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Sunday, Aug 09, 2020 15:30 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Aug 09, 2020 09:55 [IST]

HIMALAYANREVIEW

Me, my Dhaba and his world of Wynberg – Allen School

Shital Pradhan
Today, he is remembered as Sikkim’s first COVID-19 death patient. Obituaries poured from different section of the societies including the ‘who is who’ of Sikkim. For many of his old students, not able to attend their favourite teacher’s last walk remains the most unfortunate scenario in their life. He was a highly respected individual, much appreciated for his simpleton lifestyle who dedicated his life in teaching profession. Without doubt, Rongli has lost one of her proud son.
My Dhaba (my father’s elder brother), Ghanashyam Pradhan, lovingly called ‘GS Sir’, by one and all was a retired former Headmaster of Phadamchen SSS. An educationist with vibrant thoughts that was shown in his teaching days had been the trademark of his more than two decade long illustrious profession. He enjoyed his retire life at Rongli, his birthplace with his wife, two sons (Praveen Pradhan and Pranay Pradhan) and his grandchildren; also contributing in certain social gatherings. His elder daughter (Ambika Pradhan) works as a nurse at New STNM Hospital at Sokaythang and is based on Gangtok.
Dhaba had just celebrated his 69th birthday this July 1st. It was on July 24th, I had my last mobile conversation with him; he was not keeping well. He was having mild fever and dysentery. Next morning, news came that he was taken to RongliPHC. He was on IV drips the entire day. Later late evening, we were informed Dhaba has been diagnosed with symptoms of Covid-19 and was referred to New STNM, the very night. Everything happened all of a sudden; next morning we heard the sad update that Dhaba breathed his last on the morning of July 26th, 2020. We, the family members are still in complete disbelief that he is no more with us.
Dhaba was a jovial person, always full of life. He was born to Late Siba Narayan Pradhan and Late Nirlata Pradhan and the eldest of the ten brothers and sisters. A complete family man, he was always fond of his family, his brothers, sisters, nephews and others.
He did his early schooling at KumariPemaTsedeun Middle English School, Rongli. Ghanashyam Pradhan was among the first 8 students to have got a Sikkim State scholarship to study outside Independent Sikkim. He joined Wynberg-Allen School at Mussoorie. Some students to join Wynberg-Allen School in the early 60s included, MingmaBhutia, TejRasaily, GopalRai, late Janak Kumar Chettri and others. His junior was PDRai, former MP from Sikkim.
But at any time, if one mentioned him about his staying at Wynberg-Allen School, he never made a gimmick in sharing off his best years of his life. I had always admired the English ascent and the fluency he had and without doubt all thank to Wynberg-Allen School, those teachers, friends and to that atmosphere for it.
Vivid to my memory, in November 2nd 2009, Mr.&Mrs.Pakianathan and Mr.&Mrs. Firth (very sad to hear him pass away few months back) teachers from Wynberg-Allen School had visited Sikkim and met my Dhaba and couple of other Sikkimese students of old days. I had requested my Dhaba to be part of that epic re-union that happened after forty years, to which he gladly agreed. It was me, Dhaba and Dhama and an unexpected aura of yesteryears.
The meet was held at Hotel Tibet, Gangtok; when the teachers moved into the Hotel, Dhaba walked towards them. He introduced himself and they hug each other. Watching both of them hug was something you don’t often come across. A smart and healthier Pakianathan teasing his student using sticks to walk was an interesting matter of laugh that still revolves around my memory.
Mr.Pakianathan would talk “Oh! Ganashyam”, in his UK ascent he was a nice student, a leader of a Gardening Club and a sports enthusiast, in reply Dhaba added what I am today is all due to Mr.Pakianathan’s lesson of mathematics and his morals. Mrs.Pakianathan, Dhaba’s social study passed on a smile whereas Mr. Firth too added his views on Dhaba in his couple of year’s stint as a teacher at Wynberg-Allen School. They talked about those days, those students, those colleagues. 
All of a sudden the topic of conversation shifted to “Gundruk”, yes you heard me right and Mr.Pakianathan recollected his memories of Gundruk, which he in his own words told “He (Dhaba) brought me a sack of Gundruk from Sikkim once and it was Gundruk all the week till it was finished” and we all laughed.
I was watching everything as one watch over in a silver screen, I could see the enthusiasm and shine in Dhaba’s face and I could read his mind as he was preparing to come out with every thought possible of those days to make the noon-time more momentous. He also had brought along with him old Wynberg-Allen School day’s photographs from his album that had the groups of Sikkim. He showed it to Mr. Firth, and he was able to identify few of them.
That day was one such big occasion where I saw different emotion on my Dhaba’s face. The excitement of exchanging words with former teachers was nothing more than a fantasy, he later told me. He had then told me, let alone visiting Mussoorie, they came all the way from UK to meet us was like angel coming themselves to bless you.
Dhaba had few years back shown me a letter from Mr. LO Edwards (He too passed away this year), his old Headmaster at Wynberg-Allen School. His former Headmaster had written – It was good to know you choose to serve as a teacher, where you can serve and touch many lives, even though the remuneration is paltry. My Dhaba was very touched with his words.
With the advent of technology and my interest in blog, I used to share Dhaba’s anecdotes with rest of the world. This was the medium where Dhaba’s friends from Wynberg - Allen days contacted me and off-lately few of his good old friends were in contact with him. Just few days before his passing away, Kanwaljit Singh Narula, his friend from Bangkok had contacted him. I felt it very hard to pass-on the message that his school friend with whom he had talked few days back after more than 50 years was no more.
After my Dhaba’s sad demise, his condolences call, whatsapp messages and emails from his Wynberg friends has not stopped. As we do, they too do miss their dear friend, ‘’very much”!!

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Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi