My Worldview Then and Now – Accounts of my first travel to the Capital

I was preparing to leave for my village, Drepung from Gyalposhing when a young man in white gho came to my aunt’s place. I have to report to Gyalposhing Higher Secondary School (GHSS), my alma mater, immediately. On reaching the school, I was told that I have to reach Thimphu not later than 18 February 2009 for I am required to report to the Office on 19 February 2009. The day was Monday, 16 February 2009. I had exactly two days, travelling time required for a scheduled bus. In the afternoon, after collecting my luggage from home, I returned Gyalposhing. Meanwhile, Apa and brother-in-law (cousin’s husband), working at Thridangbi had also arrived at aunt’s place primarily to manage money for my travel. By then, little money I have earned from my month-long work at Gyalposhing-Nganglam highway have already been spent. My uncle, working as a technician at Kurichu Hydro Power Corporation Limited has arranged a lift for me the following day in one of his supervisors’ duty vehicle who would be leaving for Thimphu to attend an official meeting. We will be leaving at 0500HRS the following morning, I was told.  

Amid excitement and anxiety, we went to my uncle’s supervisor’s place. He cannot accommodate me in his vehicle as his relatives will be travelling with him. Frustrated but helpless, uncle dropped me till Lingmethang where I got lift in M/S DSB’s delivery vehicle. Apa and in-law came till Thridangbi, their work place. My cousin, working at Trongsa fitting electrical poles would help me get a seat in a Bus travelling to Thimphu. And I would put up at another cousin’s place once I reach Thimphu.  

Within my family circle, I am known for being timid, very timid. Starting a conversation including enquiring certain information of places and directions was unfathomable. For the first time traveler, I kept myself updated of the places reached by following signboards and parapets alongside the road. DSB’s delivery vehicle has got stationeries to be delivered in schools in Bumthang. I will have to manage, rather find a vehicle travelling to Trongsa to put up for a night at my cousin’s place. I could have stayed at Chamkhar, Bumthang for a night and catch a bus the next day. It was not a straightforward decision. There was no certainty that I will get a seat as February being peak month for students to report to their respective schools. More pertinent, travelling outside my native district, Mongar for the first time imposed in me a feeling of insecurity and uncertainty. I wanted to feel at home with whom I can associate with, at the earliest. I was already nineteen then. I reserved a cab for Nu. 1,000.00 to reach me to Trongsa. Cousin told it was an exorbitant fare. It was also first time experience in a cab. Although I have travelled to Drametse from Kidheykhar (Kilikhar), Mongar to pursue my lower secondary education (Classes VII & VIII) in vehicles, we (students from my village) would travel by trucks, tippers or DCM. Local Bus between Mongar and Trashigang was the best deal but would require us to look for lift for another 19 kilometers (some 32 turnings) up to Drametse Lower Secondary School from Thungdari popularly known as Zero Point. Otherwise, we will have to walk uphill for not less than 2 hours.

The winter night at Trongsa was refreshingly cool. The following morning, we requested the driver of the Bus travelling from Mongar to Thimphu to accommodate me. Had not it been for my cousin’s friend who was a close friend of the driver, I would have been compelled to look out for alternatives. Understandably, the Bus was fully packed. I had to sit on my own luggage for entire travel. At least, I would be able to reach Thimphu on time within my financial capacity. I had regular contact throughout the day with cousin who would be my host once in Thimphu and kept him informed of where I reached (signboards and parapets my reference points). We stopped for lunch at around 1300HRS. The place as indicated on the signboard of the restaurant read, ‘Bemilo (local oral tradition (kha gyud) has it that the place was named ‘bum med lo’ by Choje Dukpa Kunley since he did not find any girls/women there), Wangdue Phodrang. I found it easier to identify with the name of the Dzongkhag than the specific place. I told cousin we reached Wangdue Phodrang. In subsequent years, as I traveled to and fro, I came to know and realize that Bumilo is located right across the border between Trongsa and Wangdue Phodrang and one would take at least two hours to reach proper Wangdue.  

Cousin must have taken into account the travelling time between Wangdue Phodrang (the site the Dzong stands) and Thimphu. He was waiting for me at Simtokha as early as 1600HRS. The Bus I travelled, M/S Dhug Transport encountered frequent failures in its parts the specifics of which I do not know even today. We had to stop not less than three times until we reached Lobesa for maintenance. It was already 1800HRS. Cousin told me to come by a cab but I could not dare to call a premature separation with the Bus having accommodated me when I saw no viable options. The Bus would make another stop at Hongtsho for tea and snacks. It was half past 2100HRS when I met my cousin at Simtokha. We headed to his place at Gidakom in his colleagues car. It was a tiring day but the promise of the following day kept me energized.

Another cousin accompanied me to the Office on 19 February 2009 only to learn that the said appointment is deferred and we will be informed on the next possible date. There was a call on 20 February 2009 that I should report to the Office the next day. It was a moment undreamt of and even after knowing my result of Bhutan Higher Secondary Education Certificate (BHSEC) on 29 January 2009, I did not know that I secured second position in BHSEC 2008 Arts Stream until I was informed by the Vice Principal of GHSS on 16 February.  That was my world – isolated and disconnected. And my travel was on the command of the Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpoen (the Chamberlain to the King). Even in my wildest of dreams and imaginations, I did not see that coming – to receive an audience of His Majesty the King on His Majesty’s Birth Anniversary at Lingkana Palace. To fourteen of us, His Majesty emphasized the importance of human resource (potential) of us Bhutanese in securing Bhutan’s security and sovereignty.  

Today as I look back considering my roots, I see I have come a long way: there is a world beyond Drepung and Mongar, and earth moves around the sun not vice versa. Struggles undergone and sacrifices made by my ever enduring illiterate agrarian parents, backing of kith and kin, support of friends and guidance of teachers made these possible. As I strive for greater heights, I always make an effort to remind myself that spending nights on hides with few worn out clothes to put on top were not as pleasant as I find it to recollect and make it public. That is my life’s hitherto journey and it shall have its own course!  

Dechen Rabgyal

I am from Drepung, Mongar, Bhutan.

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2 Responses

  1. Sonam Jamtsho says:

    Interesting to go though your journey to the capital.
    Indeed blessed to have you from my village.
    I too come from Drepung. I have come to know you through Facebook.

  2. Sonam Tobgay says:

    With your great piece I call it a day.
    Good read Dechen and keep writing

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