I must have been little more than 9-years-old and I was still recovering from the painful experience of having lost my sight. As a visually impaired child, I had been busy finding ways to adapt myself to the new environment which I had lived in only at nights. But as days piled up into weeks and then to months, I slowly began to find some comfort in my new world. My life started rolling back to normalcy as children of my age in the neighborhood resumed to play with me although I was never the same person who had played with them before. It was in Trashila in Wangdue Phodrang where we had to travel on a cable-box from Chhu Zomsa. My father was working for a company which produced charcoal. Most of the people working there were from our village in Chengmari, Samtse and hence, we lived as a small community.
It was during this time when I first got to meet Sobita, a sweet innocent girl who always chose to play with me. Most of the time, we stayed together playing and making fun of each other. I think she was either of my age or bit younger but she was very obedient to her mother and often helped her in the kitchen. I still remember irritating her one day by pulling her back from her shoulders as if to pin her down when she was busy peeling off potatoes, but as usual, she didn’t mind. Likewise, I would often tease her and play with her. I was good at telling interesting stories told by my father and she and her elder sister used to be my regular audience.
One day while playing in her house as husband and wife, my father had seen us sleeping together. Since then, he started teasing me with her and it soon became a mouthpiece of every other elder people in the neighborhood. Perhaps due to such constant teasing, I soon began to develop more attachment with her. Although it could be an infatuated love, I gradually began to miss her and kept visiting her house regularly since I was familiar with the whole surroundings by then. We would often catch up in different places and spend time together talking about all sorts of things, cracking jokes and telling folktales I had heard from my father and other elderly people in the village.
There was a very kind woman, a wife of a tractor driver, who loved me so much perhaps because I was blind and she would often invite me to her house for a meal or come to me with a plateful of rice and delicious curry. Many a time, I remember bringing those food all the way home and sharing it with Sobita. I can’t still believe how mature I seemed at that age because I would often fake that I was not hungry and let her eat the entire quantity of food although I used to be hungry. Although we were very young and innocent, I think both of us loved each other very much.
Soon, my father told me that my time to leave for my school in Khaling was approaching and that I would be studying with other blind children in a couple of months. Not being able to imagine the pain of having to leave my little sweetheart behind, I requested my father if Sobita and I could be engaged because after all, we were from the same village. I still find it funny to think why and how did I dare to suggest this to my father even at such a tender age. But fortunately, my father agreed to consult with Sobita’s parents once.
I and my father finally went to Sobita’s house and my father talked to her parents. Her father did not say anything but her mother told us very nicely that since we were still kids, it wouldn’t be right for them to decide our future at that time. She advised us that if we wish to live together when we grew up, they won’t have any objection to our marriage. Satisfied with her explanations, we came back home hoping that future would patiently wait for us. Sadly, the count-down for my stay at Trashila soon began as my father’s transfer to Paro as Cook for a survey team got confirmed. I still remember Sobita and me spending the last few days of my stay at Trashila together, confessing our love for each other and weaving crazy future plans for ourselves. I promised to meet her in the village sometime in the future. She was already emotional.
Finally, it was time for me to leave. I and my father woke up early in the morning, preparing for our journey. Soon, Sobita and her elder sister showed up at my house. Sobita offered to help me carry a small bag and escort me to the cable-car station. As we walked together towards the station, she became more emotional and started sobbing softly. “Please don’t cry”, I told her, promising that I would send her a beautiful saree after I reach my school. I had really meant it at that time and I guess she believed me. She forced herself to stop her tears as I climbed into the wooden box that hung from the four-row cables above. That was the traditional cable-car which would get us to Chhu Zomsa. My father further consoled her as she stepped back from us to let us go. As the box started to move, my sweet Sobita gradually disappeared into the distance, never to be seen again. I could never keep my promise.
In the winter of 1999, I had heard that she was in the village helping her parents and that she was still single. That was the last time I had ever heard about her. When I just look back from now, sometimes I feel I was stupid but I also feel it’s something to be cherished. Although we have now been separated by more than 25 years of gap, I still hold in my head the sweet memories of those innocent childhood days when our paths briefly crossed. Whatever it may be, Sobita was the first girl to walk into my life although it could be a puppy-love.