Monday, June 13, 2022

Published June 13, 2022 by with 0 comment

A CONQUEST OF A KERALITE TEACHER



 In 2011, a 25 year old carpenter’s son from Kerala makes his first journey to Bhutan. After nearly four days of train ride, the longest journey he had ever taken, he reached Bhutan gate in Phuentsholing. His first breath of cold mountain air was not a welcoming experience. The foods and people were stranger than he had expected. After a day in Phuentsholing, he began to painfully miss his warm tropical home in Kerala. The separation from parents began to become more painful by the hours. He wept like a child lost in the mountains even before he began his climb into the mountains. He wanted to return home. He regretted not heeding to his parents to not take flight very far away. But he was young and adventurous, with a dream to earn well and live his life independently.

He graduated post graduation in Masters in Mathematics in 2008 from Annamali University in Tamil Nadu, a neighbouring state to Kerala. He had begun his teaching career from 2010 in Kerela after his B.Ed graduation in 2009 from Culicut University.He had taken a rigorous interview to get selected to come to Bhutan from Alhuda Central school in Kerala where he had been working as a teacher. Of more than ninety candidates he stood first in the selection evaluation, and was among twenty who had been selected.

 His friend who introduced to the new venture to an unknown country had told him wonderful stories of Bhutan and a very high salary for Indian teachers in Bhutan. Indeed, the salary was double that he had received from his university. He assumed that Bhutan was one of the states in India he knew.

An Indian teacher had come to receive and guide him and his two friends to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. One of his travel mates was wife of the guide who was a teacher. It was in the beginning of April, when monsoon was beginning to shroud the sky with fog and mist, that he reached Thimphu. It was like waking up in a village to see places with small houses and building everywhere on the mountains. For a young man who had come from amidst the metropolitan life, even Thimphu and Phuentsholing was a remote place. The shops were dingy and small, there were no glittering citylight effects, very few cars and road precariously narrow. The foods were hot and everywhere the smell of beef was nauseating. His religious traditions revolted against meats and alcohol, and these were lavish in every hotel.

His first posting was to the east of Bhutan. He reached a small school after three days of travel and hours of walk. It was like an illusion that he was teleported to the east in a dream, amidst insecurity, cold, sadness and hope. After a day in the school, he longed to return to Thimphu. He felt sad and sleepless, he felt like he would not survive another day in the school. In few days, he was fortunate to be relocated to another school, and this time in the west. This was the beginning of his tryst with Dechentsemo Central School in Thinleygang, in Punakha Dzongkhag. It was on 4th April 2011, he began his teaching career in Bhutan. The new place was somehow more favourable for a young man who came from a place where average temperature was thirties even in winter. Thinleygang was warmer and closer to the highway, and closer to Thimphu. It was not easy. He could not understand word shopkeepers spoke, and none could understand him. His English knowledge became his saviour.

Today, Mr. Sreekanth has survived 12 years, and with wealth of experiences very few Indian from his hometown can pride. He says that, one of the first differences between students in India and Bhutan was the sense of connectedness students have to teachers, the deep sense of respect and humility, and comparatively displaying good behaviour and moral values. Over the years, Mr. Sreekanth had become connected to Bhutanese people and culture, more than he is to the traditions in which he grew up.

Mr. Sreekanth got married in 2014. He has lived most of his life away from his wife and child. His seven years’ son has been suffering from nephrotic syndrome since 2020 and had been worrying him but he committed his passion to teaching in Bhutan. Mr. Sreekanth believes in karma, and that he must bestow his service to the country for making his life one of success and contentment. He said, “I am deeply thankful to His Majesty the King and people of Bhutan for this rare opportunity to be part of Bhutanese life and culture. I believe that, every man must have the courage to live through the predicament of his life. It is through such bitter experience in the beginning that a life will be lived in fulfilment and joy.”

A few months ago, sir Sreekanth had begun building home for his family on a land he bought in Malappuram, his birth place. Neither the distance from home nor the difficulties of life he has to live alone in the mountains deters him from making his dream come true. Mr. Sreekanth is one of the humblest Indian friends I have ever known, who have learnt to live and cook, socialise and celebrate like any Bhutanese.

“I will have a house blessed by Bhutanese through my earning from my teaching services. I am able to take care of my son’s medical expenditure and keep him healthy and happy. What can one ask for if we have a happy family and a home.” His sincere gratitude only reveals how much Bhutanese he has become.

Kerala the southernmost state of India and is the hotspot of the world since ancient times. Kerela is known as ‘God’s own country’ for its lush green landscapes and crystal clear beaches. Mr. Sreekanth have been fortunate to be born in ‘God’s own country’ and also to make life’s conquests in the heart of Himalayas where happiness thrives.

 

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Published May 18, 2022 by with 0 comment

A TEACHER'S POWERFUL TOOL TO INSPIRE


As teacher, it is important to master the subtle communication skills to impact information delivery with high sense of clarity and purpose. Except Dzongkha, all subjects are taught in English, and this only makes us even more responsible to learn English to communicate better. Even if it is speaking Dzongkha, we must master the language and art of delivery. One of the important leadership skills in inspiring positive change in a system and human behaviour rely on effective communication. 
In my opinion, a teacher who has depth, eloquence and beauty in English speaking in class and when delivering  speeches makes a meaningful impact on the students' discipline and  moral growth. Some teachers believe they are confident in classroom teaching but have less while speaking in a crowd. If we believe that speech is a powerful tool to inspire change of thought and behaviour of students, a teacher must become efficient at speaking with eloquence, power and beauty! 

We are always moved, inspired and influenced in our thoughts and behaviours more easily when teachers are better communicator than those who are less powerful. The greatness of leadership is achieved by the potency of oratory skills; by the ability to convince the subtlest and most abstract thoughts and experiences in powerful ways of words, tone and clarity. 

Teachers role models of excellence, virtues and behaviour. Teachers have no room for mediocrity when it comes to translating policies, opinions and experiences, when explaining virtues and expectations. It is even more important to realise whether our words have depth and power to create a sense of awe in our students. In fact, powerful speeches are known to empower people with potential for influencing and transforming listeners' beliefs and behaviour.
The oratory power has raised even the most powerful evils among men to become dictators, like Adolf Hitler. He was known to have written all his speeches himself, often editing more than five times and was adept at interweaving metaphor and abstract ideas into his speeches about political policy. If only his campaign was for greater good of humanity!

Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during the second world war is said to have managed to combine the most magnificent use of English to perform incredibly powerful delivery. His speech at the peak of war is said to h ave changed the course of history.

The speech by Martin Luther King Jr is perhaps “I Have a Dream” is perhaps one of the most famous of all time. This speech inspired black freedom fighters to attain freedom from the white Americans, and to provide rights and respects a human being deserve upon the world.

And among all, one of the greatest and most exemplary examples of an orator, with beauty and elegance, Our kings are epitome of power and grace in every speeches delivered at all occasions, and every speech are imbued with poetry, quotes and timeless visions.
 
I have observed that many teachers are good speakers during informal conversations but fail to make impact and clarity of purpose on formal delivery. If every morning assembly talk is example of a great speech, if classroom sessions are semblance of a great public speaking, learning would inspire change in thought, belief, behaviour and education. 

While teachers are learned in their teaching subjects, little more awareness and learning to enhance communication skill, to deliver powerful speech will ignite deeper learning and change. It is like a tank full of water but with weak flow. If the flow out of the faucet is erratic, inadequate and tainted, it would not make its mark where it hits. 

It is even more painful when people use mix of English and Dzongkha to convey message. This gives a sense of inadequacy of language on the speaker and lack of respect for language use. Whatsoever, mixing languages, like 'Dzonglish' as you say appears less powerful, however loud and musical!

Dechentsemo believes that learning begins the moment teacher begins to talk, and it is important that every speech, particularly those delivered to the masses are nothing short of a great public speaking. The school initiated a 3-Minute Power Talk session for every teacher who manage the day as Teacher of the Day. A teacher must prepare for a powerful, motivating talk to students to begin the day, than to climb the podium and talk without intent, flow and reason.

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Thursday, April 21, 2022

Published April 21, 2022 by with 0 comment

KILLED IN 20 MINUTES- How to answer in an interview

Interviews can be a stressful moment. If we try to answer facts, we can easily be caught with faults. Whether we get selected is measured more by our ability to respond confidently, eloquently and smartly.

This write-up is an interview session I sat in Thimphu with 22 other colleagues for a coveted vacancy of Principal in a Central school. I was working as a Vice Principal then at Phuentsholing HSS, and has been at the same position for seven years.

No matter what length of preparation and confidence you may have, on the hot-seat, when grilled extempore, the only thing that become strength at answering are what we are by blood and habit, what I am by learning and experience. If we have prepared for it very recently, it is of little help. In fact, any acting we try to drama fails you.

I didn't have much time to practice. I had travelled all day the other day. I just went into the panel room. I knew I can't feign forever.

After a brief introduction, the chair person asked me if I was ready. I was always ready. When I attended interview for vice principalship also, I was ready. I always walked in like a lion, gracefully and with a sense of lion among

It was 20 minutes Q & A from the jury members, a train of questions I had to answer.

Q1. Can you tell us who your Model Principal is?

It was an interesting opening. I knew they weren’t looking for me to name someone and conclude. They were looking for whether I was going to be a role model during my tenure. I answered:

“I have had the opportunity to work with four principals in sixteen years. I do not have a role model as such, rather I believe that every principal have inspired me in their own ways and are responsible for grooming me as a manager. Each of them had their strengths and weaknesses. People talked lot about weakness, but I listened and reflected how I can transform my weaknesses while also imbibing their strengths.  If in future I become a principal, then my capabilities as a leader will be most of what I have gained from my principals since I was fortunate to work under some of the most successful principals. One became Dungpa, another became Chief DEO, yet another became Chief. They are my role models.”

Q2. Can you share few qualities of those principals you worked with?

This question may be tempting to speak about negative qualities and experiences, but I knew, what I speak about others will define what I am in my nature. I answered differently:

“The principals I worked with were some of the most enterprising leaders. They were proactive in their managerial roles, humane in their dealings, and gentle in their speeches. They seem to practice Instructional Leadership styles and transformational leadership styles, and sometimes Autocratic Leadership styles in accordance to the need of the situation. They are those who used right strategies and skills at the right time and place. Therefore, these are people who inspired me as a leader. One was calm and focussed at task, o, one was a bilingual orator, and other was gracefully autocratic and other like a mother to a child.”

Q3. Has the principal’s role changed in today’s democratic system as compared to the monarchy system of the past?

It was an analytical question placed between monarchy and democracy. One would get lost talking about the either and lose track of the context. But, I was careful in the answer:

“I think role has undergone a huge change from a autocratic model to more democratic level of principalship. It is time we pace with the fast changing systems of leadership and adapt accordingly. The principal’s performance in the school system has changed over the years; they are today more collaborative, visionary, more selfless and compassionate in nature. I think the change is not because of monarchy or democracy, but by the social need to change.”

Q.4. Was the principal’s role easy in the past or easy today?

I could have answered more technically from experience if I was a principal, but I had not much to be burdened when working as vice principal. I had to make a calculated assumption with courage and conviction. I did.

“The expectations from every angle is only increasing, and changing from time to time. Teachers as well as students are often better informed with access to internet contents. The skills we need as a teacher or principal tends to supersede the demand that arises out of the system.

It was easier, I believe, in the past since principals of those days has lesser challenges then we have today by any comparative factors.”

Q. 5. From the human values point of view, in this world we have to have grit, fortitude and competitiveness, which is lacking in our children. Maintaining human values like compassion is a challenge in today’s world. Are our students prepared for global competitiveness?

This question was a leap out of context, a challenge to distract my focus, but it also was an opportunity to declare my reflective knowledge and philosophic opinion. I knew, there was neither right nor wrong to it. I proposed my answer:

“Sometimes it may seem like it is difficult to tell our students to practice human values, since these are generally concepts, but if the practice begins from our homes and is strengthened in the classrooms day in and day out, our children really change in their behavior. For instance, if examples and role model are visible for values like punctuality, perseverance, hard work and compassion, change happens. In our school we have Know Your Child Programme, where teacher connect with children through an informal dialogue session. This connection is for students to share values and teachers to share theirs. This is a platform that strengthens connection, values and self-realisation. Therefore, becoming parent as a teacher is what can nurture human values in them.”

Q.6 Teachers have so much knowledge and information about values, but in schools, the fact is teachers do not practice, they do not walk the talk. To what extent would you agree or disagree?

In an interview, ability to make connection and draw on from what was already asked and answered is a slingshot opportunity to prove, foresight and intelligence. That was what I had to do here:

“I agree many teachers may fail to practice what they preach. If, for instance, only principal or few teachers adhere to the values they pronounce, it would not make much impression on children. A team effort to make a dif is what will make difference on how far students also practice values we teach. More importantly, students must be given space to demonstrate values as they learn it.

This result was seen in the Nationwide Value Orientation Programme we carried out in February. In our school, students were given opportunity to dramatise what they learnt during the week. Students surprised us with short role plays, mock sessions, anecdotes and through speeches about the ways some teachers inspired them to changing their own values. This shows that teacher’ efforts and example made a difference and if everyone practiced as a family it would make a bigger impact. Role model impression is the primary source to transforming students.”

Q.7. You said in your presentation that principal have to be a visionary; what are your personal visions?

Any questions that ask of us to bring forth our philosophy of life and work are an opportunity to display our belief systems and attitude towards national service. It is an opportunity that cannot be answered by our portfolio but by what we strongly believe in. In the limits of time, I answered:

“I think my personal vision depends on what I am, the way I perceive, and on my beliefs and traits. Punctuality is one of the values I practice all the time. I make sure that I reach school on time and conduct other services on time. My vision is to give the best of myself to the children and to bring out the best talents in them. I believe that every child has a talent and that it is the responsibility of teacher to help them identify, understand, draw out their talent and endeavour towards excellence. Our vision is what makes us a teacher students aspire to be part of.”

Q.8. Most of the slots are Central schools. If you are selected, you may be sent to one of the boarding schools. Government has invested lots for Central schools. What are some of the issues you see in regards to the Central schools?

This question was the toughest of all. I had to recall having read or heard any issues schools faced as a boarding school. Hostel accommodation was one thing that came to light. I had to manipulate my answer but I had the knack of how.

“Since I haven’t worked in Central schools, I do not have direct experience. There has been concerns raised in media about central school issues; one of the prominent concerns is the hostel accommodation problem. I learnt that in some schools students are crammed in the hostel.

As principal and teacher we must accept these shortfalls as circumstantial and not a permanent problem. It is important that we see shortfalls as challenges and not obstacles. If we fail to see it as challenges, we will lose clarity of finding any solution to the situation. I think everything is possible if we worked together as a team and look at from another perspective.

9. Do you think  hydropower projects an eco-friendly project for our ecosystem? You may share your observations of opinions?

When question arise from unexpected context, how quickly we can hook on to a context that relates to it relieves us from becoming dumb, confused and fragmented. This time, I remembered a Kuensel news image I saw months ago. I found my hook:

"While by all scientific angle hydro power projects is accepted by environmentalist as eco-friendly for human beings and nature, it cannot be eco-friendly for other parts of ecology. I have read in Kuensel how fishes were unable to migrate to lower altitude due to dam building. There was a picture of fishes jumping out of water close to the dam site. Can we consider this eco-friendly for the species trapped up stream? 

More over, during dam construction tonnes of earth materials were dumped into the river, clogging river with debri, and clouding with dust. The water animals must find difficult to survive, and even die. The ecosystem of at parts of river will be in an imbalance. This way, what is eco-friendly for human is not necessarily for other organisms. 

MY INTERVIEW concluded on time. When I walked out, I realised how many heads noded, how many smiled with satisfaction and how many displayed a sense of 'this one cannot be ignored.' Interviews are places were our life's experiences, learning, reflections and values are tested. I love it.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Published April 19, 2022 by with 0 comment

HAPPIER SCHOOL THROUGH CONNECTION-A missing factor.

Connection is often a missing factor in a school system. If your son fails to fathom your intentions, your values and belief, he can fail to perform to the caliber of your expectation. This is also true if father do not connect to what and who his son is as an individual.

Bridging connection between individuals within a school system is critical to aligning direction and purpose of our service. Connection can be living the belief system of our managers, and managers drawing on the belief systems of every other individuals. Everyone in the school must attain a shared understanding of school vision, mission and goals. How a principal relate to the school vision must not be different from how teachers and students encapsulate the vision. Similarly, school principal must attain understanding of how teachers relate to the school vision, to the mission and values system. The leader must constantly articulate his expectations, his belief and vision to ingrain in others the direction and purpose.

When I joined Dechentsemo Central School then on May 2017 as a principal after 5 years of working as Vice Principal, I was began to take responsibility of nurturing future citizen of our country. It was a beginning I proudly recall having drawn my aspiration for school and for myself to reform and bring change in the school performance. Drawing from the name of the school ‘Dechentsemo’ I drew my vision to create direction in my leadership, and articulated it on the first day and constantly emphasised over the last five years.

My visions translate to creating school as a pinnacle of happiness-De-Chen-Tsemo. The happiness to attain through:

  1. Academic learning and transformations
  2. Rapport building and collegiality
  3. Aesthetic change in school ambience

The continuous self-reflection on our beliefs, personality and behaviour ignites transformation and ignite shift in our value systems. The constancy of self-reflection draws out ingenious knowledge and ways we function as leaders. This strengthens our directions, bringing change in our ideology and philosophy. In my leadership model, I fastened my work ideology to a personal life maxim, that is ‘ Small Things Matter, and what matters is never small for any individuals.’  This was communicated to teachers over several meetings in five years. Teachers have begun to imbibe the philosophical understanding of this motto and make references in the work process. This vibrancy in the connection of ideas, beliefs and philosophy between individuals in the system is a driving factor for transformation in how we perform for a purpose bestowed upon us.

Over the last 5 years, teachers have imbibed this philosophy I have lived and worked with as an underlying factor for guidance. The school leader must express his aspirations with precision and clarity for teachers to imbibe his vision, to translate their vision along the similar motto. This leads teachers to connect to ideologies and aspiration principal have for the system.

My role as a principal is called upon must constantly been driven by areas of focus that are intended to fulfil the aspiration of His Majesty the King. After almost 5 years of service as principal at Dechentsemo CS, I reviewed my vision for  even more responsibility. These are to entertain my focus of thought and work for few more years:

I have envisioned to:

  1. Systematise school working machinery
  2. ICTtisation of working modalities
  3. Manage Manpower and Mindset change
  4. Enhance Connectedness and Competencies
  5. Strengthen Professionalism, Punctuality and Work Discipline

What is more important than is how each of these missions are going to be lived by working in close connection with my teachers. Each of these are explained in detail and shared with staff to explain what is behind the manifesto. This is connecting to our aspiration first and then to a greater purpose.

The connection in two way traffic between principal and staff, among staff, and with student is critical to creating direction and momentum in our work. I believe that for school to thrive, or any organisations, into a vibrant and harmonious working system, the soul of vision must be understood by every member of an organisation through a similar wavelength of understanding. A vision on the wall has no purpose until we connect to its meaning, charter our plans and efforts towards living it and accomplishing in a framework of time.

The vision is the soul, the key to school culture. The principal is the driver of the school system, and he represents the life of school culture. The principal’s personality, psychology, morality, character, skills and knowledge become lifeblood for the school machinery. The vision and goals, aspirations and value system of the principal cannot be alienated from the vision and aspirations of the teachers. The teachers must know the vision with which principal works, and remain connected to his aspirations and expectations.

The connectedness within the school is an important factor for school achievement. This connection must be built through active engagement of everyone in all activities. This connectedness provides a sense meaning, hope and trust in a system. The harmony within the school in a significant to wellbeing of its members, and wellbeing is a foundation on which learning with happiness takes place.

The father-son relationship becomes a fulfilment like a good marriage, only when they are connected to aspirations of each other. Someone put this perspective right a very long time ago, that ‘no man is an island unto himself.’



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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Published March 09, 2022 by with 0 comment

A CHILLING PILGRIMAGE (My father's battle against time)

 This is a memoir, a cold memoir for any children to happen. 
"I was at home. I was cold. Tshewang Rinzin had not made bhukhari fire. I asked him why it was not lighted. He wasn't responding!" When he said this, it was hours later after recovering from near death experience on the 11th January night in 2019. In a miraculous experience, my father had reached home seconds after falling unconcious. He was one of the leading members of a pilgrims consisting of relatives who were travelling to Tsho Pema and Manikaran. My Apa and his friend were the only male in the team of six pilgrims.

Home was more than two thousand kilometres away from where he lay unconscious, on a cold bathroom floor.  He lay unconscious, stiff and pale at one of the guest house his pilgrim troupe had rented at Manikaran, Himachal Pradesh, India. This was after the first throw up of massive blood, vomiting and collapsing to the floor. He hit his head on his shoes by the door. 

It would have been fatal if his friend Tshering La did not held him up from the rear.  When he pushed father up from the fall, he was cold and staring into the space with a deathly gaze. The gaze like an owl was without light and life. It was during this time Apa’s spirit had momentary reached home some thousands of kilometers away to Khaling Trashigang. 

It was only after few minutes of shaking and calling him Apa came to life with to a hazy consciousness. He had coughed and slumped on his friend’s arms. There was then neither strength nor warmth on him.  
It was a long night for the pilgrims. There was nothing they could do immediately to take Apa to a health center. The only BHU was very far from Manikaran, and there was no taxi available. It was neither convenient for all pilgrims to move together nor for Apa's friend to go alone and leave all women at the Manikaran spring site. They had to wait until morning.

After the troupe returned from their morning dip at the Manikaran hot spring, they took him to a nearby clinic. Apa could barely walk. The clinic had no emergency services. He was given one transfusion of glucose solution. He began to regain strength and better awareness of himself. He realised he had passed out cold for several minutes. Apa had suffered from loose motions through the night, and each time, it was blood and fluids. He vomited few times again, worsening his health every time. 

The new year vacation was beginning to unfold differently for me and my siblings. When my phone rang at 11 PM on that night, fortunately just after bed, I stood frozen listening to Apa's unfortunate incident. The call was from my brother in Thimphu who was informed hours after the incident. Any call at night sends a sinister sign, and it was one such on that cold night. I felt hopeless and helpless. I immediately contacted by brothers and sisters. The calls connected from Punakha to Thimphu, Trashigang to Samtse, Mongar to Trongsa, Canberra to New York to India. We began an endless jigsaw of conversations among siblings. We planned how to travel to India the next morning. We talked for what we thought was the best possible answer to keeping Apa on the line, letting him know we will do everything to come and get him medical care. We were able to talk through the only phone with Indian sim card to hear from Apa.

The night was a very long night for the troupe. My mother who had to brace the shocking turn of events realised that the worst was imminent. It was even more scary that it had to happen at an alien place. Amidst fear, tears of fear and indecision, she stood beside Apa, doing everything from conversing to caring. The night was the longest wait for the morning for all the pilbrims.


The following day, they managed to arrange a taxi for a long journey.They could not start until around 10 AM.The stay at Manikaran had to be cut short. The plan was to get medical help at Mandi and move towards Delhi.They began an eight hour taxi ride towards Mandi, the nearest town with better medical facilities.  The snow fall at night had worsened the road, and it had to fall at a very desperate time. The traffic policemen halted all vehicles until it was safe to drive. The wait was costly for my Apa's deteriorating condition. 

The road was cleared after a hour;s wait. During the ride Apa sunk into oblivion for few times. He thought, 'I can't hold any longer. This must be my last days.' He felt strength sapping out of him, vision blurring away and there was no sense of time. He sat like a statue, quiet and disoriented. It must have been a depressing moment since the collapse for Apa's friends to have him immobilised and unpredictable. They travelled over 300 kilometers for nearly nine hours to reach Mandi. Mandi was their second hope.

As the team fought to reach Apa to the nearest medical center, I and my brothers were desperately trying to get flight tickets from Paro to Delhi. When we heard that they were travelling towards Mandi, we were relieved. We had to wait a day to get tickets to Delhi for three of us. We decided for three of us brother to fly to Delhi. My brother, Pelzang, who was a lieutenant in RBA had studied in Delhi few years ago and was thought to be wise to go. He is also the youngest brother. Ugyen is a Radiologist at Samtse, and his help was seen necessary for any communication with medical people in Delhi. I am the eldest and had to be the first to be part of Mission Apa Ugyen.

Apa received his second dose of glucose transfusion at Mandi. It appeared to make him stronger, but not hopefully improving. After Mandi the troupe decided to separate. Apa’s friend and my mother planned to head to Delhi for better medical attention. It was hoped that it was the only hope for my father. It would be impossible for my mother to travel with Apa to Delhi alone.She had never travelled alone in an alien country. The rest of the troupe planned to move to Rewalsar, Tsho Pema to to continue their pilgrimage.  It was the second important itinerary the troupe had initially planned when they began from Bhutan. 

Although weak and sick, Apa had insisted travelling to Rewalsar with the troupe.  Apa was reluctant to separate  and jeopardise the dreams of others by separating. Travelling towards Rewalsar from Mandi would make journey to Delhi longer by several hours. The troupe seemingly weighed travelling to Tsho Pema more important than reaching Delhi at the earliest. They drove towards Rewalsar, some 8 hours ride, 240 kilometers, towards north, away from Delhi. This could have been Apa's last journey in life!

Apa has always been a man of determination and discipline, someone who lived his promise for everyone all his life. It was always his his maxim to complete what he began, or never begin at all. The following morning Apa began to take his first meal since the sickness began. It was an immense relief to mother and others. The members of troupe had a brief visit to the lake and temples before journeying towards Delhi.  

The only hope of recuperation under a reliable medical hospital was to travel to Delhi metropolitan city to avail medical services. Delhi is more than 400 kilometers away with a travel time of at least ten hours. Everyone in the troupe had little hope of reaching Apa safely to Delhi. The journey was going to be slow.  Time had become vital by the minute for Apa who was was weak. 
There was a heavy loss of blood in two days that caused severe dehydration. His blood pressure plummeted to a dangerous level and blood sugar was decreasing gradually. The two bottles of glucose in two days before reaching Delhi made a slight difference to reviving his vitals. My father and his friends had taken too much risk by not heading to Delhi from Mandi.

I and two brothers had to wait for a day to get an emergency flight to Delhi on 14th January. We intended to reach Delhi before the Apa arrived and make arrangements at a hospital.  It was like saving the king in the game of chess, and every military man stood towards repaying debts to their king. With prayers on our lips and hope in our hearts, we flew from Paro on 14th January to Delhi. We arrived early and were able to arrange hospital, set up rested apartment across the hospital. Lt. Pelzang becae our captain for the logistics, for he knew well the streets and the people.

When father reached Max Smart Specialty Hospital at Saket province in Delhi it was late night. We waited outside hospital hoping Apa arrived safe. It was the longest nights we ever waited for Apa to reach hospital. We realised that any other man at 76 losing critical amount of blood, travelling over thousands kilometres without food and proper medical care would succumb to his ailment. I realised how precariously we were close to disaster when Apa was moved from the taxi to the wheel chair. It was a miraculous feat of determination to hold on and remain strong for three days. 

He was weak, emaciated and delirious when he arrived Delhi hospital. We could barely hear as he spoke. Lopen Tsheringla said,Apa went into oblivious state of awareness as they rode the taxi. Early next morning, after series of injections and fluids,Apa was able to whisper. When asked if he remembered the journey, he said, “As I sat in the car, I felt sense of timelessness. I passed out few times.”
If not for some divine interference that kept the thread of life alive, it would not have been possible to travel two days without food, rest and intensive medical services. His lifetime of spiritual pursuits, meditation practices and blessing from the tutelary deity, Throma Nagmo, perhaps made the miracle happen. For a practitioner, it has often been known that, even if body  dulls minds can remain firm and sharp. 

Since his illness, although there were impossible obstacles to reaching Delhi for the eight member pilgrim troupe and also for family members to reach Delhi from Bhutan, all decisions and roadway began to unfold without hindering disastrously. There is miracle about the karmic deed and spiritual attainments when difficult hours befall us. Buddha’s teachings remain the only truth that can explain the maze of confusion we have.

As we flew back home on 19th January, I felt like I was celebrating one of the most memorable days of my winter vacation.
WE LOVE YOU APA, EVEN MORE.

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Monday, February 21, 2022

Published February 21, 2022 by with 0 comment

COVID DAYS-AN ANTIDOTE TO OUR CHAOTIC ROMANCE

This is something that we can think about to live life more normally when Covid tends to make it abnormal. We are Buddhist, and for a Buddhist, when life becomes jeopardized, it is a karmic blessing to practice virtues we speak and learn. There is something about Covid we forgot to pay respects to. This is a story that begins from my parents.

With deteriorating health conditions, my parents flew to Paro on 6th January, and soon after began to visit hospital in Thimphu. It had been a long wait before getting flight tickets for the parents. Winter is a time when everyone travels for holidays.

Just after completing mother’s hospital visits, Thimphu went into blackout period, with news breaking from Rubesa Wangdiphodrang of a Covid outbreak. It was the beginning of a long wait, cocooned inside the building to a routine of meals and prayers and television and increasing cases of positive in the community everywhere.

This is perhaps one of the longest holiday without cattle and fieldwork, without living a farmer’s day. If it wasn’t for the outbreak they could have flown back long time ago, and begun many tedious tasks.

After over a month in Thimphu, looking out of the window to the day everyday, there is a relief as capital relaxes on the Covid19 situation. There is a promise for better days, and promise for a return home after some final visits to hospital.

While remaining indoors is easier for aged people who live like it is a ritual retreat for prayers and recitations, it is devastating to hear of people undergoing anxiety, stress and depressing restlessness. My father completed volumes of reading scriptures and mother in recitations. 

If Covid is going to stay and arrive again, we must prepare to begin a Ngondro practice, some serious scriptural reading and mantra recitations. It’s going to be a retreat that will impact us spiritually, transforming us to understand life from a spiritual perspective. We will be able to find meaning or meaninglessness in what life is all about.

For civil servants who had some training in mindfulness meditation or others who are taught meditation practices must spend longer and regular hours of practice in a day. Sometimes, when times seem to disrupt our routine, it is providing a routine that must be lived naturally. Lockdowns and blackouts, containment and quarantine are moments for us to be physically less chaotic, moments to rest and calm from chaos we attend to otherwise. This can be one way we can tame our mind to be calm, to attain the natural equipoise spiritual masters teach as a state of freedom from chaos.

But, unfortunately, even for me, with knowledge of this advantage, I get swayed emotionally. I yearn for freedom to work and walk the places like before not knowing I am yearning for chaos. It is pathetic that chaos has become our habitual tendencies and anything that tends to lessen our chaotic desires becomes painful to us. 

Covid is a blessing that brings clam to our chaos. As a Buddhist, understanding impermanence, practicing meditation, living in modesty and calmness is part of our life. Covid only opens this opportunity to remain alienated from people who only stir chaos, alienated from movements, and bring more attention to lesser thoughts. If we can wait patiently within our homes to live life like a hermit, Covid is going to become a blessing we can never have, an antidote to our chaotic romance which is contradictory to what is spiritual and sane.

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Saturday, January 15, 2022

Published January 15, 2022 by with 1 comment

THE FAITHFUL TRAVELLERS

 (Story of man's lust, woman's tradegy, of lies and scented love, and a journey of self realisation)

Prologue: Bracing the night
“No I cannot. Please. Not today.” Her reluctance in words was stronger than her gesture. She held on to his hands caressing on her bare bosom. ‘Not today’ sounded like a she was asking to delay for another day. He knew she was not absolutely reluctant, but he did not want to repent total denial. 
‘We are doing wrong. Please let us not.” She whispered, lips trembling. She saw feeble faces of her son, bringing her to a stillness.
The man beside her covered her mouth in the cup of his hand. His lips pressed on her lips as if to silence it. She breathed in his strong awful reek of whiskey. In a hazy memory, he thought of his children and wife. They seem to look at him from the glass. He fell back on his seat.
I. Farewell home
I envy those men who do not need to pack his paraphernalia of clothes and wears on his own. Their wives seem to knows what her man would need, how much and how many of the basic necessities. She serves him his hot tea and a quick meal. She watches him eat, then ruffles through the baggage to ensure nothing is left to pack. 

Dorji Tshering was one fortunate man to have a complete woman in his wife. He hugs his children, kisses her with a hope of seeing her soon, and lifts his bag to walk to the car. His wife says ‘Drive slowly. Do not drink. Be cautious.’ 
He replies with a smile, “ Okey, okey…give children food on time. Do not let them play out in the sun too much.” 
She drags the other bag to the car. ‘Do you have enough money?’ She asks, a caring tone singing in her heart. He nods.
As Dorji waves to her, he sees children waving ‘bye’ from
behind, their voices echoing through the betel tree leaves. An air of melancholic nudge clogs in his heart. He purses his cold lips and accelerates on to the highway, cruising like a race car. Soon he is far from his home, driving through the curves on towards Thimphu. Phuentsholing is lost to the forest and hills behind him. The afternoon sun was falling on the western peaks.
He glances on the road side for any passenger to accompany him. The afternoon sun glares brightly on the bonnet of his white Corona. His hope for any passenger to accompany on his long ride dims soon after crossing the Rinchending Police check post. He passes through the mist, making him more lonesome.

II. An Angel
Loneliness has always been his distaste. It made his heart cold. He plays songs on his mobile and tried to sing chorus. He wishes he had someone to talk to on the sleepy afternoon. A cargo carrier truck horns wildly at the sharp bend near the Sorchen Pass. He almost rattles into the left drain, brushing into the pile of sand. His speedometer falls sleepily from 65KM/Hr to 45 KM/Hr. He realizes he was over-speeding on the precarious angles of the road. Driving alone has always made him forget his speed.

Dorji appears into the light from the misty sanctuary of Jumbja face. He feels like he has awoken after minutes of oblivious driving through the mist. He draws down the window pane to let in cool breeze. A few minutes he enter Gedu town. A a dark shapely figure gestures for a lift. He slows gracefully near a woman with a pink hand bag. 
“Can I ride to Thimphu? All Taxis were full.” She reasons, pleadingly. 
“Alright, get in.’ Dorji says without hesitance. He needed a company, it did not matter who. She shoves her black bag and pushes herself into the car. Dorji meets her eyes on the rear mirror, an expressionless face of an angle with a frozen gaze.
III. Becoming friends
The Corona curves comfortably with an extra weight. 
“Are you student of GCBS? Studying?’ Dorji asks abruptly, more as an introduction than a question. 
His anticipation comes out wrong. “ No. I am staying with my husband. I dropped in X three years ago.” She inhales heavily as if reluctant to talk. 
Dorji’s curiosity gets the better of him. His mind juggles about her age from her looks. His mathematics answers him not older than thirty.  
He begins his quiz. “Why are you going to Thimphu? Where are you from?” This was a cursory statement for any stranger to hear.
She leans back, tightening her muffler across her face. “Jamkhar. Going to meet my mother. She is alone.’ She responds between breaths.
Dorji concludes her father was either separated or demised long time ago. He feels there was something amiss about her travel to Thimphu. Her frozen gaze bereft of joy meant trouble. He enquires her name, more to comfort her than to connect with her. Knowing each other’s name makes it easy to engage into deeper conversation. 
‘Dema.’ He hears through her mufflers.
The road is smooth. It snakes like a gigantic boa on the hill sides. Dorji’s old car sail like canoe on an Egyptian Nile. His speed did not rise above forty. He plays a music at a low volume. 
“Look at the waterfall, an exquisite natural panorama! Our country is ornamented with such beautiful sights.” Dorji exclaims, glancing at the huge white shade on the opposite mountain side between the fleet of passing trees.
They stop for a coffee at the Dam View Restaurent. 
“Come let’s have something.” Dorji invites like he was asking his children for a treat. The cold current, perhaps from the Dam, severs through his woolen jacket. She follows him to the restaurant.
He orders four pegs of whiskey with warm water. Dema sits across him, clutching a mug of tea. The steam dances over the rim as she sips. Her lower lips were slightly bluish, like an injury from a fall, and a graze on her brow. A beautiful woman with marks of concern,
She was fair, a glistening eyes with a dimple on her left. Dorji could easily mistake her for a college beauty pageant. 
Dorji doubts if she had trouble with her husband. 
‘Do you drink?’ He asks bluntly, lifting his glass.
Dema denies with a stardom smile, prompting Dorji to ask another.
“ Spy, it will warm you.’’ He consoles. 
Dema feels comforted and fortunate she met a hospitable ride. She nods for Spy. Dorji hails the bartender for the yellow one. A glint of smile wrinkles below her eye. 
“What happened to your lip?’ Dorji intrudes warrior-like. 
She sits quietly looking out of the window. Suddenly a sombre grin falls on her brow. 
The dam flickers with late afternoon sunrays over the western zenith. “I can’t finish all.” She says, as Dorji pours in the glass. 
“This will lighten your pain on the lip, and those in your heart. I won’t force any more.” He laughs. 
Dema giggles to his gesture. Dorji gulps down the whiskey without water like a professional.

IV. Frozen tale
“Can I sit here?” With a boldness borne more out of the Spy wine then Dorji’s engaging conversation, Dema flings open the front door. Dorji picks his diary and flips into the dashboard. He dusts away the seat with an inviting hospitality. “Please wai.” He felt his heart jumping.
He gears backwards carefully and throttles on the road racing to a smooth ride. She slides back closing her eyes. Dorji notices an aura of new born calmness on her face, an innocent face of a collegian for a troubled housewife.The orange evening sunray caresses her hairline. She fell asleep, and he became lonely for couple of minutes. 
He slows down as they pass through Tsimasham town. The smokes from the houses invaded the street. Dorji turns and looks at Dema, and for the first time he realizes how chubby and delicately charming she was. Her slender ring finger wore a copper ring studded with some cheap green stone. She did not seem like she was married, but he was told she had a man and a son she mothered seven years ago.
V. Nostalgic repentance
Dema awakens to a blaring horn from Meto Transport bus hissing up the road. Dorji halted precariously on the Chapcha roadside. Darkness was setting in. 
“ Where are we?’ Dema asks him before raising herself from her inclined seat. “ I fell asleep.” She excuses.
“We are near Chapcha school junction. You slept for quite sometime. I missed you meii.” He intends a humour.

Dema remembers Chapcha school days, making her bite her lips before she awakens fully. Dorji touches her hands to assure everything is alright. She looks at him and smiles. It was a comforting feeling for dorji to feel welcomed and friendly. 
Dema recalls her Saturday afternoon some four years ago, a moment underneath the Artemisia bush below the school fence. It was a cold November romance. Karma, Dema’s discreet boy friend, had clung to her from behind as she was reading ‘Windmills of the Gods.’ They had hidden away in the bush on that afternoon to study. Karma had kissed her on the neck and then nibbled her ears. Dema had asked Karma to wait until she finished the chapter, she was reading but Karma had held her from her waist, cleverly touching her warm skin. 
“I love you Dema. I will wait for your graduation.” There were only few weeks for Karma to complete his tenth grade. Dema was in nine. Her silent fears of losing the most handsome boy in school haunted her. She had to find ways to assure her hope of not losing her first love forever. ‘He will be gone next year, yet I can’t lose him forever.’ Her love for him longed for keeping her relationship forever. 
She turned and kissed him on the lips. It felt like a seal for a forever love. The kisses became wilder. Neither the rustling breeze nor the chirps and bark from around distracted them. 
“I love you so much. So very much.” Karma reassured her as he loosened her belt. She felt like she was falling asleep. Dema closed her eyes into the brightness of her hope and promise. There was neither fear nor anxiety as her eyes closed and drowned into Karma’s whispers.

It was only by March of the following year that her class teacher questioned her about her probable conception. She had been ill repeatedly from the beginning and missed classes. She had known of her inevitable situation, and had hidden from her friends until her teacher talked to her. 
She wrote to Karma who was on Nursing Training at Thailand. He had told her he would complete after four years. It was devastation. Her matron informed her parents and she left school quietly. 
She had confronted all the humiliation while at home. Gedu’s foggy weather isolated her from the echoes of defamation. Her mother quietly bore the pain. She had left school, but her Principal asked her to continue after delivery. Repentance made her stronger. She had told herself she was not the first woman on earth to repent on a hope she believed in. She accepted her fate.

VI. Healing moments
Dorji looks at her as they throttle forward again. Darkness falling makes him more comfortable to engage. “You have marks on your face. Fallen?” He interjects.
Dema purses her lips. Eyes become tearful. “I have spoiled my life.” She coughs, as if to hide her pain.
“No marriage has a perfect story, mine too. If you think mine can be perfect because I drive this car, you can be wrong.” Dorji consoles her, intending to gain trust and company. Dema retorts, awakening from her gross reverie, “Yes. It is true. Until they do not confide everything looks perfect. I see my friends going through difficult marriage but stands tall when going out.” Dema is more conversational then before. 
She tells him she was harassed by her husband every night. He had hit her several times in her drunken stupor. She said she could get killed if she was found with other men. The other night she was thrown against the wooden box and bled from her lips and tongue. 
Dorji realised, her beauty and youthfulness must scare her husband from losing her. “He is lucky to have pretty woman like you for his wife.” He didn’t know why he said this.

She had left her seven years old son at school and taken the ride to freedom. She wanted to ride away to Phuentsholing and hide, but had taken Dorji’s hospitality towards Thimohu.
“Are your parents in Thimphu?’’ Dorji interrupted. 
“No. I have a cousin.’’ Dorji parks the car on the road side at a sharp corner. 
“Toilet.” He requests. It is deep dusk outside. The light from the crescent moon barely illuminates the foliages. He disappears behind the rock. Dema climbs below the road after Dorji vanishes through the thick foliages.
Dorji sat in the car waiting, wondering about Dema’s life. When she came, she smiled at him. 
“It is a karmic connection that we meet strangely today and that we have similar story.’’ Dorji remarks. 
A light from a Hiace bus brightens Dema’s face. 
She stares at him and makes a bold defense. “It is not at all similar. You have a wife,a job and children, don’t you?”
“Wife, No. Children, yes. I was divorced three months now.”Dema does not believe him. “You are lying.’’ 
Dorji slows the car at a snails’ pace. He clasps his left hand over her cold fingers. “Trust me. What would I profit lying? I am not going to Thimphu actually. I am going to Paro. I love Paro.” 
Dema feels comforted and suddenly calm. “Men tell good lies. I am sorry I doubted you. You are from Paro?” She turns her palm over and encloses her finger around his. This almost startled Dorji. He feels good to have given her a moment of freedom and healing. Dorji halts on a wide stretch, as a train of cars passes by.

Dorji tells her his parents were from Yangtsi and had settled in Paro many years back. His parents have died. His younger sister lives with her husband in Shari. Dema gazes at him like she has found her school love Karma again.

They sit in the darkness of the car holding on to each other. It was a moment Dema always wanted to live, a moment when a man accepts her past, hold her hands with love and talks with a melodious tone. A wounded doe shall trust beyond any ounce of doubt and become devotional even to a hunter who it watched with suspicion from the thicket if there is hope for happiness. 
In a momentary depth of immense joy she leaned on his gentle shoulders, tears streaming like rivulets. He hiccups drew Dorji to unfasten the car belt and embrace this wounded doe. He felt responsible to infuse his passenger with warmth and hope. He let her cry.

VII. Dark story
Her years at Gedu had been some harsh minutes of humiliation, harassment and isolation. It had all begun after her last moments with Karma at Chapcha School.
“Thank you for being so nice. You are a good man. I think your wife lost a good husband.” She held his hands and leaned on his shoulder, tears limpid in her eyes. 
“Where is your husband from?” Dorji felt bad to ask. 
Dema sits back and tells him her past like narrating an old tale. It hurt her to recall Karma again. Karma had never returned to her. His betrayal had broken her to loneliness and shame. She had started drinking despite being pregnant. She did not receive letters or phone calls from Karma. All her attempts to contact him only ruined her hope and health. When she gave birth to her son, her mother was the only person at her bed side. She promised to forget Karma forever and to live with her mother, working on her mother’s loom.
“ I didn’t want to marry at all. Chedrup was our neighbor. He is an electric technician at Gedu College.” Dema almost stammers as she speaks. Her tone was hard. 
Dorji pulls her hands and warms with his, as if to tell she must not speak any more. 
“It must have been tough for you to lose school life and to be betrayed by Karma. Your marriage to Chedrup is not your mistake. If you didn’t marry him, some other could have.” Dorji consoles her. 
She trembles and cries. Her face is wet and crimson. She looked more childlike in her sniffling. Dorji cannot resist her pain. He leans over and draws her head on his shoulder. It is an awkward situation to embrace a devastated woman and also to restrain an urge to kiss her to comfort. 
“Hey!” He holds her face in her palm. A mysterious intent blinds his morale as a man to whom Dema was beginning to lay faith on. Her face was wet with tears. He bends over from his seat and plants his lips on hers. She closes her eyes as if ashamed after confessing her past. Dema was unresponsive but did not restrain Dorji’s inviting intrusion. Her lips were warm. The taste of tears only deepened his embrace. 
Dema feels a beautiful pain on her lips, like being nursed to heal forever. Her finger entwines aggressively on Dorji’s sweaty fingers as if to squeeze her repentance into his palms.
A passing Land Cruiser whistles teasingly. It raises the dipper lights to peek at the couple in the Corona. Dema instantly loosens her grip shaking off Dorji, feeling embarrassed. Dorji slinks back. 
He accidently presses the horn, shrieking with unusual tone. It appeared like a reaction to the Land Cruiser. Both feels guilty about what happened, but Dema suddenly relives her moments with first love in the Artemisia bush.
“Shall we go? It’s getting very late.” Dema draws her muffler to brace the cold. 
“Let’s go. Its cold out here.’’ Dorji manages to mutter, and ignites the car, revving up hard. 
“Will I get Taxi from Chuzom at this hour?’’ Dema questions. Dorji shrugs his broad shoulders, ‘’Perhaps, we will see. Don’t worry?’’

VIII. Indecisive route
Dema has reasons to worry. She worries of reaching late, of being reprimanded by her cousin for running away again, and of her son asking father where mother was. She knows Chedrup would call her cousin to check on her. Nonetheless, her hidden worries do not seem to matter when weighing against all the odds of her recent past cat and dog life with Chedrup. 

Dorji’s warm palm on her palm somehow gives her the magical minutes of oblivion. Today, she smiled for most part of the journey, often feeling the same joy of her good days under the Artemisia canopy at Chapcha School.
The car dashboard clock chimes a cuckoo, flickering blue. It was seven past fifteen. The Chuzom gateway glimmers radiantly to welcome the love car. The prayer wheel at the gate stands frozen against the icy breeze. Dorji jumps taps on Dema’s arm and leaps out of the car to halt a taxi for Dema to Thimphu. Dorji halts two Taxis, but both are full. 
He returns and sits in the car rubbing his hands. The car’s heater warms him. Dorji locks his cold finger over Dema’s warm hands. Several minutes pass by waiting for a taxi. Dema’s worry seems to come true. “You may go to Paro. I shall wait outside. May be I will ask the police duty men to help get me lift.” Dema suggests Dorji for a goodbye.
Dorji quizzes between envy and longing to be with Dema. His masculine surge for some more time together calls his conscience. 
“It is just less than an hour’s drive to Thimphu. You are my friend, I will drive you there.” 
Dema was hoping for the same. She felt awkward to ask, and feared she may have to travel alone to Thimphu. 
Something inside her didn’t want to leave Dorji’s company. Women will honour what she believes is a man’s goodness and return favour with equal understanding.
“Let’s go then, it is getting late.” Dema agrees hastily. She does not want Dorji to change his mind, and for her to seek help from another stranger to with. Every other man appear to be better than her husband, and it was healing to have Dorji for the day.
The car sweeps into the hazy moonlight road. “Are you returning tonight to Paro?” Dema enquires, with the tone of worry on her raised brows. 
“I don’t know!” Dorji’s urge to hang on to this woman is more aggressive than his denial to be reluctant. His moral fidelity does not question his quick answers. 
He pulls her palm on to his lap. Dema relaxes backwards, heaving a sigh of a mother who heard her baby is born well. 
“Where is your cousin staying?” Dorji asks like a gentle man. 
Dema confesses, surprising him. “I haven’t told my cousin I am coming. They use to stay at Dechhencholing. I know the house.” 
Dorji’s mind weighs between whether this is a reference to she has nowhere to go and hope for him to provide her sanctuary. 
“Shall we have last for the road Whiskey and Spy?” Dorji pleads her and turns left at the Vegetable Market. He slithers the car between a narrow space near Lhaje’s Bar.

IX. Taking refuge
Aum Lhaje is one burly woman in a brown sweater and ash coloured woven half-kira. Her sweater apparently is older than her age. Her garment equals the smoky walls of her century old bar with a loosely hung wall clock and a faded portrait of a Lhasa.
The couple walk into the bar. It’s empty and dim.
“Lopen, its closing time. We usually close at nine.” It’s almost a growl over their head. 
Dorji leans over the table and promises they would not take long. Aum Lhaje pours him double and hands him a Spy wine. 
Dorji savours his whiskey with a gulp and watches Dema sipping in a sleepy movement. When Dorji served another double, Dema lifts another bottle. In whispers and smiles, they empty their colours.
Aum Lhaje scoops the two empty ‘Spy’ bottles leaning against the wall into her haggard hands, snatches the notes from Dorji and wobbles behind the counter.
“I am sorry for keeping us late.” Dorji throws his right arm heavily over Dema’s lean shoulders as they juggles out Lhaje’s Bar. He giggles at his plain humour. 
“Me too! I hope you don’t mind. Dema stutters, and staggers with Dorji. They see two policemen by the electric pole watching them suspiciously, as they stagger to the car. 
Dorji fumbles for the key, opens the door inviting Dema to the seat. He gets behind the steering and vanishes towards the right, heading to Lungtenzampa Bridge. 
“Where are we going? Aren’t you reaching me to Dechhenchholing?” Dema is not as tipsy as Dorji is assuming. 
“It’s a beautiful sight to see at night this whole god damn city from Buddha point. 
“Buddha is god-damned?” Dema revolts cynically. 
“No! We are tonight. You don’t have place to go, I have choices to make.” Dorji teases. 
She does not gesture reluctance to dorji’s invitation. Her trust of friendship overshadows any ability to distrust him. 
“ –then we shall go home-‘ Dorji concludes. 
Dorji has forgotten his caring wife who packed his things and hugged him good bye in the morning. He had messaged him he had reached Paro.
Perhaps he is too drunk to think of fidelity while his friendship has deepened seductively to Dema.  
Dorji grips on Dema’s thigh, startling her to an ‘Ouch’ without denial. He is more courageous and demanding now. Dema nods, smiling seductively. There is neither fear of the present nor worry of the future. It is like the first day of her rendezvous with Karma at Chapcha School, behind the auditorium one Saturday night some years ago. Carnal longing has often weakened man to become emboldened into mistaken fidelity.

X. Tough decisions
A black Santafe rests camouflaged under the thick pine trees some meters away. Dema is unaware that a business man and House-keeper at the Selwong Resort are making their menacing night in the shadows. As he turns left, away from the road, the light strikes the Santafee. They see two silhouettes ducking behind the rear doors. ‘Devious’ he thinks, and grins at his own gullibility.
Dorji noses his Corona against the bushes, away from moonlight glare. Buddha Point is several meters away on the top from their parking place. One the left a huge boulder hides them, while on the right the bushes curtain them from the road. Through the windshield, over the cliff face, he could see the Buddha’s knot of hair.

Spy wine makes her drowsy. She leans back, restful like she sometimes does at home after a tiring day. 
Dorji’s snap on his ears and awakens her. “Where are we?” 
Dorji points to the Buddha’s knot of hair. Dema rolls the glass down amd inhales the chilly breeze to shrug off drowsiness. She begins to feel vulnerable yet pleased to be away from chaos of her memories.
Dorji stretches over, grazing against her bosom, resting his left palm on her thighs, and closes the glasses. 
“This cold will crack your lips.” He warns softly. Dorji retrives himself away slowly and hugs her as if for warmth. 
“Oh! You are naughty.” Dema does not find strength to push him for reason she can barely think. “Your wife will skin me off.” She cautions half as sternly as women would do. Dorji feels sensually overwhelmed to feel any guilt. 
“I can’t do this. Please. Not here.” She whispers as Dorji closes his wet lips oh her wounded lips. He nurses the cut delicately with his tongue. Dema’s arms wound around Dorji, and kisses him back. 
“Thank you for your time.” She whispers again. Dema’s gesture does not fully seem to accept Dorji’s manly greed.
Dorji draws her seat backwards surprising Dema. His trembling hands sneaks up her blouse. Dema holds his hands as if fighting against a boa. 
‘‘No.’’ Dema remarks sharply, forcing Dorji to slide away. 
Panting heavily, he caresses on her shoulders. Dema feels far too invaded. She becomes stiff. An unnamed strength bellows through her muscles. 
She pushes Dorji into his seat. “People will see us. Please, let’s go.”
Dorji suddenly feels the pain of embarrassment for misjudging Dema’s timidity as her frail acceptance to his companion. 
“Is she scared that night stalkers would see them? Does she mean we must go somewhere else?” Questions coil in his head like children’s fire crackers hissing away amidst sounds of bigger burst of rockets in his head.

XI. Bracing the Night
Like a sudden burst of malarial patient shiver in feverish spasm, Dorji feels annoyance race through his brain to the muscles of his hands. An inhuman urge to smack her on the face makes his hand clench tightly on the wheel. His lips become hardened. 
He waggles his brow against the center of the steering wheel, appearing submission to Dema’s reluctance. The horn echoes incessantly into the darkness. 
Dema cuts in sharply, “What are you doing? Please let’s go?” 
Dorji looks at her with hateful gaze. “Are you sure? Why-?’ Dorji pleads, yet behind his question an answer feebly makes him feel guilty. His hand rests gently on her again, as if he is playing with a teddy.

“No I cannot. Please. Not today.” Her reluctance in words was stronger than her gesture. She held on to his hands caressing on her bare bosom. ‘Not today’ sounded like a she was asking to delay for another day. He knew she was not absolutely reluctant, but he did not want to repent total denial. 
‘We are doing wrong. Please let us not.” She whispered, lips trembling. She saw feeble faces of her son, bringing her to a stillness.
The man beside her covered her mouth in the cup of his hand. His lips pressed on her lips as if to silence it. She breathed in his strong awful reek of whiskey. In a hazy memory, he thought of his children and wife. They seem to look at him from the glass. He fell back on his seat.

This time he finds some strength to question the morality of his action. “Okey! Sorry about all this.” Dorji mutters as he slips the gear backwards with a jerk. 
“I am going to stay at a Hotel downtown. I will reach you at your cousins.” Dorji bounces from the roadside on to the smooth road. The dash board timer read 10.50 PM.
They drove down the cold moonlit road for few minutes in silence, like spouses driving home after an argument at a friends’ birthday party. Dema keeps staring at him, smiling teasingly. He grins at her in return. She rests her hand on his lap, teasing him to calm down. “Sorry…” She looks at him. “Sorry..” She is louder and clutches at his arm muscles. 
Dorji halts with a screeching response. “Are we going to be on the road the whole night?” Dorji barks. His voice for the first time rings with a confidence of a big brother. His gaze is more fatherly then was ever before. He appeared resolute at ending the night to his own comfort at a hotel.

XII. Seeking joy
“Aii!” She holds his face in her hands shaking him from his finality. She surprises her with a motherly look; a look which effuses understanding and love. She leans over kissing him on his cheek. 
“I lied. I don’t have a cousin here. I don’t have any one. I may have, but I don’t know them. I have never come to Thimphu since I left school.” Her hands slowly falls into his cold hands. 
He cups her hands to his heart. “Why did you lie? You shouldn’t have come with me to Paro then?” Dorji enquires aghast. 
Tears trickle down her eyes and wets her lips. She breaks down sobbing on his shoulders. Dorji is puzzled at her reactions from being inviting all the way, often reluctant and then suddenly taking refuge indefinitely. “Please don’t -?” Dorji raises her head and hugs her. 
“I just wanted to be with you. I felt happy with the freedom of your company. I am scared to lose this hour, this beautiful hour. I am sorry, I felt scared I may lose myself to you completely and suffer even more.” Dorji feels dumbfounded. 
It is true women are strange species, and very few men can decipher their depth and vastness of thoughts. Dorji is not one of the ‘very few.’
Dorji begins to comprehend, otherwise, the depth and vastness of her devastated childhood dreams and womanly hopes. 
Dema’s delicate hopes for happier tomorrow had broken away with Karma’s betrayal, and her prospect of graduating to become a teacher shattered forever, shattering her promise to her only parent, her sickly mother. Dema’s marriage gave her few months of deliverance from the repentance of her sordid past, a freedom from Karma’s betrayal. No sooner than she realized the inevitability of becoming mother then she found herself despised by her husband, Chedrup. 
The promises Chedrup made to love her despite knowing she was pregnant from another man had led to her marriage to him. Her son’s birth was the beginning of her sour marriage. 
Dorji could see how Dema’s hopes hung on for better days against the windstorm of her cloistered pain and endless suffering. Dorji realizes why Dema hung on to the good hours and braced against losing her only timeless joy forever again.

XIII. Freeing the aches
The ivory black Santafe hoots annoyingly behind them for a side. Dorji draws the gear to neutral, releases the brakes and floats towards the left. The Resort girl with the hooded wool peers through into the Corona. 
Dorji, can I stay with you tonight? I will return home tomorrow.” Dema recalls him from his attention lost at the Resort girl. 
Dorji does not find the correct way to answer. Hours and minutes ago he was denied intimacy. Now her bold pleading for her to be with him for the night rattles him with fear. Dorji’s decision swings in a dilemma. 
He wonders whether her happiness in his acceptance would make her happier than his happiness of sleeping with her, or he would hurt her forever again. 
He replies cautiously, “It’s late; we may not get a good lodge. I know one at Panda’s Lodge, its cozy.” Dema wipes her tears drying on her cheeks with her muffler, cuddles his left arm strongly and kisses on his palm. 
The inside of the windscreen is fogged with their breath. Dorji wipes it and throttles forward into the city.

“I lied too.” Dorji confesses as he smuggled himself into the blankets beside her. “ I lied I was divorced. I am not.” Dema does not seem to show any expression, any response. It does not seem to matter if Dorji was married or divorced anymore. She smiles at the crescent moon peeping through the orange curtain lines. Night is stark silent and she lingers on worshipping the best days of her little life to end well at least for the day.
At the Panda’s they were able to get noodles for dinner before going to bed. The queen sized bed was set against the window, with purple curtain. Dema snuggles on the right, feeling uneasy yet without guilt.
She reaches over him to the table switch on Dorji’s table and clicks them off into a partial orange darkness. She falls on Dorji’s bare bosom more deliberately that by discomfort.  
“You are heavier than I thought.” Dorji mutters between gasps.  
She whispers, “Perhaps my lifetime of grief is heavier than yours.” Dema’s answer only makes him clasp her lovingly to himself to eternity without a sense of guilt. 
The world around explodes away into the cataclysmic moment of romance.  Dorji and Dema was enveloped into the black hole where neither past not future could be recalled. 

XIV. Epilogue: Bracing the New Day
A soft knock on the door echoes through the bedroom. The room suddenly is brightly lit with brighter orange brilliance. Dema gets startled as she staggers to rub her eyes to adjust to the light. The knock taps again. She remembers Dorji had been with her in the bed. She walks to the latrine and peeps into an empty room. She turns the door knob anticipating Dorji with a cup of tea, and opens it slowly. 
“Bed tea Ma’am?’’ Dorji wasn’t there. A man in a white suit smiles widely at her and proffers her a steaming cup of coffee. She lifts the cup, leaving the saucer on the tray and closes the door, thanking the man quickly.
On the table she finds a note and five thousand ngultrum notes. The handwritten note reads: ‘When we know the limits of our desire, we rejoice the beauty of every moment we live. Please do not regret the time spent. Everyone have their past, it’s in living the present without dirtying with past. You are very beautiful both in and out. 
Thank you for your company and good heart. I hope I did not hurt you my friend. Best moments are made by our own efforts, not by another. Please return to your son, and find ways to manage your life for better future. I will drop by in future.’

Dema sinks into the blankets and sobs hard into it, more out of joy than the jeopardy of the past. She finds herself awakened to a new day. She feels younger, stronger and happier as she walks out of the Panda’s Lodge an hour later.
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