Sunday, February 24, 2013

State Level National Integration Camp concludes at Singtam

Singtam, February 24: The State Level National Integration Camp concluded at Singtam Community Hall today. The week-long camp (February 18-24) was organised by Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan Sikkim and sponsored by Ministry of Youth Affair and Sports, Government of India. More than 150 participants from seven states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and the host state of Sikkim had participated in the camp.
Kalpana Moktan, Upadhakshya Zilla Panchayat (East) was the Chief Guest of the day. The other distinguished guests of the day included Sukhdev Singh, Zonal Director, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan Sikkim, Mohan Pradhan ‘Neeraj’, Sansthapak Singtam Basibiyalo, Nima Bhutia, Social Secretary (SMTWA), Lhamu Subba and Rekha Chettri (SPARK NGO, Singtam), Dilip Sharma, accountant NYK, Gangtok, volunteers of NYK, Gangtok and others.
Praveen Pradhan, President SPARK NGO cum Program Coordinator of the week-long camp was the host of the day. Couple of hour long program started with the lightening of the lamp by the distinguished guests followed by the welcome speech by Puran Chettri, Camp In-charge. Chettri in his speech appreciated the positive approach of the participants and encouraged them to utilize it in a better way. He further said everyone should take home the positive thoughts from the camp. Sukhdev Singh too emphasized that participants should always have a positive approach in life and each one should know their responsibility in days to come.
Kalpana Moktan, Upadhakshya Zilla Panchayat (East), the chief guest of the day in her speech spoked about the responsibility and duties of the youth. Mokhtan also informed the gathering regarding the different schemes started by the state government of Sikkim for the development of the youths of the state.
The week-long camp that was started on February 18 had Cultural exchange programes, Know India Quiz and talent shows between different participating states. Lectures and interaction programmes was also held that had many distinguished lecturers from the state. The lecturers included Dr. AB Karki, Additional DG (Development), Gangtok, Issac Mukhya, Retd. AD HRDD, CP Giri, Retd. DGP cum Home Secretary, Nagaland, PT Sherpa, Retd. Regional Manager, SBI, RP Poudhyal, PGT Singtam SSS, Uttam Chettri, deputy director, DESME and also a national youth awardee, Devendra Gurung and Pranita Gurung from Young Energetic Society, a NGO from Gangtok. Apart from that Gangtok Darshan, a tour to Gangtok was organised for the participants

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cucumis metuliferus or the horned cucumber from Kahamdong-Singtam.

Cucumis metuliferus, orginally from Africa is consumed for juice and salad. The pecuilarity of this species lies inside the friut as it contains large numbers of seeds. This fruit is more popular for its horn and is also known as African horned cucumber. 
This particular species was collected from Khamdong-Singtam.

Photo presentation of hindi film ROMEO IN SIKKIM by Shital Pradhan

ROMEO IN SIKKIM was a hindi film released in 1975. Shyam Pradhan, the lead actor from Gangtok, Sikkim through this film became the first nepali origin to do a lead role in a hindi film. The film is today remembered for its evergreen song "Jiska Sapna" by Mukesh.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dalapchand SS’s Sushil Rai among 8 to be featured at ZeeQ's Teenovation TV series

Sushil Rai with Diwakar Basnet

It was indeed a matter of pride that eight students from eight different schools from different part of Sikkim was selected to be part of new television series “Teenovation” to be telecast on ZeeQ!, the edutainment channel of Zee TV, very soon.
The eight schools included Enchey SSS, Sang SSS, Middle Camp SS, East Point SSS, Singtam, Dalapchand SS, Temi SSS, Yuksam SSS and Lingchoom SS. The highlight of the show will be the efforts put on by these innovative students in the process of recycling and reuse of waste and plastic materials.
I am happy to find Sushil Rai, my student from Dalapchand SS among the list of the selected students. This little wonder kid now studying at Calss VIII was also part of the Bee Fest Top 12 Innovative finalist last year representing Dalapchand SS among the 150 plus schools from different part of Sikkim.
On this joyous occasion, I would like to thank Diwakar Basnet (Chief Learning Officer, 24 Hours Inspired) and the person behind the success of our Sikkim’s students at this “Teenovation”. 

Reminisce of a war hero


(This article is more like a grandfather telling a story to his grandson. The story which is not found in the books but borrowed from the pages of the past. It is a story of a grand old man from Bom Busty, Kalimpong, a retired Gurkha soldier, a World War II veteran, a father, a grandfather and a great grandfather. This is the story of late Rudramani Pradhan, who passed away on November 26, 2006. The stories were recorded on my two days stay with him at Kalimpong Hospital.)

Being a grandson to a legendary Gorkha soldier was of little importance to me until I found out that he himself was a legend of his own. I was his grandson from his second daughter, settled at Singtam, Sikkim. It was for two days every year on Dussehra we would visit aja-aji (Grandfather and Grandmother in Newari Language) out at Bom Busty, Kalimpong. Those early days telephone were not heard off and occasionally sending letters by Aja to my mother was the only means of contact between us. Ever since my childhood we used to hear him speak of his days in Burma during the Second World War. He would never get tired sharing his experience but as other young kids I would prefer playing with children of my age rather than take pleasure in listening to his words.

It was just a week before his passing away I had an opportunity to spend two days in Government Hospital, Kalimpong with aja. He was undergoing treatment for kidney and heart ailment that had gone worse. When in the evening the gate of the small hall leading to the private cabins in the hospital were locked aja lying in his bed wanted me to note down a few anecdotes from his past. He wanted me to write down his words since he felt there were many unknown facts related to Kalimpong, Sikkim and his days as a 13 Gorkha Rifles soldier that should be documented before it is gone. He told me it was only a rough sketch and more information was to be added after he recovered from his illness. But that never happened. Today when aja is no more I regret not getting in touch with him the way that happened during my two day stay at Kalimpong hospital. There were on a few occasions I found his words sounded more of myths rather than true facts. But it is for sure myths are crucial for future findings. Two nights passed by in a whisker for us. We never knew when the wheel of the clock was moving on. In the day time he had visitors and in between hours he would take a small snip of sleep.

His anecdotes were interesting and too good to pay attention on. I had a wonderful time listening to the shivering voice of my 84 year old aja. He asked me whether I knew how the names of places like Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Kurseong got down. Though I had gone through a few books about their name bearing but still I wanted to hear from aja what he had heard of it. He gave me three straight answers; Darjeeling was named after Dorjee Lama, Kalimpong named after Kalu Lama and Kurseong named after Kuerchok Lama Kagatey. I let him speak without interrupting him. He then put his rugged skinned fingers around his forehead and said Dr. Graham’s house was constructed from the 80 pots of gold found during the digging of the site. Is it…I asked? I was taken by surprise. During those days one tola of gold cost around eighteen rupees, he further added. These stories are not supported by any contractual evidence but I had gone beyond the piercing eyes of the aging aja that had witnessed eight decades of turnover of a small outworn Kalimpong to one of the beautiful hill stations in India.

Born in 1924 at Kalimpong to Buddhi Narayan Pradhan and Harka Maya Pradhan and popularly known as “aja” to everyone in Bom Busty, Rudra Mani Pradhan’s first claim to fame was when he joined to then still famous Gorkha regiment in 1942. He was barely 19 years old when he joined 13 Gorkha Regiment also called 13 GR. His life took a change over till he retired more than two decades later. He remembered when in his days at Rangoon, the capital of Burma now Myanmar during the Second World War, he had come across a young and energetic Ganju Lama. Though both of them were in different Gorkha regiment aja still recollected sharing few words with the maestro Ganju Lama, who later on went to win the coveted Victoria Cross, in the same war for his daredevil bravery.

Another memorable incident in his staying out at Rangoon was meeting a young aircraft pilot from Sikkim. The crown prince of Sikkim was fighting for British army in the war. Aja talked of a simple, down to earth persona of the Crown Prince who was around 24 years old, a nice centre forward football player and was more comfortable mingling with the army men in lower ranks as compared to higher officials. Aja narrated an incident he had heard on the battle front about the Crown Prince at a small remote village in Sikkim. It was in one of the hunting sessions along the jungle of Mamring near Rongli. The Crown Prince had got tired from long hours of hunting when he came across a small rutted hut that looked more of a pig sty. An old woman who happened to be of a lower caste was frying corn of maize. Finding a royal guest in his small hut she offered him a torn mat made from straw, some fruits and fried maize corn. The Crown Prince ate the offerings and before leaving the place took out a small notebook and asked her name. The old woman was surprised and scared, with her quivering voice uttering her name. The Prince noted down her name and went off. Later on it was informed to the old woman that her entire revenue dues towards Royal Palace were pardoned. Such was the quality of the Crown Prince told aja. In another incident a high officer in the Royal army was found guilty of beating up a poor peasant for unknown reasons. The officer was summoned to the Durbar and the Crown Prince himself ordered the officer to take off his clothes and punished him with 50 strikes on his back with a whip.

It was during aja’s change shift work at Rangoon Petrol Pump, it was learnt that the Crown Prince of Sikkim had a fatal air crash and died when he was taking off in his aircraft. The sudden death of the Crown Prince created a furor among the many Gurkha soldiers. Aja went on to say there were ten white soldiers and ten 13 Gorkha Rifle soldiers (that had 3 soldier from Nepal and 7 from Darjeeling districts and Sikkim) including himself who were selected to carry the dead body of the Crown Prince to Sikkim. The dead body of the Crown Prince reached Dum-Dum airport by a direct army plane from Rangoon. A special bogie of a train was awaiting them at Calcutta that made the trip till Siliguri, mussed aja in his soft voice. They had reached Siliguri around 3.30 pm. A large crowd along with royal families, high dignitaries and others including the royal family of Kalimpong Raja S.T. Dorjee was at the railway station to receive the dead body of the Crown Prince. The Choygal (King of Sikkim) was not present but his sons were there at Siliguri. Seven Sikkim Nationalised Transport (known popularly as SNT) buses were brought. SNT buses were then started. The corpse of the dead Crown Prince was kept in Deorali Gompa (monastery) where no one was allowed to have the last look at the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince was cremated at Deorali and a chorten (monument) was also constructed in his name. Seven day national mourning was observed in Sikkim. After staying for ten days in Sikkim, aja and his fellow regiments returned to Rangoon.

After his tenure at Rangoon, 13 Gorkha Rifles moved to different countries of Thailand, Java, Hong Kong, Italy and other European countries. In one such incident in Italy the 13 Gorkha Rifles army men were invited to a feast in a local village. It was believed that the men from mountains eat grass and in the village aja and his fellow army men found radish along with leaf and few local green grasses in the meal. Aja chuckled at me and added they had no choice other than to eat it raw. Life on the war fronts was very difficult. The soldiers were deprived of water for days and on a few occasions they even had to chew their sweated army leather shoes to quench their thirst, he recollected.

When asked about the most beautiful country he had visited, he would reply without a second thought…its Greenland. When asked why it is named so he told me Greenland is an island with snow covered mountains and large ocean everywhere. When the ray of the sun first touches the water the green colour is reflected. Such that the green reflection is reflected. So it is called Greenland, he grinned.

I was about to hear one of a rare incidents though never recorded in pages of history from aja, he told me it was in 14th August, 1947 at Town Hall, Kalimpong a Pakistani flag was hoisted just to find in the evening that the districts of Darjeeling was not part of Pakistan but it belonged to India. Same incident happened in other places of Darjeeling and Kurseong. So the next day that was on 15th of August an Indian tri colour flag was hoisted. It was a huge confusion then, said aja. He added though he never saw the Pakistani flag being flying at Town Hall but he had heard it, on that day he was at Bom Busty. He used to have a nice collection of George V and George VI coins but after Independence rumour ran high that British coins would remain invalid so one day he threw away a bag of old British coins on the maize field just to find that none of them was to be found the next day around. Aja regretted he should not have done it.

In his later years aja remembered being at Gangtok during the pro-democracy movement in Sikkim when he was caught along with thousands of other protestors and kept captive at Palzor Stadium. He persisted that he belonged from Kalimpong but the CRPF (Central Reserve Protection Force) were not interested in his words, they replied all Nepalese are to be kept captive wherever you belong to. For 15 days protestors were not allowed to move from Palzor Stadium. The entire day they had to chant “long live Indira Gandhi”. After democracy was restored in Sikkim, every one was freed.

Interestingly aja told me was about the famous brotherhood treaty ‘paper’ signed between Lepcha and Bhutia. He said till mid 80s he had heard the original document was kept in “private office” at Gangtok. It is noteworthy that there is nowhere about the document of the famous treaty and where this “private office” is situated at Gangtok sounds pretty exciting.

Married to Hiramaya Pradhan, he had two sons and five daughters and a dozen grandchildren and great grandchildren. He had many anecdotes to be written but that ended along with him. What I collected from him in two days is merely a small part of that lost knowledge house. Aja wanted me to write a small story of his experience. Though his wish gets unfulfilled, I place here what he told me as he wanted these anecdotes to be heard by others too.