END OF A DREAM – Victor Bannerjee mourns the loss of his close friend, Madan Tamang

The Telegraph – Opinion

Victor Banerjee mourns the loss of his close friend, Madan Tamang

His email address was simply rhododel@: his magnificently wild and creatively cultivated hillside garden was less treacherous than Eden, and yet on the edge of every leaf was a timeless drop of suspense that one never expected would one day fall upon blood-sodden earth. No one knew more about Himalayan blossoms than he. No one loved them more than he did: and no one’s garden was a louder chorus of triumph than the quiet acres that surrounded his quaintly constructed log houses amidst the pines.

To travel into the interiors of Bhutan and Sikkim and sweat for years to acclimatize rhododendron bushes to the altitude and climate of Darjeeling was one man’s dream, one man’s achievement. The gentle Gardener had green thumbs and eyes that, while talking to you, would wander to the tree lines on the horizon to contemplate his people’s destiny.

He gave me two dozen cuttings and plants packed immaculately in moss, to transport across the Himalaya. I travelled two nights and a day across the sizzling plains and finally climbed into the comfort of the foothills above the Shivaliks. All the rhododendrons had survived the journey. As I dug holes in the mountainside, he spoke to me over the crackle of a very bad telephone connection and told me, step by meticulous step, how I should go about putting the plants into the ground. It took me five minutes to plant each sapling, and at the end of it I collapsed on the heather. “Finished”, I cried into the mouthpiece. “No, you haven’t”, came the flat and sharp response. “It is the beginning of a new life and a new lifetime!”

That was 10 years ago, almost to the day. He died a few days back. For centuries, we have slaughtered one another for more bad reasons than good. To lustily hang on to a few tracts of land, we have subjugated fellow humans to suffering and neglect and exploitation. Some have fought against that, for all they ever wanted was for flowers to bloom upon a free land.

The Gorkhas have had no representation in Parliament to talk of and no clout with which to demand their rights. Today, one of the Gorkha people’s dreamers is dead: killed violently by one of his own, on the street in broad daylight, with tourist cameras clicking and capturing his death throes.

My friend, Madan Tamang, is dead. And India shines. Real estate is booming. Vegetables are affordable to farmers who have sold out to developers. The nouveau riche once reeked of money. Today, the tables have turned and yesterday’s elite are the impoverished, unwanted and pooh-poohed dregs of society. But the hands of the clock shall still keep turning, without remorse.

In our blossoming flower garden, everything, as the people’s poet Rilke once said, “is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colours, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night”. Madan’s joyous plants shall droop and weep through the night for their leader who was felled for his love of Darjeeling and its people.

Years ago, at the gates of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, I was told about the most famous lines ever written in Nepali poetry. Today, I find little comfort in the fact that only our silenced conscience makes cowards of us. “Kun mandir ma janchau yatri, Kun samagri puja garne (which temple are you going to dear pilgrim, and what is your offering to the Lord?)” It is time we thought twice about what the Little Prince said to the wily fox: “One sees clearly, only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes”.

And as Darjeeling’s rhododendrons bloom on alien mountain slopes this week, I shall gaze through prayer flags at the full moon that rises on Buddha Purnima night and mourn the loss of a dear friend, a great gardener. Out of gardens grow fleeting flowers but lasting friendships.

Thank you Mr. Bannerjee for the moving elegy…. a shared sorrow.


One thought on “END OF A DREAM – Victor Bannerjee mourns the loss of his close friend, Madan Tamang

  1. Hi: Im sorry for not being able to find a list of all the flower nurseries in kalimpong including names: add: valid contact numbers: e/mail ids : their plants etc. Hope it will en rich this grand site. waiting for the result. thanks. C. Maitra. ₯[ .pqNagh. ]


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