His students, his family and even his own old teachers from a Mussoorie school go into mourning, as a dedicated teacher became Sikkim’s first COVID victim
Today, he is remembered as Sikkim’s first COVID-19 patient who died. Obituaries poured from different section of society, 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.
Ghanshyam Pradhan was a highly respected individual, much appreciated for his simpleton lifestyle who dedicated his life to the teaching profession. Without doubt, Rongli(East Sikkim) has lost one of her proud sons.
My Dhaba (my father’s elder brother), Ghanashyam Pradhan, lovingly called ‘GS Sir’, by one and all was a retired former Headmaster of PhadamchenSenior Secondary School.
An educationist with vibrant thoughts that were shown in his teaching days had been the trademark of his more than two-decade-long illustrious career.
He enjoyed his retired life at Rongli, his birthplace with his wife, two sons (Praveen and Pranay) 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 in Gangtok.
Dhaba had just celebrated his 69th birthday this July 1st.
It was on July 24 that I had my last conversation with him over the mobile phone.
He was not keeping well. He was having mild fever and dysentery.
Next morning, the news came that he had been taken to Rongli PHC. 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, that very night.
Everything happened all of a sudden; the next morning we heard the sad news that Dhaba had breathed his last on the morning of July 26. 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.
He did his early schooling at Kumari Pema Tsedeun Middle English School, Rongli. Ghanashyam Pradhan was among the first eight students to have got a Sikkim State scholarship to study outside Independent Sikkim (it was a kingdom then).
He joined Wynberg-Allen School at Mussoorie.
All of a sudden the topic of conversation shifted to “Gundruk”, yes you heard me right and Mr. Pakianathan recollected his memories of Gundruk, a fermented leafy vegetable. As he said: “He (Dhaba) brought me a sack of Gundruk from Sikkim once, and it was Gundruk all the week till it lasted”
Some other students to join Wynberg-Allen School in the early 60s included Mingma Bhutia, Tej Rasaily, Gopal Rai, late Janak Kumar Chettri and others.
His junior was PD Rai, former MP from Sikkim.
But at any time, if one mentioned him about his staying at Wynberg-Allen School, he never lost a chance of sharing the best years of his life.
I had always admired the English accent and the fluency he had and without doubt, it all thanks to Wynberg-Allen School: those teachers, friends and the atmosphere.
Vivid to my memory, in November 2, 2009, Mr. and Mrs. Pakianathan and Mr. and 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 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 a throwback on the 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 hugged each other.
Mr. Pakianathan would address him as “Oh! Ganashyam”, in his UK accent; 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 Studies teacher, passed on a smile, and Mr. Firth too added his views on Dhaba in his couple of years’ stint as a teacher at Wynberg-Allen School.
They talked about those days, those students, those colleagues.
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All of a sudden the topic of conversation shifted to “Gundruk”, yes you heard me right and Mr. Pakianathan recollected his memories of Gundruk, a fermented leafy vegetable. As he said: “He (Dhaba) brought me a sack of Gundruk from Sikkim once, and it was Gundruk all the week till it lasted,” 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 a groups of students from Sikkim. He showed it to Mr. Firth, and he was able to identify a few of them.
That day was one such big occasion where I saw different emotions on my Dhaba’s face.
The excitement of exchanging words with former teachers was nothing less 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 angels themselves coming 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 is good to know you choose to serve as a teacher, where you can serve and touch many lives, even though the remuneration is paltry.”
Dhaba was very touched with his words.
With the advent of technology and my interest in blogging, I used to share Dhaba’s anecdotes with the rest of the world.
After my Dhaba’s sad demise, his condolences calls, whatsapp messages and emails from his Wynberg friends has not stopped. As we do, they too miss their dear friend very much!
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The author is currently a school teacher by profession, though he started off as a journalist. He is a well-known blogger on Sikkim since 2007. He enjoys photography, collecting autographs, stamps, coins, banknotes, and even matchboxes! He plans to set up a museum in his hometown, Singtam, Sikkim, to display his passion https://sikhim.blogspot.com