Since 1991, the integrated education policy was introduced in Khaling to help the visually impaired children cope with sighted people in the same learning environment. This was initiated to enable the blind children to develop relevant skills and abilities to live an independent life by interacting with sighted children. As a result of this policy, we were required to attend classes in regular schools at least three days a week. I was studying in grade II when this policy came into effect. So, I went to Khaling Primary School thrice a week to study with other sighted children. It was during this time when I first met a girl called Sonam Dema. We soon became close friends as she happened to be a relative of one of my senior friends. We soon came to the end of the academic year but once again met in grade III in the following year.
In 1992, we were fully integrated into the regular schools and I had to attend classes in Khaling Primary School for the entire week. That gave me more opportunities to interact with Sonam. We soon began sharing eatables and other things. Although I was only 12-years-old, I think I was quite mature in romance. I knew I was in love with this girl but could never let her know about it. I think she also had some soft-corner for me because I could make that out from the way she behaved with me and treated me. She was sitting behind me in the classroom and while the classes were going on, she would often pull my gho (dress) from under the desk and when I took my hand there, she would give me something to eat. I used to get so excited and happy whenever she was around. The intervals and lunch-breaks were the most awaited moments of joy and fun. At that time, she was the main factor that motivated me to go to school and participate actively in the class. Whatever I did, I always tried to do something that would impress her. Although I didn’t have money or anything that could be shared, I always tried to talk nice to her and remained very decent. My friend knew about this seemingly secret affair and once reported it to a teacher but I could cover it up saying she was only my friend, and the teacher did not seem to care much because after all, we were just kids. Although some friends kept teasing us, we continued as good friends.
However, one day while chatting together in the classroom during the interval, she told me she needed a geometry box since she had lost hers. She didn’t ask me to buy one for her but I really wished if I could get one for her. I thought that would be the best opportunity for me to prove my love for her. But the saddest thing was that I didn’t have even a single penny with me. I kept thinking about this for a few more days. Suddenly I realized that Dashain was round the corner and hoped that some Lhotsham teachers might invite me for Tika ritual during which money with flowers would be given as a symbol of blessings and good wishes. For me, that was the only viable option at that time. As days passed by, I kept praying for my dream to come true.
Soon, Dashain came and I was more excited as I waited in anticipation for at least some of my teachers to invite me. To my surprise, I and a few other Lhotsham students were invited by our teachers: Sir Shriman and his wife Madam Kumari. I was extremely excited and glad to get the invitation. But my worry still remained a bit: will the money I was going to get be enough to buy a geometry box? We were soon inside our teachers’ house, ready to receive Tika from our Gurus. After blessing us with Tika, we were handed a neatly folded paper and a piece of flower each. I knew there was money inside the folded paper but did not know how much was there. I was hurried to get out of the house and know how much money I had got. After finishing eating whatever we were offered, we left for our hostel.
I soon learned from one of my friends who could see a little that I had got Nu.15 in total. I instantly requested him to accompany me to Khaling market to look for a geometry box. He demanded that he would help me only if I buy him something to eat. I agreed to his demand on the condition that if the cost of the geometry box was less than Nu.15. The we went to Khaling bazaar looking for a nice geometry box. Soon we found it in one of the shops but sadly, it was costing Nu.15 exactly. I made the payment and got the box but my friend was very disappointed. He got angry with me that I did not buy him anything. I begged his pardon for that and returned to the hostel.
The next ordeal was how to hand the geometry box over to the girl. I carried it with me everyday to school but could not get the guts to give it to Sonam for about a week. Finally while coming out of the classroom during one of the intervals, I found her at her desk alone humming a song. With certain kind of nervousness, I called her name and gave her the geometry box. I immediately rushed out of the classroom to avoid further enquiries from her. I felt so relieved that I could ultimately fulfill my dream. When we met later, she thanked me for the gift and I felt so happy that she liked it. That was the first gift I ever gave to a girl.
At the end of the year, I got double-promotion to grade V while she decided to go to Phuntsholing to continue her studies. Unfortunately, she had failed in grade IV in Phuntsholing and when she returned to Khaling to study in grade V in 1995, I was in grade VII in Jigme Sherubling High School. It was during this time that I finally sent a letter to her formally confessing my love for her. But to my disappointment, I did not get her response. We remained in silence for three more years. Then when I was in grade X, she had sent me a letter apologizing for not responding to my letter sent to her three years before. Based on my friend’s advice, I accepted her apology and once again, our love story began. But as months passed by, I realized that things were not going right between us. I figured out that she had been cheating on me with some other guys. After collecting enough evidences, I gave up on her. Our story finally ended in December 1998 with the final New Year greeting card from her. I could not even return her my wishes for the New Year because I was really hurt that I was betrayed and deceived. She might have not even known the reason for my gradual withdrawal from her life because I never told her why I was upset with her. Looking back to those days from now, it looks funny but that is part of youthful school life.