NOVEMBER LIGHT: AN ANTHOLOGY OF CREATIVE WRITING FROM BHUTAN
A book produced by the 2010 cohort of students on the course English 202 module (‘Creative Writing: Fiction and Non-Fiction’) at the Royal Thimphu College (RTC), Bhutan
Editorial Team Singay Wangmo Palden Wangchuk Dawa Saday Ugyen Tsheten Lepcha Sippy Das and Dr Nitasha Kaul
Dedication For the youth of Bhutan
â€œI imagine my life is a book that I am engaged in writing. In so doing, I find that every moment brings the urge and energy to do something special, something worthy to write into the book. When I am confronted by some challenge, I find the opportunity to write a wonderful tale of hardship, suffering, hard work, determination and commitment. When faced by the temptation to take short cuts and cheat, the book serves as my conscience. In the end, after all, like anyone else I want the story of my life to be as good as possible.â€? (Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Fifth King of Bhutan, October 2010)
Introduction Every life is a sentence.
The word is an act of magic which carries within it the possibility of enchanting the world. The deepest of human sentiments and the most intense human deeds are seeded with narratives that move people to their ideals, whether lofty or base. Seen thus, writing is an almost sacred act of homage to our being in this world. It was the invention of writing in the fourth millennium BC that marked the transition from prehistory to history. We write because we can, but also because we must. When we write, we express our inner selves, relive our experiences, reflect on our surroundings, and imagine possibilities of change. This book – November Light – is written by young Bhutanese individuals who have been the first ever group of people in Bhutan to have taken a university level course in creative writing. It is a significant endeavour in multiple ways, especially in terms of its location, both geographically and psycho-geographically. Bhutan is a small eastern Himalayan country generally seen as a ‘Shangri La’; however, it is not only a place with breathtaking natural scenery, it is also a land with a very distinctive cultural identity that is simultaneously precious and precarious. It was the last country in the world to get access to television and the internet in 1999. In 2008, Bhutan underwent a historic and peaceful political transition – initiated by the fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, of the Wangchuck dynasty – becoming a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy, and the young people of Bhutan find themselves in a changing world where the equilibrium of values and the balance between tradition and modernity is being reworked every day. The contributors to this book have been exposed to new media for only a decade, they do not yet have multiplexes, and most have never travelled abroad. Living in a largely peaceful and Buddhist environment, they are the first generation of Bhutanese expressing themselves creatively in English in large numbers. While there have been some recent Bhutanese novelists of note – Karma Ura, Kunzang Choden – historically, most writing has been associated with religious scriptures and books were traditionally objects of reverence requiring a distance and an interpretation. The idea (rather bourgeois and in some ways a product of the western Enlightenment) of individual authors penning their own views of the world is not an automatic civilisational product and in Bhutan the intergenerational process of transmitting literary creativity has often taken the form of communally authored folk-tales which are a rich and fabulous storehouse of anecdotes and customs from different parts of the country. As a novelist and a scholar who has worked in many disciplines, leading this creative writing course in Bhutan has been a most meaningful experience for me. My connexion to Bhutan initially grew out of an epiphany: I was sitting on a square stone by the Thimphu Chhu (river) one August afternoon many years ago when I felt uniquely happy. Ex-post facto, I rationalise that it may have been karmic; what with being originally from Kashmir at the other end of the Himalayas, having ‘Tashi’ as my childhood name, loving dragons, and sensing a déjà-vu at the Punakha dzong! I first came to Bhutan in 2006 and have subsequently had several stints of living here in different roles – wanderer, analyst, author, keynote speaker, professor. As an expert who speaks and publishes on the country’s
politics and history, I previously had interactions with Bhutanese parliamentarians, politicians, bureaucrats, intellectuals, philanthropists, workers, and citizens. In 2010, I was lucky to develop a deep and significant relationship with the young people of Bhutan at Royal Thimphu College (RTC). I could understand their struggles to find their own path in life. It is not unusual to hear remarks about the urban youth of Bhutan going astray – not working hard enough, becoming excessively westernised and forgetting their own culture, getting into drugs, forming gangs, committing violence. However, behind this façade of youthful rebellion and exploration, I found a set of creative individuals who sincerely love their King, country and people (their critical attitudes are largely a reaction stemming from their high expectations of their native land), who would like to meet the aspirations of their parents and be loyal to their friends, and who could be so much more successful with a little inspiration, gentle guidance, and the influence of good role models. It is not easy to be young, especially not in a small and somewhat isolated Himalayan country undergoing so much change; in the onslaught of twenty-first century socio-cultural juggernaut, it can sometimes feel like life is elsewhere. In the autumn semester of 2010, RTC ran the first ever Creative Writing course in Bhutan. I met each cohort of students for five hours every week; these were second year students doing degrees with honours in English (jointly with honours in Environmental Studies (EVS), Economics, or Dzongkha). Our first and the last class ended with an exercise of ‘mindfulness’; Bhutan being the home of Gross National Happiness, or GNH, students routinely practice mindfulness – the idea is to sit quietly for a few minutes and commune with oneself and the world around in silence. During the course of the fifteen week term, we had interactive learning consisting of segments that were called – ‘X-Ray’ (where we analysed and evaluated excerpts from the work of other authors within context to see what works and why), ‘Gardening’ (where we focused on writing and editing fiction and nonfiction; this also involved commenting critically on the work of class peers and doing subsequent revisions), ‘Travel’ (where the emphasis was on broadening the literary horizons of the students by introducing them to new knowledge areas). The idea behind this was to discover the joys of creative expression – reading, writing, being read – as a way of making meaning. The students submitted an original work of fiction as their first assignment. Their second assignment was an essay on their field trip to a school - they went into classes at the Changzamtog lower secondary school in Thimphu; the aim was to inspire the small children and observe the context of school education in a different setting. (I had previously been invited to this school as Chief Guest during their ‘Reading Week’ celebrations when I seen first-hand the little ones, many from deprived socioeconomic backgrounds, shine brilliantly under less than ideal infrastructural conditions). The continuous assessment on the course culminated in an end-of-term creative writing portfolio consisting of thirty or so pieces of writing. Apart from reading novellas and short stories, writing fiction and non-fiction (short stories, flash-fiction, essays, book reviews, imaginary biographies, metaphors and dialogues, childhood memories of their friends translated into their own I-voice), the students also analysed some famous speeches, conducted interviews with people about their recollection of an important national event in Bhutan (linking micro and macro history/memory), and wrote up reports of interviews with people from different professions. As the term progressed, the immense creative potential of the young individuals became apparent, and it seemed an excellent idea to put some of their work together as a book; something tangible that would showcase their talents, and in the future serve as a reminder to them of their own abilities. I proposed the idea to the Dean, and would like to acknowledge his support in sharing my vision on this matter. ‘November Light’ was born (the title name was born in a text message much later)! 4
And what a beautifully intense November full of words it has been! We wanted the anthology to include one piece of work from each student on the course and persuading some to share their expressions was no mean task in itself. My house on the campus served as the centre for editing the book. For a few weeks, I felt as if I lived in an stereotypical newspaper office with papers scattered all about a big table, chairs all around it, coloured pens, endless cups of coffee, meals at odd hours, a couple of sleepovers, and a day and night flow of people coming and going as we worked on the various drafts and revisions; truly an intoxicatingly intellectual environment. An editorial team was formed of five core volunteer members – Sippy Das, Dawa Saday, Ugyen Tsheten Lepcha, Palden Wangchuk, and Singay Wangmo (Pema Kara Wangchen and Namgay Wangmo joined us for the initial session). Each piece of writing was edited by a member and then re-edited by another, and then finally edited by me. Then, there was the process of transcribing and retyping, checking for errors, and making corrections. The members of the editorial team were a brilliant and motivated lot; it was also a good way for them to experience first-hand the journey of words from being marks on paper to the published page. We shared long hours of work - rethinking sentences, coming up with synonyms, grappling with ideas - interspersed with relief in the form of music, poetry and laughter. Creative expression has been associated for far too long with the high pundits of literature – the big names, large advances, lure of producing the next bestseller. Even the recent (somewhat commercialized) trends of the literary festivals in Asia and the much talkedabout MFAs (Master of Fine Arts) in creative writing in Euro-America 1 have not done enough to democratize the passionate lure of the written word. The real celebration of writing is the way it might reach out and change ordinary people’s lives, perhaps even survive over time to convey a sense of the shared emotions and the lasting absurdities of the human condition. Books are thoughts before they are things. In her/his quest to remake ideas anew, a writer is, in the end, an innocent in a cynical world. A story may be a testament of soul or a reflection of a social conscience and a poem is surely uninsured feeling. In this collection, the students were free to submit any piece of writing that they produced on the course (which covered fiction and non-fiction generally). When one looks at their work, a remarkable fact stands out: when anyone from outside Bhutan picks up the pen to write about the country, they invariably refer to the majestic mountains, the lush green valleys, butter tea and the beautiful traditional architecture, but as people who have grown up within such ‘exotic’ surroundings, the authors writing in this book do not write about the natural beauty of Bhutan. Instead, they seek to express themselves on the abiding human concerns: love, duty, family, customs, frailties, memories. Here are some of the themes a reader will encounter in this book. The authors write about the various facets of love as something that is spellbinding, enduring, forgiving, tortuous, easy to lose, and marked by mistakes and betrayal. They reflect on the transformations that they see around them: the 1
In the Western academe, there is an enduring debate about the relevance of creative writing specialisations at the postgraduate level. For some recent essays assessing the pros and cons of this, see Louis Menand’s ‘Show or Tell: Should Creative Writing be Taught?’ in The New Yorker, 8 June 2009, and Elif Batuman’s ‘Down with Creative Writing’ in the London Review of Books Vol. 32, No. 18, 23 September 2010. To an extent, these debates do not concern us directly here as the reference points are not shared – the birth of a creative writing course in Bhutan at an undergraduate level that makes students love the dual ‘might’ – power and possibility – of words, is rather different from an incentive-focused MFA in the West.
growth of new media, the changing of a settlement through the construction of a college, the electrification of a village or the devastation caused by floods. They recall childhood memories:2 encountering the wonder of a cloud, the dust of chalk, the taste of milk powder, a mother’s clever wisdom, or a first menstrual period (‘Dream of Red’). They muse about patriotic duty at a time of war, dangers of drunken driving or the national sport of archery, the wonders of friendship (the real-life group of ‘five fireflies’ in my class who named themselves in a writing assignment), a first date at college, the terrors of addiction to drugs and alcohol, the need to triumph over adversity, and the old-time practice of offering a girl in marriage to a high priest that strips away many pieties in the name of custom (‘Stripped’). Several authors contribute short write-ups where they imagine themselves to be a mobile phone, an incense stick, an apple, or a server boy in a canteen. A few narrate their experience of visiting a school and acting as teachers for a day. Some choose to voice their fear of the unknown at night, their desire to see the sunset over a sea, or their wish to make their parents proud. There are also a couple of mysterious and metaphorical one-liners. Finally, there are well-crafted stories (‘Master Plan’ and ‘Anecdote of Life’) that adhere to the conventions of character, setting, plot, conflict, point of view, and dialogue. There is even a story set at a Bhutanese check-post in 2031 (‘Yellow Behind the Numbers’). Many of their writings contain a strong moral message about the need to persevere and choose the right path in life. Putting together this book has been a labour of love on the part of all those involved. November is a wintry month in many parts of the world – especially in the west, it is rainy and gray. As I write this on my birthday at my desk here in Bhutan, it is snowing in my hometown London. Yet, for us who have shared this journey of creative writing here in Bhutan in 2010, November has been a month of great light; a beacon of hope and inspiration! This book is the first of many such to emerge from the young people of Bhutan. Tashi Delek! Nitasha 30 November 2010.
These childhood incidents are not necessarily of the authors themselves, but of their classmates. The exercise involved speaking to a partner about their childhood memories and narrating that in an autobiographical voice. 6
An interview with the Dean of RTC Dr Shivaraj Bhattarai conducted by the editorial team members on 18/11/10 Palden: How would you define 'creative writing' in your own words? What do you feel about creativity in daily life? Dean: The term ‘creative writing’ relates to the expression of one’s experiences. It is the language through which one can convey her/his inner feelings. A person can be creative in their daily life if they can invent a unique style for themselves. Thinking brings out one's creativity. Palden: Do you think creative writers are born or made? Dean: Although there are a few inborn writers, most of them in reality are made through exposure, socializing and important influence of their environment. While it is not necessary for someone to be trained to become a creative writer, it helps to bring out their inherent potential. Singay: It is believed that Bhutanese students hardly read and write. Why do you think Bhutanese students are not very interested in reading? What can be done about it? Dean: Yes, students seem less interested in reading but the Ministry of Education is emphasizing on changing this. Generally, it is seen that students are geared towards examinations alone and they do not really read or write anything other than what is prescribed in the syllabus. Therefore, setting aside time as reading weeks is good practice and so is the tradition of awarding students in order to encourage them. Writing competitions should also be organised regularly. Dawa: Are you interested in writing? What sorts of books do you like and what articles have you written yourself? Dean: Yes! I am very interested in writing and I used to write at least an article every year but I couldn’t write one so far this year because of my busy schedule at an institution that is growing fast. Recently, I have been reading some management-related and motivational books. Dawa: Who is your favorite author and what was the last book you read? Dean: During school days, I used to really enjoy books by Thomas Hardy; The Mayor of Casterbridge was a particular favourite. The last book I read was The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.
Sippy: What do you think about the quality of writing in the newspapers and journals in Bhutan? Dean: With rapid developments in media such as newspapers and television, numbers of young people are going into journalism. Not everyone is properly trained; quite a few have a natural science background, and it would benefit them to be exposed to creative writing and English programmes. This would improve their editorial skills in the future and also impart them to cover events in socially relevant and objective manner. I also feel that news reportage in Bhutan needs to focus more on follow-ups so that previous write-ups can be used to enhance understanding and take issues forward productively. Sippy: Do you think that the increasing number of magazines and newspapers will encourage people to become writers? Is there a future for writing in Bhutan? Dean: Yes it surely will. However, this also depends on how well the papers and the magazines are circulated in different parts of Bhutan. There is definitely a future for writing in Bhutan. Bhutanese writers should aim high and look not just within the country but also at the wider world. Leadership plays a very important role here. Ugyen: Can creative writing be used to tap the latent potential of the young people of Bhutan? Will that divert them away from things like alcohol, drugs, violence and so on? Dean: Well, I think, certainly! Young people sometimes get trapped into the vicious cycle of negative activities and behaviours. To my knowledge, all drug adicts, alcoholics and gangsters have their own story; probably a bitter history. For example, parents getting divorced, the children of the divorced parents and other young adults with problems sort-of getting together, picking up bad habits and slowly forming gangs. And sadly, sometimes these young people have no one to talk to, or are unwilling to seek help on their own, and so their latent potential is wasted. But, we can channelize them on the right path by awakening their inner creativity and making them believe in themselves. If we can really arouse their inner abilities - they are as good as we are; they can write good poems, stories, essays, and lots more - it can be meaningful indeed. And coming up with good groups or associations, like you all (the creative writing students), we can divert them away from the wrong paths that they are treading. It may not solve all the problems facing the young people, but creative writing is an excellent way of addressing some of the core concerns of the youth.
CONTENT PAGES Dedication Excerpt from a speech by His Majesty the Fifth King of Bhutan. Introduction: ‘Every life is a sentence’ Dr Nitasha Kaul, Associate Professor in Creative Writing, RTC Interview with the Dean Dr Shivaraj Bhattarai, Dean of Academic Affairs, RTC interviewed by the editorial team members: Palden Wangchuk, Singay Wangmo, Dawa Saday, Sippy Das, Ugyen Tsheten Lepcha. Stories, Essays, Poems, and Fragments Stripped Dechen Wangmo Interview With Angay Dema (72 years old) From Paro About The Electrification Of Her Village Chimi Zom The Devil’s Lair Pema Kara Wangchen Deadly Blue Tshering Tobgay Dream Of Red Ugyen Dema An Inspirational Journey Dechen Wangmo (100013) I Am A Canteen Boy Dawa Saday Unforgettable Love Rinchen Tshewang Metaphor Yangchen Dolkar
It Happens Sometimes Dorji Dendup I Reubina Dahal Land That Is Dechen Pelden Fireside Tales Chening Gyamtsho Missing Sonam Dem The Great Change! Sonam Wangmo A Bond Sealed By Milk Kinle Yangden Indeed A Dangerous Game! Rinchen Dorji Challenges Of New Media Tashi Yangchen A Sliver Of Hope Singay Wangmo My Life In The Darkenes Sonam Choki Trip To Changzamtog Lower Secondary School Ugyen Tsheten Lepcha For My Mother Namgay Wangmo The Five Fireflies Dorji Wangchuk (100021) I Am An Incense Stick Sonam Choden 10
Fantasy Bridge Singay Chojay I Am An Apple Yeshey Choden I Am A Mobile Phone Tila Rupa Sony Ericsson K850i Kinzang Jamtsho Connecting People Savitra Khatiwara Importance Of Reading Tashi Choden Chalk And Talk Kinga Choden Engraved Kezang Choden The Value Of Love Tshering Pem (100296) The Alarming Night Karma Dechen Lama Never Too Late Rinzin Wangchen The Stranger Dechen Wangmo (100002) The River That Flowed Upwards Tshering Pem (100255) The Long Weekend Sigay Phub Bitter Betrayal But Sweet Reward Tshering Wangmo
A Day To Remember Dorji Wanchuk (100018) Ideal Boy Tashi Wangdi Interview With Aum Choden From Phuentshuoling About The Flood That Broke Out At The Turn Of The Millennium Pema Choden Time Holds A Life Singye Choden Yellow Behind The Numbers Sippy Das Anecdote Of Life Tshering Dema Master Plan Palden Wangchuk
Stripped It’s the third day of trotting up these mountains and my legs feel stiff under the thick kira I was forced to wear by mother. I have no idea where we’re headed to but a group of twenty strong men in uniforms came to our house a few days ago. These men, whom I reckoned to be Brokpas, conversed with my father and I strangely felt as though I was the topic of their little chat. I was woken up before dawn two days ago and our entire family, including my two sisters, silently followed the thick, pungent and crude men. I wasn’t and am not being told why we have to travel on such a tedious journey which seems awfully ominous altogether. Curiosity has been my only companion these past three days of marching to this mysterious destination. It’s the rainy season and leeches have been sticking to my thinly covered feet and sucking blood from my cracked coarse skin. I approached my mother an hour ago for the hundredth time hoping for any information regarding our destination and I’ve decided to lay off for a while because I received a very irritated, “You’ll soon find out stupid girl”. I don’t really feel comfortable with these strange men who keep looking at me. They even dare to discuss me among themselves which almost always makes them laugh or giggle. We had a bonfire at our camp last night and everyone seemed to be inebriated or high on snuff. A middle aged Brokpa kept staring at me for an unusual amount of time and then slowly moved towards me. He started rubbing my back and his hand stealthily moved down. “A girl of twelve and so beautiful,” he leered at me. I spat on his face and ran to where my two sisters were. “What’s wrong,” asked my eldest sister, Deki, with her newly born baby on her back. “Pigs,” was all that came out, compressed under a very angry and violated girl. Am I being sold to these men? Have they taken my family as slaves? Are we to suffer under them? I am at no rate allowing my family to be hurt or separated. It’s the fourth day and I am terrified. I was washing my face near the stream when I heard someone weeping. My older sister, Zayden, was sobbing on my mother’s shoulder behind a tree on the banks of the stream. I tiptoed to the other side of the tree and breathed with meticulous care. “I was in my tent mother… with Ana Deki. I don’t know how it happened. He came and took me outside and lifted my kira. I was speechless ama, I didn’t know what to do but lie down like a lifeless log.” My sister was distraught. I am sure it’s one of those men and the worst part is that she is engaged to be married in a month. My mother started crying too. I guess every mother feels her child’s pain the most. Mother stayed silent though which was shocking. She is a fiery, ill-tempered and outspoken woman who cannot hold her anger in but this time she was too sad to be angry. Seeing that I had no place behind that tree, I walked off to where my father was laughing with the Brokpas. He doesn’t speak Brokpa but the men seem to have no problem with Sharchopka. I wish he would cut open these men’s hearts and feed it to the dogs but he
seems to be afraid of them. I must admit, they appear to have been brought up stronger than yaks. “These women can be a handful to handle,” said my father with a grin. Maybe he means my mother’s anger which he finds hard to take considering his very mellow and kind personality. “Alcohol subdues everyone” replied a man with a moustache from the group, “she doesn’t complain once I start eating the food.” They all started roaring but I didn’t get how a wife’s concern for her husband’s health was so hilarious. We continued on our journey once all our belongings were packed and I decided to deliberately walk close to my sister, Zayden, just in case of a breakdown. Her eyes seem to have sunken in and she hasn’t said a word to me all morning. All she does is look down and walk like a lost spirit. I will murder the man who did this to her but she doesn’t look like she’s ready to tell me. Five hours into our journey for the day and the landscape is becoming flatter. It’s rather beautiful actually. Hills are slowly overlapping each other as we climb up and the sun gleaming on the grass makes it look so crisp and fresh. We’ve stopped a little early today and the camp we’ve set up is a little more comfortable on the flatter landscape we’ve arrived at. Tomorrow is a big day, it will finally be revealed to me the reason we’ve been led to this place. I do know that we’re in Sakten already and I overheard the men tell my father that our journey tomorrow would be short. “Would he accept this cheese and jewelry? I’m afraid it might not be enough,” asked my very timid and scared father. One of the men, younger than most of the smiled and said, “Don’t worry. He is just expecting one thing from you.” “I hope I don’t offend him. We’re poor but I want him to know that we are honorable.” “I know, he probably does, which is why you’re on this journey in the first place.” This man was handsome. Unusually fair in comparison to the other and he had a twinkle of favor and excitement in his eyes. Passang was his name, as I later learnt, and I was tempted to talk to him but he seemed indifferent towards me. Maybe he’s too arrogant to even pretend to take interest. Whatever it is, I’ll wait for him to come to me. The evening went by in the same manner – Drinking, eating and dancing around the fire with red-faced staggering men. Passang was asleep. The fifth and final day, a few more hours and my curiosity, now burning, will be gratified. They’ve packed up and we’re now treading on much flatter and easier grounds. I can see small houses appearing over the hills and tiny figures of children running and sliding down the slopes. I’m jealous. Two hours into our journey, Passang came behind me and whispered in my ear. The rest were a little ahead which my slowing down intentionally must have contributed to. “You know you’re very beautiful, you should look after it. That’s all the power a woman has,” he laughed and winked at me. My little heart felt like it was about to burst any second 14
and I could feel an immense sense of euphoria fill my utter core. Everything seemed so much more vibrant. I was filled with this ecstasy for a few hours until I was distracted by a huge commotion of music and voices approaching. I could gradually see a whole village as we proceeded to walk and two lines of adorned women were awaiting us as we approached a huge temple. The stone steps leading to the doors of this temple were blackened with age and it made me nervous to see that so many people were aware of our arrival. My father grabbed me by the arm and told my family to stay back. I climbed up the stairs and as the huge wooden doors opened, I saw a figure on a high chair with apparel fit only for a high priest. No one dared to look him in his eyes and I sensed a very crude and harsh aura around him. From what I gathered, this man was Tibetan. He needed a translator to talk to my father. “The Rinpoche welcomes you. You can stay here for a few days in our guest quarters while the ceremonies proceed,” the goatish looking translator announced. “Thank you your holiness but I request your permission to leave immediately. There’s no one to attend to our cattle or look after our house. I actually came to receive your blessing and gift you with this cheese, jewelry,” my father said as he took out the gifts wrapped in cloth and handed it over to the translator, “and my daughter.” My heart sank and tears welled up. The whole room became a black hole sucking out all the joy in me. I looked at the Rinpoche and all I saw was a middle aged man looking at me with great contentment. I was to live under this man for the rest of my life as his wife. I had heard of this Rinpoche. He was brought all the way from the Kham area in Tibet and people consider him to be very holy. Why was I chosen to marry him? How can by father do this to me? After we received a nod of approval, we took leave and climbed down the stairs I felt heavier than lead which my sisters and mother sensed and they proceeded to hug me and cry while I stood there numb and stiff. “We have to go,” sobbed my mother as she stroked my hair. Two women came behind me and pointed to a small hut where I was to go for preparations before the ceremonies began. I ignored the women and took my mother and sisters in my arms as firmly as I could, hoping that they would drag me all the way home in the same position. But mother separated my reluctant arms and turned away, pulling both my sister by their hands. Father gave me a pat on the back and with his solemn eyes followed them without a word. They had reached a few meters in distance from me when my sister, Zayden came running back. “I hope he’s a good husband for you but I have one thing to ask you- Don’t let your husband touch your children. Fathers can be cruel and this I discovered on our way here. I love you,” she cried and walked on. I understood her. Zayden had been violated by father that night at the camp but all I could do now was to be filled with abhorrence and disgust. I watched as they left and caught a glimpse of Passang observing our farewells with his baby in arm and wife by his side.
I was left standing there detesting all fathers and afraid to death of life with a â€˜holyâ€™ husband. Dechen Wangmo BA Economics/English
Interview with Angay Dema (72 yrs old) from Paro about the electrification of her village Me When did electricity first come to your village? Angay: I don’t remember the date or the day but it was in 1980 that our village was first electrified. Me: How did you feel when you switched something on for the first time? Angay: Actually, I had no idea how to operate electrical equipment but my son-in-law taught me how to use such things. The first time when I switched an appliance on, my fingers were trembling and I felt goosebumps. I thought something scary might happen, but no, nothing happened; instead the world around me turned bright and the illumination made the nights feel like days! Me: What are the things that you have learned as you started using electricity? Angay: With electricity coming to our village, the first thing my daughter taught me was how to click the power ‘On’ and ‘Off’. Then slowly she taught me how to cook food, get hot water and so on. I didn’t need to learn as we didn’t have the kind of facilities that existed in the towns. Me: Do you want to share any funny incidents from that time? Angay: Yes, actually so many incidents happened and I can share one in particular. It was a Tuesday and no one was there in the house, everyone had left for work. Being alone at home, I thought of cooking food with the use of electricity for the first time. I washed the rice, put it in the cooker and clicked the button on the wall socket. In the meantime, I did some household chores and soon got very tired. Excitedly I went to have lunch, but to my surprise, the food was uncooked! It was exactly how it had been before. I had followed all my daughter’s instructions but forgotten to switch the power button on the rice cooker to boil! In subsequent months I got so many electric shocks and lost many buckets while trying to heat up water for my cattle. Me: Do you think there were any changes with the introduction of electricity in your village? Angay: Yes, it made a vast difference to our community. We were in the dark for many years and now, life seems very easy and comfortable for us. It was unhygienic before, we had high rates of mortality too. Now, it’s like being in paradise. Me:
Are there any drawbacks to having electricity? Angay: As every coin has two sides, yes, I think so. With electricity there is always a chance of electrocution. Me: Whom do you want to thank for your comfortable life and why? Angay: My full gratitude goes to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck and all the past Kings because they have been the light in darkness for us all and their support has been a walking stick in our life. Chimi Zom BA English/Dzongkha
The Cloud Of Meaning When I was six years old, I recall making a journey from Thimphu to Phuentsholing with my family. I usually sleep when I travel, but this particular day, I don’t know why, I woke up. As I opened my eyes, I saw large swathes of a smoke-like thing covering the whole road. I asked “Mommy, what are they?” She told me they are clouds. “Wow! So we are in the sky now?” I was surprised. My parents smiled. I always wanted to touch the clouds; fluffy cotton clouds. They were my dream, whenever I looked at the sky I wanted to play with them and that was the first time I saw clouds so close. My sister and I threw our arms out of the window to try and catch the clouds. I wanted never to let go of that sensation. However, they disappeared after our car passed that stretch. I was puzzled “How come, mommy?” I asked. My mom explained to me that it was just the vapours. It was incredible! I still believe that clouds are painted in the sky by the master artist: wind. When the world is overcome with feeling, the clouds turn to rain and each drop of that magic vapours holds the destiny of a dream… Karma Yangzom BA Economics/English
The Devil’s Lair The dim light in the room pierced my eyes, somehow I managed to pull myself up and look around. I was so high and everything seemed a blur but I could see my friends Sonam and Wangchuk sprawled across my room. About two hours ago we had just passed around seven pots of hash, a bottle of whisky and had popped a couple of spasmoproxy pills. My friends were spaced out and I was the only one who had a little sense left in me. This high made me feel really good and happy and slowly I started reminiscing. I was transported back into time to a small bar located in Jungshina, Thimphu. This shady looking bar was called ‘Crophel bar’ and was run by this Tibetan lady who was popularly known as ‘Aunty’. Aunty entertained all sorts of customers: young, old, rich, poor, male and female. Every time I stepped into that bar I felt perfectly at home. Everyone around was just like me; they came to that bar to deal with their stresses, loneliness and sorrows by drinking their livers away and taking different drugs to escape the hardships in their lives. This bar was situated on the outskirts of Jungshina; about five minutes walk from the highway. The police never seemed to care about what was going on in that bar and for that matter neither did anyone else, so it was a paradise for people like me. There was this one particular man with whom I got along really well. His name was Gyaltshen and he was a 30 year old from Punakha. One day when we were sitting in the bar and sipping on our whisky (I was on my eighth shot of whisky by then), he told me that I reminded him of his own self when he was a teen. He then took out some pills and said something to me. I will never forget those words as they haunt me to this very day and bring back gruesome memories. He said, “Penjor, you seem like a really lonely and depressed soul, pop a few of these pills and you will never need anything or anyone else to keep you happy.” I eagerly listened to him as I wanted to get out of my depression and the alcohol in my system didn’t help either. He handed me a couple of pills and I quickly popped them into my mouth and took a long swig of my whisky; I felt like I had just entered into Guru Rinpoche’s seventh heaven. I later found out that the pills he had given me were called spasmoproxy (SP). This high was a completely new experience for me. It was nothing like the high that marijuana gave me. By then I had been smoking pot for about three years and it had little effect on me. Then and there, SP became my obsession. Any money that I got from my parents and relatives was spent buying pills and hash and just like Gyaltshen had said I didn’t need anyone to make me happy. I was in perfect harmony with myself. What I did not realize was that I had just stepped foot into the devil’s lair. What an irony it was, here I felt like I was in heaven but I was just giving my soul to the devil. Tring! Tring!! my cell phone’s ringtone pulled me back to reality. It was my friend Karma and he said “Yo man, I got some really fine hash from Bumthang. We have to hit it man, I am coming over” and he hung up without even waiting for a response. My other friends were just starting to stir and I passed on the good news. They grinned happily upon hearing me and started rolling a joint with the little bit of hash that was left over. I went over to my cupboard and took out my bong. I had bought this bong when in India and I even named it ‘Little John.’ My friends really liked my bong and sometimes when they were really high they would start talking to it.
As we waited for Karma, Sonam lit the joint, took a few drags and passed it to me. I took long slow drags and gazed around my room. The Bhutan flag looked all elegant stuck in the middle of my wall; it was surrounded by posters of Bob Marley and Che Guvera. The pills were sprawled across the lone table with empty bottles of whisky in the center. Cigarette butts, minuscule pieces of hash, and a mixed stench of tobacco-alcohol filled the room. I am ashamed to say this but my condition was no better than that of a junkie. ‘Thud, Thud’, someone knocked on my door. I took one last drag off the joint and passed it on to Wangchuk. As soon as I opened the door, I saw Karma’s smiling face and immediately came the conclusion that he was also high out of his mind. The four of us then sat in a circle around the table and started taking turns to hit the bong. Finally, after five rounds, the hash from Bumthang successfully penetrated our lungs, and Wangchuk took out four sheets of SP. I was really high and I didn’t want anymore but my friends cajoled, “Come on, you are the man.” I didn’t want to let them down. I have always had this habit of not being able to say no to my friends so I popped four pills. Immediately, I felt something stirring in my body and my head started to pound. Every part of my body screamed in agony. I ran to the bathroom and started throwing up. Somehow I realized that I was throwing up blood and I felt a cold fear gripping me, then everything went blank. I could hear people mumbling in worried voices and moving about. I slowly opened my eyes with great difficulty and saw hazy images. The shaft of light that radiated from the bulb did not agree with me and I blinked several times before the blurred images started making some sense. The vague outline was my mother looking at me with tearful eyes. She just hugged me and kept repeating, “I love you so much, everything is going to be all right, we are all going to help you.” I did not say anything. The pain in my mother’s eyes was palpable. I was feeling really guilty and embarrassed. I wanted to end my life then and there, but I tried to think that I could get myself back on track. At that very moment I promised my parents that I would quit everything and start a fresh new life. My mother and my father walked out of the room looking a bit happier. At first I was not aware of where I was and then I realized that I was in my room but my room had gone through quite a drastic change. All my posters were removed; my clothes were neatly folded and my room was so clean. I felt a bit out of place as I had never seen my room so neat. A few days later, I got a very strong urge to get high again and my body was desperately asking for a some drugs to ease the aches and pain. I remembered that I had hidden a few pills behind my closet. I quickly got up and found my pills just where I had hidden them. Good, nobody had seen it! I had completely forgotten that I had promised my parents to stop taking drugs; I quickly gulped down three pills and took a swig of water without even a second thought as to the consequence. The pain and the aches were slowly disappearing and I was feeling much better. I knew that if I continued for any longer my body would stop functioning but there was no way I could stop as I had become dependent on drugs. Psychologically, I could not function without drugs. … I know that I am fighting a losing battle trying to quit drugs, so from now on I am just going to lie to my parents. I have to lie to them as I want to see them happy because I know that I would leave them forever very soon. Every day, I regret the moment I got into drugs but somehow I cannot function without them. I can feel the cold hands of death slowly grip and squeeze the life out of my body.
I want to tell someone but I cannot bring myself to do it as I know that no one would understand me. I am dying slowly and all I have with me as my companions in the last few months of my life are my drugs. Somebody, anybody, please help me! Pema Kara Wangchen BA Economics/English
Deadly Blue Your love is a spell, That binds me to you. I can’t break away, No matter what I do. You just don’t care. What I am going through, It’s killing me inside, And you don’t have a clue. I have no regrets For my love is true, But I can’t take it anymore Free me, you wicked shrew! Tshering Tobgay BA English/EVS
Dream Of Red The ambulance was speeding up on the Babesa highway. Atop it, a red emergency light flashed in tune to the siren sound. Inside the ambulance, a tense driver turned back and saw the man holding his wife’s hand; the man’s eyes were full of tears and he looked nervous. The lady was lying on a stretcher, holding tightly onto the handles at the edges. She was panting in pain and half her body was covered by a blanket, obscuring her big belly. She was sweating. The lady had fear in her eyes but also a sense of comfort since her husband was near her. The driver could hear the husband saying, “Everything is going to be fine Dema. I am with you.” He repeated this again and again, consoling his wife. An elderly lady sitting next to them did not talk much but her expression was relaxed as she said, “It’s normal!” Dema writhed in pain, hardly able to hear the words. After twenty minutes, the ambulance reached Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral hospital and the driver parked the vehicle in front of the emergency room. The ward boys came out and carried the woman on another stretcher. Dema was screaming in pain and her sharp screams were like the howling of wolves in the woods at night. In her halfconscious state, she could see around her men and women in white coats, some old people, some women with new born children in their arms…they were taking her through the gallery to the delivery room. She could smell an irritating odour of medicines too. As soon as they reached the delivery room, the ward girls changed Dema’s dress and then laid her on the delivery bed. They hung her legs on the ladder; the nurses started putting on their gloves and everything was ready for the delivery. Soon, a nurse called the doctor. At that moment, Dema was sweating like hell. She still had time for expansion. The elderly lady, who was her mother, cared and helped Dema. Thinley, the husband, was sitting near Dema; he held her hand to give her support. Moreover, it seemed like the couple were having their first child because the husband was both scared and excited. Then, after a few minutes, the doctor rushed to the delivery room. He put on his green gown and got ready. As soon as Dema saw the doctor in the green dress, she screamed out loud. She was sweating at the sight of the white gloves and the green gown. She shouted, “No go away!” The doctor comforted her, saying, “Just relax”. Looking at the doctor’s face, in frustration, she screamed once again, “Relax?! who can relax when a nine month old parcel is being delivered and all the pain is to be suffered by one party?.” At this, her husband got angry too and shouted back, “What?! When you were in pain all this time was I not by your side? Did I not take care of you? Did I not love you enough?” Instantly, she was silent, tears flowed uncontrollably down her cheeks. Dema looked at Thinley carefully. He looked like a little baby wanting attention. She clasped his hand tight and said, “I am sorry baby! I don’t know why I am getting angry at you.” Seeing her cry Thinley could not help but smile. He kissed her on the forehead and said, “Push, Push!” After sometime the doctor could see the head of the baby. The delivery was proceeding normally but all of a sudden, the umbilical cord got wrapped around the neck of the baby and the baby was stuck. In a while, Thinley was panicking as he walked to and fro, begging the doctor to be gentle with her. Even so, the doctor carefully lifted the umbilical cord from the baby’s neck and took the baby out without much complication. Everybody was happy and the baby was taken to the incubator. Then the nurses changed Dema’s dress and shifted her to the cabin where she could relax. She was tired and Thinley went home to fetch her dinner. She was lying on the bed very excited to see their baby. She was thinking about Thinley, the baby, and their future plans. 24
That very moment, she felt dizzy and sensed something flowing out of her body. She could feel that her bedsheet was becoming wet and now she even couldnâ€™t lift herself up and saw reddish blood spread all over her bed. Her body was slowly becoming numb and everything seemed to be dark. She closed her eyes. The next morning when Dema opened her eyes and took off the blanket to get out of the bed, she saw blood on her night gown, mattress and bedsheet. A tear drop ran down her cheeks as she realized that the dream of her having a baby signified that she was experiencing her first menstruation. Ugyen Dema BA English/EVS
An Inspirational Journey I was very keen to go on our college trip to Changzamtog Lower Secondary School. It was the middle of October and I had eagerly waited for this day to come. I had prepared speeches and some questions to ask the students. I was immensely excited and my face was filled with joy. It was, indeed, my first experience of being a responsible adult college student; I truly felt it was one of the most memorable days in my life. With some of my classmates, I went to the parking area where we waited for the bus. I saw that they were all practising their speeches, they too seemed happy to go on this visit. When we got into our minivan, we realised that due to maximum permissible number of people in a vehicle, some of the students would have to follow us in a car separately. It was a very enjoyable journey, some of my friends started singing and chatting amongst themselves, while others were discussing the topics that they might broach with the students. There were lots of cars on the highway and the streets were busy with crowds of people. When we reached there, it was already lunchbreak. All the students were playing in the grounds, running here and there, making noise and waiting for the bell to ring so that they could get back into their classes. The surroundings of the school were dusty because of ongoing, and rather delayed, construction work. Our lecturer told us to mingle with the students and interact with them. Though prepared for the occasion, I felt nervous and shy in front of them. My brain was full of questions. What should I ask and what advice should I give? I was silent for a moment; I wandered alone and looked around. My friends were busy speaking to the students and taking notes. I observed the lovely natural scenery painted on a wall, and next to it the school’s vision was written in big bold letters: “To Live, To Love, To Learn, To Leave a Legacy. We live by striving to be the best. We love by caring for others. We learn by working hard and always doing our best. We leave a legacy by sharing”. After reading these noble thoughts, I was impressed and I reminisced about my own school days. While I was reading, a few students came near and stared at me, some even greeted me. I laughed and blushed since it was my first time being called a ‘Madam’. When I walked along the corridor, I saw a small boy smiling at me. We greeted each other. Then, I asked him what his father’s occupation was. He answered, “My father works in PWD (Public Works Department)”. I learnt that his family did not have a strong financial background. I advised him to study hard and make his parents happy. I added, “When you grow up, help them”. After that I went to the academic block and I entered inside one of the class IV rooms. The class was decorated with articles and pictures. One big girl was cleaning the classroom and making another small girl pick the papers; being the class captain, she was shouting at the other girl. I recommended that she not exercise her power in such a way. I told them that bullying was bad. They were all friends and should treat their classmates with respect. After a minute, the bell rang and all the students ran to their respective classes. Once inside, they started making lots of noise; like chicks waiting for their mother to come and feed them. Automatically, I remembered those days when I was in class IV, chatting, fighting and teasing. I smiled. The chain of childhood fun had not been broken over the years... When the teacher came, there was a pin-drop silence in the class. 26
Next, I walked over to the building for class pre-primary to III which was located to the other side of the ground. On the way, I saw two small girls braiding each other’s hair. Both were very cute and I asked them where they were from. They were southern Bhutanese and replied that they were from Samtse. I advised them also to study hard and be good children to their parents. They were quite shy and scampered away to their classroom. We gathered in an assembly gorund where our lecturer introduced us to the head of the school. She gave a small talk about Changzamtog School and told us that there are around 1449 students. She pointed out the junior and senior class blocks. We were assigned to different classrooms to interact with the students. Some of my friends were very excited and raring to go. I did not feel so confident. My friend Tashi and I went to VI B where a mathematics class was in progress. When we entered, the class grew silent and the students stared at us unblinkingly. We asked them to introduce themselves and share their life-goals. For most, their ambition was to become a doctor. The class was decorated with different articles related to their subjects, however, the atmosphere inside the class was rather dingy as it was a small room crammed with many students. There were more girls than boys. I asked them who topped their class exams. One boy from the first bench stood up and said, “Kezang is first, second is Phurba Wangdi and third is Kinley Pelmo”. I sat with them facing the blackboard and missed my childhood days. They asked us many questions. I told them to study hard and make their parents happy, to not get mixed up in bad company. Some of the students were having family problems. I asked them not to get hurt and to try and be mature. I stressed that they must be good, ambitious and responsible. One boy named Pema wanted to sing, he had a good voice too. After that, I asked the students to come in front of the classroom and read from any library book. They read the books in a good accent, without any grammatical errors or pronunciation mistakes. We also had a spelling competition between the boys and girls which the boys won. I asked them, “ How many students are there in each class and what is the total number of teachers in the school?”. They said that there are 37 students in each class and 56 teachers in all. One girl added that there were 32 classrooms in total. In the meantime, a school captain also came and made an announcement. The class was coming to a close and later we all gathered in the assembly ground for the evening prayers. At 3 pm, they all sat cross-legged on the ground and started chanting and meditating. At last, the head teacher made some announcements and stressed on the value of learning well and working hard. We went to visit the library which was housed in a small room. We were told that they had many books but little space to keep them. As we headed back to RTC, I realised that it had been a most memorable and fulfilling day for me. The school was one of the oldest in the capital city. It was well-run inspite of the obvious constraints of space and facilities. Not only was I able to inspire some young students, but I had also gained a measure of confidence from the entire experience. Dechen Wangmo (100013) BA English/EVS
I Am A Canteen Boy I am sitting on the canteen steps. The weather is bright but the heat is making me sick, just then I remembered him, my canteen owner. I was only seven when he adopted me from the street. I was an orphan and some people in the street raised me. Later they sold me to this canteen owner for 500 Ngultrums. It was such a huge amount for a boy like me. I am not Bhutanese and I’ll never know where I am from but I don’t even care to know. Ap Kinley, the owner was a happily married man. He had kind sparkling eyes and he was always good to me. He had a bulging stomach because he drank beer like water. His wife was a thin lady with shiny curly hair. I used to play with her hair when I was a kid. She treated me like her own child. I didn’t go to school but I wanted to work there. I was eleven when Aum Zam told me that I was ready enough to work there. She took me to the kitchen and handed me an apron. It was so big for me, I sank in it. I looked at the refrigerator and saw my reflection there. I was like a dwarf in a giant’s clothes. As time went by, I learnt how to take orders and serve, though I never cooked. The canteen was situated in a remote place surrounded by mountains where most of the customers were villagers; rustics and rubes. A group of young men, probably in their early twenties, used to come to the canteen frequently. They drank beer and also treated me harsh. I was thirteen then and I thought I was matured. I turned into a naughty boy and I didn’t even work properly. I never served that same group of young men again, instead sending my co-workers to attend them. I didn’t have any work because I always cheated and ran away whenever somebody called my name. I lay down on the warm cemented ground and remained there for hours until Ap Kinley shouted for me on top of his lungs. I started to steal momos and eat them till I was full. My owner never realized it and I stole every day. Early one morning, I was sent to the canteen to take the cakes out from the refrigerator and then give them to the delivery man. There was no one when I got there and I had the keys. I was excited to open and see how much cash the drawer contained. I inserted the key through the hole and opened the safe. To my astonishment, I saw that there was a huge amount of money inside. I didn’t think of anything, I just reached out my hand and picked up a bundle of notes. I thought Ap Kinley won’t know about it but he saw me. He came marching towards me and I could feel my whole body shivering in fear. It didn’t even take a second – his hand stuck my face like a hammer. He hit me left and right. After a few minutes, I couldn’t hear anything and my face became numb. He held me by my ears and I thought they would come out if he pulled them even a little harder. My ears were as tender as mushrooms. Just then, Aum Zam came and stopped him from hitting me. She was an angel and my saviour, Ap Kinley looked at me with raging eyes and said “I have seen you steal momos so many times, still I didn’t say anything thinking you were just a kid but now you are turning into a serious thief”. I cried and begged for forgiveness but he went away with a red face. I wept the whole night and my lips were salty with tears. After that incident I carried out my work properly, went to get orders from the bad boys even if they treated me rough. That day onwards I didn’t even like the smell of momos. One day, I grew tired of working and sat on the same canteen steps where I am right now. The sun was bright, just then this same gigantic hand patted my back. A chill ran down my spine. The other huge hand held money in front of my face. I saw more money than my usual pay that day. He smiled at me and said “Have it, you worked very hard and you deserve it”. 28
I learnt a lesson that we can get what we want by working hard and itâ€™s not necessary to steal. Today I am twenty and sitting on these stairs reminds me of him. He no longer lives in this world and I miss my owner very much. Dawa Saday BA English/EVS
Unforgettable Love Love may be a cliché But I love her still She may have forgotten me But remember her, I always will. Rinchen Tshewang BA English/EVS
Metaphor Like an incomplete sketch hanging on the wall / My life is an artists’ dream, oscillating between vision and reality. Yangchen Dolkar BA English/Dzongkha
It Happens Sometimes We make mistakes unknowingly and end up hurting ourselves and others. Sometimes our apologies are not enough but they are all we can offer. Understanding others completely is an impossible endeavour; our spontaneous expressions of the inexplicable sensation called ‘Love’ must suffice in lieu of the many failed attempts at forgiving and forgetting. Dorji Dendup BA English/Dzongkha
I On some days, I am inexplicable to myself.
Reubina Dahal BA English/EVS
Land That Is Having lived all my life in a landlocked country, Iâ€™ve never been able to imagine how being on an island feels... How magical it must be to see the sun rise over the endless waves, setting their cold blue depths on fire! Dechen Pelden BA English/Dzongkha
Fireside Tales A strong wind blew in gusts across the barren wintry valley. The full moon was shattered into scores of pieces in its reflection on the troubled waters of the the lake. It was the raw wilderness sans drama. There were no lions roaring, no guns firing -- only the blaze in a remote cottage hearth around which a family sat telling stories over cups of ara. Chening Gyamtsho BA English/Dzongkha
Missing One summer night, in absolute gloom, I sat crying on the bed with tear drops streaming down my cheeks. The sky was a blanket of sorrows - dark clouds obscured the moon and no stars twinkled above. The leaves rustled softly, nature echoed my melancholy. My love, the hero of my heart, had left without even bidding goodbye. Like sand trickling between fingers, our love had slipped away. All my hopes and well-knit plans were crushed into uncountable pieces
which could not be joined again in the future. Alone, I wept an ocean of tears, thinking of our unforgettable times together. To this day, I miss him and canâ€™t stop wishing that he would come back. Sonam Dem BA English/Economics
The Great Change! Dawn was breaking when I was startled from my sleep. It was quite early for me to get out of my bed. Birds chirped sweetly in the trees. It was a little chilly in the mornings and evenings, though it was the month of July. The air was fresh and serene as usual. A stream gurgled past the hamlet. The house itself was in pin-drop silence. I took out my prayer beads from underneath my pillow and started counting them with my wrinkled and trembling hands. I could not keep track of my thoughts; I was harassed by so many anxieties. I was in my eighties and this was the first time I was experiencing something like this. My worries had never woken me from my sleep, I could sense a premonition. I felt assailed by an uneasy sensation of the changes occuring around me. I saw the sun rising from my lower window. It added a boundless charm to the thickly forested area, spreading its brilliant light and warmth through the leaves. The place was so tranquil and had always been so, as far back as I could remember. Thinking of the inevitable transformations, I was overtaken by sorrow. I had never imagined in my wildest dreams that my Ngabiphu village - the place where I was born, the place where I grew up, and the place where I spent my entire life - would undergo such harsh changes. I thought it must be a horrific nightmare. However, it was not, and it took me quite some time to come to terms with reality. I was dumbstruck when the village head, Gup Namgay, said: “In no more than a year, our remote Ngabiphu village would easily be connected to Thimphu town. We must feel proud that our village would offer the first private college in our country”. I was completely shattered for I knew that the beautiful green trees would be cleared permanently. I tried my best to argue that it would bring a great negative impact on the residents of this area. No one was persuaded by my point of view. In fact, I was insulted on the grounds that I was unmodernised and could not accept changes. “It is a golden chance for our far-flung village to develop and it will make our lives comfortable and easy”; their words appeared nonsensical to me. I have seen the growth of Thimphu town before my own eyes. What is left of it now? The place is getting more crowded year-by-year and violent criminal cases, dust, pollution, dirt, noise and diseases are multiplying with time. That too was done in the name of ‘development’ and it is one major cause of the loss of our culture and our exotic environment. The construction work in Ngabiphu had begun with hustle and bustle. It did not take long to transform this paradise on earth into a living hell. The place was littered with hundreds of noisy workers. Trees were chopped like spring onions from their pulp, huge boulders were crushed into pieces using ugly machines, enormous numbers of bird species vanished, thefts increased, young girls went out with labourers, and so on. The place looked like a wounded sore. Well, this was just the beginning and I could not imagine what the future had in store. Within months, a mini-town had appeared. Giant buildings sprouted out from the soil and no more did it look quiet and serene. I could no longer relate to the place and felt alienated, just a burden to everyone. My grey hair did not provoke any respect in the minds of the budding youth. They thought I was being unreasonably emotional in my attachment to the forested land. For them, I belonged to an uncivilised world of those who could not acknowledge change to enhance livelihood. I was a mere old and stooping man who walked with the help of a stick. What they did not know is that my highly prized experiences are hidden beneath the furrows of my forehead and the wrinkles on my face. I may be physically weak but I do not lack sense.
... The thoughts tortured me so much that I could no longer stay in my bed. I did not wait for the bed tea that my daughter usually brought for me. She must have heard me unlock the door latch. She called out from her bedroom, “Apa, where are you going so early in the morning?”, to which I replied, “I just want fresh air for my lungs”. She did not allow me even a pace without a cup of tea and she forced me to have some roasted rice, zaw, along with it. She thought I was too fragile to go out on an empty stomach. She was right. After half an hour of leaving my wooden cottage, my tummy started growling. Luckily, I had put some of the zaw in the large pocket of my gown-like attire, gho. As I was about to leave she warned me to be careful with the vehicles, “The students are going to join from today, so there will be many vehicles”. As I started my journey, my worrisome thoughts were gradually dispelled...I had wanted to go on such a walk for several days and today was the right opportunity. I still felt consumed by unease but I did not have any solution. I walked slowly, taking in the scenic beauty with its minute details, until I reached the place where the massive looking college was built. I sighed upon seeing the severe transformation the area had undergone. I stood near the gate looking at what the place had become, while simultaneously remembering what it had been for years. It had become completely different from what it had been. There used to be the undulating potato fields and apple orchards surrounded by lush green trees. The potato fields were nowhere to be seen, for there were big buildings that had replaced them. Those were the fields where I had shed the sweat of hard work alongside many other diligent farmers. Now, gone were those fields and the memories with them! Gigantic structures had been built and a shiny black road meandered through the institute. These buildings were twenty times larger than my little wood house by the river. Stepping a little further, I saw a large ground tranformed from an uneven hill into a complete plain; I thought it might be a football ground. This was what technology had done to my village. It had destroyed the natural beauty, but man-made splendours had been added. To be honest, the scene did not look as bad as I had imagined, though, deep within me, I continued to yearn for the original one. The college was still surrounded by rich vegetation, inspite of the trees that had been chopped down. It was a fine place to study, amidst the natural environment. However, they had done a great injustice to the wild animals that had prevailed in this place. They were driven away from their homes forever for the benefit of the youth. But did the younger generation appreciate our sacrifices? They seemed to have a very meagre respect for their elders. That was how the upcoming young people were. They don’t respect the old and the weak, they look down on their culture and traditions which have been preserved by their forefathers. Such people do not deserve the best things and their happiness should never be attained at the price of our divine environment. They should be kept at home and made to work in the fields, just as we did then. Only that would make them realise what their ancestors have done and how much the old and the frail people have gone through; they should think twice before scoffing at us. The college looked awesome and the people for whom it was built, really did not deserve it. ... The noise of the vehicles started buzzing like the bees in their hives. I began my journey back to my house. While walking slowly down, I encountered a shiny blue car parked near one of the buildings. I stopped to see what was happening, for I was sure I heard cries. I 34
saw many other vehicles too, but no one in them was crying as they unloaded their luggage. Some had smiley faces while others appeared a little gloomy. Most had cheery looks, while a few seemed very mischievous, as if they had some other intentions than studying. I felt like whacking those who wore such expressions. They did not seem to care how much their parents had paid for them to get an education. A sad crying girl by the blue car was the one who grabbed my attention. There were a few people surrounding her and she looked very sad. For one moment, my heart skipped a beat out of pity for the girl. She looked like she did not want to part from those people; they were probably her parents. I could not stop myself from asking her what the matter was. She ran towards me and hugged me by my thin waist. I learnt that her grandfather had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and inspite of being awarded a government scholarship, she had refused to go to India for her further studies. She had decided to be in Thimphu and within the reach of her loving grandfather. The disease had reached an advanced stage and she could not bear the thought of not being there if something happened to him. She could not risk losing precious time with him. She was going to lose him anyhow, but she wanted to be by his side when he took his last breath. It was hard for her even to depart from her bedridden grandfather to join college that morning. That was the reason the girl had cried. Constructing the college here in Bhutan had actually made it possible for her to live a better life. There must be many others like her. ... The girlâ€™s name was Ugyen. After encountering her, scales had come off my eyes. She had made me rethink my attitudes towards the young people. They were not emotionless and neither were they thoughtless. They were wise and far more intelligent than we might be. I was a fool to have been stereotyping the youth as a disrespectful bunch of people. I was very wrong and my gray hair had not helped me in making a better judgement. Now, I do not look at all the young people with the same perception. Ugyen did me a great favour by teaching me that people should never be judged in accordance with their age or appearance. Sonam Wangmo BA English/EVS
A Bond Sealed By Milk I still remember that as a child whenever I entered the kitchen my mother called me a thief. This was because I was impossibly tempted by milk powder. At the sight of the glass container that held the white stuff of my dreams, my hands seemed to develop a volition of their own – I would unscrew the lid and my fingers reached out to pick a fistful of powder. I had been warned more than once by my mother. Once she caught me hiding under the sink with my mouth stuffed full of the powder. At the sight of her fury, my hand went limp and the jar slipped from the cradle of my folded right elbow. Just as it shattered, I felt blows rain upon me. I spluttered as my mother thrashed me squarely. Then, it all went a-blur. I must have fainted in terror. The next day, when I recovered, my mother sat by my side and placed a large carton of milk powder in front of me. You can eat all you want,” she said gently, placing her palm on my brow. I felt a queer mixture of guilt, joy and victory. Being a stubborn child, I refused it, but threw my arms around her, saying “I Love You.” To this day, whenever my mother wishes to tease me, she jovially asks me if I would like to eat some milk powder. We exchange smiles and our knowing glances say it all. Mothers are dear people, if sometimes stern. And occasionally, their mischievous daughters are more than they bargained for! Kinley Yangden BA Economics/English
Indeed a Dangerous Game! Dawn surpassed the silent haunting hours of the gloomy night and darkness faded like a passing shadow. Dorji arose and crept off his warm bed and stared out through the bedroom window. He noticed the sky enveloped in stormy clouds even at this early hour. Strong gusts of dusty wind rustled through the leaves in the hanging branches of the willow tree. “Ah! The day won’t be perfect” he thought. Dorji quietly collected his bow and quiver to participate in the archery match at Changlimithang grounds. To escape unnoticed from his mother, he tried to sneak out of the back door like a cautious thief. But his luck didn’t favour him as his mother was alerted and she stopped him from proceeding further. Mother took good care of him; she wanted to shape his future by giving him a proper education but he was always against his mother’s ideologies. Dorji was a very good archer even though he was only a high school student. He didn’t concentrate much on his studies ; instead he was heavily involved in seasonal archery matches. He would contradict his mother’s instruction to devote time to his studies. “Dorji, Get ready to go to school, this is the right time for you to concentrate on your studies to make your future bright”, she said. “I prefer to become a sharp shooter and that would be my future” he replied.”One day I will be an archery champion like the movie stars in the film industry”, he thought. Mother was annoyed with his answer and said “Archery is a dangerous game. It will kill you my dear son. Being a good archer will not lead to a bright future.” She had witnessed incidents where people’s lives had been ended by being hit with arrows during archery matches. Dorji was a science student at Yangchenphug higher secondary school (YHSS). His school was located at the outskirts of Thimphu, on the left bank of Thimphu Chhu (Thimphu river) overlooking the main city. It was one of the best schools in the country, they had highly qualified and competitive teachers and it was equipped with modern facilities. This provided a good learning environment where all students could achieve a high level of academics. But Dorji was least bothered about his curricular performance. The admonition from his mother about archery had spoilt Dorji’s mood that morning. He felt a confusing mix of sensations - anger, annoyance and a need to rebel. As he set out for the school, his legs would simply not carry him towards the right path. Yet, where should he go? He looked up at the sky, then kicked a pebble desultorily, and seeing an ambulance pass by- decided impulsively that he would go to the hospital instead. The thought of visiting the hospital made him imagine himself drowsy with fever. He was heading to the hospital for the first time all by himself and was trembling at the ridiculousness of this adventure. The hospital parking was bustling with people and cars; everyone was busy as worker bees. The movements of ambulance, private cars, taxis, scooters, patients, doctors, nurses, attendants, helpers and ward boys were a common scene at the hospital parking. Dorji stood in a line outside the entrance door among the
patients who were there to get a token to see the doctor. He looked back at the long queue of patients which uncoiled like a snake from the entrance door to other end of the building. It was not till a couple of hours later that his turn came. By then, Dorji was too exhausted to enter the hospital. The main doorway led into a spacious lobby from where patients were directed to the doctor’s chamber based on the disease they were suffering from. The hospital was wafted with the odor of antiseptic solutions which made him want to vomit. He took a deep sigh and stared at the structure of the building. The floor was marbled throughout, plain white walls were decorated with traditional Bhutanese paintings and the whole building was lit by electricity like a five-star hotel. He was lost in his thoughts and by the time he came back to reality, he was almost at the counter where he needed to deposit the token. He saw two smart ladies with shining cheeks who directed him to see the doctor. “What is your problem?” asked one of the ladies with a cheerful smile; it was if she had an earlier acquaintance with him. “I am feeling drowsy with fever,” Dorji replied nervously. “Chamber 4” said the lady with a prompt efficiency that seemed to characterize the surroundings. Dorji strolled into the hospital interior to find chamber number 4 and acted as if he were a frequent visitor to the hospital. “Where could that chamber be?” he thought as he wandered in search of it. However, he was making his way in the right direction and was already near the doctor’s chamber. As he laid his hand on the door handle, Dorji suddenly felt the flashing vision of an arrow piercing through him. What? He was stunned. It was really like he had been to this very same room once before. He tried to shirk this curious sensation of déjà-vu. It meant nothing, except perhaps that he was suffering from hallucinations, in which case it was an excellent idea to come and see a doctor. On sliding the door open, he found the doctor treating an groaning old patient. The doctor was a stout and a serious looking middle aged man with a bald head and spectacles perched on his nose. He was wearing a white gown and a stethoscope was hanging from his ears like the glittering ornament of a Layap (inhabitant of Laya province) lady dressed up for a special occasion. He was scolding a patient who was a fat and old fellow with white hair wearing ragged and shabby clothes; possibly he was from far countryside. The patient had a problem of prolonged chronic septic sores with pus on his neck. “On your next visit you should come on time and in a clean attire”, said the doctor in a high tone. “Yes sir” replied the patient in a low voice. It was Dorji’s turn to approach the doctor, but he was terrified by the way the doctor had yelled at the old patient and his imagined sickness vanished in the midst of his fear and state of confusion. “Gentleman what is your problem?” enquired the doctor. “Sir, I am a science student of YHSS and my ambition is to become a doctor”, Dorji inadvertently replied. He couldn’t think of what else to say. “You already have a science background and all you need now is to score good grades to qualify for scholarships, you should study hard”. “Thank you Sir” replied Dorji softly and left the chamber with his head full of thoughts. He was aware that the doctor might have thought his behaviour strange. But, on the other hand, the doctor was probably too busy to care. He worried that if all the doctors were similar to the one in the chamber, all the ill 38
patients of the country would die like flies, as they wouldn’t be able to face the harsh doctors for treatment. Nonetheless, observing the ill-treatment and abandonment of the poor old patient was an odd source of encouragement for Dorji to work hard. He changed his mind; he would study hard and serve the needy and destitute. “I must replace that harsh doctor and serve the groaning patient with patience and compassion” he thought. He was further inspired by the criteria provided by the doctor to study medicine. As he left the hospital Dorji’s step automatically took him in the direction of the archery grounds. He went to witness the archery match that he was supposed to take part in. “I would have become the man of the match, if my mother would have granted me permission to play”, he inwardly resented, while strolling down the busy street. The weather was still cloudy and a warm humid air spread throughout the town. He crossed the highway carefully among the busy movement of cars. He got to the other side of the road which led to the archery range. He squat through the cold metal railing and entered the archery range. The players were in high spirits, competing for victory as if they were battling in a war. Of course, there were attractive prizes for the winning teams and the sharp shooters. “I really lost an opportunity”, Dorji regretted in his mind. There were hundreds of curious spectators enjoying the match from a far distance. The distance was maintained to avoid mishaps from skidding arrows as the ground was damp due to a forenoon drizzle. Dorji was enthusiastically observing the match from one end of the ground aside the target. He also maintained a distance to be on a safe side from arrows. Archers discharged their arrows like bullets one after another, hitting the target like a military platoon. It was definitely a competitive match. The teams reached the deciding endgame and both sides played super-carefully. One of the players released his arrow aiming straight at the target but it slipped off from the right edge of the target and struck and pricked through a player’s right ear, and the sharp spear-end came out through the left eye. Tashi collapsed at the spot without a word. He was profusely bleeding both from his ears and eyes. The curiosity and the high spirit of the ground became silent like darkness in the moonless night. Instantly, he was rushed to the hospital, and Dorji followed him to the hospital – his second visit to the hospital that day – as Tashi was his best friend. Dorji’s heart sank as he saw his bosom buddy with an arrow in his head. Tashi opened his eyes and looked at Dorji. In that shocking state neither of them could speak to each other but they exchanged a conversation in silence. “My friend, archery is indeed a dangerous game”, said Tashi in his low and quivering voice. He was taken to the doctor who gave him every possible care, but Tashi’s case was beyond the doctor’s healing power. At Tashi’s condition, Dorji was lost in his thoughts and in his ears rang the echo of his mother’s warning. “Archery is a dangerous game; it will kill you my dear son”. The tug of war had come to an end and death had won over his friend’s life. Rinchen Dorji BA English/EVS
Challenges Of New Media Bhutan was the last country in the world to get access to television and the internet. The first decade of the 21st century has been one of great change for our nation. In particular, the young generation has been significantly affected by the arrival of new technology. An enduring debate concerns the relative value of newspapers in the changing era. With the rapidly evolving means of transmission of instant news, most peoplesâ€™ first port of call for information is often the TV or the web. Digital media has led to a blooming of creativity the children of today are evidently smarter and more knowledgeable compared to previous generations. However, there are also adverse consequences of such developments. Children scarcely read books these days, preferring instead to spend time watching endless TV serials and chatting with friends on the internet. Their concentration spans are diminished and they often fail to understand what is good for them and what is not. As a society consciously pursuing Gross National Happiness (GNH), this poses a lot of questions for us. The challenges that lie ahead may be global, but we must devise uniquely Bhutanese solutions to these dilemmas. Perhaps striking the balance between entertainment and education will require utmost efforts on the part of parents, teachers and role models. Together, we can ensure that we continue to make the wise choices that our people have always been known for. Tashi Yangchen BA English/EVS
A Sliver Of Hope “Looking at the current situation of our country I often get bereft of words” said the old man wearing a shabby gho, spits of doma were drooling out from the corners of his lips. His sister looked at him murmuring some chants near the white stupa. He said, “It is very disheartening to see our country going through such turmoil and I only wish and pray for our country’s security”. With prayer beads in her hand, she stopped chanting for a while, and with a grim look on her face said, “Of course, everyone is worried, but what can we do, all we can do is pray”. As Yugyal stared at the sparks of the fire near the mud hearth, he recalled the reactions of his mother. All his family members were seated for their breakfast when he exclaimed abruptly. “Mother! I want to join the armed forces and be a part of the war on 15th December.” He blurted. She could not believe her ears and sat dumbstruck for a while. Except for the occasional popping of the fire, the silence of confusion filled the air in the kitchen. Yugyal could feel a chill running through everyone’s spine. He dreaded his mother’s wrath, yet, he repeated his stance. He was resolute and had mentally prepared to join the war at any cost. She gazed right into his face while the rest of the family sat in contemplation. She dragged herself near Yugyal, explaining to him what war was all about in the most soothing way possible. But, no threat of bloodsheds or tales of barbaric acts of enemy soldiers could deter him. He wanted to go fight the war- come what may. A defiant son, without a trace of hesitation, abandoned his beloved parents and relatives for the sake of a larger cause. He left in the interests of the nation – this was the time when our nation called for everyone’s help the most. His patriotic attitude won over all worldly attachments. The entire family failed to persuade him, they had no choice but to let him go in pursuit of the noble cause. They saw him descend down the village slope and witnessed him disappear in the far distance. A chill ran through their bodies and darkness fell over them as if a full moon had suddenly declined behind a gigantic mountain. Yugyal’s mother blinked away the last tear drops that had welled at the corners of her furrowed eyes as she reflexively waved her white silken rag. As she gained back her vision she could see nothing but a plume of dust hovering behind him as if to say the battle had already begun. Her son was gone in a whirlpool of dust, he would do his country proud. Our country was undergoing difficult times. Not just Yugyal, everyone was worried about the country’s security. The year 2003 was probably the toughest year in their entire lives and it was even worst when people heard that the 4th king was leading the war. None of us wanted our king to risk his life for the nation. He is a precious gem and a priceless gift from God to the country. We want Him more than anything else that the world has to offer in substitute. He is truly the God descended from heaven in human form and we would perhaps not have a King like Him ever in our lives.
Yugyal arrived at a stupa (Chorten) on a mound overlooking the outskirts of Dewathang. As he sat crouched on the one end of the chorten, the cool December breeze touched his skin. It was a lovely day but somehow he couldn’t reconcile his life as usual with this creepy feeling that refused to leave him. Was it his paranoia or was it a premonition? Yugyal was a quiet and responsible person. But he was prone to being impulsive and short tempered; even to the extent of instilling fear in his friends’ minds. In one incident, Yugyal beat one of his friends just because his friend took away his jacket without his permission – a reason unworthy of his unruly act. Despite that, everyone loved him. There was one girl in his village that he adored very much. She was Karsel – an apple of his eye. They grew up together under the same ambience of the village. She used to be his childhood sweetheart but he never had the strength to reveal his feelings for her. Yugyal was an ordinary class 10th dropout while she was a qualified teacher who had passed out from Paro NIE (National Institute of Education) and now taught in Dewathang Lower Secondary School. One fine morning when Yugyal was doing his regular morning exercises, he spotted a beautiful rose with white petals on a green backdrop against the first rays of the rising sun. He rubbed his eyes, unable to believe a flower blooming at that time of the season. He walked closer to find Karsel – his heart throb – drying her beautifully patterned clothes. As she hung them, her silken brownish hair floated in a gentle breeze. The scent of her morning shower pervaded the surroundings. He was literally lost in this entire wilderness and spontaneously called out her namek – Karsel!! When she looked at him, he stammered and froze. He said, “I will be part of the war in a week’s time”. Karsel was speechless. Tears rolled down her flawless cheeks like a string of pearly beads. Her lips moved but no sound came. She was lost for words. They spent the whole week together and the two of them were like two pieces of puzzle that exactly fit each other. Hours passed by, days were fast fleeting and the whole week was gone in the blink of an eye. The much awaited day finally arrived. Hundreds of soldiers gathered and Yugyal was in the middle of the crowd. He was nervous yet resolved. He listened carefully to every word of direction and guidance of the 4th king and felt proud to be a part of the endeavor. 15th December was like a nightmare to all the Bhutanese. Gunshots, screams of pain and cries of children filled the valley of Dewathang. The thick smoke from the nozzles of the guns soon overcast the blue sky. The fate of the people was left entirely in the hands of the armies. Everyone in the village had a sliver of hope in their King – the hero of every Bhutanese heart. The Bhutanese army was on the threshold of victory and Yugyal heaved a sigh of relief. He prowled cautiously over the long grasses in the forest and suddenly saw a terrorist taking his aim at the leader of his group. Yugyal ran frantically towards the leader and received a bullet which otherwise would have pierced right through the leader’s chest. The entire world fell on him as he lay prostrate on the ground. Everything became obscure and his eyes closed as he drifted into a deep sleep. 42
Yugyal was no more; it was yet another bombshell for his family to lose a son when his mother had already lost her husband. While wracked with untold misery, still they couldn’t be more proud of Yugyal’s deeds. Dewathang was dawned with a beautiful sunshine and birds chirped around trees the next morning. As Yugyal’s mother peeped through her battered windowsill she saw a beam of light entering through the crevices of her roughly hewn planks. She realized happiness had once again knocked on her door after a long time. Heaving a sigh of relief, she made preparations to visit a temple to pray for her son’s soul. Singay Wangmo BA English/EVS
My Life in the Darkness It was very chilly as Chotshe waited in the dark for her lover. Her face turned red and her nose stood out like a Bhutanese chilli. From her mouth, vapor came as if she were smoking. No one was around her. She could only hear the howling of dogs. She waited and waited, but there was no sign of him, “Why me God! Don’t I deserve to be happy?” she said. It was dawn and she went for her regular work as though things were back to normal. Her boring and sorrowful life was in full swing. Chotshe had to stay late at work as her job demanded it, she needed to feed her family. She was so glad to receive her lover’s phone call, “I’m sorry I cannot be with you anymore” said Kencho. She thought it was a dream. Chotshe’s feet were numb while walking. After sometime she realized she had reached her bedroom, still she thought it was a dream and did not want to accept the truth. The sky was so clear; she could see sparkling stars and faint moonlight penetrating her window making her dark room bright, if cold. As she contemplated her surroundings, she was taken back to the nightmares of her past life. ... It was a really dark night and she could hardly see anything. With the help of stars and moon’s bright light, she walked home alone and ran as fast as her feet could take her. On the way, she got a lift from a stranger. She hopped inside the car as she was getting late. “Can you drop me to Changjiji?” Chotshe asked. “Sure, why not, I will drop you wherever you like” the man said. For a moment she thought that he might take advantage of her situation but instead this man reached her home safely. From this incident she learned that all men are not the same. She has a sister and two brothers; she is the eldest. Chotshe always faced problems at home with food, shelter and clothing. She wanted to educate her siblings, as she was not educated herself. She worked very hard so that she could provide them with everything that she had lacked. At least she could help to educate them; she was selfless. Inspite of knowing her financial situation, Chotshe’s sister asked “Au! What do you do to earn money?” After a few seconds, with a smile on her face, she said “I am working in a restaurant as a waitress”. Chotshe was nervous and she blushed while answering. The sky was clear and the sun’s bright rays hit her eyes as she woke up. First, she washed her face with chilled water then entered the altar room and prayed. She prepared food for her siblings and packed their lunch bags. Only after finishing the household chores, she left for her work. On the way, she saw a teenage girl who was being beaten up by a man. “Chatom de! (a term of abuse) I wish you were dead so that I didn’t have to spend money on you” the man said. “Please don’t beat me. From now on I will do whatever you want me to” the girl cried. Chotshe knew how that girl must have felt. She recalled that when she was only eight, her father passed away. Her mother did not know what to do as she had to look after her kids. Her sister Pema could not walk, of her two brothers, Dawa was only 3 and Rinzin was 5 years old. Under these circumstances, the mother had no other option so she remarried. They had little so their mother had to sell their meagre belongings to clear the father’s debt. Being uneducated, Chotshe’s mother could not get a job easily. She tried everything to put food on the table; she even washed other people’s utensils and worked as a baby sitter. But her sole earnings were not enough for them all. Chotshe didn’t like her step-father as he was never nice either to her mother 44
or to them. He always came home drunk and beat mother brutally. Still, her mother never complained about it, as he was the bank of Chotshe’s family. One night her mother couldn’t reach home due to heavy rainfall and no one could go looking for her as there was a strong storm brewing outside; their metal roof was making a great clattering racket. Chotshe felt something bad was going to happen but she made sure her brothers and sister got to bed, she narrated them a bed time story. After they all fell asleep, her step-father pulled her away and she didn’t even get a chance to shout as he tightly closed Chotshe’s mouth and dragged her to a very dark room where she could not see anything. She did not know what to do. The 1st of November 2008, when the entire country of Bhutan was celebrating the coronation of our fifth Druk Gyalpo with cheers, excitement and laughter, Chotshe was suffering in pain. Early in the morning she saw her clothes covered in blood and she could hardly move her body. She did not know what to do. “Oh! God what have I done to be punished so badly” she cried. Sorrow pervaded her soul. Her step-father had raped her. She thought of killing herself. She waited for her mother to return. “Knock! Knock!” someone was at the door. Chotshe thought it was her mother but when she opened the door, she froze. She saw her mother’s dead body; it had turned blue. After a few moments she cried out so loud “Ama! Why did you leave us alone in this cruel world? Come back Ama! Come back, we need you”. Chotshe waited. She did not know what to do or whom to speak to. She couldn’t bear the pain. It had been a week after her mother’s death; her step-dad constantly tortured and beat her, so she took her sister and brothers away from her vampire step-father. The images of those times hit her with gale force and she was brought back to the reality of her room. With pain in her heart she went to work the next day. She always dreamt that her brothers and sister could live happily and be independent. She did not want to see them living like her. … After 15 years of waiting, her dream came true as all her siblings finished their degrees and found good jobs. She got happiness at last, even the comfort of a caring lover. Her life had been a series of dark incidents but as she grew older, she discovered a quiet dignity and peace in the strength of her struggles. It was a big world and she had earned her little corner of consolation. Sonam Choki BA Economics/English
Trip To Changzamtog Lower Secondary School A few months ago we had been informed that we will be visiting a school to observe, interact with, and inspire the students. Our class was happy and quite excited on that special day. We were dressed trendily, unmindful of the fact that the students might try to imitate us! That included me too; I had a Mohawk hairstyle and a silver earring hanging on my left earlobe. Anyway, at 12:30 pm, our class gathered at the campus bus stop. Everybody had a pen and paper; they discussed about what they would talk about and do once they reach the school. Well, I was not nervous but I was preparing for what I will be speaking on and I felt apprehensive. With much excitement, I got into the car that was to take us there. Though we didn’t discuss amongst ourselves what we would do, I am sure that we were mentally preparing for how we would interact with the students of Changzamtog Lower Secondary School. Our car parked near the half-built gate of the school and when I stepped out the first thing that caught my eyes was the dusty floor, the under-construction area of the school and the less than perfect surroundings. It was certainly not an ideal set-up for an educational institution. With chameleon-like eyes, my gaze scanned everything. It was lunch break and the students were all playing outside. Many of them stopped and stared at us with curiosity. I don’t know why but I had this proud feeling and felt like I was a respected person when the students looked at me. The lunch break was still on, so along with my assigned partner Dorji Wangchuk, I went to see the classes. As we passed by the lower classes, the students stood straight in a row, just like the bar graphs; they glanced at us incredulously and gave way. When the lunch break was over, we gathered at the assembly ground. We were divided into groups of twos, threes, and were to choose the classes we would like to visit. As planned, Dorji Wangchuk was with me and we decided to visit the lower classes. We went to class V (five), section ‘C’. The teacher there permitted us to address her class. Right after we got in, the small children got up and in a melodious sing-song tune they said, “Good afternoooooooon sir”. That time it was uncomfortable for me and I looked at Dorji, but he looked fine. I didn’t know what to say but I knew what I had to say… so I begun with my introduction. As I was walking around the class introducing myself, the students were very silent and attentive; they did not move a muscle. “My name is Dorji Wangchuk, and I am…” started Dorji when I was done; I could tell that he was nervous too because he was stammering a little as he spoke. After the preliminary greetings, I felt blank. I had thought the smaller students would ask us many questions and we would never be left in silence (this is why we had decided to choose the lower classes!). However it was just the opposite, the students were very quiet. Since I didn’t want to act nervous, I said “My hairstyle, you see, Dorji styled it up for me today, is it good?” I sounded jittery but I had to say something. The students giggled and finally one of them stood up and said “Sir it suits you, you look like Beckham”, and another one stood and said “No sir, you like David Villa”. I smiled asking them not to call me and Dorji “Sir”. I explained that we were students too, we were like them and we had come there to learn from them all. Then, the whole class seemed relaxed. At this point, I realized that a student is freer and open if the teacher understands and acts like one of them in the class. Very soon, the class was a bee-hive as the typical lower classes are. We decided that I will ask each of the students to introduce themselves 46
and Dorji will be giving them some few tips to help them achieve a good future. I felt privileged to learn about the students’ ambitions but some of the introductions were funny; not because they spoke in broken English, but because of what they said. Some would say “My favorite subject is English and Dzongkha and my ambition is to become an engineer” and some said “I want to become an astronaut” but when asked, “What is an astronaut?” they didn’t know, and many of the students said “My hobby is to read books” and when I asked them “What kind of books do you like to read?” they would reply “Novels”. It was as if they had rehearsed saying the lines they did. After the entire introduction was complete, Dorji and I talked with the students like friends. They shared many things that had happened in their class. I know how I would feel as a class five student if I had to hear long speeches and pay attention continuously, so I tried to conduct the class as an open, free, enjoyable place to learn but equally, to keep them attentive. Keeping in mind that we should really be teaching them something inspiring and motivating or something valuable before we bid them farewell, we talked about being confident, respecting our parents and others, how to concentrate on studies, how not to get distracted, managing time and many more such things. Normally, speeches – not by a famous person – would bore the students, especially the young ones, but Dorji and I believe that we actually did a good job in the mission impossible! How did we do that? As mentioned earlier, we made our speeches easier and fun. For instance, when we wanted to discuss how one should reveal his/her own talents and how to build up confidence to face a crowd (and since it was surely going to be a bad speech if we just recited truisms) we gave a practical demonstration. We made the shy ones with talents sing and dance in front of the class (not by force, but with encouragement from us and their friends). But, yes, they made me dance too, since I was really explaining how not to feel shy and nervous in front of other people. Along with the school students, both of us were also happy and excited; we never realized how time passed by. Before long, Dawa Saday and Singye Choden (our classmates) were knocking on the door and we were to switch classes but the students of class V C didn’t let us go. We even tried convincing them that there would be two other interesting students like us who are perhaps even better than us, but they really didn’t want us to leave them. So we decided to stay there the whole time. At last, we ended the class by asking and answering sessions; playing a general knowledge quiz. As we were leaving the class, the students would rush up to us and shake hands saying “Thank you”. Some lines they spoke especially touched me: “Sir, will you come again?”, “Do visit us next time”. I really felt like I was a teacher, a very good one indeed, and they were all my students; I hope Dorji felt the same. Anyway, when we were out of the sweaty classroom and into the cool air outside, the rest of our “teacher-experiencing college classmates” had gathered back at the assembly ground. It was their evening prayer, and I thought of scribbling something beautiful and creative in my notebook about the students sitting on the ground and chanting their prayers but I was too distracted by experiencing the moment and being a part of it. When the prayers were over, everybody started to leave. We were invited to visit the school’s library before the departure, and since the library was small, all of us couldn’t fit in at the same time. Taking turns, we went in to see the library and as I waited for my turn with a few of my friends, they were talking about the classes they had been to and how the students had asked for their autographs. Autographs?! Anyway, I just said that I liked the encounter and the students loved it too.
Though this trip happened a few weeks ago, the memories are still fresh within me and I can gladly say that itâ€™s the most memorable day of my life. And the students of class V C, they are my first students. Thinking of the entire experience will always bring a big smile on my face. Ugyen Tsheten Lepcha BA English/EVS
For My Mother Now I am nothing but a lonely part Of what was once my mother’s art In her arms I began my life I was born a bundle of joy For all her love and so much care I gave her more grief than glee Mischief, sorrow, trouble and pain A life marked just by lies Every day a part of me dies A wasted childhood, to no avail But, remember, it’s never too late I now resolve to make her proud Bring her glory, and stand out My future, mother, will be bright I’ll make my mark and will be known And you shall call me all your own. Namgay Wangmo BA English/Economics
The Five Fireflies They first met in Royal Thimphu College (RTC). RTC was newly established and those five fireflies were also admitted there. They were a group of boys in the same class and their nicknames were: Shahid, Teetee, Palden, Nalex, and Uncle Bob. Teetee and Palden were close friends as they knew each other from high school. Uncle Bob always used to stay alone and he was unwell most of the time. Nalex and Shahid used to hang out together. Palden too was often ill. One day in the class, Palden became really sick and Teetee helped him get to his room. The others also joined in to assist. So, after this incident, they all became close friends. In the class, Nalex shouted, “Hey Palden, do you have water?”. Palden replied, “Yes, man”. Nalex said, “Pass it to me. I am dying of thirst”. Afterwards, Shahid and Uncle Bob became part of the group. They were also befriended by a boy who went by the name of Khongren. Except for Khongren, those five boys never studied; they had their carelessness in common. Once, they bunked the class and went to the canteen. In the canteen, Shahid said, “Hey guys, what do you want to have?”. Palden asked, “Do you have money?”. Shahid replied, “Nope, but we will ask them for credit”. So, everybody agreed to it. Then, Shahid said, “Nalex, you go and tell them that we want credit”. Nalex went to the counter to ask for credit and the canteen server-girl accepted their proposal. Nalex informed his friends, saying, “What do you guys want to have?”. They ordered noodles, freid rice, and momos. They ate enough at the canteen and went to the class. This became a habit with them. It was 12 pm when they reached the class. The teacher was already there and they entered one by one. They got a scolding for being late. In the class, while the teacher was teaching, those five boys slept the whole period. One hour passed, it was lunchbreak. They went for lunch and devoured food like hungry tigers...Later, Nalex said, “I don’t feel like going to class”. So, everybody again agreed, “Okay, let us not go to class”. Instead of going to class, they went to their rooms, changed their clothes, and went to play football. Uncle Bob didn’t go to play because he was frail. Next day, everybody came to class except for Nalex. Nalex couldn’t wake up so he got late and by the time he was about to go for the next class, he saw his friends coming back, so they took the day off. After a month, they all got their pocket money and went to pay their dues at the canteen. With time, Khongren left the group; his departure was an unremarkable one. At the end of term, their exams approached but still they were hardly bothered. Surprisingly, they managed to pass all the papers with good marks, and one man said to them, “You guys are a miracle, and I should call you the five fireflies!”. Dorji Wangchuk (100021) BA English/EVS
I Am An Incense Stick I was made as per the enlightened guidance and instructions prescribed by the great tertoen Kuenznkhen Padma Karpo Therchen Rinpoche. One day, Ap Chencho took me to his house and crushed me to powder. He added many different ingredients which changed my scent. Then he rolled me up and sold me. People believe that burning incense sticks will cleanse mental and moral defilements, accrue merits and free them from sickness. It was time for a ritual and I was placed at an altar in a container. Soon a man wearing robes started to play a gong. He came near me and lit me at the top. As my body turned to smoke and ashes, I realized that the meaning of my life as an incense stick was to spread the scent; my place in creation was to offer myself to invoke divinities and feed countless spirits and beings. Sonam Choden BA English/Dzongkha
Fantasy Bridge Comrades please lend me your ears for a while and let us take a short excursion into my world of joy and sorrow. Here my lines commence with: Sometimes... Sometimes they adore me, Sometimes they bore me, Sometimes I can be your TV, Sometimes I can be your FM radio, Sometimes I am treated like a spouse, Sometimes I feel like a good friend, Sometimes I feel like I am a matchmaker between lovers, Sometimes I feel like I am the air they breathe, Sometimes, sometimes indeed! I am a contractor assigned to constructing imaginary bridges for the smooth flow of busy conversational traffic. I keep human minds fully or partially engrossed in me. I know how to switch love into hate, marriage into divorce, happiness into sadness, strangers into friends, work into play and so on, and what is more, this sequence is reversible too depending on the mood. My widespread network enables my friends around the world to fulfil their requisites and keep work on track. In every nook and corner of the world, you will find that I am always with my best friend Mr. Money; we are so inseperable. I lay no restrictions on anyone and they can avail my services by recharging my services with cash. I may make those who use me happy or sad. Such is life. My duty is to widen connections in assorted fields and make people successful and content in every new endeavour they undertake.
My relationship with the users is so strong and pure that even the relations of husbands and wives cannot surpass me. I doubt if even lovers between them lavish such intimate and caring attention when compared to the way they treat me. With tender care they take me wherever they go. As I am their good singer, photographer, palm-top, calculator, gamer, TV, FM radio and they can utilize me in any way to keep their boredom away. Occasionally, they even call me by the name ‘Mr. Multipurpose’ owing to my versatile virtues. In a nutshell, I am glad to acknowledge my indebtedness to all my friends. I make the world more beautiful. Combining money and electricity, I am instantly activated, and this enables two dissimilar voices from different places to meet within my body. I am always there for you. Do not ever disconnect me from your life, I am your zealous and essential voice-friend called MP (mobile phone). Singay Chojay BA Economics/English
I’m An Apple I’m welcomed in this world by the busy bees and the colorful butterflies. I’m born in the month of April and people wait for me to get matured. I hate it when small kids throw stones at me in innocent mischief. The worst part is when the scary, dirty caterpillars come in waves to attack me. Farmers come and pluck me. I’m put into a wooden box and it’s suffocating inside. After hours of travelling, I reach places where I’m rated by people; they touch me. I am bought and given a cold shower, put into glass bowls; it’s so slippery that I feel as if I’m sliding. They choose me only to satisfy their desires. Finally I’m peeled, sliced and I can hardly bear the pain. Ouch! It hurts so badly and then I realize that my life is too short just like the morning dew drops that fade away fast when the sun rises. I wish Adam never ate me because then I would still be enjoying my life in the paradisal Garden of Eden. At the same time I’m happy to be an apple. I’m privileged to be a strong character in fairy tales; remember the ‘Snow White’? In some stories people use me to take revenge by making me poisoned and pretty. People even use me in idioms to make their speech more interesting. I am the ur-Apple; the apple of one’s eye, and I’m happy to be a placeholder for such feelings. After all, I am incomparable at quenching peoples’ thirst. Yeshey Choden BA English/EVS
I Am A Mobile Phone I am known as ‘Blackberry’. Of all the other mobile brands, I am the most preferred one. I usually get a chance to remain in the hands of wealthy people. I work like a servant for my owner and obey the commands of her fingertips. I get a chance to travel along with my owner and she handles me with care. I am carried in the dark pockets of pants, bags and jackets. Sometimes I’m dropped into water, liquids get into my system, making it hard for me to function. When this happens, my owner gets frustrated or tense; several times I am dropped on the floor and I break into several pieces. Most of the times I am kept busy at night for hours together conveying messages to her loved ones till I get all heated up. I also act as a means of communication; this is my primary duty. I help lovers exchange romantic words even when they are miles away from each other. I am a great aid to a lover. Even if a person is isolated, I entertain them with choicest music, pictures and movies. I feel so bad when I am dumped in a dustbin because I fail to work but I am glad that I have served my purpose. Tila Rupa BA Economics/English
Sony Ericsson K850i Are you somebody who leads a hectic life? Are you somebody that always needs information at your fingertips? Do you rush from one appointment to another? If you do, then you should consider purchasing a smart phone. A smart phone will let you synchronize your valuable data with your PC; whatever you have in the office, you can potentially have with you wherever you go. Are you someone who likes music? For sound quality and reliability it beats the rest of the phones. It has a huge memory capacity and a very sexy touch-screen. If it’s a picture then definitely go for a smart phone with a great flash and 5.3 mega pixel lenses. It is durable and brilliant, fulfilling the expectations of the users. I’m what they call me, a Sony Ericson K850i. Ever since I have entered the family of technologies, I have become a part of your life. I am a necessity, forget me one day on your table and you will miss me dearly, in fact, you will feel empty and wounded for the rest of your day. I am in your service keeping you in constant contact with people you consider important. If you are travelling out of your territory or to another country, you can be connected anywhere anytime. You can use features for sending pictures, getting information like news, flight timings and many more. I help you seek immediate help in emergency cases. With me you can lessen your boredom by listening to your favorite music and you can watch movies downloaded from internet. You use me to take photos. I also give you easier access to the internet. I have a lot of useful functions like calendar, making notes, alarm clock, timer and calculator. No doubt, I make your life more convenient. I keep you in touch with your loved ones. I will serve you best so do take care of me! Thank you for choosing me over others like Nokia N72, Samsung, Vodafone, Micromax, Motorola. I am really proud and happy.
Kinzang Jamtsho BA Economics/English
Connecting People I am a Nokia phone and bridging the gap between lovers is the speciality of my personality. I am proud of myself because I can help them exchange their feelings through SMS and MMS. I help people in different ways: students improve their vocabulary through my dictionary, happy and sad people transform states by listening to the music in my memory. I am the modern technological version of the philosophers’ stone. My magical touch makes gold from words. Savitra Khatiwara BA Economics/English
Importance Of Reading It has been rightly said that ‘a book is the best friend of a lonely mind’. Reading books is a habit that should be fostered in childhood. A child that grows up reading will have a lively imagination, good vocabulary, and a sharp brain. Reading aloud can also help with improving pronunciation and communication skills. Our education system in Bhutan produces many people who don’t read as much or as widely as they ought to do. Nowadays, teachers in schools are encouraging little kids to read and write more, they are also provided access to libraries wherever possible. By reading well, and going beyond simply the textbooks, young people keep intelligent company and learn important moral lessons that would stand them in good stead throughout their life. Tashi Choden BA English/EVS
Chalk And Talk
I entered into the world of ABC… and 123… when I was seven. On the first day of my school, a teacher handed me a slate and a chalk but I didn’t know what to do with that. Due to nervousness, I couldn’t hold the chalk, moreover, I couldn’t see the blackboard as I was seated at the back behind a tall boy who obscured my view. It was a more than a couple of weeks before I could get used to writing. What I learnt the soonest was to stain my school uniform with the dusty white powder of the chalk. Gradually I got more comfortable in the company of my classmates, some of whom turned into friends. After few years, it was much better; every day was full of surprises with interesting things happening around. I learnt so much that was new. I was naughty and I was studious too, each in its turn. School was more fun than I had ever imagined. Kinga Choden BA Economics/English
Engraved It was my 11th birthday, the day I would get the bicycle which my parents had promised. I was so excited; I went to my parents’ room and said, “It’s today, it’s today”. I never used to wake early but the idea of owning a bicycle seemed so thrilling that I was out of bed at the crack of down. I could feel goosebumps on my skin. After breakfast, mom and dad went to the market. I was waiting, daydreaming about my new bicycle, learning how to paddle, how to gain balance; everything was so clear in my head. That wait was the longest I ever had. The anxiety seemed so intense. I couldn’t bear to be patient any longer, so I called my parents and asked where they were. My mom said, “We are on our way dear”. I had no tolerance at all, I was anxiously walking to and fro, and talking to myself. If anyone had seen me at that moment, they would have thought that I was mad. Finally it arrived; my dreams were embodied in the jet black bicycle. At that instant my eyes had a twinkle and the cycle twinkled back. It was like love at first sight, I was as-if fluttering in the air. My heart felt so light, if given a wish I would have wanted that moment to freeze forever. I ran to my dad’s car, took out my cycle and started paddling it right away. I was getting better with each passing minute. That night I couldn’t sleep as I was so engrossed with the thought of riding my cycle. I decided to meet my grandmother in Changzamtog. I was about to leave when my little brother Jigme insisted that he also wanted to come with me. No matter what I said he didn’t listen and started screaming. Having no choice, I took him along. The road down the hill was fun but on the way back it was quite dark and cold. Suddenly, I lost my balance and hit a rock. Instantly, I lay on the other side of the road, uninjured. I frantically searched for my brother, but to my dismay, his head had struck the rock and he was bleeding. The next thing I remember was my mom standing beside me, crying. I couldn’t get up, it hurt so much. A man came in; he must have been the doctor, he said something to my dad. Wordlessly, dad came and slapped me with all his strength. The doctor dragged him away. Mom started weeping; even in my numb state, I could make out that my brother had died. I felt as-if an icy cold chill had settled all on my limbs.
To this day, I canâ€™t forgive myself, I had no right to take away the life of such an innocent child; he was barely seven. That guilt is forever engraved in my heart. Kezang Choden BA English/Dzongkha
The Value of Love The day had dawned and the flowers bloomed, yet the morning held no promises for her, Tshering was still in her bed. Her mom shouted “Wake up,” and she placed a cup of hot tea by the bed. It was of no use since she was in a deep slumber. A man in a blue uniform was standing beside her with a row of stars pinned on his shoulder. He said “I love you.” Tshering could not hold her breath as she wanted to become a police officer when she grew up. She woke up and realized it was water from a jug being sprinkled on her. She smiled and looked at her mother. Her mother shouted “It’s time for you to get dressed”. “OK mom” she replied. She got dressed and was ready to go. Tshering reached school with a book-laden bag in one hand and lined up for assembly like the others. Yet, her mind floated back towards those shimmering stars she had dreamt of. She was the only daughter in the family. Her mother always had high hopes of her. Tshering was really hard working. Her desires and dreams were both her successes and failures, she owned them all. Even when she failed, she never gave up and left no stone unturned. She could, on occasion, be careless about the present, but she was very particular about the future. She talked less but her words carried meaning. The way she dealt with her friends showed her calm temperament; she neither compared nor competed. Wangyel was Tshering’s best friend; they had completed junior high from Lungtenzampa and graduated high school from Yangchenphug higher secondary school. They could not live without each other. They shared each and every thing; they had no secrets between them. Their friendship was showered with happiness, support and understanding. They cherished every moment together. For Wangyel could not stay even a single minute in Tshering’s absence; he really cared for her and always wanted to be near her. Day by day, Wangyel was ever more attracted to her but he could never open up. He was worried that she might be shocked at the extent of his feelings. Though his heart willed him to express himself, his mind held him back. Locking up his feelings, he suffocated within. He could not even concentrate on his studies. As a teen, it was the right age for infatuation, acting crazy and troublesome: sad, mad, and falling headlong into bonds. Their exams neared and it was high time for Wangyel to concentrate on his studies. Although he was going through a lot, he really worked hard to do well. On November 27th the exams began. It was a fine morning, Wangyel saw Tshering very serious about her studies. He went near her and said, “All the best Tshering, hope your exams go well.” “Thanks and same to you.” They reciprocated greetings. Wangyel teased her before she entered the examination hall. She gave him a confused look. She was very nervous. Wangyel had done his exams well but Tshering could not complete her answer script. Then it was time to say good bye, Wangyel’s feelings remained unexpressed. So many things to say but the days and nights went by in a dream. He could never let go of her. Wangyel’s love for Tshering was still fresh like the morning dew. It was time for them to go their own ways. Wangyel waited for Tshering near the gate. The dark clouds spread in the sky like a blanket covering stars. Tshering came smiling towards him. She hugged him tight. That hug felt so warm that he wished time would stop exactly then. With a final goodbye they parted ways. The phone trilled, breaking Tshering’s silent sleep. A familiar voice was on the other line.
“Hello… who is this?” she asked. “I am Wangyel from Mongar, remember me?” he asked back. She smiled and said “Hello dear, how you have been doing?” “My days seem to be very faded in your absence. I am really missing you”, he said. Wangyel could not subdue his heart any more. “Would you mind if I tell you something?” he asked. “You can, Wangyel” she assured him. He took a long breath and said “Hmm…it’s been two years and now I cannot…I could never tell you something…Please don’t break my heart, I love you”, he finally revealed. Tshering was bewildered. His words struck her unawares. Tshering had always thought of love as only an illusion. Wangyel continued, “Tshering you will never know the story of my heart, I want you to know how much I love you and though I may not deserve you, I do love you truly.” Tshering made up her mind to be with Wangyel. It was like being at school again. They did the craziest things together. They were so much in love that they once drove up to Dochula. They didn’t even bother to know what was happening around them. All they cared about was being together and loving each other for eternity. They prayed for a good future and a long-lasting relation. Wangyel always wanted to become an army officer because he knew about Tshering’s dreams. Wangyel was a bright student so he qualified for a government college. When Wangyel went for an army officer’s training, Tshering continued her studies at Royal Thimphu College. Without Wangyel, Tshering felt an emptiness in her life; he had changed her. The colours of the rainbow imbued all her experiences. Though they were apart, their love remained strong. In her diary, she wrote, “I am a bit different, but I am glad you like me the way I am…” She put the diary under her pillow to have good dreams. One fine Sunday morning, Wangyel called Tshering, they made a plan to visit the new Buddha statue in Thimphu over that weekend. Tring! Tring! Tshering’s phone rang. “Hello” he greeted her. “Hello, what’s up Wangyel?” she asked him. “Today we will go to visit the Buddha statue”. “Ok” Tshering was excited herself. They reached there around noon and offered heartfelt prayers to the Buddha to shower happiness on them. The blue pine trees surrounded them. Down below, they saw Thimphu 58
city nestled amid the green-quilted mountains; the beautiful vulnerability of this magic place was their surrender to themselves. They tried to express their feelings but their minds were floated with many words; there were bridges they could sense, time going fast like a flowing river. Tshering had to be back in her college and she left with tears in her eyes, tenderly they hugged. Wangyel too was tearful. â€œTshering, I swear, I really love youâ€? he cried. Tshering thought of their days of innocence. Now, she realized that she wanted nothing more in life than to keep her own self in a world of crowds; to be always in love and to be loved evermore. Tshering Pem (100296) BA English/Dzongkha
The Alarming Night It was late at night and as usual I was awake checking my mails and the latest trends on the internet. Neither my mother nor my father was home. I stared at the clock that was hung on the blue wall and it struck eleven. I was a bit scared so I called my mother to ask when she would return but she didn’t answer, then I tried my father’s number. He picked the phone but the line wasn’t clear enough for me to hear him properly; I just heard him say that he would arrive late. I sent my mother a message saying “Mom! I am scared so come home fast”. After that I ran to my room in the attic. I always felt uncomfortable on those unstable stairs that led to my room. Later, I felt hungry so I went to the kitchen to eat something. As soon as I entered the kitchen I got a cold feeling in my limbs as if there was some presence with me in the kitchen, I thought I was being paranoid. So I ignored it and moved towards the oven where my mother kept food. I opened the oven but found nothing inside it. So I decided to cook myself something. I went to the store to get raw vegetables. I came back and started to slice and dice the vegetables with a big knife. Suddenly, outside the window, I noticed a lady standing right under the street-light staring at my house. I shouted “Hey, lady what are you doing here so late?”. She didn’t reply. I waved at her and shouted more than three times but still she didn’t answer me. So I thought it was no use bothering over something unimportant. I continued doing my work. When it was done, I checked the clock and it was 12 on the dot, my heart started to beat faster. I remembered those days when I was a kid and my grandmother used to tell me stories about the bad evil spirits who would harm people at this exact time. I ran back to the kitchen and slowly peered through the window pane. I was horrified: Lo and behold, she was still there staring! Now this lady was starting to scare me. Just then my phone rang so loud that I startled. I was naïve enough to think that the lady spirit actually called to take me with her! I didn’t accept the call, instead I looked out with my face pale and saw that the lady was not there. It made me panic even more and I thought that the lady was coming to kill me; my phone kept ringing and rang for about seven times. When I didn’t take the call, somebody started to bang on the door so hard that my heart pounded in fear. I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Who’s there? And what do you want from me?”. There was a soft answer from the other side “It’s me, your mother”. I ran and opened the door to see my mother standing there. As soon as I saw her, I hugged her tight. With a concerned expression, she said “Did something bad happen to you my child?” I thought she would be worried. I lifted my head from her bosom and smiled weakly “Everything is fine, I just missed you Mom”. Karma Dechen Lama BA English/EVS
Never Too Late Ugyen went to the class unprepared for his test. He stumbled into the class and everybody had a hearty laugh at his entrance. The teacher looked abovethe rim of his glasses and gave him an evil grin. “I suppose you are late for your test Mr.Ugyen and I am afraid that you will have to leave the class and be freed from the test”. Ugyen was a first-year student at RTC for the year 2009. His attitude towards college life was one of no-holds-barred enjoyment. He used to come back late to his room after his drinking session was completed with his friends. His study table was littered with wine bottles and beer cans. The love and pampering at home by his parents had made him demanding and egotistical. He would pick fights with other students at every opportunity and was dreaded by most people in college. He had only one dream in his life and that was to live life to the fullest. He fancied attending parties and abusing substances, even if that led to a bad end. It was a clear night and Ugyen was preparing to go out with his girlfriend to a disco party after his dinner; he never missed parties. “I’m coming down, be ready. We might get late for the party Sonam”, he said. “Okay, I am ready”, Sonam replied, excitedly grabbing Ugyen’s arms. She didn’t realize that she was slowly being lured into a world where there was no space for truth and humanity. Ugyen escorted Sonam into the noisy and unruly club. They were holding each other’s hand and slowly Ugyen hugged her. Just then, a boy held Ugyen’s collar and asked him to come out. Sonam was trembling all over. Ugyen hesitated to go outside. As soon as Ugyen exited, the boy caught his collar and knocked him down with a punch. Sonam saw him lying flat on the floor with blood streaming down his face. Ugyen slowly got up and reached for his knife. He chased the boy with the knife edge pointed at his belly. A man tried to intervene to stop the feud when Ugyen’s cold knife stabbed this good Samaritan unintentionally. The man slowly collapsed, staring up at Ugyen. “It is never too late son. Avoid being what you are, you will see a better person in you,” so saying, the man breathed his last. The words of the man struck Ugyen’s instincts. He had never met somebody so kind to him, nor could he imagine a person who would not blame the aggressor for such a deadly sin. Sonam had already fled the scene. Ugyen and the guy he had stabbed were rooted to the ground, surrounded by people who were cursing them. Without wasting time, a cluster of policemen arrived and got them jailed. Ugyen went to the court a couple of weeks later. He was sentenced to prison for a set term of 5 years. Ugyen thought over and over again about the accident, and the man’s last words. He looked around and saw that most of the criminals were inside the jail for a reason. Some of them were robbers who belonged to poor families and some were people who did crimes because they were betrayed or angered upon provocation. But he saw that he was in there just because he wanted to be the center of the other people’s attention. That was all that he could figure out for a reason. He spent his days and nights mourning his past actions. He spent many sleepless nights thinking about his family, their care and affection towards him. He knew that crying was not the solution; as a son he had responsibilities towards his parents. He slowly perceived what the old man told him, thus understanding the real meaning of life. Those five years for him were like a blessing in disguise. He had figured out his true mission in life. It was a wonderful and cheerful morning; Ugyen was being called by the jailor. “You are free to go my friend”, he was handed over his belongings and he set out for the sunshine.
He walked for some time and reached the place where he had murdered the man. There he sat trying to remember the man’s forgiving face. And in the midst of his thinking, a newspaper fragment was being swept to his feet by the wind. “VACANCY FOR A SALESBOY”, it read. He picked up the paper and smiled at the sky. He saw his dream and he was going for it. Rinzin Wangchen BA English/Environment
The Stranger Around 11.30 pm there was a storm and heavy rainfall with thunder and lightning. Sonam was still awake to watch her favourite soap opera when suddenly she heard a knock on the door. She instinctively called out for her maid to see who it was, then realised that the maid had left early. So, ultimately, Sonam had to go and answer the door herself. There she saw a man in a large overcoat standing in front of her. He was dripping wet; soaked in the rain, he was out of breath too. He requested shelter for the night. Sonam was apprehensive but she couldn’t refuse because she was a kindhearted person. She let the stranger stay over in her house. She gave him a towel to dry his wet hair and seated him near the fire. She prepared two cups of coffee and they started talking. “What’s your name and where are you headed?”, Sonam asked. The stranger said, “My name is Tandin and I don’t have an exact destination because this place is new to me”. Sonam continued, “So what brings you to Thimphu?”. “Actually I came here to locate my daughter who has been kidnapped and the kidnappers have demanded 4 lakh Ngultrums to free her”, he replied. Sonam was astonished to hear this and told Tandin to report the case to the police station, but he reasoned that doing so might endanger his daughter’s life. He was worried and helpless at the same time. Sonam felt tremendously sorry for him and promised to help him in anywhich way she could. After their conversation, she went to the bathroom but when she came back, she didn’t see Tandin anywhere in the living room. She slowly turned around, and to her surprise, she saw him coming out of her bedroom. Sonam was infuriated to see such obnoxious behaviour and she asked, with eyes blazing, “Where have you been and why did you enter my room without my permission?”. Tandin said that he went to wash his face at the sink; he apologised for entering her room without permission. Sonam forgave Tandin because he was her guest and again they settled back near the fire and kept on talking about their families, village, past experiences, where they had lived and what they did for a living. After a while, they realised both of them had been so engrossed that time had run ahead of them. Yet, they did not sleep. Around 3 am, Sonam finally felt her eyelids heavy and she went to bed. Tandin dozed off on the couch. When Sonam awoke, Tandin had already left. There was a paper on the table with the word “Kadrinchye” (thanks) scribbled on it. She called her maids to ask if they had seen anyone leave, but no they hadn’t. So, she assumed that he must have gone to look for his daughter. She was relaxed as she sat near the television to see the repeat of her favourite TV serial that she had missed watching the night before. As she flipped the channels, she came across BBS (Bhutan Broadcasting Service) news and the headlines caught her eye. The announcer said: “A kidnapper has been found near Chang Lam Plaza”. Sonam saw Tandin’s face on the news! At first, she thought Tandin had finally tracked down his daughter, but in fact, the reporter said that a kidnapper had been found; he was named Tandin Dorji, aged 34 and he would be imprisoned for more than 5 years. Sonam was dumbstruck, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. All this time she had been under the same roof with a criminal! Yet, he had not harmed her and had even left her house without any damage... Dechen Wangmo (100002) BA English/EVS
The River That Flowed Upwards When I was studying in 2nd standard, I was surrounded by friends who seemed to have everything that I desired. I would constantly pester my mother to get me the toys, sweets and dolls that they had. One day, when I returned home from school, I forced my mother to buy those things for me but my mother was increasingly getting fed up with my unlimited wants. In a fit of irritation, she pointed to the rivers which flowed outside our home and said “The day the Haa Chhu (Haa River) flows upward instead of downward, I’ll get you everything you want”. From that time on, every morning and evening, I would wish upon the stars and stare at the river - praying that it would flow in reverse. Naïve as I was, I actually thought that this was possible! Years went by, and I eagerly waited for an anomaly of nature to oblige. My mother’s superbly clever deferral of my wishes had succeeded, and I had been taught a valuable lesson in not being overly greedy. But, I must confess that to this day, whenever I pass through Haa town, I can’t help stealing a glance at the river just to confirm that it hasn’t started flowing upwards!!! Tshering Pem (100255) BA English/Dzongkha
The Long Weekend Confused? I don’t know. Still, I continued to wonder. They were there behind me. All I could hear were screams filled with excitement. In the loud cacophony, I cannot say whether the voices were girls’ and guys’. It was really noisy. People around RTC campus were so happy. We had only three classes on Friday. Everyone was talking about shopping for their first jam session which was coming up next evening. There was a crowd of new students here. I also got excited and drove down to town with my friends to have fun. They were planning to have drinks and party. I thought of joining them. From the moment I made up my mind, I couldn’t concentrate on my lectures. All I could think of was how our first jam session would be. At last all the classes got over. Then I could look forward to the party. Some of my friends were planning to go for blind dates but I wondered how it could be called a date unless we knew each other. The idea seemed boring. Rather, I decided to have drinks with my friends. They were a heap of crazy people and got lost in the midst of the dance floor. It was like we had never danced before. That was it. All I could think of was dancing and enjoying their company. Finally, it was Saturday night. We all shouted like hooligans. We were dressed as if we were going for a royal dance and we looked very good that night. Crazy fools; but smart ones! We went to the party hall. All the girls were beautiful. ‘It is really going to be fun tonight,’ I thought. My classmates and I danced a lot. We did not know that the clock could move so fast, but it was already time for the party to end. So we all danced to the last slow song. I danced it out with a female classmate. We had first met when we were in high school. I had feelings for her and I had expressed these but she had said “We can only be friends and nothing else”. I respected her decision. We were best friends. This was the first time we danced together. I felt so good that night but the DJ calling off the party clipped my happiness. We left the hall amid screams of joy. Then and there, I planned on asking her out for a walk. At first she hesitated but after pausing for a few minutes, she said “Yes”. The few minutes felt like an hour. I was extremely excited and at the same time I was feeling nervous about it all. I waited for her by the side of the road and saw her walking down from the hostel. The first glimpse I got gave me the impression that she was also feeling awkward. As she wandered down, I figured it was the right time to ask her out. She was shy at first, then said, “I need some time…Can I go back inside? It’s cold and it’s late also”. I replied “That’s fine, but could I have your answer tomorrow? Please! Good night, sweet dreams”. Both of us went back to our own rooms. The next morning all I could think of was her reply. It was getting dark in the evening and still she hadn’t called me. I decided to call her myself. I rang her and asked her again about her feelings. There was a silence on the line for few moments and she finally said “Yes”. I couldn’t believe my ears and asked her to
repeat it again. She said “Yes” again. That day was really lucky for me. We started seeing each other. Sigay Phub BA English/Dzongkha
Bitter Betrayal But Sweet Reward Yangchen felt as if the world were falling on her. She wished that what she was hearing were a dream and closed her eyes tight. But it was of no use because Dema was still talking when she opened her eyes. Yangchen had loved Dorji for years and she was crestfallen when her friend Dema told her that he had proposed to a junior college girl. That night she cried silently in her room cursing the day when he first saw him. Actually, she had first seen him not in person but in a video clip. It was a boring day, so Yangchen and her friends had gone to try and borrow a new movie from a friend. The boy gave them a hard-disk which contained movies as well as some of his personal video clips. Out of curiosity, they watched some and this was when Yangchen had begun to admire Dorji. Dorji was a singer in one of the video clips. From that day, her eyes always followed him and she never spent a day without seeing him. Secretly, she wished him to be with her but, indeed, it was only a wish because even when she proposed to him he did not respond. He only distracted her from her studies at the RTC and in the meantime she forgot the main aim of her life. For a long time, she waited for his response and now all of it had been turned upside down. She was deep in her thoughts when a voice came “Are you alright Yangchen?” Yangchen lifted her head and saw Dema standing near the bed. Yangchen just nodded her head and feigned a smile. Dema didn’t know what to say, she had also hesitated several times before giving the bad news to Yangchen. But being a friend she thought that telling the truth was the best thing to do. Yangchen understood her silence and immediately said “Dema you don’t have to feel guilty about anything, I would have done the same if I was in your place and I am happy that you told me about it”. Dema smiled and left the room, she felt bad for Yangchen too because she knew everything about her and her love. Apart from being a good friend, Yangchen was also a good girl. She was jolly and had black hair which reflected in her eyes; they twinkled when she smiled. But now, those sparks had faded along with her smiles. ... Days passed and Yangchen was slowly getting over her past but it was not an easy job as they were in the same college and the sight of him scratched the scars in her heart. Despite all those situations, Dorji turned up in front of her again. This time it was not Yangchen who mentioned him, it was he himself who came to her and proposed. Yangchen didn’t know how to react. She was dumbstruck. The moment she had been waiting for a long time finally approached and everything changed for her. She was in a dilemma and didn’t respond. Dorji waited for her response for months. Yangchen did not relent easily, she thought he was just using her because he had broken up with his girlfriend. But the truth was that he had loved Yangchen from the beginning and was unaware of it. He tried to explain all of this to her and was successful at last. They were a happy couple in the college; their relation lasted even after graduation. Both of them got jobs in Thimphu and were happily married. Their life was going on well till Dorji went away from Thimphu for a one month tour. He met Deki, his ex-girlfriend, during
his tour. At first it was just a casual re-acquaintance but as they spent more time with each other, they became closer. And by the time Dorji came back to Thimphu he had totally changed. He ignored Yangchen and every night they quarrelled. During this time, Yangchen found that she was three months pregnant and she hoped that at least this would change his mind. But it was in vain; he became more arrogant and at last voiced her biggest fear: he asked for a divorce. There was nothing she could do. They departed and God knows how much Yangchen suffered. During her pregnancy, her mother came to help her but she too left after the baby girl was born. She really had a hard time adjusting at the office and managing everything at home. Sometimes she cried upon seeing her daughter’s innocent face. She was unable to think about her daughter’s life without a father. But being a mother she tried her level best to be strong and was successful in bringing up her daughter just the way she wanted. She named her daughter Yoden; Yoden was now fifteen and old enough to know right and wrong. ... It was a cold winter day when both of them went shopping in town. Yangchen was taken aback when she suddenly saw Dorji in front of her. It seemed to her that he had grown older beyond his years but his eyes hadn’t changed; they were still full of betrayal. He gave a little smile and said, “How are you Yangchen, hope everything is going on well in your life?”. Just then, Yoden appeared and said, “Mama let us go now, it’s getting late”. Dorji’s face changed and his gaze fixed on Yoden. Yangchen asked her to wait in the car. Dorji asked, “Is she our daughter?”, to which Yangchen replied “No, she is my daughter”. Dorji was speechless. So, Yangchen thanked him for everything he did to her and went away with a smile on her face. Indeed it was a smile of her victory for facing all those problems and difficult situations alone, a victory for being able to live and go through all the different stages of a girl’s life: daughter, wife and mother. Tshering Wangmo BA English/Dzongkha
A Day to Remember We were quite happy since we didn’t have to attend classes on that day. Some of us were nervous, some excited and some were anxious. I was just excited and thought of having fun with the children and at the same time teaching them moral values and encouraging them to study. We arrived at the parking lot and everyone looked their best. We waited for some time and when we were about to move, there was a problem. Since there was only one van, just the girls and our lecturer could be accommodated. Us boys had a longer wait for transportation. The journey was quite comfortable and we reached Changzamtog Lower Secondary School within fifteen minutes. The first thing I saw upon reaching was an underconstruction gate. There were mounds of sand and piles of stones scattered all around. Next, I saw a group of girls playing with elastic bands just like I used to play when I was their age. All the students stared at us and as we passed by them, we heard their greetings. Just above the gate, there was a row of classrooms that resembled a barracks. There was a big football ground too, but it seemed as if everything in this school was under construction since most of the infrastructure was incomplete. There were many children playing in the ground; it was like a Sunday market where everyone was busy doing something. Before we were actually deployed to different classes by our lecturer, I went to class VIII C and observed many exciting things. I noticed a collection of different types of books in the class. I asked a student named Sonam Zangmo, “Why do you keep those books in the class, aren’t they supposed to be kept in the library?”. She replied proudly, “Every individual is supposed to bring a book each to be kept in the class so that they other students can also read it”. I was impressed by this idea. I also noticed a collection of plastic bottles. In fact, the very moment I entered the class, I saw almost seven sacks full of plastic waste. When I asked why they had collected that garbage, they said that recycling is mandatory for all the students and whichever class gathers the most refuse, gets awarded a special prize. Right after the lunch break, we were sent to different classes. My friend Ugyen Tsheten Lepcha and I went to class V C. Immediately upon entering the class, I saw an altar just next to the teacher’s table. The students were wishing us “Good Afternoon Sirs”. Surprised at being addressed in this formal manner, I felt like a responsible person who is idolised by students. We replied “Good Afternoon”. The students were murmuring, I could also see some of them smiling brightly at us. I was delighted, and at the same time, a little nervous. We introduced ourselves and advised them the reason for our being there. My friend Ugyen led the class by letting the students tell us something about themselves, their hobbies and ambitions. Most of them had at least one ambition, but a few appeared confused. So, we encouraged them to take an interest in their studies and aim high in life while always keeping in mind the larger altruistic purposes. They asked us different types of questions, I felt like a counselor. Nobody has ever asked me that many questions. One query related to how I managed my time and tackled my problems when I was at their age. Indeed, it was a good question and it took me back to the wonderful memories of my eleventh standard days. I told them of the value of time management and the importance of punctuality. It was also crucial to be honest and loyal to themselves and others. Finally, I stressed that games and sports were necessary for physical fitness and overall well-being. After a while, Ugyen and I considered switching to another class but the students didn’t want us to leave. They requested: “Don’t go please!”. We had no choice but to stay. At the
end, we even witnessed the singing and dancing talents of that class. However, a few shy students lacked confidence to perform. So, we encouraged them to come forward if they really wanted others to see their potential. Soon, it was time to bid farewell to the students. Subsequently, we attended the school afternoon prayer. Everyone sat on the ground holding their prayer books, chanting. It was a memorable sight. After the prayers were over, we went to see the school library. It ws quite small but efficient, and used well by the students. The books in the library were mostly fairy tales and short stories. As we headed back to our college, we were treated to chocolates by our lecturer. Reflecting upon the day, I realised that I had learnt many things from interacting with the children and encouraging them to perform better. Whereas earlier I had hated the thought of being a teacher, now I feel motivated by a profession that is not only noble but also inspiring. Dorji Wangchuk (100018) BA English/EVS
Ideal Boy Two hundred and seventy days in her womb sharing her food and water which makes her weak, how selfish of him. Thinking about him always confused her and she pitied him. After his birth, she had lots of worries. She thought of what might happen to him if her milk failed to satisfy his thirst. But, it was the liquid that the child drank first. And he prayed to the God, “Oh God let my family be together and live happily”. His father worked very hard to raise him; bearing the brunt of his master’s cruelty in order to give his son a better life. The child understood this. And he prayed to the God, “Let my good father guide and support me”. Pema Tshering Lepcha was born in Khortsaney village in Tsirang dzongkhag (province). When this child was two, a great disaster fell upon him. His prayers were unheeded and his good parents were lost. He was so innocent, God’s own ideal boy. Even though God had been unjust to him, he kept his inner counsel and bravely suffered. At last, he was blessed with a second set of parents. They worked in a canteen at Royal Thimphu College (RTC) and treated him like their own child. Almost. They shared their food but their love could not compare with that of the boy’s lost parents. ... Pema wistfully gazes at other parents when they come to visit their sons and daughters in college. He runs after them, trying to interact, but as he is small, they smile indulgently and turn their backs to him. This loneliness is a part of his life. Sometimes he gets friends to play with him and this is an escape from his ‘real world’. He even visits the academic block in the college, trying to enter classes in his quest for attention. Often not successful in distracting the students, his other companions are the dogs. He is an extraordinary little boy. He has not experienced school life but he has the feel of life in college; the boys and girls on campus are his companions. He lingers around the mess between 4 and 4.30 pm and joins them - uninvited - for tea, and has a good time. He is four now, grown a bit weak, but his wit is growing with him. One day he came to my room asking for something to eat. I gave him some biscuits and he left. After a few hours, he came back again, looking for my friend Karma Sangay, who cares very much for him and whom he calls “Paan Daddy”. Then, I didn’t see him for a week. I was a bit worried, so I went to enquire about him in the canteen. He had been beaten by his aunt and was sick. I met him and asked where he was and what had happened. He seemed changed. He replied, “I am sorry I cannot play with you anymore and I am not allowed to talk with anyone else”. After a long conversation with his guardians, I came to know that his aunt had warned him not to waste time mingling with people. They wanted him to be a better person in life – just as they had promised his late parents – and they were a bit hard on him to correct him. I suggested to Pema that he learn the English alphabet from the canteen manager but he simply refused. Still, the thoughts of his late parents occupy him; he starts crying whenever he talks about them. Seeing him cry even my eyes get filled with tears since I grew up alone after my parents’ divorce and I know the pain of losing parents. Those were the worst days of my life... A chilly wind blows over me and I am brought back to myself...
… A boy has a dream of becoming a good person in society but he lacks the chance of getting an education. Everyday he watches students going to school. Each new word he learns and the dances that he enjoys the most are taught to him by strangers. Inspite of everything, he is an ideal boy in his own way. Everyone in the college says that he will be someone in future. With a big smile on his face, suddenly he cries as he remembers his parents. “God what have you done to this innocent boy”. The life of Pema Tshering Lepcha is surrounded by both departure and sadness. His future is in his hands; for him a man’s best friend are his ten fingers. He is really alone in this world and I hope his life will be a good one. I pray to the Gods: “Please help him in whatever step he takes”. Tashi Wangdi BA English/Dzongkha
Interview with Aum Choden from Phuentsholing about the flood that broke out at the turn of the millennium Me: Can you please say something about the day before the flood? Choden: Yes, it was raining the whole day and the weather was gloomy. It wasn’t night when the flood broke out; it was early on a September morning. Me: Can you please tell me more about it? Choden: We were all sound asleep. We didn’t hear any rumbling or noise. But it was around 5 AM in the morning when I heard my neighbors banging on our door and shouting, “Run for your lives, there’s a flood!”. I jumped off my bed and saw that my house was filled with water up to my knees. I was very shocked and afraid too. I prayed and rushed immediately to my childrens’ room to wake them up and save ourselves from the flood. Me: What happened next? Choden: My neighbors who live upstairs were rushing down the stairs screaming. By then the water level was up to the waist. There was no time to think. I carried my daughter on my back and dragged my son who was half-naked. We had nothing on except the night dresses that we were wearing. Me: Then where did you go? Choden: We ran out of our building and went to the highest point where everybody had gathered. It was a narrow escape. The dark river with its strong current ran furiously with huge tree trunks and boulders that hit the walls of my bedroom and I saw my cupboards, bed and the curtains turn black and flow along with the current. I felt so miserable. Me: Then what happened next? Choden: Right before my eyes, my car was crushed and it floated as if it were a toy car. I was sad but helpless. I held my children tight and I cried because I lost everything. But within me I was grateful to God that nothing had happened to me and my children. Me: I am sorry for your loss. But where was your husband then? Choden:
He was on tour. He had gone to Thimphu for two weeks. Me: How did you feel at that moment? Choden: I really don’t know. It was all mixed emotions. I was scared, anxious, and nervous and I can’t express as to how I felt at that very moment. But I missed my husband and parents. I also tried to be strong in order to console my children who were crying out of fear. Me: What damages did the flood cause and how long did it take for the water to subside? Choden: I remember seeing lots of sad things happening. I saw pets, cows, buffaloes and some birds’ nests being washed by the flood. But thank God that nothing happened to any one of us! Our neighbors too lost everything. The electricity went off and we were blacked out for some time. We thought we were going to die. The policemen were on the move and were alerting other residents who were susceptible to the dangers of the flood. We were unlucky because our house was near a small river called ‘Dothikhola’; we thought it to be calm and peaceful but actually it posed a threat. It was this river that caused the mass destruction. Me: Can you please tell me about the river, when did it dry or subside? Choden: I really don’t remember if the river subsided soon but it took us around 12 hours to settle in Tala Project Guest House. That was when I could call my husband and tell him about us. He came to get us. We had nothing. We came to Thimphu. My parents and relatives gave us clothes and other necessary items to resettle. Me: Thank you very much for sharing your experience. Pema Choden BA English/Dzongkha
Time Holds A Life It was a month when the rain never stopped falling. Each drop of rain looked like a pearl falling from a broken necklace. Jamphel was gazing through the window and he felt a chill of nostalgia. He was lost in his thoughts and his face betrayed no expression. He lived at Mothithang in Thimphu. He had a good taste in colors. He had a red coupe car; expensive and exotic. The colors of the walls in his house were eye-catching and skillfully designed. Looking at his surroundings, anyone would realize that they were work of an artistic person. His cottage had four rooms and one big living room with his personal favorite flat Samsung screen, where he enjoyed watching football matches. There was a utter silence in his house, except for the sound of rain drops on the roof top; it was like a haunted house. He was standing alone in his room looking out of his window. It would be a stereotype for a doctor to wear spectacles but Jamphel had an eye problem related to cataract. He remembered how his wife Pelzom said he looked like a geek when wearing glasses but he would justify why he didn’t want to use contact lens.“I don’t prefer lens because it needs extra care for which I cannot think of wasting my time”. It was pretty sure that he was a busy person; on the surface it might be because he was a doctor, but he never had enough time between flirting with his many girlfriends. His wife Pelzom was an only child; she was pampered and had been given a lot of attention by her parents. She had almost everything a girl could wish for. She was in her 40s and used to dress flamboyantly. For the last 5 years she had been an alcoholic. She would promise to quit drinking every time; Jamphel and her parents decided to send her to rehabilitation center. Hardly for a month would she stay sober. Alcohol was the only option for her to embrace her loneliness. Yes, Pelzom was alone. Though she had everything, she couldn’t get attention from Jamphel. Jamphel was perfect husband material but he never loved Pelzom. She couldn’t fetch a divorce because of her 8 year old son. Though she loved her son, she was occupied by the feelings of ignominy and loneliness. She used to batter her son whenever she got drunk and vent all her frustration by beating him; she blamed him for her not being able to get a divorce from Jamphel. Jamphel uttered “Rigsel…” in a low voice and tears streamed down his cloudy dark eyes. A deep darkness overcast his thoughts and the omnipresent God was missing from his universe. Rigsel Dhendup was their eight year old son. The child had not grown under his mother’s love and care. He had an alcoholic mother and a father who had least time for his family. Rigsel was a disturbed kid who was always bullied in school. Every time he went to school, he would always be bullied by big boys and he would come crying to his mother about it all. But what could an alcoholic mother do? All she needed was the intoxication to make her feel alive and keep her away from darkness and the sadness. Rigsel was ignored by his classmates and neither had he any friends. One day after school, he returned home, the door was wide open. He fearfully entered inside, closing the door slowly, thinking that his drunkard mother would beat him up. The door creaked while closing, he wondered if his mother would come but he was thankful that there was no sign of her movement. The house was very silent and he was relieved. So, he tiptoed inside the house. As he laid himself on the bed, his stomach made a low growling sound. He was famished and went to eat something; that was when he saw his mother lying on the kitchen floor. He was scared thinking that he might wake her up, slowly
he uncovered several pots and pans without making any noise but there were no leftovers. The dishes were piled up with rubbish and the sink gave off a foul smell. He reached for the fridge and opened it expecting to see some eatables but all he could see was raw vegetables and uncooked meat. The only edible was butter; he took a long breath and slowly closed the fridge when suddenly the thought of bread struck him. He had twenty Ngultrums and he rushed to the store nearby to get a packet of bread. “Aunty, bread chi na mey (can I get a packet of bread?)”, “bread di mindu mey alu”. He couldn’t find a loaf of bread from the nearby store so he walked for a while and saw another shop a few feet away. He rushed there and got a packet of bread and a dairy milk chocolate with the change to spare. He held the packet of bread tight to make sure it wouldn’t fall. Leisurely, he unwrapped the chocolate and started eating. He enjoyed the chocolate which slowly melted in his mouth. Jamphel received a call, “Hello! “Jamphel, nga na Thimphu na lu yoe” (“Hey, I am in Thimphu”) ; “Wai Deki imey menna?”(“Hey, it’s Deki,right?”) “Enn! Please nga cheba sho mey”(“Yes please come to meet me”); “Yaya, ga tey mo che?”(“Okay, where are you?”) “Nga Hotel Wangchuk na yoe”(“I am at Hotel Wangchuk”). Within a minute he made up an excuse and escaped from his work. It was his girlfriend from Paro. They met and cuddled each other in the hotel room. After a few hours, his phone rang, “Doctor, you are needed here for an emergency surgery”; “My wife is sick, I cannot come now, call Dr. Sonam”. Jamphel continued his romance but after sometime Deki sent him back to his work and promised to meet in the evening. Jamphel unwillingly went back to the hospital. Upon reaching there, the health assistant told him that a boy had been hit by a truck and couldn’t get a surgery on time as Dr. Sonam was sick. Jamphel was told that the boy was around 9 years old and he had died a few minutes ago. The health assistants had tried their best but could not save the boy. Jamphel felt bad and they talked about the carelessness of the parents. Eventually, he reached home and found Pelzom on the kitchen floor lying in her own vomit. He kicked and scolded her but he didn’t want to waste his time, for he had to go to meet Deki. So, he changed quickly and hurriedly and passed through the door. When he realized that he hadn’t seen his son, he rushed back inside looking for him. “Rigsel! Rigsel!” the lack of response disturbed him. He went looking for Rigsel every corner of the house but then suddenly froze; the news of the boy hit by a truck struck in his mind. He was numb, he felt as if his heart was squeezed and tears of helplessness drained through his eyes. Rigsel had been hit by a truck while returning from a shop; the tyres of the truck had run over his small and empty belly, tearing up his skin and intestines. A packet of bread had fallen a few feet away from him. The people nearby had taken him to the hospital. … The rain splashed on his face, Jamphel was brought back to his senses. He was still standing near the window; he cried and blamed himself for losing his only son. Pelzom couldn’t resist the news of her son’s death. There she was, sitting with a blue dress on, a hope in her eyes that her son will return. Singye Choden BA English/EVS 76
Yellow Behind The Numbers 9.8.2031/12:30 pm /66°F read the signboard at Chunzom. Beep!!! The alarm on the gate rang as the bus passed by the laser lights. “Hey stop the bus!” the police constable ran after the bus. The bus driver pulled over. All the police officers stood in front of the bus and asked the driver to step down. The police officers looked like blue ballpoint pens on the stand in a stationery shop. They stood still and watched as the driver put off the engine. The customs and revenue officers were also running in haste towards the vehicle. All the passengers grumbled, some stood up, while some were asking each other why they were stopped. Only the driver exactly knew why they had been asked to pull over but he pretended to be unaware of what was going on. “What’s the problem officer?” he asked. The officer did not entertain his question and directly began with his investigation. He looked in front of the bus and noted down the vehicle number BG-01-34543. The officer was a little impatient so he went on with his next question, “Where are you coming from and where is your destination?” The driver relaxed and then taking a deep breath replied, “Oh! So it’s the regular enquiry register. We came from Phuentsholing and we are to stop at Thimphu.” He grinned at the officer as he was asked another question, “How many people are inside?”. “There are four people travelling”, he answered as he took a piece of betel nut out of his purse and popped it in his mouth. The bus was white in color but had red stripes that went along all the corners. It looked like the Austrian van with its flag imprinted on the vehicle .It did not have a carrier on the top since it was a light vehicle. There was a little boy who had his ear phones on; while he was staring at the driver, he seemed lost in thoughts and did not show any interest in knowing what was going on. The police officer, in his loud husky voice, asked the driver, “What’s your name?” The driver responded politely, “My name is Gelso, Sir.” The customs officer, with his thick eyebrow raised like a sharp turning of a highway, questioned, “Are you doing this on purpose? Or just for money you are taking the risk huh!” All the passengers of the mini bus were eager to know what was going on outside, all except the little boy who was still lost in his thoughts. The group of passengers gave the driver suspicious looks. The driver said, “What did I do?” Then the customs officer walked towards the parapet where the passengers were sitting. He was wearing a black collared shirt and long pants held by a snake coloured leather belt. He was holding a register and a pen in his hands. He asked, “Is anyone of you carrying gold illegally?” Everyone had a confused look on their faces. A man stood up and said, “Do we look like smugglers?” With lines on his forehead, he had a huge belly like an expecting mother in her last month. The officer said , “Sorry Sir that’s not what we meant but…” he was interrupted by an old lady “It feels like that was only
thing left to do before I died”. The officer was offended and said, “Excuse me madam, what did you just say?”. She simply turned her face away and said “Nothing.” “Well let me explain”….As the officer was talking to the people, the driver was being thoroughly interrogated by the policemen. He must have felt like he was sitting on the hot seat in “Who wants to be a millionaire” and playing the rapid fire round category. The passengers were left with their mouths wide open. They were shocked to hear what the officer just said. Then, they all saw a police officer scream at the driver, “Where did you hide the gold?” The driver said, “I am sick of explaining that there is no gold in the vehicle, Sir”. “Look Mister: don’t play innocent. You see that laser light near the gate?” “Yes” the driver replied reluctantly. “If any automobile passes the light carrying illegal gold the alarm rings automatically. It’s 2031 Mister and it’s called technological advancement. All the gold that is brought into the country is sealed by the customs office at Paro and Phuentsholing. That’s why the checked gold can pass the laser lights without making any sound.” He took a breath and continued, “When your bus passed by, the alarm rang, which means you have gold in the bus. We need to search the bus”. The driver confidently said, “Sure Sir, you definitely can”. So, first a police officer ordered his constable to take out all the bags from the bus. The constable walked in and stared at the little boy for a minute and he pulled out the bags. He took out three bags. The officer asked the owner of the bag to come forward. A tall pretty girl walked towards it. The officer asked, “What’s your name?” She replied, “I am Ligel Lhamo”. He wrote it down in his diary then the officer asked her to open the bag. She opened it and displayed her things like a street vendor. She was carrying some colorful tshirts, some novels, a couple of DVDs, a packet full of chocolate (though she did not carry the figure of a chocolate eater!). She also had some cosmetics in a pink purse. It was evident that she was a journalist from the recorder and camera in her bag. They did not find anything else there. “Next” the officer shouted. It was a handy bag, which seemed not to contain much. The man with the pot belly walked up. “So that’s your bag?” the officer asked. “Yes sir” he replied with his head lowered. He knelt down and opened the bag. First came his clothes. He had about three pairs of clothes so probably he might have traveled for a day or two. The officer asked his name and jotted ‘Jiz Dorji, Thimphu, Babesa.’ The next item that was taken out of his bag was a small package. It was neatly wrapped. The police man asked him to unwrap it. He said that he would rather not open it. The officer said, “Don’t waste my time”. Jiz said ,”How can I open it ? It’s a gift to a friend.” Jiz did not agree to open the box. He kept arguing with the officer. Then the Customs officer came running and asked, “What’s the matter?” He was panting like a dog. The police officer complained that the man was not opening the package. The officer sighed and asked Jiz to open the box. Jiz was stubborn. When the police officer asked his constable to open the box by force, Jiz conceded that he would open it himself. As he was opening it he was very nervous. A stripe of condoms fell out of the box. The customs officer laughed. Then the policeman said, “So this was your gift to a friend. Interesting, so you had fun huh!” Jiz walked back, nothing had been found from his bag. He was a little embarrassed but the custom officer shouted “That’s the spirit man, safe sex!” and he laughed till his stomach hurt badly. Then the old woman took turtle-steps to reach the bag. The customs officer asked, “So old granny show us what you got”. She murmured, “Still there are men like you who want to see a shrunken chest and back”. “What did you say?”, he yelled at her. In a low voice she again said, “Nothing” and proceeded to fiddle with her bag strap. He said, “I meant, show us what you got in your bag”. The constable was giggling. The officer was turned red as 78
apple, then he growled at the old lady, “Just do as I say, now open your bag.” The officer wrote on his book. Her name was ‘Pema Wangmo, 72 years old, Punakha’. There were some clothes in her bag and a woven silk kira that she had packed in a plastic bag. She showed the kira to the officer. When the constable asked if the kira was on sale she replied that she had woven it for her granddaughter’s marriage. As she said this, her eyes filled up with tears and it felt like she wanted to say more about it but the police officer interrupted her and said, “Ok ,hurry up and put it all back”. They found nothing. She walked back to the group. The constable reported that there was still a little boy inside the bus. He was called out. Pegyal - the officer noted. He just had a bag slung on his shoulder. The officer asked his to open it and show them what he was carrying. The boy was silent. The officer asked him again. The bus driver came running and said, “Sorry Sir, he is sick”. “Open his bag”. The driver replied for the boy, “Sir, there is nothing in his bag. He is just a kid”. The officer repeated, “I said open the bag, don’t you get it?” At this, the boy was scared and he handed his bag to the driver. The bag was light. It just contained a picture frame of couple who looked like they were so in love by way the man held the woman in his arms and the way she was looking at him. The driver explained that the boy’s father had recently died in an accident and now he was going to his see his mother after 6 years; his parents had been divorced and lived separately. The boy was still in shock at his father’s death. They could not find much more than a sketch-book and some medicines. Now the officers were really impatient. They checked out every corner of the bus. They looked under every seat. They checked the deck board, the tool box, every possible place in the small vehicle. The officer was so angry that he could not find the gold. His blood was boiling. Then he called other constables and asked them to check under the bus and near the wheels. Still he did not find the gold. He shouted at the constables to keep looking until they found it. It was getting cold and dark. All the passengers had to wait outside until the officials could find the gold. Some people must have thought that the officials were crazy to search for gold when there was no gold! The passengers were hungry too. But the officer did not give up. He even asked his assistants to check the top of the bus even though there was no carrier. It was 5:45pm by then and the officer was sick and tired of searching for the gold. He made the driver go back and drive through the laser light again. As the bus came, the alarm rang again. “See, it’s somewhere in the bus but why can’t we find it?!”, the officer spoke in frustration with his head held exasperatedly in his hands. He looked at the driver and said, “I know you have hidden it in the bus”. The driver then smiled. “Yes I did. Is that all you want to know?” said the driver. The officer stood up with excitement and said, “I knew it!”. Then the officer made an offer to the driver that if he showed them where he had hidden the gold then he would be allowed to take the gold and the officer would even hand him a cheque for Nu 20,000. They had searched all the places in the bus that could accommodate anything of any size and still they had been unsuccessful in finding the gold. The cash reward was to honour the intelligence of the driver; he had overtaken all the techniques of the investigation team. The driver walked away from the officer. He was finding it so funny. Well, he had no harm in accepting the offer. He gladly said “Yes” and walked over to the front of the bus, calling the entire team. He bent down and pulled off the number plate of the vehicle. Then, he flipped it over. Everyone was shocked out of their wits to see an extra-thick layer of gold that was attached to the number plate. The officer found it hard to swallow the fact. He walked to the other end of the bus and again pulled
out the number plate. It was the same there. All the people looking the for gold felt so foolish that they had searched the whole bus inside and out but missed this spot; the bystanders watching the scene clapped at the cleverness of the driver. Then, after witnessing the all-day long scene, I slowly walked towards the bus and handcuffed the police officer who had bet the driver money was about to let him bring the illegal gold into the country. I took out my ID card that read: Rabchu Wangda Senior Investigation Officer, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Thimphu: Bhutan. Sippy Das BA English/EVS
Anecdote Of Life “I have given you enough time to make up your mind”, the mother retorted. “But mother I don’t want to get married. I just turned 17. I want to build up a good career first and then I will think,” the daughter screamed. “Don’t forget the boy’s father, Ap Dawala, owns 51 lactating cows and a poultry farm with hundreds of fertile chicken. They will keep you like a princess,” the mother went on. “By feeding me chicken and milk?’ the daughter replied with obvious sarcasm. This has been the regular morning discourse between mother and daughter since Jangsem turned 17 last month. Though born to a humble farming family, her eyes had a glint of ambition since her kindergarten days. As years rolled on she became more resolute to make a prominent mark in her community and therefore, marriage was never on the cards. Hence, her mother’s recent obsession with her marriage threatened her years of struggle. Then one day the unthinkable happened. Soon as she stepped into the house her mother broke the news, “Jangsem I am very happy for you. Here on your life will change for good,” she said, all smiles. “What happened ama?” “Today Ap Dawala and his wife came with their son’s marriage proposal,” her eyes were still gleaming with joy. “What did you tell them?” Jangsem asked almost immediately. “I told them yes”. “What! How could you do that to me? I am not getting married and that’s final. You should have at least asked me before trying to ruin my life with your decision,” she confronted. “Are you out of your mind? It would be real stupidity had I declined their proposal. I am not ruining your life but fixing it so that you don’t have to struggle the way we did and moreover, as your mother I don’t have to ask you”. “But this is my life. I have plans and marriage is definitely not on the list. I want to study further, get a job and create my own identity. Why don’t you get it? If Apa was alive he would have supported me,” her eyes welled up with tears at the mention of her father. Her father, Ap Sangay, was a businessman who used to deal in fabrics but due to sudden turn of events the man once known for his prudence turned into an alcoholic. He died of liver damage a few years later. Jangsem was ten when she lost him. Initially, she did not know why her father, a devout Buddhist, gave in to drinking but over the years she came to know that her father was heart broken due to her mother’s infidelity.
Most villagers thought that Aum Peki’s marriage to Jangsem’s father was not driven by love but by the fact that he was doing pretty well in life. Apart from a vast farmland, the fabric business was paying off well; however, it mostly kept him away from home. Initially, everything moved smoothly but then trouble started after Jangsem was born. With the hope of giving her a good future Ap Sangay worked even harder and in that pursuit got alienated from his wife. His business trips escalated and Aum Peki developed an affair with his younger brother. He got the wind of it from his neighbor, who informed him. “Hey don’t you think your wife looks better with your brother than you!”. Three months later he caught them red-handed in a compromising state. What he saw left him dumbfounded. He did not react or create a scene, that day on he simply went mute. Unable to bottle up the emotional storm in his heart, he took to drinking. He gave up his trade and slowly blew away most of what he had saved. In two years his family hit poverty and Ap Sangay hit his grave. Therefore, Peki thinks that Jangsem’s marriage with Ap Dawala’s son could move them from their current miserable state and maybe help revive her family’s lost reputation. “But mother I have secured a good percentage in my examination and have qualified for college. Please let me study,” she pleaded. “You are getting married and from now on I don’t want any argument on this topic,” she said in a stern and resolute tone, and stormed out of the room. Jangsem knew something had to be done and done fast, damage control perhaps. Convincing her mother was out of the question now. One sunny afternoon, she left the house on pretext of buying groceries. Her mother was busy preparing for the trip to the next village to meet their would-be in-laws, especially the groom they hadn’t seen before. He had returned from the capital, where he was doing his graduation. In order to escape, Jangsem had decided to run away from the village. It had occurred to her after days of deliberation that the best way to escape the situation was to escape altogether. However, her legs trembled as she walked her way toward the nearest roadhead. Aum Peki was so absorbed with the preparation that she hardly noticed Jangsem’s absence. It wasn’t till late evening that she realized her daughter’s disappearance. She went looking for her but after almost an hour of wandering it struck her that maybe she had run away. Resigning to her fate and misfortune she returned home vowing never again to see the daughter who had disgraced her. The marriage was called off by the other side after they came to know about the incident. Most suspected she had eloped with someone. “Like mother, like daughter,” the villagers were heard saying. Meanwhile, after travelling for two continuous days Jangsem had arrived in the capital. She was surprised by the size of the city: the hordes of people, traffic, infrastructure and monuments. The college she had qualified for was located here but the admission would not start till next week and until then she had to find a shelter elsewhere. Most of her 82
savings were spent on transportation and food, and the leftover was just enough for admission fees and uniform. “Yes, a job is what I need,” she thought, and ventured deeper into the city. Finally, one of the drayangs (bars of ill-repute) hired her when the owner saw that she could sing. It just took her one song to capture the heart of her audience; they were all completely swept off their feet. The pub-owner provided her with a small room and her meals were on the house. Three days went by smoothly but on the fourth day the true nature of her job kicked in; one drunken customer pulled her to a corner and tried to molest her. All her attempts to free herself were futile. Right at that moment someone from behind pulled the man and punched him right on his face. The man fell with his face flat on the ground. Still reeling in shock and fear she hugged the guy and wept. Suddenly she realized her state and pulled back. A tall young man with curly hair stood before her. She nodded her head to gesture her gratitude and left the scene with both her cheeks still moist with tears. Something within him froze and he could not take a step further. He stood there for almost ten minutes wondering how such a good-looking girl landed in such an indecent environment. The vulnerability in her eyes struck him deep and he felt a sudden rush of emotion. “I am Karma Tenzin. What’s your name?” he continued. He had come again to the pub the following night. “I am Jangsem,” she replied, “and I am sorry I could not thank you properly last night.” “It’s no big deal. You were very depressed. But how come you landed in a place like this?” he inquired. “Well it’s a long story. Anyway thank you again for rescuing me,” she said. “The next singer is everybody’s favorite, Jangsem,” the MC announced. It was her last day in the job, so she delivered her best performance. As her nectar-coated voice permeated the air, everyone on the floor went berserk. Despite the presence of the huge crowd she was the only person visible to Karma at that moment. Just two encounters and he had completely fallen head over heels for her. With the hope of getting a glimpse of her, he went there the next day too, but to his utter disappointment, the waiter informed him about her permanent departure. He felt as if a thorn had struck him right on the heart; he knew he was in love. It was a cool spring morning. Jangsem woke up early and after completing her morning prayers, she got ready for the college. It was her big day, the day of her admission, the day she would take the first step toward realizing her dreams. The admission committee members were very impressed by her results. As she turned to leave the admission hall, she bumped into a guy and the impact sent all her academic transcripts flying in the air. As she looked up after picking up the documents, she was completely taken aback to see the person standing before her.
“Karma Tenzin! What are you doing here?” she asked, “And what are you doing here?” he shot back. For a moment he forgot everything. He knew fate would bring her back but not in his wildest thoughts had he expected to see her in this place. “I study here,” she said. “I failed last year and have come to repeat. But I am really surprised to see you here, what about that pub thing?” he asked. “I knew you would ask that. Actually I came here before the admission was open and I did not have enough money to sustain myself till then, therefore I took up a job there.” Loving her was the best decision of his life. Karma had personally requested the committee members to place him in section A, where Jangsem was enrolled, and in exchange he had promised not to create a problem. True to his commitment, Karma transformed. He began to win over everyone he had disappointed so far and slowly worked his way up to conquer his lady’s heart. She knew about his feelings but at this juncture she did not want to get distracted. Both of them got through the first year with excellent grades. In the meanwhile, Jangsem started receiving money orders from an anonymous sender. Every month a draft of Nu 2,000 used to get deposited in her name. At first she thought maybe the benefactor was her mother but then it was a big amount and not within her financial capacity. Second year results were out and again both of them nailed it. Seizing the opportunity, Karma confessed his love for her. “Ever since I first saw you I knew I was in love. Everyday since then I have wished for nothing but your love. You are there in my dreams, you are there in my prayers, and you are there in everything I cherish and celebrate. Your mere presence is a reminder that I am alive for one reason- TO LOVE YOU with all my heart and soul. I know you are way above my reach, I know you deserve the best, but I also know that my heart beats for you and it would continue to beat for eternity. I love you Jangsem. I really do.” Jangsem knew it was coming and had always feared that she would end up hurting him but every word he uttered had a sincerity to it. She was deeply moved by his confession but she reminded herself of the troubles she had gone through to come this far in life. Hence, she chose to repress her feelings, “Karma, you are the best guy I know of in this place and I would never forget what you have done for me but I cannot afford to lose focus at this juncture when I am very close to achieving my goals. So, maybe this is not the right time and moreover it will affect your performance too and I don’t want to get blamed for that. What you just said is the best compliment I have ever received so far but I cannot accept your love. I am sorry,” she said, choosing her words carefully. But Karma did not take it for a no. Somehow he knew she had feelings for him and he wanted to bring those out. “I can wait and I will wait no matter what,” saying this he walked off. 84
It was her turn to lose sleep this time. His confession kept resonating in her ears and for the first time after arriving there she felt a deep sense of emptiness inside her. “Is it worth it? Sacrificing my own mother and now Karma for the sake of my dream,” the thought kept popping in her head all night. Weeks passed by and Jangsem could not get enough guts to face Karma. The communication gap between them was gradually widening and one day on her way to the class Jangsem collapsed. Karma rushed to catch her from falling on the ground. He carried her to the hospital where doctor diagnosed her with anemia. An immediate blood transfusion was needed and Karma came forward to donate. When Jangsem regained consciousness she saw Karma sitting next to her. “What happened?” she asked, “Well, I believe you fell unconscious and this young fellow here brought you to us on time and saved your life by donating his blood,” replied the doctor who was attending. She took Karma’s hand and kissed it. She was discharged from the hospital next day and on the way back to the school Jangsem spoke up: “Karma you are the best thing that has happened to me so far. I failed to understand that but I don’t want to lose you and I know if I don’t listen to my heart now I would regret it for the rest of my life. I have realized my dream is incomplete without you. I love you.” He was speechless for a moment and did not know how to react, so he kept staring at her. Shaking off nervousness from his face, he slowly moved forward and kissed her on the forehead, “This will go down as the best moment of my life. Thank you,” he said and kissed her again. They were driven by a common goal now. Both of them topped the trial exam with Jangsem securing the first position. Before the final exam executives of 20 big companies were on the campus with job vacancies and both of them got employed. All this time, she continued to receive money from her anonymous benefactor. Despite several attempts to figure out the identity of the sender, it remained concealed. Soon, the final exam was on the roll. The examination went smoothly and both knew they had performed well. After appearing in the final paper both of them headed for the canteen to celebrate. As they moved inside Jangsem noticed a familiar face staring at her; a man in his late forties. She knew she had seen him before, but where? Then suddenly it struck her that he was none other than her uncle; the man responsible for devastating her family. He stood up and moved toward her slowly. “Why are you here? I don’t want to see your face,” she said, with tears rolling down her cheeks. “Jangsem I came to see you. All these years I have wanted to come back to seek forgiveness but couldn’t and...” “But why now? After what you have done to my family, do you think I will forgive you easily? You think I will forget about apa’s death,” she broke down into tears. Karma took her in his arms and tried to console her.
“Jangsem, please don’t cry. I haven’t come here to scratch old wounds but you have to know the truth. I am dying and I can’t carry the burden of this truth with me. I have died everyday since Acho caught me with your mother. I know I killed him but the truth is that I am your real father and you are my daughter,” he said, in a trembling voice. “What? It is not possible. You cannot be my father. If you think you can deceive me to win my forgiveness then you are wrong,” she cried, fighting hard to control the tears flowing from her eyes. “No, listen dear, a dying person never lies. I have cancer and in a matter of a month or two I will be gone. Your father was a noble man but impotent and despite the verdict from the doctor he never believed it. They were childless for four years. Your father used to blame your mother. They used to quarrel every time. There was no peace at home and then one day I came to your house to find Peki dangling from the ceiling. Out of frustration she had hanged herself. I got there on time and rescued her. I spent the night in the house as your father was away. She resisted at first but then when a person is thirsty even salty water tastes good. She gave in and nine months later you were born. The house that was gloomy all of a sudden lit with joy and happiness and you brought that.” Jangsem stood there unable to speak. “That was it but then again when you turned eight your father started putting pressure on your mother for a second child, a son perhaps, to look after his business. It was during that time we were caught red-handed. I always respected your mother. She loved your father very much and despite what had happened between us I would still say she was a faithful wife because only God knows that our intention was pure. Then it reached me somehow that you have runaway from home and after inquiring with your school I came to know you had qualified for college. That very day I came looking for you but the admission had not started. I looked for you everywhere but to no avail. Then I came on the admission day. I instantly recognized you because you have your mother’s eyes. From that day on I began sending you money orders but without revealing my identity for I know you would not have accepted it from me”. “So, it was you,” she said, further bewildered. She sank on the chair, “I don’t know what to believe and whom to believe, but why now?” He continued, “After leaving the village I came to the capital and started a small restaurant. Over the years it grew. Today I own about four restaurants in the city. I never married. I want you to inherit my property. Give your mother the life she deserves. I could have given her financial support earlier but then people would have talked, bringing further problems to her, which I would never want but now nobody would suspect. You have graduated and already have a job. Please don’t say no. Take it as your father’s dying wish.” Before he completed, she rose and gave him a tight hug. Both cried, but this time the tears were of a happy reunion. Two days later Jangsem shifted to her father’s place where she nursed him till he expired. Her father’s dying words were, “Look after your mother. She has suffered.” After his funeral Jangsem took over the restaurants. She sold one restaurant and with that money constructed a Chorten in his memory. Karma, meanwhile, had already left for his village. He wanted to meet his parents before their appointment. 86
With the completion of the Chorten she decided to visit her mother, whom she hadn’t met for almost four years. Her village was nothing like what she had known before. It was developed with a road that had reached the heart of the village. Jangsem came in a shining red car and curious villagers gathered to see the visitor, assuming it to be some tourist. As she walked out of the car, everybody watched with their mouths wide open. “Hey it’s our Jangsem,” said one. Another added, “She seems to have struck a fortune.” “Remember what she had said before running away from here: she would make it big, and she has done it,” reminded her neighbor. Amidst the commotion, her mother, who had greyed and wrinkled considerably over the years, came out of the house to check the noise outside. The moment she saw Jangsem, she ran back into the house and closed the door. Jangsem knocked at the door gently. “Mother, please open the door. Look, your daughter has kept her promise. She has become a successful person and has come to get you. Please mother, I am sorry, but only I know how much I missed you. Please open the door, please.” She stood at the doorstep weeping and then after ten minutes her mom opened the door. They hugged each other and stayed that way for sometime. “Why didn’t you come home? Did it occur to you what I would do without you? If you hadn’t come this time I would have definitely died heartbroken.” Then they cried some more. They stayed up till late that night catching up on the lost years. Jangsem told her everything except about her real father. She had convinced her mother to move to the capital with her. They sold whatever little they had in that village and decided to leave in a week. Two days before their departure there was a knock on her door. Aum Peki opened the door and saw Ap Dawala standing outside. He had come to re-discuss about the marriage proposal, but this time, instead of promptly saying yes, Aum Peki told him that she needed to ask her daughter first. Well, Jangsem did not want to disappoint her mother again and told her that she won’t mind at least meeting the guy. “He will be here in a minute. They went to buy some snacks from the shop,” Ap Dawala informed. A few minutes later there was another knock at the door and this time Jangsem went to open it. As she pulled the doorknob, both went, “YOU?” and then froze for a minute. The least expected guy was standing right in front of her: Karma Tenzin. “What are you doing here? Oh, so you are Ap Dawala’s son?” she asked. Karma nodded in agreement. They smiled and their brightened faces prompted the parents to ask, “You two know each other?” Both stayed mum but their eyes locked and smiles flashed. Ap Dawala spoke first, “Look here son, this is the girl I wanted you to...” “Yes, I will marry her,” Karma interrupted before his father could complete his sentence.
“I am ready too,” added Jangsem right away, and this time it was their parents’ turn to go speechless. After Karma failed in first year due to disciplinary problems, his father had thought the best way to rectify him was to get him married but the marriage did not take off after Jangsem escaped from the village. And this time after he was informed about Jangsem’s return to the village as a successful woman he had come back with his son’s proposal. Jangsem whispered into Karma’s ear, “I guess your family is bent on feeding me milk and chicken,” and both of them chuckled. Tshering Dema BA English/Dzongkha
Master Plan Sitting alone under the willows, sad, insulted and depressed, I would always go behind the canteen wondering why my life was so miserable. Every day I’d have to face hundreds of people shouting at me with big bulging eyes, not to forget, the irate glares of my boss, Mr. Pinto; “Hitler”, that’s what us employees used to call him. Well, behind his back of course. I used to be a canteen boy at the Royal Thimphu College canteen. Mom was sick and I was the only family she had. I had to work under the extreme rules of Mr. Pinto as the money I earned at the canteen was just enough to run my household. Since the day my father ran away, the day I turned ten, my mom held no job and she certainly couldn’t afford my education. I was left uneducated but I was old enough to take care of my mom. Working at small bars, garages, and even selling doma on the streets, I grew up and finally got a well paid job. I had no other option but to work at the canteen. Life was just too cruel down there. “Hell” would be the most appropriate word I’d use to describe it. Work was always early and tiring, as it was miles away from where I used to stay. Though we had bus services provided, I had to walk through streams, muddy grounds and even a bridge to get to the bus-stand every morning. Walking the same route every dawn would spoil my mood. Mr. Pinto was the most cantankerous person I had ever seen in my entire life. No matter how hard we tried, how well we did our jobs, Hitler would, in one way or the other, scold and embarrass us in front of everyone. He never cared about our emotions; as making profit was the only thing he ever dreamt of. For the customers, the canteen was a great place to hang out. Chatting, flirting and wasting time were the students’ favorite occupations. Of all the customers, the women were the most valued as they were the ones who contributed to the profits made at the canteen. Hitler loved them like anything. The man was fifty-two years old with three kids, but the old man’s dirty brain still had lusty feelings. It was amusing to see how women were even given a discount on their bills when Hitler looked after the counter. It so happened one day that I was asked to work overnight at the canteen by the head cook. I accepted the offer as I wanted to earn more. The others left according to their time and I was left with two co-workers, Kumar and Ram. Kumar was like an elder brother to me. I would always be warned by him about the things that we weren’t supposed to do. So I generally respected Kumar and his advice. The other guy, Ram, kept giving me scary looks. I stared at him until he came over and said, “I don’t know why you are here but I feel I must warn you. Whatever you do, do not go into the boss’s office after 11pm”, and he left without saying a word more. I was very confused and frightened by the way he warned me. Thoughts like: “Why would he tell me such a thing?”, “It was Kumar who warned me every time, why was Ram doing the same?”, “What could be so frightful about Hitler’s office after 11pm?”, ran up and down my head like a crowd of cars in a busy traffic. I was cleaning the tables, slowly and distractedly, when the boss saw me. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I stared at how fast the old man was moving towards me. When I had
a first glance at him, he was already in front of the table beside me. I had no time to escape so I decided to give him an excuse. Before I could speak a word, he quickly rushed at me and shouted “Vijay, you are getting more sluggish every day, can’t you do your work faster? You’ll pay for this.” I said nothing because I knew my talking back would just cost me more. He always cut off a small amount from our salary as punishment for our mistakes. As he left I was still wondering about Ram’s warning. I completed my work by 10:30pm and was anxious to know what was actually happening in the boss’s office. I waited for half an hour until I could see no one near the office. I took a chance to creep carefully across the hall and found that the office door was wide open. I took a step forward and saw nothing but an empty table. I walked further into the room and saw a broken table-lamp on the floor. I picked it up and placed it on the table when all of a sudden Hitler showed up out of nowhere. “What the hell are you doing here?” he asked. I could say nothing and was left speechless. He looked at his table and the lamp and for no reason, slapped me. I was traumatized, “Was walking into his office such a big crime?”, I thought. He stared at me with eyes as big as an ostrich egg and screamed, “Where the fuck is my laptop?, Where? I said where, you son of a bitch!!!”. He held my collar tight, and started hitting me. No sooner did I utter a word than he started beating me with a big black belt. No matter how hard I tried to stop him, he didn’t listen and I could do nothing but resist. Ten minutes later, all the others arrived at the office. The boss accused me of having stolen his laptop. I refuted all his accusations but no one believed me. I was trapped, everything had been pre-planned by the real laptop thief and like a mouse I had been following the scent of cheese. I told them about Ram’s warning and on inspection, Ram was nowhere to be found. Everyone now knew that it was all Ram’s master plan. He had fooled me into going to the boss’s office right after he ran off with the laptop and while the boss was busy hitting and accusing me, he had just enough time to leave the college campus without any problem. Ram was nowhere to be seen after that night and since that time Hitler’s business ran into great losses. He was also removed from his post as the canteen in-charge for having committed sexual assault on a student. The parents of the student were heard to have pressed many charges on him and Hitler was suffering in prison. I had been provided with money to cover the medical expenses that I had to pay for the treatment after Hitler had beaten me. Mr. Thapa, an old family friend, got me a job at the city bus station that earned me just enough income to look after me and my mom. Palden Wangchuk BA English/EVS
Creative Writing by young people of Bhutan