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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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Published January 04, 2022 by with 0 comment

TALE OF ‘DO JAGA LAM’

 1.     Liberating mother from the boulder

 Drubthob Naggi Rinchen (1384-1468)
was an important master in the Kalachakra lineage. Originally from Bengal, he was one of the last great Indian scholars to visit Tibet.

In fact, according to the Blue Annals, he was referred to as ‘the last pandita'.
Colloquially known in Bhutan as Drubthob Nagi Rinchen, his statue is found in the Dho Jhaga Lama Lhakang near Punakha. The Lhakhang is about two kilometres from Punakha Dzong towards Gasa.  

The story is narrated of how he liberated his mother who was born as a frog in the huge boulder. According to legend, Drubthob Nagi Rinchen aka Vanaratna, a Bengali Pandita, is one of the 84 Mahasiddhas, and was the last great Indian Pandita to visit Tibet.

It is believed that he came to Punakha after learning, through the power of his clairvoyance, that his mother was reborn as a frog inside the rock towards the North.
In search of the rock, Drubthob Nagi Rinchen finally reached Punakha after a tedious journey. Upon arrival in Punakha, he found out that the land on which the rock stood belonged to an old woman called Aum Ritsa Chum. Aum Ritsa Chum was a rich and powerful woman of the locality.

Since the rock belonged to someone, he could not do what he liked. He planned to buy the big rock to liberate his mother. Drubthob than approached the old woman and asked for the rock.  She demanded that he work for her for three long years to get the rock from her land. Drubthob was left with no other alternative than to accept the offer.
He worked for her doing all types of jobs like ploughing, digging, paddy cultivation weeding, looking after cattle, fetching water, bringing firewood and even carried cattle manure.

During the day, he engaged in the woman's work and in the evening he meditated in a cave across the Mochhu. There is a temple built over the meditation cave that house statue of Drubthob secluded across the Mochu. The cave was known as the place where Drubthob spent most of his time in meditation and prayer, hidden away from people and animals.

There was no bridge over the Mochu, and it was a long walk  along the river to cross over to Aum Ritsa Chum’s house. It is believed that Drubthob crossed the Mochu river without even touching his feet on the water. Finally, after completing three years of labor, Drubthob was given ownership of the rock.

On an auspicious day, in presence of local people, the Drubthob meditated by the rock. The Drubthob is said to have brought down lightning through his power to split the big rock into two.  A frog came out from the split, much to the amazement of Aum Ritsa Chum and the people. He immediately killed the frog by crushing it with his feet and liberated his mother’s spirit.

The remains of a frog was said to have been moulded into tsha tsha and offered them as dzung, a relic, in Rigsum chorten constructed near the rock. The Rigsum chorten is an offering to Buddha Avoloketeshvara, Jampelyang and Chaagna Dorji, as a prophecy to propagate teachings in future across the country.

It is also believed that the ash was used in the sculpting of Buddha statue enshrined in the Dzongchung at Punakha Dzong. The statue is said to have no nangtens, yet is a wish fulfilling statue.

The Drubthob is said to have inscribed his name in Bengali script upon the rock with his finger. The script is visible even today and is considered sacred and wish fulfilling rock.

In 1991 a temple has been constructed near the sacred rock by Yab Ugyen Dorji and Yum Thuji Zam and offered to Punakha Dratshang. Today, the temple is commonly called Dho Jhaga Lam Lhakhang, a rock of an Indian monk teacher.

At another location, few meters from the Lhakhang, below the road is a pilgrimage site believed to be place where Drupthob meditated. There is a rock cave through which one can enter and exit, as a proof of whether one can return gratitude to parents, whether we have less sin and more sacredly, whether we will be able to fulfil our spiritual aspirations.




2. Knowing the Mahasiddha

In the history of Buddhist masters, only few Bodhisattvas were said to have been able to liberate their mothers to the Buddha realm. The prominent stories are Lord Buddha, Mongallana, Lama Drukpa Kuenley and Drubthob Nagi Rinchen.

‘Who was Drubthob Nagi Rinchen and where did he actually came from?’ The question is often asked to understand who Do Jaga Lam was and how accomplished was he as a master.

Drubthob Nagi Rinchen (Vanaratna, 1384-1468) a Bengali Pandita and Mahasiddha was born a prince in Sadnagara, near present-day Chittagong district of Bangladesh.

At age 8, he received novice ordination from Buddhaghosha and Sujataratna. He took up his studies and perfected them very quickly.

At age of 20 he received full ordination from the same two masters, and went to Sri Lanka for six years, where he spent most of his time meditating in seclusion.
Upon his return to India, he was greatly praised by the famous scholar Naraditya.
At Amaravati, he met with Māhasiddha Shavaripa in a vision and received unique transmission of the Sadaṅga-yoga, the Six-limbed Yoga of the Kālacakra tradition.
The Drubthob eventually beheld a vision of Avalokiteśvara, who advised him to go to Tibet to begin propagation of Buddhist teachings.

He visited Tibet in 1426, 1433 and 1453 and spread the Kālacakra lineage and instructions of Paṇḍita Vibhūti-candra there, especially the Sadaṅga-yoga according to Anupamarakṣita, and many other teachings.
He also assisted in the translation of many texts and treatises. Such famous Tibetan masters as Gö Lotsawa Shönnu Pal (1392-1481) and Thrimkang Lotsawa Sönam Gyatso (1424-1482) were his close students.

The Drubthob, Mahasiddha Nagi Rinchen, Vanaratna, spent his final years in the Gopicandra Vihara in Patan in Kathmandu, and attained final dissolution at the ripe age of eighty four.



 

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Thursday, December 30, 2021

Published December 30, 2021 by with 0 comment

SCHOOL INDISCIPLINE: HOW CAN WE MEND THE FAULTS?

There is a growing concern on students becoming audacious and intrepid to discipline, moral values and tradition. Everyone thinks school should teach and change their behaviour. The school policies on discipline management has become mere tool for school, without much accountability being shared by others.


Last week, I had the privilege of sitting on the first panel of educationists who reviewed the School Discipline Framework 2010 at Eco-Lodge Hotel Wangdiphodrang. A team consisted of principals, teachers, school counselors and officers from Education Monitoring  Division. This was the beginning to the call on a very important policy document every school look forward to.

Schools have confronted challenges, some even dragged to court, while many had to face the threat parents posed for hurting their children, even when rebuked or tapped to discipline. When reports of parent and student displeasure reached Dzongkhag or Ministry, there was more eye sore in the teacher than on students who failed to behave and abide even after repeated advices and caution.

This time we propose clauses to shift barrage of accountabilities to parents and guardians, and share equivalent Dzongkhag education office and the Ministry to be more supportive. Teachers are doing experts at teaching not at managing and counseling students the way society expects, yet they have done their best so far.

The schools have not failed in their efforts to guide, correct and provide chances for students to grow and change. Only school teachers will know how much concern and care, how much guidance and activities they do. So much time is spent by schools to correct students, to make them ‘nationally rooted’ yet teachers are tested to their limits. Parents cannot discipline one or two at home and they get hurt when teachers have to discipline hundred and thousands! 

The guideline we worked on will undergo several reviews, and will need to be comprehensive, scientific, traditional and progressive, while also maintaining stringent measures for severity of misbehavior. It is hoped that the new guideline will prevent misbehavior before it happens and use a variety of different approaches to guide their behavior positively.

It has been about twelve years since the Education Ministry provided with School Discipline policy Guide and framework to enable schools manage indiscipline and students’ offenses. This was a yardstick for schools to overcome  levying corporal punishment which was banned in 1997 with explicit reference to article 109 of the Penal Code 2004.

Schools were suggested to practice Positive Discipline strategies for resolving student indiscipline and to ensure a safe, secure and child-friendly school environment. While it is easy to speak from the theories, it has always been a challenge to deal with student offenders. 

The schools either used the framework directly or created school level policy based on the 2010 discipline framework which was one of the outcomes of 13th National Education Conference. However, different schools had different strategy and often students are handed sanctions which are not constructive and supportive for behaviour change. 

While it is necessary to have stringent rule to prevent and intervene indiscipline issues, there must be ways to also correct and counsel students in their failure. The guideline will not be prescriptive. It must be flexible within which school can use, considering vast array of diversity and subtleness in student behaviour.

Positive Discipline is the strategy of teaching-learning process to teach children to become responsible, respectful, resilient, and resourceful members of the community. It is based on the fact that children are constantly changing, growing, and developing.  It teaches important life skills in a manner that is deeply respectful and creates an inclusive environment for both children and adults, leading to mutual respect and self-worth. What about those who fail to abide and be corrected, those who are caught in repeated misdemeanor or severely denigrate school norms? If school cannot penalize stringently some of the misbehavior that is detrimental to other students and school culture, others will be promoted and influenced become a challenge. 

We cannot mold clay to create a pot, we cannot chisel rock to carve a statue, we cannot train oxen to plough with some tough measures upon few. If laws we make snare us to attain the expectation of a nation’s future leader, we must make laws that serve the purpose. We must find balance between science and situation, tradition and aspirations to optimize in the future in our schools. 

How much can teachers advice, how many times a child must waste a teacher’s time? In a week a principal spends on average dozen hours, sometimes with teachers too, in sitting a court house to make judgements. How many students can school Counsellor counsel if everything student misbehavior and failure must be referred to him. The support of parents and superiors, of relevant agencies have become critical to ensure teachers spent more instructional time.


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Published December 30, 2021 by with 0 comment

SOME WAYS PRINCIPALS MUST CHANGE

If I am asked, what are some critical things that must change about principal’s leadership for the new vision Bhutan First, I suggest us these:

1. Become a powerful speaker

Power of speech, with clarity, depth and wisdom makes a lot of difference in inspiring others. Our inability to be eloquent, distorted with aah, and-da, that-ta, but-ta, etc proves our inadequacy and hesitancy. 

This can be improved by lots of reading and practice in speaking. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of USA, was born to a farmer, but grew up reading every book he could find. He was one of the powerful orators of his time and a indomitable leader.

2. Keep a common touch

Principal is a title that defines leadership in a school. It is not a position of power. We must treat both teachers and support staff as colleagues, while playing out roles of guide, facilitator and leader. It is important to understand that people must be led with firmness and understanding than with arrogance and autocracy. Our success will depend on how we well we can motivate and manage rapport with others.

3. Avoid domineering habits

A wise leader will manage any differences, short comings and challenges with calmness and quiet reticence than by yelling and blaming. Demonstrating hatred and anger to teachers and support staff may appear to make people obedient when in fact, their displeasure will demotivate them to work with enthusiasm and happiness. Lack of happiness within a system cause burnouts and this will be visible in the happiness of those who celebrate their transfer from that place.

4. Walk the corridors and corners 

When principal frequent the corridors, campus and others places like offices, store and kitchen, when he visits dorms and toilets, he understands what needs to be done where. When principal in present where his staff work amd become part of them, he will learn to help and appreciate their efforts.

Principal’s position of authority is not merely defined by how long he sit in office, how many papers he signs and what directions he gives, but by how visible he is to others at their workspaces. 

We can take this example from our beloved King who walks the valleys amd hills, towns and offices to learn the lives he is king for.

5. Acknowledge and gratify small things

A success of an organisation is a cumulative contribution from everyone and everything people do. A principal must appreciate and acknowledge students and staff when they contribute  in little ways, for effort and even attitude. When small efforts are honoured and thanked, people begin to learn faster, change better and contribute more. Gratification can be words, a pat, a token, a certificate and recognition to show appreciation. 

When we draw on the failures of students and staff, naming and shaming the hiccups, people become demotivated and displeased. 

6. Show empathy with fairness

Everyone looks at the leader as source of support and strength, guide and hope, when they face difficulties and discomforting situations. While there are rules of work, a leader must be able to demonstrate empathy and provide help with fairness. A principal must not differentiate between support staff and a teacher, between sweeper and a teacher. The more lowly their job, the more we must understand them, support and guide, without being lenient and gullible.

When a student or staff is facing painful situations, we must be able to reach out, represent or be present as a family. We must be able to cross borders, without disparity, disregard and divisions. School is a family, and when family needs helps, everyone must be able to help.

7. Make your office their home

An office of a leader must be a home to find solution with ease. It must never be a place where people have to enter with fear, bracing for harsh words, unsure what will their fate be, even for usual works. A principal must be a teacher, someone everyone turn to for answer and solace, a place where a role model by thought, speech and action resides. Everyone feel a sense of psychological safety, feeling free and respectful to share work dilemmas and personal issues. A warm and lively culture of school begins from principal’s office.

8. Work as a team

An organisation fails when team fails, and accomplishes as a team too. A leader’s responsibility is to manage his people as a team. A herd accountability is what drives performance at work. A principal’s primary responsibility is to manage how his people work, how he optimizes on everybody’s strengths and time. We must never disregard anyone for what they cannot do, as each will have their strength. A wise leader will always honour individuals for their strengths and services. He will attribute all achievements to the whole and failure upon himself.

9. Help your team grow

One of the best resource in school is the skill and knowledge of teacher. Principal must be able to raise awareness, skill and aptitude of his staff through talks, guidance, training and other opportunities. Our ability to motivate each member to learn, experience and grow contributes to transforming school culture to a vibrant system.

The growth of soft skills has more profound and everlasting impact on student learning and behaviour change than by infrastructural growth. The richness of school library has no use unless principal can inspire everyone to read, a variety of chemical amd equipments in science lab is a failed showcase of principal do not drive teachers to utilize and experiment.

10. There are many things I must improve to become a specimen as a leader. For the coming year, I shall tap into students’ strengths and teachers’ potential, and look more at how and what I must grow most about myself .

What others things you think our principals must grown on??

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Friday, December 24, 2021

Published December 24, 2021 by with 0 comment

TALKS IN THE CONFINES OF OUR HOMES

This is a personal opinion, but this is a fact some can never deny, and they will walk with pride and celebrate the road taken, but there will be guilt that cannot be talked.  

I don’t intend to harm how people I know have lived and served and accomplished, I intend to plant a sense of accountability His Majesty called for in my small ways, as always.

When we have written DSA for service we in fact did not provide, had we demonstrated integrity and accountability the National Day Speech brought to light by His Majesty The King? 

When we got promoted to P-1 position and higher with research paper we actually didn’t write, were we accountable as a leader of example, even when we don’t have papers read or written in decades? 

 When we left office before time and took leave to play archery instead of serving people who came for services, was that a display of responsibility and accountability we so much talk about only?
His majesty is stark aware about what every Bhutanese talks about at our homes and bar, at a gathering and on a walk, telling us that His concerns are “ part of daily conversation among our people while expressing their concerns, hopes and aspirations.” 

In these conversations we talk about policies and leadership, service delivery, quality, fairness, integrity and accountability. We talk about our authorities, about parliamentarians, about people in authorities, about the powerful and rich, about the crooked and the caring, about those who deliver services, from the common to the corridors of the elite. 


 If it is for schools, teachers talks about principals, sharing displeasure that they cannot stand to voice before him. When he is around, all things are praises and compliance. Principals talk about education officers and others who matter to our work life, pouring aspiration how things must be delivered, leadership must be exemplified and matters must be understood. But these are conversations in the confines of our telegram, WhatsApp and walls. 

 Even if the common cries are heard, even if those who can make people’s lives better deny to change in how they deliver, if they talk and serve in the ways they have for decades proving their pride on years and experiences, the future everyone expects will remain as common conversations. 

It is time that we are accountable to what we do and who we are. While our small community may limit us to raise voices and be responsible without fear or favour, there should be a beginning from where our way of service is toughened with fairness and justice. 

 His Majesty the King touched the very essence of our aspirations, that “Accountability must henceforth become the cornerstone of governance.” This is a Royal call for leaders like you and me. The higher our roles, greater our accountability has become. 

 If we account to good things that happen because we worked, we must also be accountable to lesser things that need to change. Thus, I am accountable to every success and failure of every individual I work with, and to every services we work together. I am accountable to the foot prints on the carpet, I am accountable to footprints I make on my students moral conduct. I am accountable to a truant student who disappeared from class, I am accountable to a student who becomes brazen as a military officer. I am accountable to lateness of my teacher, I am accountable to outstanding performance of another. Perhaps, I am accountable to failure of those around me. 

 “We must not hesitate to expose those who engage in corrupt practices, so that we send a strong signal to deter others from doing so.” His Majesty The King was clear on how we must begin to correct our organisational machinery, our society and individuals. 
This year, thousand of students failed as a result of increase in pass marks and change is assessment criteria. This has been felt painful by teachers and parents, and we are unable to remain strong. Teachers worry about repercussions on their performance rating more than about celebrating this change we all talked about declining quality of education. 

 We have lived within minimal challenges in our life, cared for and served well through our schools and career life. Complacency has become synonymous with compassionate service. Our life, our happiness is a promise from the morning we rise. Any change in system and ways of work that tends to create challenge becomes painful, and to overcome pain, we are compelled to seek ways to create happier circumstances. 

 The call of the nation to adapt to the future must begin from the attitudes of our people. We have talked about how everyone need to change their work mindset, how everyone must be as professional as possible by the theories we learnt. People have traveled overseas to learn and experience, people have read and been trained and provided skills to be good leader and servant to the organisation. 

We have heard our beloved Kings for decades, amd quoted the golden words, yet we have barely changed in our own ways. The sovereignty and security of our country begins from our behaviour as a citizen, and more so as a leader. If we still think “I know, I have experience,” and that “ This is my way of doing things. I have always had good intentions,” we have not begun to change. 

Let us know that, behaviours can change, and it begins the moment we accept that ‘I must change’ for the welfare of those I serve. This shift from I am, mine and my need to Bhutan First will make a huge difference in how we communicate, deliver and live. There is in fact no greater fulfillment than in balancing well our personal lives to the life we live as servant to the nation we so much hold pride. This is a reflection for my own change than for anyone. I learn about what I must not be by drawing out what fracture I see and hear in our homes too!
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