Translated directly from a Nepali newspaper article in Himalayan Darpan dated 23rd May 2012)
Even today, when we see Shobha bahini (sister Shobha), we hear her tinkling laughter in the eminently popular radio show called Shambhudai Ko Hulak (Shambhudai’s Post. Brother Shambhu’s Post was a witty question-answer radio programme which was hosted by All India Radio every friday in the early 70s. Listeners from all over India and Nepal sent letters asking witty questions which were read out by the fictional character of Shobha bahini and were answered with equally witty answers by the fictional character of Shambhu dai ).
Shambhu dai’s (brother Shambhu) quick-witted reply together with Shobha bahini’s laughter comprised an entertaining pair. Aired during the early 70s, the show’s popularity is still remembered by the local audience with great fondness. This programme was aired every friday in the evening via All India Radio. Unlike today, there were no televisions or FM radio stations during the early 70s. No other program aired on the radio during the time, gained as much popularity as Shambhudai Ko Hulak. Friday evenings at 6:30 pm, people crowded in front of their radios in great anticipation of the programme. As a young student, I was fortunate enough to witness such a sight. Shambhu dai Ko Hulak gained popularity not just within the borders of the country but its acclaim spread as far as Nepal. Shambhu dai and Shobha baini’s wide fan base covered northeast India and Nepal. Fans travelled from distant places to Kurseong just to get a glimpse of Shambhu dai and Shobha bahini; to see what they actually looked like, to receive their autographs and to take a picture with them.
Born in M.P. road in Darjeeling, Chimi didi’s childhood passed in a little village called Bhutia Busty situated in the base of Darjeeling town. She acquired her education in St. Teresa Convent in Darjeeling.
Her father was a script writer in All India Radio, Kurseong through whom she was introduced to the world of announcing and writing for radio. She left behind her hometown and moved to Kurseong at what was considered, an extremely tender age for a girl to leave home. Prior to her involvement with the radio, she was a singer in Darjeeling. She expresses with a hint of nostalgia how profoundly interested she was in music those days. She vigourously reminisces about the time she won the first place in a musical contest held by Darjeeling Pain Relief Association in 1961. During the contest, she had sung a duet with the renowned Nepali singer Kumar Subba. Together with music, she carries an insatiable fondness for dance. “Dance is my passion” she says with a glint in her eyes and expresses that she still loves to dance.
Since she was constantly exposed and involved onstage during her early years in school, she also went on to become a talented stage actor. Apart from being an announcer in the Sikkimese and Tibetan section, her high level proficiency in the Nepali language and her mellifluous voice earned her a position as an announcer in Nepali programmes as well. Rai gave her the opportunity to lend her voice as major characters in his radio plays such as The Flute, Frontier, Traveller, Nature’s Daughter and many more. Chimi didi also acted as the protagonist of one of Rai’s plays called Bhang ko Laddoo (The Marijuana Sweetmeat) that was staged at Kurseong’s Rajeshwari Hall Theater.
Shambhu dai Ko Hulak went on to mesmerize the audience for three years and was picked up again in 1975. This live programme went on to become a great success one more time. She reflects on the programme saying, “Shivakumar sir used to answer all those witty questions with such wit and comedy that I often found it hard to control my laughter, especially because his answers were constructed on the scene and were usually not pre-meditated” The late Rai was her major source of inspiration and through him she recognised her own talents.
Chimi didi is not only a radio artist, but she is also a gifted painter, a genuine writer and a poet. Her art has a unique quality that is far removed from other contemporary artists. She recollects that as a child she used to draw pictures of the King and Queen with chalk on her slate. Like her other talents, she received absolutely no formal training in painting and sketching, but excelled only because of her unwavering perseverance. Her work of art has been exhibited on district level art exhibitions and on state levels. Her specialty lies in thread art where she uses a black base to depict the play of light against shadow. Her thread portraits and thangkas or Tibetan religious depictions are breath taking. She is currently at work with another piece of thread art. In the year 1984 -85 she received a State award in thread art for her depiction of Mother Teresa and for a Tibetan version of Mahakali – the Hindu Goddess of fortitude and destruction. She wishes to teach the medium of thread art but she says that people are no longer interested in this field of art. She is now preparing to exhibit her art in the national level and in Nepal. She also dabbles in oil painting mostly using her imagination and at the age of 65 she is still enthusiastic about her work. “One has to have patience for work and one has to revel in it,” she says. She spends her all her time in creative work rather than sitting in front of the television.
She has a deep-seated love for the Nepali Literature and her anthology of short stories called Mukta Munal (Uncaged Munal, of which Munal appertains to the female of a Himalayan species of birds) is due for publication this year. Her stories often revolve around social issues in the hills such as child labour, women trafficking, female literacy, alcoholism etc.
Her writing is as unique as her other talents. She writes stories in Nepali and poems in Hindi. “Writing a poem in Hindi comes naturally and instantly to me”, she states. Her writing is deeply inspired by none other than Late Rai’s style. She has always been a voracious reader and as a child she used to buy books and comics with her lunch money. “I used to often sit under a tree and read my books when I was a child,” she reflects.