The staff at the Pangthang Junior High School in Sikkim released a video to YouTube last week that portrays not only the school itself but also the spirit of the Lepchas. Titled simply “Pangthang School,” the three and one half minute video is sung in English by a group of the students, with subtitles in English.
The school is located in the hills immediately outside Gangtok, the capital of the Indian state of Sikkim, about 12 km from downtown. It is not clear if all the students are of Lepcha origin, but a key phrase in the lyrics, repeated several times in the course of the verses, is “we are the light of this world, born in our Mayal Lyang.” Mayal Lyang, also spelled Meyal Lyang, simply means “Land of the Lepchas.” A group of six kids is credited at the end of the video with doing the singing, but throughout, in most of the scenes, all the children are either lip-sinking the words or perhaps they are just singing aloud with gusto and not being recorded.
The lyrics are mostly of the “we-are-proud-of-our-school” variety. One example, the opening stanza, will serve to give the flavor: “We are the light of this world in Pangthang Jr. High; we learn to gather knowledge each day, to grow strong lead the way, and fight ignorance without delay…”
The opening scenes, accompanied by the singing kids of course, show the children, who mostly appear to be about 8 to 14, streaming into the school, a modest-sized, yellow, two-story building. Then, they are shown at their desks, a teacher at the front of the room. The song praises the teachers. Then, we see a group of 40 to 50 children running across the lawn in front of the school.
During a few verses about how they are making their nation, India, proud, we see them parading around in groups holding patriotic flags aloft. That scene is followed by a group of 10 fairly young girls, all kneeling on the grass in front of the school, singing, “We are the light of this world.” So far as one can tell, the youngsters, perhaps 7 or 8 years old, are singing as lustily as their older schoolmates. That is followed on the completion of the verse by a group of older girls singing on the same lawn, also kneeling in the grass. Whatever one may think about the rah-rah lyrics, the video is enjoyable.
Scenes of the kids doing their work in school are followed by adults presenting awards to some of them. We then see views of older boys playing soccer (football) and random scenes of kids playing and interacting outdoors. Either the school children smile a lot, or the people who edited the video did a good job of presenting the kids looking their best. Surely, Lepcha children don’t smile all the time, one wonders as the video closes with a brief look at Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world and symbol of the Lepcha people and of their land, looming on the northwestern horizon. The composer was listed as Suman Karki, with lyrics/direction by Badhya Lama.
The video is not going to add to serious discussions about the status of women in Lepcha society or the desire of Lepchas to have instruction in schools in their own language. But readers who like to get away from serious issues once in a while and watch videos of children will enjoy learning that, whatever the problems and issues faced by this peaceful society, they do have seriously cute kids who are able to sing well together.