Old and New Nathu-La…..How different it is now….

This photograph of old Nathu-La was taken by Mr. A.D. Moddie in 1957 when he went to Gyantze in Tibet as an Indian trader. The telegraph post for Tibet installed by the British Indian Government can be seen clearly in the picture. A white stripe behind the telegraph post is the Ghorey Sadak (Horse Road) to Tibet. The snow clad land seen in the picture is Sikkim and the land on which the Ghorey Sadak is visible is Tibet.

The New Picture of Nathu-La is also shared to me by Moddie Shaab(as Mr. A.D. Moddie is popularly known in Nainital).

The first Indian to scale Lama Anden (A mountain peak in North Sikkim)

The first Indian to scale Lama Anden a mountain lays left of Lachung is Mr. A.D. Moddie who is also the first batch IAS of independent India. He scaled this peak in North Sikkim in 1946. Recruited in 1948, Mr. Moddie served as an IAS officer in Bihar’s Madhubani district and later resigned and joined Hindustan Liver. I met Mr. Moddie at his Bhim Tal Cottage at Nainital which once belonged to Col. John who was assigned with the charge of administration of the Kumaun and Garwahl region by the British Government. Mr. Moddie bought the house from Mr. Elgin, the last British Officer of the region in the 60’s of the last century. When I reached at his cottage an old man of 90’s opened the door. He still has the very same charm on his face which he used to have 60 years back. I greeted him and our course of interaction about Sikkim started. Mr. Moddie has shared with me some of his great experiences at Gangtok while going to Lhasa as an Indian trader. He told me that Gangtok was then a small town with few houses at present days M.G. Marg. About the least bothered attitude of the then Indians towards the trans-Himalaya in his book Witnesses to our Times he has written the following lines:-

“No one then bothered about the Trans-Himalayan Central Asia. In due course, after a discussion with Harishwar Dayal (then Indian Political Officer to Sikkim) I found myself posted as a trade agent to Gyantze in Tibet……… I think I got my posting on the strength of two earlier treks and a climb on Lama Anden in Sikkim- all I could show of my meager expertise of Central Asia. But my imagination was full of the old Shangri La, the Silk Route, the early Everest story and the earlier Pundits of the survey of India”.

Regarding the perplex situation that he had to face at Gangtok he writes:-

“As there were only two ways, a trader’s or a pilgrim’s permit, I opted for the former. I wrote to our agent in Gangtok, Sikkim, to arrange a mule and a muleteer for me; I would walk. When I arrived in Gangtok and enquired about the mule arrangement, the Agent prevaricated. He shyly disclosed he had arranged twenty mules. He was taking advantage of a sahib-type, who also knew the Political Officer, Gangtok, to send his mules train in, for greater security, under my leadership. When I met Apa Pant, the P.O. for my permit in English, Hindi and Tibetan, I thought I would amuse him with the story of one mule becoming twenty. Apa Pant saw no humor in it. In serious official style, he advised me to take all twenty mules saying, “One mule no status, twenty mules status”.

Apart from the information which he has written in his book Mr. Moddie shared few valuable information about his meeting with the then Maharaja of Sikkim late Sir Tashi Namgyal. He told me that the late Maharaja was a pious person who had nothing to do with politics and who always kept himself busy in religious paintings. Mr. Moddie still has a great love towards the Himalayas and Sikkim has a special place at his heart. When I asked to take few pictures of him he preferred to take them under the pictures of Sikkim which he had taken during his visit.