Monday, May 30, 2011

Lest we forget her

They say she's been accursed in this samsaric world. “Aiee!” villagers moan each time they pass by her, “the fate had dealt brutally with Tshomo.” They say in her youth she had been very beautiful. Today she is virtually metamorphosed into an unkempt lean, pale, ghostly gray. Abandoned and despised, Tshomo confines herself in an estranged tiny hut. They say she is mad now, without compassion or soul. They say she can never retrieve to be a human again. But every villager (a remote gewog in Trashigang) knows what had brought about such an unexpected turn in her life.
It was way back in 1994, early March, a day on which the temperature has risen, fetching the year’s first true warm. A Hon’ble lyonpo was visiting her village on a special occasion of inaugurating the newly established primary school. Entire locals were cheerful then, that they were having their own school; moreover, the burden of sending their children to faraway schools has been answered.  

Chadi, an extravagant preparation though, was arranged. As tradition would have it, the rustic villagers adorned themselves in best attires, children dressed in fresh uniform, the school footpath carpeted with glittering pine needles, an overgenerous lunch prepared and cultural program readied. The locals also arranged a guesthouse for the lyonpo. 

The lyonpo arrived majestically, his bald head shimmered against the beastly hot sun. All day he was in striking smile, happy that the locals had arranged chadi so well, happy that he was welcomed so impressively. He appreciated all! That’s what he had in his two-hour long mighty speech. 

The cultural program was over, the massive lunch served and all returned home. School headmaster and Gup escorted the “impressed” lyonpo to the Guesthouse. As soon as they reached there, the highly honored guest spurred into volcanic anger. Gup and Headmaster rocketed inside the room and courteously bowed in front of him. The impatient lyonpo shouted, “Chadi, chadi, chadi! This is what you could arrange for me?”

Both were stung speechless, confused though. Gup nudged ahead and explained, “Hon’ble Lyonpo la, we did everything in our power to arrange the best chadi for you. But we don’t understand what chadi you mean la?” 

“Girl! Where’s the girl arranged for me tonight?” the lyonpo screamed unhesitatingly and barked orders, “Find one right away. Else you two will lose your jobs.” Oh Good Heaven, girl has become as urgent as an ambulance for him that night.  

Two of them set off to search for a girl. There’s a woman in mid-twenties, unmarried, whom the entire locality declared “lose woman”. They went to her house but she was out of the station. Very unlucky! They patrolled whole village hunting for girl, but no girl consented to come along (some married, few menstruating and several off to cow herding).  

Finally, they reached a hut where an aging woman and her beautiful daughter stayed. The two desperate hunters, scared of losing their promising jobs, approached the old woman and asked for her daughter. The old woman couldn’t deny the chief of her village and the village headmaster. The girl, Tshomo, was in her sweet sixteen, a slim-hipped beauty and was shy, so courteous. Angey agreed to send her daughter but on one considerable condition: “No one should notice my daughter going to or returning from the guesthouse…and no one should know this,” the Angey demanded.

When darkness came, where there was no moon, when clouds hid stars and when the homes of her neighbors on the hill laid serenely sleeping, they took Tshomo to the guesthouse, her face superbly veiled under a black shawl. 

She was stationed in the lyonpo’s room. A couple of minutes later, the door creaked open. The lyonpo lumbered into the room like a monstrous big, black bear. He looked diabolically hostile and desperado. She gasped. God mercy! He was a man of her father’s age.

He marched beside her, in the bed, his eyes feasted upon her. Lustfully. He started fondling her with his hateful hand as he came closer to her, sweaty, smothering, and terrifying in stark juxtaposition to her fragranced goddess-like body.

She stayed feared, clung to her shawl and fought unparalleled ferocity to break away from the savagery old man. But he massively marshaled his forceful odyssey of exploring a young village girl. He ripped off her clothes, tore apart her tender legs, climbed above her and sucked her. He sucked her and sucked her until he growled in absolute satisfaction.  

Alas! She cried in real, exceptionally violent pain. Tearful, she buried her face in her crossed arms, lied on the bed, frozen to the spot, paralyzed with pain, fear and shock. She cried and cried in a mournful display, patently hopeless situation.  

The lyonpo pushed Nu 500 note in her hands which was a little consolation to her. Before the dawn, Gup and headmaster escorted her back to her hut, to her aging mother. 

Next mid-morning, the lyonpo left the village in glorious triumph. But before that in a blaze of gratitude he rewarded the headmaster by giving him transfer, which villagers discovered later as a promotion. The Gup got a new thram of three acre of shashing (dry land).  

But for poor Tshomo, since then her beautiful life abruptly demolished. Her secret outed, her flaw exposed in an unforgiving way. The whole village knew her secret; her morale was really bottom low. Nobody wanted to marry her. “She is a slut!” whispered the villagers. She could neither fight for her rights but swallowed all the humiliation in silence. 

Her past, the harrowing experience lurked persistently in her mind. A sense of shame and inerasable humiliation persisted, deep and abiding. She stayed alone weakening and grieving day after day, her heart started sinking so fast with desolation, weariness and rage.  

A cool evening it was. The Moon silhouetted the entire village valley in silver when Tshomo heard an eerie, frightening noise. Suddenly her heart was chilled to ice. It was a savagery call. It was the moment when she gave up the hope of life altogether, she surrendered to confinement of madness. Oh, what has happened that night had changed her life completely. 

P.S. Special thanks to Amrith Bdr Subba, MoE for narrating this tragic story to me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It ain’t all my fault

I have a secret to tell you, dude. But, hey, promise me that you don’t tell my parent. It’s kinda crap thing. Perhaps this shit may arouse nauseating repugnance in you. But if you really want to hear this lousy thing of mine…ok! Lemme start! Umm…my name is Dorji Tobden Ningtob and a Class 12 student of Motithang HSS. I am just 16 now.

Well, it’s also pretty nice to tell you that what a lousy student I am, a student tagged “below average” by my teachers. My teachers quite expect me to do well in school-develop civic sense, score good in tests and exams, do homework sincerely and perform well in extra-curricular activities. And it’s quite stupid that each time I land up doing just opposite.  

Shit….that my parent also has huge expectations from me. It creaks like hell when they always demand me to get “high marks”, be “knowledgeable”, qualify to a good college and get a dignified job. They are sort of too much bothered about my growth and the foods I take and always want me to stay away from addictions and gang fights. Alright! To tell you frankly, my parents are very protective but they demean me each time they direct me like to a 6-year old kid. “Do this”, “Don’t do that”, “Good for you”, “Bad for you”. If there’s one thing to hate, it’s their goddamn advice.

And like crazy, often I take that crap “banned” stuffs called drugs and cigarette. All my friends are kind of “psycho” and troublesome, and I pretty love to do what they do and feel awesome to be in their company.

Oh, ya, the policymakers and the law of my country want me to inculcate GNH values, preserve our culture and be a productive and patriotic citizen. Oof! Man, see now, I am not as carefree and as useless as you think. I too have many wishful expectations from different stakeholders to uphold, and shit responsibilities that drag me nuts.

Hang on, man…I too have many things to bother about myself. Studies and good job are my top priority, but I am also equally concerned about my body image and sexuality. I love to look damn slim and tall and wear the trendiest clothes and look superb “cool”. Ha-ha!

You’re damn right if you’re thinking that I have a girlfriend. This is the fourth girlfriend of mine, the first one being when I was in Class III. My parents and teachers are “touchy” on this matter, but all time I am horsing around with girls. And of course I do carry condoms in my purse, but mostly land up having unprotected sex. I am damn careless!

Now, dude, you must have this judgment in your head that I am a lousy student, a bad son and irresponsible and unpatriotic young man. Huh! It ain’t all my fault. But tell me one thing, why the expectation of my parents, teachers and entire society juxtapose to what I think and do. Is it coz I don’t understand them or vice versa? Or value of conflict?

But, hey, I want to let you know that I have no dearth of problems and opinions that I can’t share with my parents and teachers. Yuck! Even if I do, they won’t take it seriously and understand my feelings. You know that at this knocker age, I undergo biological changes, it’s onset of my puberty. And I just fear what’s this coz my parent never talks openly with me. I swear to God, this is not even in the syllabus of my school textbooks. So how should I understand this? From whom?

Have you realized one thing about my parents from this shit talk? My parent always looks for my future but sadly they forget my present. They want me to do well in exam, get a good job and become a responsible man. What the heck! And it creaks like a bastard.

Actually, I want my parent to feel, understand and explore the difficulties I am experiencing now. I terribly want them to respect me as a unique individual. Darn! I don’t want them being judgmental, giving me advice, presumptive or assumptive and providing me ready made solutions. I want them to clarify my conflicting issue and help me discover alternative ways of managing myself and my crap situations, so that I can decide what course of action or behavior is helpful to me.

Here, my dad says that he grew up in a safe environment. In his time, he narrates, there was no TV and its influences, no gang culture and substance abuse, and no HIV/AIDS. Unlike him, I live in a damn changing world where I am virtually vulnerable. Now I am transiting into new roles in society. Next summer I will be joining college. I love to be a guitarist and want to join music school, but for Chrissake, my parents pressurized me like hell to join engineering college.

Tell me, dude, what I do now….

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A way to be good again

A 29-year old unemployed graduate broke my office’s door and stole some equipment. Next morning, my office management sent me to the City Police Station, Thimphu to file the complaint. It was in the first week of last February. I will confess that…it was also in the same week my girlfriend left me for another man. The same week, BHSEC (Class XII) result was declared and my two sisters disappointed me with their results. Also, it was the week my otherwise beautiful term with my parents ruined irreparably. It was, de facto, an endless panorama of blue, a totality of flux; in short, life-menacing crises.
This was for the first time I was visiting the Crime Station and also first time lodging a complaint. Registering the complaint took me almost an hour as I was required to give detailed evidence with substantial justifications. After the investigation, the accused [I use the word “accused” for the lack of better word] was arrested.

It was mid-afternoon when OC summoned me to the Police Station for the written statement. I reached the station in a while and the OC declared killer message, “This case is burglary. He broke the door, entered the office without permission and took some equipment. And…as per the nature of the crime committed, he has to serve six years in jail.”

The accused was stabbed on hearing this ruling. He started shivering frenziedly as if he was undergoing detoxification. Reddish from tan, the expression on his face transformed instantaneously. Then, he pleaded the OC, requesting not to imprison him.

Whatsoever, the OC made a detention order. As he was dragged to the detention cell, a strange sensation ran over my mind. I felt sad suddenly, horribly.

I raced back home, but my mind in turmoil and as guilt as murdering him. Hodgepodge of images buzzed in my mind: the accused serving six years in jail; young and ambitious, meaning he has half of his life to live. Perhaps six-year of imprisonment may ruin his hope or essence of life altogether. I spent all night suffocated with unerasable guilt and remorse. This is the time when I was fuelled by an insurmountable desire to help him, and I unconditionally promised to work for him.

Next morning, I marched back to the Police Station and inquired about the withdrawal of the case. The OC explained me that the case can be withdrawn if the complainant wishes to do so. “But the accused has to sign Undertaking Letter. It is the good behavior undertaking where the accused must assure that he will improve in future,” added the OC.

I wanted to save the accused from six years of wasteful imprisonment and brutal tortures. I wanted to give him a second chance, making him realized his mistake, and improve his behavior and support his family. I wanted to give him this sacred opportunity to live a normal life-a clean and better.

Though he had remotest chance, next day, I made an appointment with a team of policemen to escort him to my office to appeal the management for the case withdrawal. However, they blatantly denied him of his appeal, aborted him of his second chance. But the accused didn’t give up; he did everything in his power to save himself.

Finally, rather empathetically, knees on the floor, he pleaded as tears bursting from his eyes, “Please Dasho, Sirs and Madams! You can do anything to me…Beat me! Kick me! Say anything to me. But don’t send me to jail,” he choked and wailed like an infant lost in the crowded street. He was denied, though!

In a corner, I stood frozen, paralyzed with helplessness and terrible agony. His last chance has been flabbergasted. In grotesque disconcertment, he too remained speechless as he was being again dragged back to the jail.

That night I stayed worried, my heart heavy with guilt and remorse. I felt that whatever I did, though for my office, was morally wrong and inhumane. The tragic event of the day plagued my mind in marauding waves. Hardest of all, my mind never strayed from it. 

He broke the door and took few things from the office…and he had to serve six years. But there are scores of Bhutanese, especially rich and high-level bureaucrats who have siphoned millions of public money, yet no law can punish them. This is unjust, miscarriage of justice, I reasoned.

In the fourth day proceeding of the case, I decided to resign from my job. The mental burden was intolerable. My life appeared like a string of accidents, one suffering begetting another. More importantly, I didn’t want to see the accused in the jail for a petty crime. And…at least I didn’t want to represent the management to send him behind the bar. This is most unbearable of all, and something I thought I would never tolerate.

However, for the last time on behalf of the accused I appealed to the management for withdrawal of the case. I affirmed them I would take all risk to sign on the Undertaking Letter. Darn! The management sounded more annoyed than concerned.

The accused had already spent five days and five nights in the detention cell. On sixth day’s afternoon, I drafted my resignation letter, and went to the office of my boss. As soon as I entered the office, my boss announced unexpected news, “Ultimately, the management had decided to withdraw the case. But you have to take the risk to sign on the Undertaking Letter.”

In extreme joy, I ran towards the Police Station carrying this good news to the accused like a Primary student carrying his “Passed” Progress Report to show it to his parent after the result day. Oh God, instantly I forgot that I was rejected by my girlfriend and that I had fought with my parents.

My happiness was more than winning Gold Medal in Olympic. I saw everything perfect in front of my eyes. He will be given a chance to start a new life, I smiled. Tears welled up in my eyes and rolled down as I ran down carrying the news. It was only when I reached the Police Station that I became aware that I was crying.

I informed the OC regarding withdrawal of the case. After 10 minutes, the uniformed men dragged in the accused. In a wild and triumphant excitement, I exclaimed at him the good news.

But he looked grotesquely nervous and stood in horror and shock, starkly uninterested in the news I carried to him. When his eyes met mine, the stare was cold and unwavering, not friendly and spoke of resignation and hopelessness, portraying profoundly mournful state.
Alas! My hope of making him a good man flickered. He looked exceedingly disastrous and his eyes turned white. He appeared like a murderer, his skin distorted into pale, ghostly. I realized that the accusation and punishment upon him was so absurd. It made him a monster.

I signed on the Undertaking Letter of good behavior. I assured the OC that he will improve his behavior. They unlocked the handcuff.

After undertaking, I took him in a restaurant nearby. It took him a dozen of minutes to accustom to outside world as he walked zigzagging all directions. I treated him with chicken rice. In the beginning, only with difficulty did he open his mouth for food. Staying mute, he graciously ate chicken indicating his sharpness of hunger. Slowly he started talking. He told me about his home, family, address and education. He confessed that he has no one to stay in Thimphu and has been jobless for four years. But as we talked on, I could feel his strength and joy increased by hour.

As we moved out, I gave him Nu 1000 as "pocket money". A glow of joy shone on his face. He smiled and gave me thanks. I encouraged him to be a better person in life and wished him good luck in his new life.
We departed. The setting sun was feverishly beautiful as he set out walking faster like a freed bird. He turned back for the last time, and I got a smile from him as a reward. The wind tossed his hair as he rejuvenated into new self. There’s no ounce of suspicion on his face that he will be jailed again. I could make out only realization and happiness dawned upon him, showing me a rich promise.

I realized, then, in whatever condition I may be, though worst wretchedness, I can still be of help to other. As I worked hard to unleash him, he too brought me a great measure of comfort, giving me confidence and courage to stand firm in destitute.

Note: That evening I consulted my counselor friends who kindly consented to give him counseling and help him in writing job application. I also made an appointment with his sister (civil servant), talked regarding his problems and convinced her to keep him along with her, give him support and protection until he gets a job. This has irrevocably bound us together. Today, he got a job in one of the IT Institutes in Thimphu as an instructor. He calls me at least once a week and updates what he is up to.