Eighteen years ago, a nine years old boy was admitted to community school by his then fourteen years old sister. Barefoot, shirtless, pant-less with only second-hand gho wrapped around, the boy had to walk for hours to get to the semi-permanent school run by headmaster whose qualification was less than matriculation and taught by temporary teachers mainly class ten students from Mongar High School. Some of them would keep us upside with legs leaning on the wall. Of all brutal punishments, the one punishment that rushed to fore of my memory was incident where we are asked who did we love. On refusal, the temporary teacher would make us jump from staked bench, almost up from the class room beams to floor. The landing would give painful vibration on legs later while walking home. This story was set in 1994 in a remote village called Jurmey under Mongar.
A year earlier, the boy was projected to be a named gomchen just like his grandfather who died attending death and life rituals of villagers. But death lord had a premeditated plan for grandfather and fate had its own design for grandson. Thus, when grandfather left for mysterious land leaving his body near unsuspecting grandson, the joy of pampered grandson was forever snatched. Instead, another life, the life of struggle for survival was thrust against eight years old weakling.
The lachrymose boy had to run every morning to school. Half way on the way, the boy would throw handful of water on his face as a mark of face wash. When teachers checked cleanliness during morning assembly, the boy would tremble because often his calves had to be teachers beating ground. Since then, the boy had traveled a lot with education on good terms barring on one expulsion from the school.
What made the experience most beautiful to the boy was fact that he was able to weather the hardships by doing odd strenuous jobs during winter and summer vacation every year. As the boy looked back at high school years, he was happy to know that he didn’t give up despite the facts he had to wear worn shoes, had no change of cloth, had to pick up lice from dirty pants in the afternoon hiding in the bush and had to wait till washed cloths die as boy had no spare cloths.
The completion of graduation was most important achievement boy would ever hope to achieve as the main door to opportunities as well as challenge just opened. The boy would today take sometimes to own a cheap car. The boy may not own an expensive car at all but for him, journey from lice infested shoeless boy to man working with computer and nice comfy chair was a journey, true journey that his rich colleague would never dare and hope to tread. After all, the achievement of life is in journey not in destination.
I am happy that I am that boy today.