The day has turned bewitchingly colder in Thimphu, the wind more iciness. The bitter winter is here, inevitably. And since the mid-morning, I was waiting for my friend at the Thimphu Town for a work. It’s frost-cold out in the open. My hands turned cold as ice. And the chill spread through my veins and my back ached badly, shrieking with cold.
“Wait, I’m coming…on the way…five minutes,” my friend hung up my phone calls. More than 30 minutes passed, yet he didn’t turn up. Fucking liar, jedha, I grumbled, scratching my head. The obvious tempers boiled over me, making me go mad, literally. Yes, all this cold, backache and frustration of waiting here. Finally, I decided to return home.
So, I walked way up. And you all know that this street is boisterously crowded; all equal-people, cars, shops, and even dogs. But I agree that it’s, undoubtedly, an intense and overwhelming City. And here, you can meet people with various expressions on their faces: excitement, happiness, intoxicated, stress, hunger and pain. Even anger, like mine, he-he.
And for the record, this street has no dearth of beautiful girls. After each few footsteps, you always come across one after another gorgeous girls. Seriously la! And allow me to be honest with you. Continuing the walk, ahem, I stole quick look at them, each one of them. C’mon man, because they’re so irresistible, and after all, I’m a man.
At the main traffic, oh, I came across a painful scene. An old mustached man, a beggar, was seated on the street lane in a mournful state. I looked at this old man so obsessively, with strange remorse and curiosity. I don’t know why. On his face, I saw, he carried a deep well of destitution and hopelessness.
However, the brutal truth is that when you walk across this street you would meet at least a dozen of beggars, of all ages. And more disheartening…every time, you would see here new beggars, begging embarrassingly.
And this beggar, supposedly in 60s, has his head padded with a monk hat, a drum in his right hand, bell in his left hand and he wore a Buddhist monk’s robes. But one can easily make out that he isn’t a monk. Right in front of him, he has a box. Only a few people have dropped money in that box.
He woke up abruptly and collected his stuff (a walking stick, umbrella, jacket and mat). And he set off to the Norling Complex where he saw better fortune, more people passing by. I followed him. At the alley, right in front of the complex, he dropped his things. He pushed his umbrella and jacket in one corner and arranged his mat on the floor and sat, cross-legged. He placed the money box in front of him, took out his drum and bell and began his daily chore of begging as the mid-morning sun fell heavy on him.
Here, the alley has been swarmed with people passing by, non-stop. Some people looked at him with a surge of pity and affection and altruistically dropped money in his box. Others didn’t even bother to look at him. And a few looked at him disrespect and disdain.
And lo, this surprised me. When he sees more people passing by, he hits his drum harder, rings the bell louder and chants religious mantra. This drum, bell and mantra are all his tools that he deploys exquisitely to attract customers. Even the monk’s robes he wears. When there are no people, he puts down his drum and bell.
Pic: When he leaves for tea and snacks
Each time his money box is half full, he collects the money and keeps it safe in a bag that he has worn over his chest. And my head filled with amazement. Goodness, he is so well-organized in his work.
There were comic interludes too. His money earns him enemies. That’s why beggars don’t do their work at night. Children and youth always attack their money. See, for example, this small kid fusing closer to steal money from that box.
Like any one else I was also really curious to know his income. So, I went next to him. He eyed me cautiously. But I forced upon him a small token of friendship in Nu 50 note. He told me that he was introduced to begging by his friend a few years back. When asked how long he works here, he answered, “9 am to 5 pm”.
And sitting next to him, I counted each currency note (money) falling into his box. I was shocked witless. In every ten minutes, there’s no fewer than Nu 120 collected in the box. That means he earns around Nu 1,000 a day. And Nu 30,000 a month. He is, oh god, a rich man!
Then I asked him where he keeps his money. He replied me, rather hesitantly, “As soon as my bag is full, I go to my relative who runs a restaurant here. I always deposit my money with him as he looks after my health and children’s education. My children study in India.”
This beggar intrigued me. He is not a mere faceless wretched beggar, but an industrious entrepreneur who taught me that even this work (begging) requires hard work, desire, risks, innovation and entrepreneurship skills.