Smash & Grab + Sikkim- a Requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom
Sunanda K.Datta-Ray & Andrew Duff
Same story of Sikkim told by two people differently based on their level of involvement and research. While Sunanda K.Datta’s was of a personal account of the experiences in the capacity of a journalist based in the area, Andrew Duff’s work was that of a highly and richly researched works along with that of interviews and also the world of information that he retraced from the exchange of letters between the two Scottish head mistresses- Martha Hamilton and Ishbel Ritchie who served in Sikkim at the time.
The only difference is the way it has been reflected in the title…while the one portrays very aggressively as ‘Smash and Grab-Annexation of Sikkim’, the other one mildly puts as S’ikkim-the Requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom.’
As much as one can understand the stand of Sunanda K. Datta on the last Chogyal of Sikkim and Sikkim itself so is the requiem for the Chogyal by Adnrew Duff as much as the requiem was for Sikkim.
Both the books tell the story of ‘Divide and Rule’ –the basic concept of colonization adopted by the British India. Thondup –the last Chogyal of Sikiim is portrayed as failure, the victim and having died a very tragic death. On the other hand the uncanny Kazi Lhendup Dorji and his Scottish wife Kazini of Chakung-Elisa Maria Layford-Rae were portrayed as having played the opposition role to the Palace thus showing them as the main villain.
Sikkim left to see its 12th and the last King – Palden Thondup Chogyal (23 May 1923 – 29 January 1982) who had a fairy tale wedding with a 23-year-old American wife Hope Cook in 1963 when he was at his 40s. The marriage called in controversy in the midst of Indo-China Cold War. Hope Cook was looked upon as American Spy, which was to India’s bad taste. Fueled by the opposition of the Kazi and Kazini, Sikkim ultimately landed with the annexation by India under the governance of then Indira Gandhi in 1975 especially under the influence of the cold car that went between India and China in 1960s and 1970s. Sikkim thus became the 22nd state of India.
The way the stories are narrated leaves one with wanting to know more, leaves you in doubt and more so in reflection.
At the end of the book one is left wondering whether the people of Sikkim were pulled into deception, exploitation or betrayals. One is also left wondering the role of RAW and the shrewdness with which India annexed Sikkim with the help of its political officers based in Sikkim and off course the works of RAW.
Both the books are nothing short of a thrilling reader or a movie with lots of intriguing twists as reflected in the plots as it unfolds.
However, for a Bhutanese, the books are a must read. As a Bhutanese as I unfold every chapter of both the books I couldn’t help thinking about how our Monarchs dealt with the situation in the midst of over powering neighbhours and especially at a time when the neighbhoring small kingdom like ours was not only going through severe turmoil but eventually got annexed.
I as a Bhutanese could not help being more grateful to our Leaders who played a very significant role in preserving the security and sovereignty of the Kingdom in the light of all that was happening during the most vulnerable time.
This is the very reason why I chose to do this book review as my pledge to my Gyalsey- who symbolizes the continuity of peace, progress and sovereignty of our country. Our kings have never failed us in the past and they will ensure that the future kings will be even stronger. Gyalsey in that way is very special. HRH Gyalsey has the blessings, love and guidance of not only their Majesties but our Great Fourth, Their Majesties the Royal Grand Queen Mothers, Great Grand Parents from both the sides of the family and love of the people of Bhutan.
Wishing HRH Gyalsey a very happy 1st Birth Anniversary. My sincere prayers for Gyalsey’s Happy GROWING UP with wisdom, grace, intellects, and compassion that befits the future King.