I still remember RB Subba, Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource Development Department of Sikkim during his recently concluded Teacher’s Day speech at Chintan Bhawan, Gangtok said “…..this year is a sad one as one of my teacher passed away who had taught me at my elementary classes. A teacher with whom I fought against and defeated him in his last political battle. He was none other than NB Bhandari, former Chief Minister of Sikkim”.
Nar Bahadhur Bhandari, three times Chief Minister of Sikkim passed away two days before my 39th birthday day at New Delhi (July 16, 2017) after prolonged illness. I was in shock as most of the Sikkimese and nepali speaking population, it was just few weeks back a letter written by Mr. Bhandari to Bhim Rawat, President Press Club of Sikkim had surfaced in the Social Media regarding his words of ongoing Gorkhaland issue. It seemed he would come back to support the movement of the Gorkhaland.
Getting back to my childhood, I don’t remember the year exactly, it could be the late 80s. But I do some-how recall it was his birthday, birthday celebration party of Mr. Bhandari, the then Chief Minister of Sikkim. I had accompanied my father at the party along with his Hospital staff some-where at Gangtok. I saw people everywhere as I could move my eyes around. Happy celebration mood across and I had never seen such a huge gatherings before. People were standing in a queue; offering khadas to HIM; I too was among them looking around HIS smiling face waiting for my turn.
I was given a khada by my father. As I was about to offer my khada, HE instead - surprised me by putting my khada around my neck. HE asked an envelope (I still remember it was a brown envelope) to a person nearby and handed over me and said ‘mithai khanu’. I never knew what to do with it and moving few steps further, I went near a corner and looked inside. It was a hundred rupees note of five. I was very happy almost in a cloud nine. With joy around, returning back home I just recalled when will I visit him again in his next birthday!
The year passed by and the D-day arrived. It was the birthday of the Chief Minister of Sikkim and Bua was their again to accompany me to the party. As the previous year, my visit was nothing but the expectation of that brown envelope – which to be very frank and with sadness I did not received nor did I saw anyone near HIM. Though there was unhappiness around my face and my heart; yet the charishma of the party was something to be seen. I had never come across such celebrations since ages now. In between, many years later I learned about him more from my mother. I was told HE was a teacher at Rongli before joining the politics; he and his family used to stay in a rented room at Aja’s place. Even today when I enter THAT room, I can feel the aura of their living.
In my growing years, I was always fond of hobbies and one such hobby was an autograph collection. In 2003, despite little hope, I wrote to few of the leaders of Sikkim for an autograph and to my surprise I received two letters within some times, one from BB Goorong, the shortest reigned CM of Sikkim and from Mr. Bhandari. My second meeting with HIM was few years back at STNM Hospital, Gangtok. My father was kept at one of the private wards of STNM Hospital. I heard Bhandari Sir was admitted the next ward. I wanted to meet him but I was hesitant.
Breaking my hesitant, I went inside the room. I greeted Namaste and went near HIM, there were four people around and HE too greeted me with folded hands. Bhai lai chinnu sakinah, he told. I replied I am the grandson of Siba Narayan Pradhan from Rongli. CB (Siba) Gurubau, he said to which I nodded. He told me about his days at Rongli and his bonding with aja. As I was talking with HIM, a man came and asked HIM his identity card for the formalities of the discharge from the hospital.
HE handed over a card. A little later that man returned back claiming the nurse wanted a voter card and no other card. HE laughed at that man’s word and went on to say, this is a Member of Parliament Identity Card that your Chief Minister also does not have. Smiling back he gave his voter card to that person. I too bid farewell, he told me to introduce myself whenever I come across HIM.
That was Nar Bahadhur Bhandari, three times Chief Minister of Sikkim, one of the longest serving Chief Minister in India. During the first death anniversary of my grandmother held at our home at Shantinagar, Singtam earlier March, HE had arrived. I did not go near him but clicked his few photographs with Dhaba and others. That was the last time I saw HIM.