkim when he used to visit the Rongli forest for hunting.
I had on numerous occasion listened to his anecdotes and with each narrative accounts it was more off a building up sequences of the old days of this region. He, despite in the ninth decades of his life wanted to live further, he wasn’t in a hurry to leave this land. It was his ill health that outshined his willingness to be among us.
Siba Narayan Pradhan did his early schooling at Middle English School, Rongli where he latter on became the Headmaster or the Head Sir as it was known then. It was during his term as Head Sir, the Political Officer of Sikkim had visited the school. My grandfather proudly used to say Political officer had presented Rs. 10 to him for his work towards the school.
My grandfather had said his monthly salary as a Headmaster was than Rs. 10 while annual grant for the school was Rs. 5 provided by the Durbar. He tried his best to increase the salary but when the salary reached Rs. 20, he was replaced by a new Headmaster. Middle English School was changed into Maharaj Kumari Pema Tseden Government Primary School towards the early 1950s and after mid 70s known as Rongli JHS.
He left school to join the Silk Route trading. He would sell cottons, salts, oranges, cardamoms, zingers at Yatung, the Indo- China border trade mart then. In return, he would get large coins and other necessary commodities. My grandfather had told me the coins were heavy and had to be put on clothes and wrapped around the back. After returning back to Rongli, he used to find redness around his swollen body. It usually took two days to reach Yatung from Rongli.  When the trade route came to an abrupt end after the Indo – China war in 1962, my grandfather had to look for new monetary option to support his family. For a certain period he also became a supervisor at GREF.
Vivid to his memory was the legendary landslide of 1968 that caused havoc at the Himalayan regions and the small hamlet of Rongli was also not left untouched. He had shared his memories with me when Gyalmo Hope Cooke had brought foods, water and salts at Rongli that was dropped from a helicopter.
I still remember him talk of his day when he used to walk distances to Kupup, Gnathang, Pakyong for photography. He was into photography business for a long time, till the late 80s where his ill health made him give up his business to his younger son. But he never used to get tired of talking about photography. It was for his long service towards photography business he was also known as ‘Photographer Aja’ around and beyond Rongli.
Today, when he is no more his legacy remains to speak the vacant space he has created in the society. He has left behind a family lineage of 85 family members that includes wife, sons, daughters, grand-sons, grand-daughters and great grand-sons. It has always been a proud moment to me, when I am referred as a photographer’s grandson!!