Today was my dad’s birthday. He would have been 59 had he not left us for his home up above in the heavenly skies eight years back. My dad was born Youngden Norbu Dorjee in a remote village called Kewzing, South Sikkim, the eldest of eight children. He once told me that there had been another Youngden in his school so he chopped off his first name to “Young” and thats how he became – Young Norbu Dorjee, forever young at heart!
He finished his primary education in Kewzing’s government school where the teachers used to teach them their ABC’s like this: “A bhan” which means ”say A” in Nepali. So the entire primary students used to chant – “A bhan!”. This was followed by “B bhan” and the students on auto pilot chanted “B bhan!” You get the idea.
My late grandfather had been the mandal of the village. This translates to being the headman/ head honcho/ Big Boss of the village, give or take. My dad used to tell us stories about their old wooden house being burnt to the ground once during election time when the then chief minister didn’t take very kindly to their support of the opposition – you know, like those old pot-broilers of politically challenged Bollywood movies. Thankfully no one got hurt and the entire family shifted to a different location and constructed a new house in which my cousins and I spent many years of our childhood together. When I went back to attend a family gathering some years back, I was amazed to see the old house, which somehow seemed so big to me back then, was actually a modest two storied wooden building somehow remembered to be larger than life by all those childhood memories.
Sometime during his teenage years, my father was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Mount Hermon School, Darjeeling. So he left home to study in Darjeeling where he found the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and converted to Christianity, much to the disappointment of his orthodox Buddhist family. Of course nothing could be done about it and my dad went on to marry a lovely Lepcha Christian woman and held on firmly to his faith till he breathed his last. One thing I remember distinctly about him was his singing, which he loved and often said that he missed his calling as far as singing went. He sang many hymns in church, sometimes with me in tow and I cherish those memories to this day.
My father had been a gregarious, generous man with a large heart and even an even larger friend circle. He was known in our community to be a helpful man who contributed to society in more ways than one. At the time of his death, he had taken voluntary retirement as Deputy Director from the Government of Sikkim due to his poor health and had remarried after the death of our mother to a wonderful woman who nursed him throughout his sickness right up to his deathbed. We have a sister called Joy (to the world!) through her who is now 10 and already a shy, intelligent pre-teenager. I only wish my dad had been alive to see her grow up.
I envy people, especially around me who are fortunate enough to still have parents with them. Like a friend said, you can buy everything but not your parents. My mum passed away fifteen years back when my brother and I had been kids. It was my dad and our mum’s elder sister who brought us up ever since. I walk down memory lane thankful to be his daughter and grateful for all the things he taught me which has made me the person that I am today.
Happy birthday, dad. We miss you. Wish you were here.