If poverty ever grooms a person to become a good leader as many politicians who have come through this experience claim today, then I feel I should be one of the best leaders in the world. Born in the family of a landless peasant in a remote community, I have got the real taste of what is it like to be ‘poor’, in the actual sense of the word. As early as I can remember, we were living on somebody else’s land, cultivating their farmland and dividing the harvests in mutually agreed proportions. Nevertheless, I was too young to feel the pain my parents were going through in ensuring that we didn’t starve to death.
The village of Dipu Jhora (present-day Damzhagsa) under Chengmari Gewog in Samtse was indeed lively with a beautiful natural landscape. Surrounded by green forests aligned with a beautiful stream Sibo Khola running along the edge of the valley, Nature had given us almost everything we needed although we were very poor. The wild potatoes, wild vegetables and wild fruits were plenty in the jungles and my dad would often go to harvest them whenever we didn’t have anything to eat at home. Apart from whatever little shares we got from seasonal farming, the major supply of our food came from the wild. So, I am thankful to Mother Nature for blessing us with such wonderful gifts of life. Without such alternatives, I am sure we would have starved. I feel we survived like refugees in a village where we didn’t have anything to claim as our own. There were times when we even had to sleep without meals. I still remember one evening when my dad had gone to attend a religious ritual somewhere, my mom (my step-mom) cooked a few cobs of premature corn (the maize plants were just in their blooming stage) and served us the soup for dinner. It was sweet but no grains at all. At times, we survived on porridge and wild products.
I was wondering how we came to Dipu Jhora in the first place. I was curious of my ancestral route. So when I grew up, I asked my dad about this whole journey. I have learned from him that he was originally from Denchuka in Dorokha under Samtse Dzongkhag. I don’t know for what reason he decided to leave his ancestral home in Denchuka and move to Chengmari which was not my mother’s village either. My mother was from Pugli in Gomtu and literarily there wasn’t anything that connected us to Chengmari. With my dad’s migration to Chengmari, we have lost our share of the ancestral property in Denchuka which was left to only one uncle (my dad’s elder brother). My dad had told me while he was alive that the small orange orchard which we looked after in Chengmari was ours own. But after he got partially paralyzed on the left-side of his body in November 1990, we started living with my uncle (my dad’s youngest brother) in Samtse and we never went back to our village since then. So in 2011, I went to my village to confirm if that orchard really belongs to us. I was told that my dad’s friend who was popularly called Pipli Maila was taking care of the orchard and I and my uncle went to his place to discuss how I could claim it now. But when we reached there, he told me the whole story about the orchard and my dad’s early days. I knew that Pipli Maila was his village-mate from Denchuka and that he had migrated much earlier than my dad. I think my dad could have actually followed him to Chengmari. He told me that my dad initially had come empty-handed and that he let him share his house. So, they lived together for some years. The orchard was gifted to my dad by a village man who moved to India and settled there. When the surveyors came, they surveyed the orchard in my dad’s name but when he was required to pay Nu.10.50 for the separate Thram, he couldn’t afford it and decided to merge it with that of Pipli Maila. Since then, my dad had never helped him even pay the tax and I was told that all the receipts for the tax he has paid for the orchard so far bear his name only. So, even the small hope of getting the orchard vanished into the thin air. With a great disappointment, I had to leave what was supposed to be my lovely village. Today, I feel I am nowhere. I have a Thram number which I can use it for official documents but I have no land associated with the Thram number. I have a house number but I have no house. I don’t even know where that Thram plot is. I have tried to locate it a couple of times but it seems it isn’t even in my dad’s name and now nobody knows where it is. The Land Commission record shows that it has not been even surveyed because of unresolved issues but I don’t even know what issues are there. It’s reflected that the Thram owner is Kumar Ghaley who is not at all related to us and I don’t even know who he is. Now with my hard-earned money, I am trying to buy a few plots, which will be the only asset I would be leaving behind for my children in the name of ancestral property. I feel I am taking the whole responsibility of creating the ancestral heritage for my descendants because I haven’t physically inherited anything from my ancestors. I don’t want my kids to suffer like me. At least I am glad that my dad has given me education because of which I feel I will be able to rebuild my generation now.