One afternoon, a week ago, I was journeying back home from Paro. It was in a taxi; a 45-minute drive to Thimphu. We were five altogether - four passengers, and the cabbie.
A passenger, staying in the front seat, offered doma to the cabbie. The young cabbie accepted it, took a khamto. The smell of doma immediately gushed in the car giving me a feeling of nasty nausea.
She turned back and offered it to me. Such an attractive woman to decline her offer, by the way; but I shook my head. Two other passengers sitting on my left and right declined too.
I never take doma, just to let you know. And I still remember warning a girl, “I will never kiss you if you take doma.”
A phone rang. Everybody checked their phones - that’s the thing when we keep common ringtone. The cabbie received it, it’s his. The call got disconnected in the middle of conversation.
“Aw…this is the problem with the B-mobile service,” he tsked his tongue and grumbled.
He dialed his call; the service was unavailable. Frustrated, he added, “The government deducts five percent tax. And see, this is what we get.”
The front seat woman supported him, “The present government, PDP, is very fond of imposing tax on people. One after another. As all else, the vehicle tax is unfair. I think they would never let the poor to own cars. Moreover, we never see them improving public transportation service.”
I agreed with her. Our domestic air service was defunct. The bus service was poor. The taxis were expensive. But I agreed more when she stated how “selfish” and “narrow-minded” our politicians were. Indeed, they burdened people with more and more taxes. Indeed, they walked tax-free.
The young man sitting my right was a fresh teacher graduate. He too joined the discussion and he was unhappy with the government’s recent decision to select new teacher graduates in the schools.
On my left was a teenage girl who stood bored throughout the journey. Nothing really concerned her - neither the fellow-passengers nor the conversation. She remained indifferent, earpiece inserted into her ears.
Today’s youth are what they are - apathetic, a quick thought crossed my mind, and very soon she would face the consequence like this young teacher graduate.
We rode on and our conversation bounced from one topic to another. We discussed a great deal about the power tillers and Boleros when we spotted these machines on the road.
Then, almost automatically, our topic became lighthearted and fascinating as we suddenly jumped into talking about PDP’s helicopters and the case between Dasho Benji and DPT.
The cabbie asked, “Where is Jigme Y Thinley, our former Prime Minister? He is unheard after his fall?”
A vague response came from my fellow-passengers that JYT has been kept under home confinement at his resident called Jigmeling near the Royal Thimphu College. It could be a rumour, I thought. But long time back, I heard him offered the UN’s one of the top jobs.
About 15 minutes’ ride down Paro brought us to the Chunzom. The road to Haa from the confluence reminded us about the corruption case of Lhakhang Karpo construction.
“Gosh, how could the alleged corrupt people get elected as the ministers? It happened in the past and now too. It’s an insult to the Bhutanese democracy,” the young graduate remarked seemingly concerned.
We came across huge trucks lumbering carrying tons of hydropower project materials as soon as we stepped on the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway. We talked, almost instantly, about the alleged corrupt practices in the hydropower business and subsequent surrendering of three government secretaries by the PM Office.
A little beyond Chunzom, we caught a sight of the new road to Education City, an unpopular unfinished business of DPT.
“That’s the thing when we change the government. Conflict of interest. Clash of egos. Millions of ngultrums already spent there, and all of a sudden everything stopped. Complete waste of public resources,” the woman grieved.
I didn’t realize that we already almost reached Thimphu. For the last, we concluded our discussion stating “the democracy is not good for a small nation like Bhutan”, “the politics is often dirty and deceiving”, and “We prefer monarchy”.
Somehow, someway, I just wonder now. We didn’t know each other, at all, in that taxi. We never met before. But for the record, we gabbed about politics so wide open, free and fully vibrant. It’s quite strange. Perhaps that is the taxi’s own way of communication.
Happy V-DAY, dear reader!