Balasun Youth Centre Turns Golden

IMG_5329Silas Lepcha

Upper balasun — Upper Balasun, one of the 20 Sunday centres conducted by Salesian College students held its Golden jubilee recently. The parish priest of St. Theresa sonada Fr. Sunil Lakra presided over the event.

Sir Suboth Rai, the Assistant Manager of ‘Balasun Tea Estate’ and the headmaster of local primary school Sir Ashok Gurung made the event successful by their presence.

“In the late eighties when the Gorkhaland agitation took great height, all the Youth centres were closed due to the unrest’’ recounts Sir Ashok Gurung.

Mr Gurung quickly adds “ in those difficult moments we took initiative at our own risk and conducted a meeting to revive once again our Balasun Youth centre.”

The youth centre president of Balasun, Esha Gurung says that, “ Young people at present are busy with mobile phones, coming to the youth centres have become a boring business for them, we can see in our own centre that only the children are present for Sunday youth centre activities.

Balasun is one of the leading tea estate for the production of tea leaves in the hills of Darjeeling. It is ninety minutes walk from Gorabari.The local residents are mostly tea garden labourers.

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Youth work, study on Sunday for extra pay

By Bartholomius Dhan


Thapa Dhura — A group of village students of the Thapa Dhura Youth Centre do odd jobs on Sundays to earn income to support their studies. Some young people even learn skills to be better employable.

One of the students Bruno Thapa says, “I go for work on Sundays because on this day I get more income to support my studies. My parents’ wages are very less to give my school fees. I do the jobs of construction, cleaning, firewood, carrying and breaking stones in the local areas. I feel that these kinds of works are very helpful for my education.”

girlsAnother student Miss. Shreya Thapa says, “I break the stone so that I can get more money for my extra expenses. I contribute some money for my dance class too.”

Thapa Dhura Y. C. was closed down many years ago but recently in 2015 it has been reopened for the second time by Bro. Jeremiah the captain and his companions. This place is located on the way to Lower Cedar, some two hours walk from the Salesian College Sonada.

Thapa Dhura Y. C. belongs to Sonada Zone with 25 youth members. The present SCS team includes three Brothers: Jacob Minj, Mukesh Barwa, and Bartholomius Dhan.

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Villager revives dying Youth Centre

By Premento Narzary, Anup Ranjan, and Rahul Tirkey

Middle Kharay Busty —  A villager’s keen interest for the development of children of his village made him appeal to Salesian College authorities to re-open Youth Centre which was closed for six years.

Mr.Nobin Chettri, 37 years of age, is a contractor by profession.

Mr.Chettri says, “The children and youth are poor in social activities. They take interest only in occupying themselves with casual labour to earn money for themselves.”

He insists, “The other aim is also in the activities of sports and music to better qualify and engage them in social works.”

He appealed to the College authorities along with a delegation of five persons from the village.

They met Fr. Rosan Kullu, sdb, Youth Coordinator who says, “I am always ready to help you reopen the centre for it is a Centre close to him in his formation and experience.”
Fr. Kullu insisted that, “Spending of time in a proper manner must be observed by the Brothers, youths and children.”

Mr.Chettri tells about the background of the village which composed of youth and children as students, elders and parents. There are seven Catholic families, some Protestants and the rest are Hindus. Others are serving as officers, Government servants and businessmen.

Mr.Ratan Kumar Rai, a senior member of Youth Centre tells, “The centre was first opened in 1986 and it was closed in 2010.”

“The closing of the Centre was due to some misunderstandings between the youngsters and Brothers.”

Mr.Nobin Chettri adds further reasons for the closure of the Youth Centre saying, “Lack of leadership and mismanagement of Funds.”

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Life of a tea garden worker

Alexius Minj

Upper Cedars — Mr. Durba Tamang gets up early in the morning and goes to work in the garden a km. away. During the tea plucking season which starts in May and June Mr. Durba gets 132 rupees as daily wages. During rainy season in July and August he gets wet and plucks the tea leaves.

In the dry season, December and January he goes to prune and weeds the garden. In spite of cold season during winter he gets up early in the morning at 7:30 and sometimes he sacrifices his breakfast. In winter, tea garden work starts at 2:00 o’clock afternoon. He carries food for lunch what his mother cooks in the morning.

He gets 2 kg of rice and 4 kg Atta per week as ration. There is no good medical facility and no Hospital in Upper Cedars.

Vehicles are only for those who work in the tea garden and for one who is seriously sick. There were teachers in the school at Upper Cedars but now they left teaching in the school as they were not getting sufficient salary.

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Students revive youth centre through competitions

GairigaonBy Sudip Mondal

Gairigaon — A group of college students plans to revive the youth centre membership and participation through competitions.

Gairigoan youth centre’s captain Bro. Sujit Kerketta states, “The youth centre has to be renewed through popular competions like Carrom competition and Football tournament to attract the participation of youth.”

He insisted saying,”We should have more support from the local people for procuring more games articles and musical instruments.”

One of the past pupils of the youth centre Mr. Pritam Khawas says, “We have benefited a lot from the youth centre . We have developed our communication skills, improved on discipline, and learned games and singing.”

Mr. Khawas adds, “I was a regular member of Garigoan youth centre. We always used to wait eagerly for Sunday as we could participate in many competitions organised in the youth centre and win prizes.”

Gairigoan and Arubotia youth centres were established by Fr. James Chacko around 1988. However, in 2000, the youth centre of Gairigoian was separated from Arubotia and was initiated by Bro. Jotish and Bro. Joseph.

The Gairigaon youth centre, one of 20 youth centres run by Salesian College students is just 90 minutes walk from the college on the way to Balasun.

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Surviving 104-day strike

RungmookBy Benai Chettri
Rungmook — Selena Gurung is a middle aged woman and a tea garden worker from the Rungmook tea estate who earns her livelihood as daily wage earner. She survived 104 days strike caused by Gorkhaland agitation without starvation.

Recalling the hardships of the bandh days, Mrs. Gurung says, “The residents of Rungmook had sufficient provisions to manage their daily needs.”

She did not hesitate to add, “fortunately no children had to die on account of malnutrition as in some other places of the hills.”

However, Mrs. Gurung along with other citizens had some hard days to cope with when they did not get the relief material in time.

She says, “God- sent people and Salesian College Fathers and some members of NGOs made their life easier.”

Mrs. Gurung expressed her misfortune several times when she did not get the little bit of ration after having walked for two hours from Rungmook to Sonada. Then, looking into the situations, her family and others too decided to go towards Siliguri during night hours just to get the basic needs.

She also recalls happily, “gone are those days with full of challenges which me and my family survived along with other villagers of Rungmook tea estate.

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FLIGHT TO BANGKOK – Romance in the Air -by Trophy D’Souza

flightFlight to Bangkok covers an eventful journey that has an unexpected outcome for some of those on board. It is not a travel odyssey and really deals with two individuals, who meet accidentally, ‘in the air’.

The two travellers on this flight from East Africa to Thailand sitting side by side get to know quite a lot about each other. Turbulent weather over the Indian Ocean compels the airline to take an unplanned stopover on a tiny island. In the hotel arrangements passengers are allotted only the limited double-rooms available, according to their pair-seating on the plane. The two from Africa –a man and a lady— have to share a room. The lady has an anxious request for a separate bed at least, in the room.

After less than an hour in the hotel, the lady, who appears to have emotional baggage, uses the room situation to seek help from the man.  The chat earlier on the flight leads her to believe that he is the ideal person to rescue her from the uncertainties in her life. She finds him knowledgeable, supportive and trustworthy and wastes no time in thinking out a plan to win the man’s sympathy and confidence. She employs ingenious moves to get closer to the man.

The narrative describes how the two quickly slide from a casual acquaintanceship to a closer relationship.   Flight to Bangkok, a fascinating tale of how two people get drawn to each other, also deals with snippets of African and Thai history and culture, and of some eastern traditional practices.

This story whose alternative title is ‘Romance in the Air’ is and isn’t about ‘romance’. It is a tale that could easily be played out in today’s world where ‘religious’ involvement in ‘secular’ situations can lead to surprising outcomes. The book seeks to portray situations that even those living committed lives could have to face.  Dedicated living by definition is moored to established principles and statutes. However, varied influences from social pressures and from work situations could in subtle ways misdirect the focus of individuals from commitment to laxity or perhaps even to frustration. The book seeks to analyse what happens when cracks appear in training or performance schedules. The narrative takes up a few instances of committed individuals who veer away from their goals and objectives under unexpected pressure.

Flight to Bangkok serves up some typical examples of how pitfalls occur or perhaps of how constructive programmes might bolster flagging dedication. Romance is a natural phenomenon, and people who live committed lives are not above its influences. Managers who are responsible for training may be able to take a leaf out of this book and include wholesome and perhaps innovative programmes to add to their training schemes.

The Author draws from his experience of travel and of working across a few countries delivering programmes, curricula and projects. His involvement with people and cultures comes across in the six books he published earlier. In some of them he tries to be the ‘voice of the voiceless’ or perhaps the ‘speaker’ taking up causes.  His books attempt to delve into what happens when theories, systems and traditions collapse, and human emotions take centre-stage.

Flight to Bangkok, his seventh book (published: September 2016), picks up this emotive theme and shows how relationships do not always develop or evolve. They can sometimes just happen, as incredible and refreshing surprises, with people walking into them or perhaps ‘flying’ into them, as happens in the story.

The Author’s books throw up sensitive flashpoints and shows how empathy helps in resolving tangled human issues or settling complex emotional situations. In Flight to Bangkok he seeks to demonstrate how what often really only matter are Understanding and Love, and perhaps Patience as well.

 [See for more on his books.](Flight to Bangkok: published September 2016)
[Order copies: Amazon price: $9.63 or £5.86 or €6.50- Kindle price: $3.49, or£2.68, or

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