ABOUT NEW YORK; When East Met West and Walking Around Led to Brooklyn

TO gain a sense of place it really helps to walk around a lot. That is what Hope Cooke did when her world turned bleak and rotten 20 years ago and now, as a result, the 52-year old Brooklyn resident, who is also the last reigning Queen of Sikkim, says she feels more rooted than she has ever been.
"I can honestly say I really know where I am," Ms. Cooke said in the cozy and sweet-smelling ground-floor kitchen of her 1878 house on the periphery of Brooklyn Heights.
Upstairs, her second husband, Michael Wallace, a history professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was working on a manuscript. Her own book of walking tours of New York City has just been issued by Temple University. Now she is hoping to put together a video series describing issues of city life like immigration, racial division and gentrification in their historical contexts. She has lectured on the social history of New York and organized walking tours.
About a month ago she was at a party where there were many local history buffs. "At one point," she recalled, "I was introduced to a young man who, as he shook my hand, blurted out, 'Oh you're Hope Cooke, the Hope Cooke? Hope Cooke, the walking tour guide?' It made me so happy. It was a real turning point."
Over the last 30 years there had been so many other introductions drawing responses, spoken or silent, that were very different. Hope Cooke? Oh, yes, the New York debutante, the Sarah Lawrence student, the one who met and married the heir to the throne of that tiny kingdom tucked between Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India. Wasn't she the Grace Kelly of the Himalayas who in 1963 went to live in a palace in Gangtok as the bride of the Chogyal, a man revered by his subjects as the reincarnation of an ancient Buddhist holy man?
And later there must have been many others who tried to fit the name with what they could remember of old newspaper accounts. Yes, she had lived as the Queen of the remote kingdom with its steep paths, silk-clad archers and prayer wheels. She had borne a son and daughter, but then, despite predictions of court astrologers, the marriage turned stormy.
But the little country was running into greater problems as India moved to absorb it. Crowds, organized by agents from New Delhi, marched on the palace calling for an end to the monarchy. Ms. Cooke fled with her children, coming back to New York, a city she hardly knew. "It was a period of intense and painful dislocation," said Ms. Cooke. "I literally did not know where I was."
She had been born in the city but her experience with it was very limited. Her mother died when she was 2, probably a suicide. Her mother's well-to-do parents kept her father away. She was raised by Scottish governesses whose lilt and burr still mark her speech.
"I don't remember ever going to the zoo or walking anywhere as a child," she said. "We would just take the Chapin school bus down Park Avenue and back. Those of us who lived on the avenue felt sorry for the Chapin children who lived on the side streets. Later there were dreadful dancing classes." After that there was boarding school, Sarah Lawrence and then the palace at Gangtok.
One of the news articles that appeared at the time of her marriage quoted a Sarah Lawrence classmate of Ms. Cooke's as saying, "Hopey was always a little out of place in the West." Ten years in Sikkim could not possibly ease the alienation.
"That's when I started walking and looking," she said. "At first it was a matter of orientation and diversion. Later it grew into a passion. Now it is what I do."
When she first came back, she says, her major concern was being a single mother, living in an apartment with very little furniture and a constant flow of guests from Sikkim. The king was then under house arrest back in Sikkim, which had been swallowed up by India. For a while she lectured about her experiences and then she wrote about them in a book "Time Change." And all the while she was venturing out into neighborhoods, figuring out where she was and how she and her fellow New Yorkers had gotten here.
Eventually, she lectured on New York City history at Yale and at one time wrote regular columns on city landmarks for The Daily News. Her children finished school, the son becoming a banker, the daughter a public relations representative. Her marriage grew estranged and then ended in divorce two years before the dethroned Chogyal died in 1982. She met Michael Wallace at a meeting of historians and 10 years ago they moved to the house in Brooklyn.
Now, quite clearly, she has grown into the city, taken on a new identity. She really is "Hope Cooke, the guide to New York." And though her newest book traces the destinies of immigrants, bankers and writers, it also marks another passage -- her own. "I am rooted here," she said. "Life has become sheer fun."
(A version of this article appeared in print on Wednesday, February 24, 1993, on section B page 3 of the New York edition.By Michael T. Kaufman)

Sikkim: Hope-La in Gangtok

Sikkim: Hope-la in Gangtok
Friday, Apr. 16, 1965
source:- http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,841834,00.html
There is usually little zest to life in Sikkim, India's tiny protectorate in the Himalayas. For day-to-day kicks, some citizens can only contemplate the crags of majestic Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain, marvel at the gay flowers that grow in profusion beneath its peaks, or laugh gaily at the frolicking wild pandas of the region. But last week excitement galore gripped the populace as chic photographers, starchy diplomats and perfumed post-debs from abroad suddenly inundated the charming little capital of Gangtok.
The occasion was the long-postponed coronation of His Highness Chogyal (King) Palden Thondup Namgyal, Sikkim's own maharajah. Squatting on 13 gold cushions in elaborate robes and felt boots embroidered with thunderbolts, he gravely accepted a fur-brimmed crown handed him by red-robed lamas, popped it on his head and thus became King—and honorary major general in the Indian army.
Lamas & Top Hats. At his side one of the world's two American-born reigning princesses* became Sikkim's Queen. Ex-New Yorker Hope Cooke (Sarah Lawrence '63) became Her Highness Hope Namgyal, Gyalmo (Queen) of Sikkim. She wore a pearl chaplet, a red bhakku over a white silk gown, and high-heeled shoes for the occasion. Her vast hazel eyes downcast, she whispered "Thank you, thank you," as a parade of lamas and top-hatted guests pressed forward to present the royal couple with cards marked with mystic symbols and heaps of white scarves for good luck.
With that, corks popped from champagne bottles, and turbaned bandsmen struck up tunes from My Fair Lady as lissome American girls, friends of the Queen who had flown in for the occasion, joined young Sikkimese aristocrats in dancing. Even the King and Queen did the twist and a quartet of Sikkimese Beatles shrilled their Himalayan version of I Want to Hold Your Hand.
Yak Butter for All. Sikkim rejoiced at having a crowned king; it would have had one sooner but for court astrologers, who had insisted on postponing the coronation for 16 months after the death of Thondup's father, Maharajah Sir Tashi Namgyal. King Thondup, a progressive monarch fond of blue Mercedes, has resolved to make his land "a paradise on earth" with high literacy and plenty of yak butter for all. "Hope-la," as Thondup affectionately calls the wife he married in 1963, is obviously happy in her role as Queen, wife and mother, keeps busy developing Sikkim's handicrafts and studying Buddhism, though she has not formally adopted the faith. The Sikkimese wistfully pine for more autonomy under India, which handles their defense and foreign affairs and grants entry visas. But it is India's army that has thus far kept Peking from making another Tibet out of Sikkim. Red China's President Liu Shao-chi sent congratulations to the newly crowned King.

Kalo Bhari

The evolution of this practice was started in Sikkim after the latter’s contact with the British. Due to the lack of historical documents it is not possible to ascertain that since when the system was applied to the Sikkimese peasants. The literary meaning of the term Kalo Bhari in Nepali is Black Load. The British sold arms and ammunitions to Tibet. The terrain and the inclement weather condition made the trading difficult. The commodities to save them from rain and snow were wrapped in card boards and put inside gunny bags bedaubed with tar. The tar protected the commodities from out side rain, and it also hid the commodities within. The black colour gave the load its local name Kalo Bhari or black load. Besides using these as a means to transporting arms and ammunitions, they also used to transport viands necessary for British staying at Latung of Chumbi valley. On their way back they were loaded with gold dust, which came to Sikkim from there it was transported to the British territory of Bengal.
Many people of Sikkim who carried Kalo Bhari believe that apart from the arms and ammunitions, some time they also had to carry items of daily use like shoes, jackets, woolen blankets etc. for the British officials who were serving in the Sikkim-Tibet border. Some time it used to come in a large quantity and the peasants of three or four villages had to go to carry them from the centers where they were order to go. The peasants of East, West and South districts of the kingdom were greatly suffered by the system of Kalo Bhari due to their proximity to the border. The East district borders Tibet, similarly the West and South are nearby to the Indian state of West Bengal. The loads of commodities of daily use were also wrapped in the same manner as the ammunitions were wrapped. A peasant who had a good relation with the Kazi- Thikadar in some cases got exempted from carrying the load. But, for the others, the orders of their Kazi were some thing not less than a Decree of God. They had to reach to their center in time. The result of disobedience of the Kazi’s order was the confiscation of the private property, injustices while depositing their land tax, imposition of double taxes etc. The people of West Sikkim had to go up to Darjeeling to carry their loads, similarly, the peasants of South Sikkim had to go up to Teesta and sometimes up to Geil Khola which was then connected with railways. Likewise, the people of East Sikkim had to come down up to Rangpo a bordering town with British India. To carry their transport, porters were fixed by the British depending on Kazi- Thikadars. For the transport of each bag paid Rs.2/- per labour per day had to be paid. But, the Kazis and Thikadars kept the whole amount themselves or Rs.1/- and 10 Annas and used to pass 6 Annas per day to the labourer. The contractors never used to pay the whole amount to the labourers rather they forced them to carry the load through the difficult Tibetan terrain during the lashes of rain, thunder, sleet and snow. It has to be mentioned here that there was no specific ethnic group which had to carry Kalo Bhari compulsorily. The Bhutias, with few exceptional cases, and the Lepchas were also equally suffered with the system. There are some references given by few scholars that the Nepali peasants were the major victims of the system. They may be true in their perception and one cannot ignore the fact that Nepalese were greatly targeted under such practices. But, another factor about the greater number of the Nepali peasants among the porters was that, they constituted 75% of the total population and it is obvious that among the sufferers their number was large. Therefore, apart from few unjust cases, the other cases were not the intentional one as justified by other scholars, but it was a rule of the Kazi-Thikadars which was to be followed by every one, it did not matter on which community a peasant belonged to.
The exploitation of the Sikkimese population reached its highest watermark during the last phase of the Second World War. During the time, huge quantities of these loads were transported overland to China via Tibet. Such was the demand for transport for this purpose that the wages offered reached unprecedented heights. The cupidity of the landlords rose in unison and they stooped to swindling. They falsely requisitioned forced labour on the authority of the state to carry these loads. A large number of these loads belonged to private concerns which transported them to Tibet in collusion with the landlords. So high was the profit on the goods that these business concerns offered four or five times the wages prescribed for forced labour. The land lords charged the private concerns the highest rates, paid the ryots the prescribed rates and pocketed the rests. Such sinister acts could not be hided for long time. When the victims learnt about it they approached to the authorities. As the culprits were all ‘high born’ Kazis, the matter was hushed up, and the aggrieved ryots were sent away with the facial advice to ‘let bygones be bygones and to forgive and forget’.