DOLAKHA, Dec 2: When he first came to Dolakha, where his grandfather had left a plot of land and an old house, Bhim Bahadur Tamang was just a teenager. He was sent there by his father, Krishna Pakhrin, to reclaim their ancestral property, which was grabbed by local landlords.
As he had recently passed the tenth grade, he was deemed by his father as "a perfect man" to wrestle with landlords and reclaim their virtually lost property.
However, when he stepped into Jhule village, from where his grandfather, Kuber Pakhrin, had gone to Kurseong, Darjeeling to work in tea-garden many years ago -- even before Krishna was born -- Bhim Bahadur, then just 16, was shocked to know that hardly a few villagers were able to read and write. The state of illiteracy in Dolakha prodded him into thinking of a more serious issue, brushing aside his personal problems.
(Photo: Keshab Thoker)
Although his mother passed away when he was just six-year old, Bhim Bahadur was lucky enough to go to a good school in Kurseong. Therefore, soon after coming to Jhule, he started tutoring local children, including those from landlord families. He soon became popular in and around Jhule as ´Master Bhim Bahadur."
"Bhim Bahadur sir spoke English fluently even then," reminisces Som Pakhrin, a retired teacher, whom "Master Bhim Bahadur" tutored in his early days.
"His hand-writing was very lovely, something we all envied." According to Pakhrin, Amar Bahadur Karki, a local landlord, was impressed with Bhim Bahadur and helped him to build a school in Bhaterchaur of Jhule. He would go all the way to Kalimpong, Darjeeling to bring text-books for his school every year.
Subsequently, Bhim Bahadur set up another school in Gardungdada of Jhule with support from villagers. He also worked there as a teacher for some time.
This was the time when Nepal was passing through politically tumultuous times. The Nepali Congress (NC) was up in arms against the rule of the Rana oligarchy; and the common people were aspiring for democracy.
As the democratic struggle shook the 104-year old Rana regime, Bhim Bahadur could not remain indifferent to what was going on in the country. He also joined the struggle that sowed the seeds of democracy in 1950. Later, he became a member of NC.
After joining active politics, Bhim Bahadur could not manage time for teaching. In the following years, he served jail sentenced was forced to go into exile, which barred him from teaching the children in Dolakha. His passion for education had not died down, though. Following the restoration of democracy in 1990, he returned to where he had built his public image. He managed to bring budget and grants to build more schools in Dolakha district.
"Donors have spent millions of rupees in education sector in Dolakha, thanks to Master Bhim Bahadur," says Shankar Lal Shrestha, Dolakha chapter president of Nepal Teachers´ Union.
"His contribution to Dolakha´s education is unparalleled." According to him, Tamang spent all that he got from the parliamentary development fund for Dolakha´s education.
Grif-stricken by Master Bhim Bahadur´s sudden demise on Saturday morning, all teacher unions in Dolakha district have decided to close schools in Dolakha on Sunday.