New Zealander tracing footprints of grand-aunt in Sikkim

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Gangtok, Apr 25 (UNI) Following the footsteps of her grand-aunt, a researcher from New Zealand, Cathy Allan, has arrived in Sikkim to to do her part of missionary stint in the Indian state.

Allan's aunt, Grace Patterson, came to the then Chogyal Kingdom of Sikkim as the only European missionary worker and stayed here for 12 years.

Her footprints are well etched in Paljor Namgyal Girl's Senior Secondary School, where late Patterson was in-charge for 12 years from July 6, 1948 upto September 4, 1995.

The school was then the only girls school in Sikkim with classes up to 10 established in 1924 by Mary Scott and Sikkim Chogyal in the memory of crown prince Paljor Namgyal.

Soon after Patterson left, Sikkim closed its doors for christian missionaries. But once again after 49 years, the Himalayan state has thrown open its arms to embrace these missionaries.

Ms Patterson had done a remarkable job by raising the education standards for girls in the state through scottish mission, said one of the students Prim Rose Pashoy, in her 70s now .

''Even India's first Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi visited the school,'' she said, adding a very young Dalai Lama, Sir Edmund Hillary and the royal Chogyal family made their historic visit to witness the change ushered in by Patterson.

Memories of those years came alive when Allan displayed the photos of the memorable moments before several former students of Patterson in the school premises.

''This is me,'' said a nostalgic Prim Rose Pashoy, when Allan showed her a group photo of twelve rose-cheeked students with Ms Patterson. Ms Pashoy was also a teacher in the same school.

''Almost all the girls who studied under Patterson took up teaching in this school only,'' Pashoy said, adding they found the shadow of Patterson in Allan.

''She was like a mother to me,'' said Lisa Targain, another ex-student, who also assisted Patterson for some years after developing close bonds with her in Kurseong in Darjeeling district.

Patterson first arrived in Darjeeling in 1928, where she was involved with Scot Mission School of Kuresong for around 12 years and later invited to Sikkim.

''Sikkim was my best experience,'' Patterson was quoted in a short documentary developed by a New Zealand media. This was presented by her grand niece Allan here today.

Allan, ecologist with New Zealand forest conversation department, said she hopes to develop a comprehensive story, either in form of a book or website on her grandaunt and the school.

Patterson passed away in 1996 at her birth place Khandallah in Wellington.

UNI BG PP SB ND1005

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