It was June 1999 and I was volunteering at Muenselling Institute in Khaling as a temporary teacher. We had done our class X exams (ICSC) in March and I had volunteered to stay back at the Institute to serve as a temporary teacher while awaiting the academic results. The results were finally declared in May 1999 but sadly we the visually impaired students were left out in the list. Although I was confident that I would qualify for class XI, I had wanted to come to Thimphu to find out why our results were withheld. The new academic sessions for class XI were due to commence from July and with every passing day, I began to get more worried about my future. But to my delight, I heard that the Vice-principal of the Institute, Sir Shriman Gurung was planning to go to Thimphu in the Institute’s vehicle to settle the annual accounts of the Institute and I immediately decided to jump at the opportunity. I discussed this option with my friend Leki Chedup who had completed class XII and who was also working as a temporary teacher with me in the Institute. Since he was one of my best friends in school, I always sought his opinions whenever I had to make important decisions and he helped me a lot. When I told him about my plan, he flatly rejected my idea and advised me to inform the Principal of Khaling Higher Secondary School and wait for the results to come through, instead of travelling all the way to and from Thimphu unnecessarily wasting money. Yes, after all, he was right. I didn’t have money to meet my travel expenses and I decided to stay back. I went to see the Principal of Khaling Higher Secondary School and requested him to reserve my admission convincing him that I would definitely qualify for class XI. I was happy that he agreed to admit me as long as I fulfilled the admission criteria. Leki soon left for Thimphu to explore some training/employment opportunities since he had completed class XII.
Meanwhile, the Vice-principal of Muenselling Institute, Sir Shriman Gurung and the school driver left for Thimphu to settle the Institute’s accounts. They were to return in a couple of weeks. Then July crept in and class XI students started reporting to school for admission but I still did not have my results with me. Nevertheless, I also went to the school on the admission day but the Assistant Principal who was registering the students refused to accept me without my results. I went to see the Principal and only then I knew my results had finally come. The Principal congratulated me and informed me that I had comfortably qualified for class XI. I got instantly admitted. Even one of my friends had also qualified and I immediately called him to inform him. He too joined me in a couple of days. Only then we learned that our results were withheld because those invigilators who packed our answer-sheets had accidentally mixed them up with printed answer-sheets and that the evaluators in New Delhi discovered our braille answer-sheets only at last. So they had to send them for transcription and by the time, they came back for evaluation, it was late.
Then 18th July came. It was like any other day. I went to school during the day, had a few classes and came back to Muenselling Institute where we used to stay. As I had volunteered as a teacher for three months, I still had the privilege of eating in the kitchen and hence, I was having my dinner in the kitchen while others were having it in the dining hall. Suddenly, the female cook of the Institute came running from the dining hall almost crying. She told me that the Institute’s vehicle had met with an accident near Melong Brag on the Khaling-Samdrup Jongkhar highway and that the driver and two other people were killed. The atmosphere instantly ran cold and everybody trembled with shock. Soon we learned that those killed were the Institute’s driver, a class XII passed student of Sherubtse who had taken lift from Thimphu, and a class II student of the Institute who had hitched a ride with his younger brother who was also a student of the same Institute, on their way back from summer vacation. The class II student had travelled only about 12 kilometers from Narfung before the car they were travelling in veered off the road and crashed into the deep ravine below. Sir Shriman Gurung was thrown out of the window when the car toppled and hit a shelf on the cliff, causing critical injury to his spinal cord. He survived the accident although he suffered multiple physical and spinal injuries. Tshering Dorji, the younger brother of the class II student rolled with the car till the bottom of the cliff, but he also survived with fractured limbs. Both the survivors were evacuated 24 hours after the tragic accident and rushed to the hospital where they recovered in a couple of months. This tragedy left three people dead out of five.
My friend Leki later told me that he was in Chukha when he heard the news on BBS radio. He said he thought the second student killed was me thinking I might have come to Thimphu despite his advice. He said he was silently disappointed with me that I had not listened to his advice. But back in Khaling, I was safe and sound all because of him. I finally realized that it was he who saved me. Had he not advised me not to travel to Thimphu, I would have surely requested the school authorities to give me lift to and from Thimphu as it would be free of cost. So I owe my friend special gratitude for saving me from such a tragic fate. Looking back from now, I feel God had really talked to me through my friend.