Monday, December 19, 2011

Perfect stranger

It was just a regular winter evening in Thimphu. Busy and frost-cold out in the open. After circumambulating the Memorial Chorten three times, I headed for Motithang. On foot. The chill spread through my veins and every hair on my body was standing up, shrieking with cold. Oh, Thimphu has turned colder.

A girl was walking ahead of me, about a dozen of yards away. She looked incredibly attractive. Fair, tall, slim. But unlike me, she was well-clothed-boots, overcoat, hand gloves, muffler and cap-all this to keeping herself warm and trendy.

When we reached the swimming pool traffic, she swiftly half-turned and threw a glance at me. Perhaps she had this feeling that this man was following her. At the junction, an old man in rags was selling momo oblivious to the cold. He was presumably hopping for a few more ngultrum to earn enough for his rent and children’s school expenses.  Prado and Mercedes cars bought in Quota raced hurriedly, still in hunt for added wealth and pleasure. Gosh, this only shows the huge disparity of distribution of wealth and explicit hypocrisy in the GNH country.

From the swimming pool traffic, this girl turned left. As she climbed the way towards Changangkha, she again turned back, eyeing me cautiously-this time her expression filled with pleasant worry and fear. When she saw me still coming behind her, she quickened her pace.

As we’ve to cross a busy traffic at Changangkha, she halted for almost half a minute. I caught with her pace. Again I was walking a dozen of yards behind her. Now she started throwing repeated glance back at me in a heightened panic and I could sense fear radiating from her body.

But this brought a touch of guilt and discomfort in me. I was only being a constant menace to her, unnecessarily though. But I understood this girl’s hopeless situation. She cannot walk alone safe at night like me. As a woman, she is vulnerable to all winds of circumstance. But who is her menace? Alas, they are their own brothers, their sons, their fathers and uncles-above all, men.

From Changangkha, this girl attempted the short-cut. Perhaps more tellingly, she was only trying to escape from me. But this decision has only mired her into a greater misery as I also took the same route, and without streetlights, everything appeared dark then. There was a real feeling of uncertainty. I knew for sure, then, this girl might have thought that I was really after her.

In this string of unending unsavory incident, we reached the Shop No. 7 of Motithang. A drunkard man stretching flat on the sidewalk scared this girl, ha-ha. “Azzaiiii!” she screamed. This man looked disgraceful. A GNH citizen? Or maybe he was only keeping himself warm against the spine-chilling cold with a few pegs of rum. But he snored so horribly, as if he was competing against those moving vehicles on the road in producing horrible noise.

This girl was still walking ahead of me and looking back at me, repeatedly, in horror and increasing fear. She turned left and ran towards a huge yellow building. As she hurried up the stair, she glanced at me again presumably praying to have me stopped following her by then.

But she expressed her terror more explicitly when I too climbed up the building’s stair after her. This time she ran so frantically, heels in her right hand. But to my pleasant surprise, she stopped in front of Flat No. 16, sixth floor of the building. She started rummaging her handbag looking for door key, furiously-even trembling. As she was unlatching her door, I went to Flat No. 17, the flat I’ve been staying for the last one year. When I opened my door, she stood frozen to the spot, staring at me blankly as sweats flowing down from her forehead. Maybe discovering me as her next-door neighbor might have shocked her more than the unmerciful stranger who had followed her from the Memorial Chorten.

After exchanging awkward smile, the incident seemed so incongruous to my neighbor, she couldn’t help giggling. As she closed her door, she burst into a loud guffaw.

Photo: Lakey


  1. Interesting anecdote. Enjoyed reading.

  2. Ha-ha! I was laughing all the way from start till the end. No wonder the girl laughed too. But hey, this girl was really tortured and the encounter of an old man was more scary. Woah! Give a break! You guys are a little menace.

    Adding on, I had a good time remembering those short ways from the Youth Center to Shop No.7 ;)

    I miss Thimphu! :(

    Interesting piece!