The beauty of this world lies in the singular stories, the little dreams, the baby steps that individuals take to make a difference to the world that they live in. And a few weeks ago, I came across one such little story about an individual who set out to connect a remote part of India – the enchanting Himalayan state of Sikkim – to the world through his blog.
I have never been to Sikkim thus far and so there I was reading books, looking up web sites talking to my travel agents and trying to formulate a plan to get to Sikkim some time in the future. The Mountain Walker CEO, Abhishek, has been there a few times and is a good source of information and network. But I was trying to find something deeper in terms of historical and cultural information, to give me a better understanding of the state. And that’s when I stumbled across Shital Pradhan’s blog – Proud To Be A Sikkimese.
After reading several blogs (2-3 a night after dinner) for three straight weeks, I figured I wanted to talk to Shital and so I emailed him and then spoke to him and it is quite an extra-ordinary effort that he is sustaining. The blog is a treasure-trove of information on the heritage, philately and bio-diversity of Sikkim. It covers news, civil and social development, culture, local events … all of it written, edited and photographed by Shital.
A 39-year-old Primary School teacher in the Sakyong Chisopani High School in East Sikkim, Shital was born in Rongli in East Sikkim. A Botany Honours graduate, Shital is an avid collector of stamps and coins, apart from being a blogger and photographer. Established in 2007, ‘Proud To Be A Sikkimese’ blog is now in its 10th year and it is assumed to be the oldest running blog out of Sikkim – it has garnered more than 800,000 (8 Lakh) visitors in the past decade. Once can visit the blog at: sikhim.blogspot.in
Excerpts from an interview with Shital Pradhan:
What is the purpose of your Sikkim blog?
It all started with an incident. On my maiden trip to Kolkata (then Calcutta in early 2000), I was asked where is Sikkim? Is it in Nepal or Bhutan? It was those remarks that pressed me to learn about Sikkim and to share my learning about Sikkim with my readers; I firmly believe that the more I share, the more I learn.
When did you start the blog? How many posts and videos do you have?
I started my blog in 2007 and over the last decade, it’s become more like an encyclopaedia of Sikkim where you can find articles, photographs and videos regarding Sikkim’s history, culture, biodiversity and other aspects. More than two thousand articles are stored in my blog.
How do you fund your blog?
My blog is my passion and so far it’s me who is behind its expenses. I had visited far-off places in Sikkim and beyond on my own. Yes, in this decade I have also received two cheques from Adsense.
What are the challenges that the people of Sikkim face in this rapidly digital world?
Sikkim is a small Himalayan state and despite the fact that the world is updating every second, we remain far off from the competition – we do our regular needs as per our requirement. We understand the feedback of a digital world but we aren’t amazed by its supremacy.
What are the challenges that the youngsters of Sikkim face now?
Sikkim is a tiny land and as compared to other cities and metros, here the people are limited to their own self surviving skills. According to me, our youngsters are in the early phases of modernisation -they are learning to cope with the trends and happenings of the outer world.
What types of articles do you cover in your blog?
I had always considered myself to be a story teller. My blog has fascinating articles on Sikkim Rocket Mail Experiment, Sikkim Ham Radio, Shapi, Sikkim Postal History to name few – these stories were not well known or reported earlier. I can classify my blog articles into three segments – Sikkim Heritage, Sikkim Philately and Sikkim Biodiversity. I have tried to include each and every matter related to Sikkim on my blog.
Do you have a team or do you do all the writing, editing, photography by yourself?
My blog is solely carried forward by me and I do all the necessary things. Well, when it comes to editing I might be missing out on grammatical accuracy at times; however, if my reader finds my work interesting and enjoyable, it’s ok for me.
What are the key drivers of the economy of Sikkim? Tourism, Agriculture?
Sikkim is known across the globe for its picturesque and unparalleled natural magnificence. Tourism is our high note but these days it’s brand ‘Organic Sikkim’ that’s doing the talk everywhere.
What are the career or employment opportunities for youngsters in Sikkim?
Employment is something where you need to understand how you want your future days to roll on. We are proud of our Chief Minister who has imparted every opportunity to our youngsters to choose what they desire to dream. Our youngsters are not dependent on Government jobs, we have young minds working in private sectors and doing well for them and for the state.
Who are your Top 10 Favourite Sikkimese Personalities, people who have brought Sikkim to the attention of the world?
- Shri Pawan Kr. Chamling (Chief Minister of Sikkim – Vision behind ‘Organic Sikkim’)
- Late Sonam Gyatso (Mountaineer, Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri, Arjuna Award)
- Danny Denzongpa (Actor, Padma Shri)
- Bhaichung Bhutia (Former India Football Captain, Padma Shri, Arjuna Award)
- Jas Lal Pradhan (Boxer, Asian Games Gold Medallist, Arjuna Award)
- Tarundeep Rai (Archery – Asian Games Silver Medallist, Arjuna Award)
- Uttam Pradhan (Actor)
- Sushmita Rai (Kick Boxer- Team India)
- Nirmal Chettri (Football – Team India)
- Sanju Pradhan (Football – Team India)