This is the last post of 7 about our visit to India in 2019. We had by now spent six days in India, the last two nights being in Gangtok, capital of Sikkim.
The next day was Tuesday 22 October and after a long jeep ride, including a period of dead stop caused by an accident on the mountain road, we reached Bagdogra and flew to Delhi. The plan was to meet Topden Sherpa who was flying into Delhi to meet us. Topden was a pupil at SHA then moved to the tribal school at Tashiding, West Sikkim. He scored 96% in his Year 10 exams, and as a result was sent on a Sikkim government programme to a sixth form college in Bihar state. However that programme was withdrawn at the end of his first year, meaning he had to complete his second year at Sir Tashi Namgyal Senior Secondary School in Gangtok. But there was no government support for living away from home, the cost of which was more than his family could possibly afford. So GS, Principal at Sikkim Himalayan Academy put him in touch with us. We supported him at Secondary School and in preparing for the NEET, a very competitive nationwide exam for scholarship entrance to medical school. He did very well (17th in Sikkim), but did not qualify for the scholarship. However he did achieve a subsidised place at biomedical college studying for a BSc in optometry. The college is in Dehradun, capital of Uttarakhand state (formerly Uttaranchal), north of Delhi. The maps on our first post show where Dehradun is.
Topden had exams in two weeks’ time, and had missed some college through illness. So he needed to spend the minimum time away, and his plan was to fly down at 7:30 in the evening and back at 11:00 the next morning. His evening flight was delayed so we never did meet that night, but got together for a 6:30 breakfast.
We had three hours together which was enough to re-establish the relationship (Magi last saw Topden in 2008), and iron out many details of how our support was going to work in practice. We were very impressed with this young man. Next time we hope to visit him in Dehradun, where there are apparently two other students from Sikkim.
Uttarakhand state is mostly in the foothills of the Himalaya or the Greater Himalaya, and includes Nanda Devi (25,646 feet – 7,817 metres), which is the second highest peak in India after Kanchenjunga. So one might think it is like Sikkim. However in the far south are some dusty plains, which is where Dehradun sits at 450 m. So Topden is acclimatising to a hot, humid summer but a relatively cold winter. He says the food is terrible (by which he means different, we think).
We were sad to hear from Topden that he suffers from racist comments, because he is one of few students at the university from Sikkim or Darjeeling District, whose facial characteristics are a bit like the Chinese. This is a problem we had heard of on our last visit in 2017, especially from Samjyor, travelling on the Delhi Metro. Also one experienced by the group of students we met in Gangtok. We hope that if more students from Sikkim enter universities across India, the problem might be mitigated in a small way.
That evening Kursongkit and Samjyor came to our hotel and we were able to take them out for dinner. Samjyor is now working as a lawyer, having finished a law degree in 2018. Kursongkit is in her last year of a Master’s in Early Childhood Care and Education at Ambedkar University in Delhi (Faculty of Developmental Psychology). She is now working full time on her final thesis.
Last time we met Samjyor he was still a student. Now he is working, he has changed a lot, at least outwardly. We gather that he is in some kind of articles, which means working very long hours for not much pay (as it does in the UK).
It turns out that he and Kursongkit are cousins, which we did not know. They are planning to visit the Netherlands in 2020 after Kursongkit has finished her Master’s. Perhaps we will have a chance to see them then.
We said goodbye, then packed up and left for our early morning (01:30) flight from Delhi airport to London Heathrow.
A fitting way to end, perhaps, is with this image of Kanchenjunga taken from the Bamboo Grove in Gangtok, which reminds us of what a mysterious place Sikkim is, and how special its people.
Our thanks to everyone who helped us in our visit, especially Nichola from DGH for making arrangements, Rinchen for driving and Sangdup for looking after the DGH children as Guardian. We must also thank the individuals and companies who give generously, so making possible an education which would otherwise be denied. And lastly, our love to all the children and young people we met, and to those we were not able to see on this trip.
CHANGE A LIFE TODAY
The Children of Sikkim exists to support the education of disadvantaged children from Sikkim, in the Himalaya, NE India.
We are a UK registered charity which helps such children to be educated in Sikkim and elsewhere in India, from primary school through to college or university.
We give a young person continuity of support so as to allow them to achieve their potential.