Jhamsikhel as I knew - II
While the earlier piece was about the place in general this one deals with some who lived there. I had mentioned about Ratna Sumsere Thapa and his friends, they were all classmates at Patan High School (Patan Dhoka). Jhamsikhel had no high school then; the nearest school was Tika Bidyasram that had classes up to eight only. Those described here could be anybody at any locality and it is not implied to project them as if they were special in any. They happened to be remembered as being a part of the narrative. Without doubt Ratna Sumsere is much widely known to the general Nepali than the others.
Two among them, Dhenu Sumsere and Sudarshan Devkota are no more. Dhenu retired after having worked in Nepal Police. Sudarsan Devkota worked in the Russian Cultural Center since its inception and moved to Kantipur newspaper much later. Achyut Ghimire, has been frail for quite some time and lives little beyond Arun Thapa statue. He used to work at the Local Development Ministry. Digambar retired as a Brigadier General in the Nepal Army and was elder to Dhenu.
Both Digambar and Dhenu were sons of Som Sumsere, who used to be the General Manger of Morang Sugar Mills (Biratnagar) for quite many years. Som also had a younger son, Karpur, from legitimate side who taught English in RR Campus and was a rose-plant fanatic. He also died quite early for his age. Som used to own a big chunk of land around his small darbar that had its entrance on the Sashi Bhawan side but the land stretched right up to a small galli opposite current Shriti’s location that leads to Thado-dhunga.
Possibly because of the mill connection and having avid interest in agriculture, he even grew sugarcane here. A pair of bahar brought from Dhuinibesi, were made to go around a round mill to press the juice which was then boiled to make khudo. Sugarcane used to be the famous produce of Dhunibesi just outside the Valley to the west. The trial run, possibly, did not yield as good a result and it did not seem to proceed beyond a season or two. That apart, Som having had formal training in agriculture had several ropanis of land dedicated for raising varieties of fruits in his orchard that was anything between 36 to 51 ropanis as told by his grandson Bharat Khadka. All have been sold off as prime residential properties.
The sixth member of the friend’s circle was Bal Krishna who was an Agriculture engineer (79) by profession and having retired from the government still lives west of Damkal. I happened to accidentally meet him on the street quite recently and used the opportunity to inquire about few details that I was not sure about.
Incidentally, Arun Thapa, though of much younger generation also lived here. He was blessed with a typical voice quality. He had a tragic love life, it is believed, the effect of which was quite apparent in his sad songs. At times he used to be seen playing with the bhajan mandali at the Hasapota Ganesh.
General Kiran Sumsere had helped in establishing Tika Bidyasram in his mother’s name adjacent to Kiran Bhawan. Ripudaman Bahadur Bista was its head master for a long time and also lived close to famous Herman’s Bakery. There were two spots where we often played football. Tika’s ground was one while the other was a much bigger field known as Naya-chour, St Mary’s and St Xavier’s school being to its north and east respectively. It was possibly given as bakas to St Mary’s as most of the Royal family girls were enrolled there. A typical example of how public lands were squandered by the powerful.
Mukti Nath Devkota was another well known person who lived on the northern slopes of Danagiri which has famous Khadaga-jogini temple, possibly the highest point within the Lalitpur city area. He participated in the nagarpalika election that was held after the 2015 (BS) general election, and was elected, as an independent, a municipal representative like a ward chairman now defeting none other than Dimaond Sumsher. It showed personal rapport was more crucial to win an election then than party connections. He won the seat for the second time under the Panchayat System too. Dejected with politics he gave it for good and moved to Nepalgunj to look after his landed property there. Incidentally, the hill-top spot is known now more as a Kantipur FM station than the temple.
One time pokhari near the Thado-dhunga used to get recharged by surface flow during monsoon and when full it flowed to Bagmati. With the natural water course having been deliberately tampered by new residents, the spot which has much shrunk since is more of a sunken playground than a pond now. Shaped as a concave bowl we often cycled around its sloping perimeter. The south-east corner of the pond marks the last westbound point of Machhendranath’s jatra every twelve years. Inhabitants of Pulchowk fearing the deity would be taken away to Kirtipur, pull the tall chariot silently away around midnight so as not to arouse them. Chariot pulling is, otherwise, an extremely noisy event with beating of drums and cymbals as we all know. It is only in Jhamsikhel that it is done quietly and this tradition is still adhered to.