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Moments of transitioning history…

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Moments of transitioning history…
Ranjit Basnet,75, sits outside his hut in Beldangi-II just an hour before his departure to Kathmandu on July 29, 2012, choosing to get resettled at Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

On the 29th morning of July 2012, the sun was just a nascent orange glow above the eastern horizon when dozens of relatives gathered at septuagenarian Ranjit Chhetri’s hut in Beldangi-II. The purpose of the gathering was to receive blessings from the old man, before they could see him off forever. He was to board the IOM (International Organization for Migration) bus that would carry him to Damak, and then to the Bhadrapur Airport to fly him to Kathmandu.

Like his contemporary friends, Ranjit became a silent onlooker for thousands of fellow-countrymen who departed for various western countries from the refugee camps in Nepal. He had never imagined that one day he would also choose to leave his ramshackle hut that housed him for over two decades.

Ranjit Basnet,75, sits outside his hut in Beldangi-II just an hour before his departure to Kathmandu on July 29, 2012, choosing to get resettled at Cleveland, Ohio, USA (Picture : Vidhyapati Mishra/BNS)

The usual face turned to a stranger for several who had gathered to see him off. Attired in his dark suit and white shirt, he looked young enough with the traditional Nepalese cap studded with two crossed-knife emblem symbolizing the Gorkha warriors. More than two dozen of his relatives and neighbours walked to Runche Chowk to bid good-bye to the legendary fellow. A four-member family of his second son accompanied Ranjit. They were bound to Cleveland, Ohio where the other family members were waiting them to join.

A day before his pre-medical examinations at the IOM, he was busy scanning some of the documents he had carried all the way from his hometown in Lapshibotey, Chirang and had secured them throughout his stay in camp.

“I am not going to carry all that I possess,” explained Ranjit, showing the charter of the first political party – Bhutan State Congress. “This document will go along with me since my father had sacrificed his life for initiating the congress party in Bhutan.”

Two days earlier, he visited an ophthalmologist in Damak and had his eyes examined. Showing the spectacles that he newly purchased, he said, “I bought these glasses from Damak. However, I could not afford a thermo flask that I wish to carry to ease my journey to the United States.” He has been under medication for his chronic asthma since a long time.

Unlike in other days, the Runche Chowk was seen less crowded. Including Ranjit, there were just 29 people to depart for America. Ranjit stood calm and quiet at a corner, just opposite to Armed Police Force (APF) camp, waiting for the IOM bus.

Except for his family members and close relatives, no one knew Ranjit as the only living member of late Mahasur Chhetri, who was packed inside a leather bag and dropped alive into the river Sunkosh. The community was unaware that Ranjit’s resettlement in the west would not only resettle himself and his family, but would also be carrying the history of Nepali-speaking Bhutanese, millions of miles away from them, and might go unrecorded forever!

“I am never happy to move to a completely strange place. My dream to die in Bhutan, where my father ended his life for the common cause, is going to shatter,” Ranjit lamented, a few minutes before he stepped into the IOM bus. Tears trickled down his cheeks as he waved hands to bid farewell to his relatives and neighbors among those spectators. The bus moved away quickly, leaving a cloud of dust behind, aboard the living luminary, Ranjit and the family.

Life history
Ranjit Chhetri was born to his father of unparalleled valor, Mahasur Chhetri, and mother Pabitra in 1936 in Labshibotey of Chirang district. His father, a trusted servant of the first Prime Minister, Jigmi Palden Dorji, was in Bhutan House at Kalimpong, India when a messenger relayed him news about birth of Ranjit in Labshibotey.

Friends and locals received Mahasur, who instantly decided to leave for Bhutan to see the baby boy, at his residence with a formal ceremony to rejoice the birth. The celebrations continued until the child was christened as Ranjit following Hindu traditions on the eleventh day.

“My mother used to tell me that hundreds of locals, dozens of chaprasis and mandals were a part of the naming ceremony which was observed with panche baja, traditional dances and several rounds of gunfire,” Ranjit recalled.

Ranjit was lucky to have an opportunity to get enrolled in a private school in Kalimpong. However, he decided to discontinue his studies from grade six when he was enticed by various facilities that he used to get at the Bhutan House, the official residence of the Dorji family.

According to him, the then prime minister was very unhappy when Ranjit decided to remain completely aloof from his studies. “He wanted me to become a great man like my father and always motivated me towards studies. But, I always tried to ignore his words as I found that regular study was not an easy task to do,” says Ranjit, as he recalls his early days of Kalimpong.

At the age of eight, Ranjit married Pabitra Khadka, who was two years older. The marriage ceremony that lasted almost for a week was regarded as the greatest and most expensive function in Bhutan during that time. The claim for total expenses for the whole ceremony is Nu 9,000 in 1944.

“Many take my marriage as a fairytale,” elaborates he, “There were 84 Damais with seven commanders for panche bajas and over 300 hundred horses during the marriage procession to the girl’s house.” His claim of the extravagant marriage party is itself a dubious description, unlikely to command belief. “The party meal included 1,120 kilogram of rice, 14 goats and one seven-year-old he-buffalo,” claimed he.

Not only the invitees but also the hoipolloi who heard about such a function attended the ceremony fearing that Mahasur would take actions against those who failed to express their presence. Ranjit’s wife, who was welcomed as new bride to Mahasur’s home by a queue of hundreds of women in 1946, passed away three years back leaving him all alone in this world.

Ranjit and his stepmother traveled to India and Nepal the very next day when the then Prime Minister Jigmi Palden Dorji and his coterie packed Mahasur in a leather sack and threw alive into the torrential Sunkosh River early morning of March 8, 1951 accusing him of initiating the formation of Bhutan State Congress. The Bhutanese authority that agreed to bear funeral costs, compensate some losses and return properties seized by the authority, took Mahasur’s family to Bhutan only after 18 months of exile in India. The decision was taken following a negotiation deal between the Prime Minister’s father S.T. Dorji and the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in Kalimpong, being pressurized by the Indian Congress.

Upon his return to Bhutan, Ranjit had to accept a job at the department of forest where he worked for 20 years although his mother and stepmother were not in favor of his taking the job.

(The writer, who has been following the life history of martyr Mahasur Chhetri, can be reached for comments at [email protected])

21 COMMENTS

  1. It is clearly understood that, late Mashur chhetri tried to pass stool in the same plate where he was eating………..I mean in Nepali”KHA ..NAY THAL.. MA HUG.. NAY”
    The good gesture shown by Dorji family (PM of Bhutan) towards the Mashur family was under mind/under estimated by Mashur as weak leadership and wanted to take over the
    role of Bhutanese leadership supported by out side force from
    Nepal and India.

  2. Bhutan State Congress is a good party but, bhutan king and its coterie do not like good things. bhutan king is even ready to evict Ha pas ans Paro pas or more Sarchopas if required.To continue its atrocities Bhutan king is using some psycho-pans. Bhutan is lead by terror Buddhist philosophy. For these Wangchucks Buddhism is teeth to show but, it kills man beings to save its bads. Bad rulers of Bhutan have only bad people. So why talk to these filthy things. Stupid, the country is being sold in parts to India. And some of its supporters like Sonam Lama above is harping blindly. Shit to your patriotic feelings, shit to your support to bad kings. Fie on such citizens of Bhutan.

  3. Palden Wangchuk Katwal,

    Do not feel bad.. truth is always prevail.history will never tell lie .Firstly, bring your house in order.Please remember…pointing one finger to some one…….. the rest fingers are pointing towards you.
    Bring justice and help…….. to the poor people living in the refugee camps in Nepal.You cunning people already left for luxury life in foreign countries and poor and innocent people are suffering in the camps.

  4. @ Sonam Lama

    If ever you have in you, a pinch of, feeling towards the Nation and its prosperity, ask very simple for them (JGNW and JYT) and major for the common people what for they sold very recently :

    { 495 sqKm, of Bhutan’s soil from the Northern flank JAKARLUNG VALLEY and PASAMLUNG, this sold land is situated in the meeting boarders of Gasa, W/Phodrang and Bumthang. And 269 sqKm is sold from DDAMANA, SHAKHATOE,SINCHULUNG,DOKLAM which is situated in the meeting boarders of Haa and Paro}

    Previously Bhutan’s total area was 46000 Sq Km and JSW and JYT sold northern belt and reduced it to 37000 Sq Km and now JGNW and JYT again traded it. This shows that JYT having very close relation (family relation) with King and his family is playing leading role.

    Forget about the Kings for they have no any binding laws in the nation. In the mask of Buddhist they are the evils.
    Is there any single patriot in the nation who can ask this question to those traitors??????????????
    Sonam Lama, speak out the truth and ask them. If you fail to do this I should mean you too are a part of JYT’s scam.

    Lastly, regarding Mishra’s write up… I see no reason to blame. In front of the mirror one can see the image of the object before it. That’s it. Rulers in Bhutan are buying people outside and making them speak and sell land to earn living.

  5. A biographical essay well written. kudos to Vidyapati bhai for digging out a long-buried tale deeply embedded in a man whose father had indeed met a terrific end in the hands of seemingly over-jealous Ngalungs.

    However, the story seems to have left some stains of confusion that eventually leads the sweet go sour in some points of reading.

    Obviously, Mahasur was the hero of his time who ultimately sacrificed his life for the sake of his countrymen. He deserves the garland of high -profile adjectives such as valiant, fearless, brave, etc. However according to the author, unlike his father, Ranjit appeared to have had a low-profile, simple and ordinary life. Hence, to be fair, being a proud son of a valor, he could just be a carrier of history but not a legend. He doesn’t necessarily be decorated with ‘legendary’ or ‘luminary’ as the writer seems to have excessively praised him for no any valid reason. Think deeply.

    Secondly, drawing a cue from the marriage extravaganza and pompous fanfare, one can easily assume that Mahasur was also one of the feudal lords of his time , herein, popping a clue that he might have played and fished a lot in the sea of ignorant blokes and poverty under the warmth of the then Prime Minister.

    Thirdly, one can smell a lot of love, care and blessings (the elements enough to groom an ambitious child) being showered upon to Ranjit, and despite all these, he looks to have failed to rise to the occasion and thus, ended up as a ‘good chaprasi’.—- a mild story.

    I wish Ranjit a happy and healthy life in Uncle Sam’s lap. Above all, may he get well soon.

    The story is refreshing, though. Vidyapati bhai, try digging some more.

    Nashville, Tennessee.