Before I went to school, I think I was a spoiled child. Perhaps because I was the only surviving child from my late mother, my father loved me too much during my childhood. As a result, he hardly cared what I did. He used to smoke biri at the time and often there used to be biri-butts in the pockets of his trousers. Out of curiosity, I tried to smoke one of them one day. But the moment I started inhaling the dark smoke, it drove me crazy. I began to puke uncontrollably. That was the first and the last time I ever tried to smoke. I could never appreciate it.
However, my elder half-sister succeeded in training me to chew tobacco. Although it was not easy at the beginning, the feeling of giddiness and nausea gradually began to disappear as I went on using it for weeks and months. By the time my sister died, I had already become addicted to tobacco. That was when we were in Tashi La in Wangdue Phodrang. Then after we moved to Paro where my father had got a job as a cook for a land-survey team, I switched over to the branded tobacco called “Golden”. Although the survey staff would tell me that it was not a good habit, I would manage to convince my father to secretly get me at least a dozen of packets every weekend. The tobacco gradually burned my gums and damaged my teeth-roots but still I could not stop it. That was even before I had gone to school. The staff would try to scare me that my teachers would punish me when I go to school but I would tell them that I would stop it the moment I reach the school.
As I had promised, I completely gave up on tobacco the moment I started my journey to my school in Khaling from Paro in April 1990. I had no more craving because I was well convinced that tobacco was not allowed in the school. But the funniest thing was that I had reached my school with a bag full of dried areca nuts which were equally prohibited in the school. However, the moment I learned that it was not allowed in the school, I threw it away. For the first time in a couple of years, I once again became clean and self-disciplined. I could easily shed off all my bad habits at once just because I had so much respect and faith in my teachers and the school. Whatever my teachers taught me, I would try to practice it. Apart from what was written in the textbooks, my teachers also taught me many lessons that helped me shape my life as a whole. Most importantly, I would absorb whatever written in the textbooks and try to put it to practice instantly.
Although I had never taken alcohol in my life apart from occasionally sharing the residues of fried eggs from my father’s cup during my childhood, my conviction that alcohol is not good grew stronger when I reached class 7. A chapter in the Dzongkha textbook that talked about the harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco spiritually was enough to make me shy away from such substances further off. The statement of Lord Buddha that roughly translates into: “Those who drink alcohol are not my disciples and I am not their teacher” rang in my ears for a long time.
Until I reached class 8, I used to occasionally take areca nuts especially during the cold weather, but a single lesson on the harmful effects of areca nuts and lime during a biology class was enough to convince me that I should stop it instantly. Then when I reached class 9, the Dzongkha textbook: Gyalse Laglen convinced me how all the animals are our parents and that we should treat them with unconditional love and compassion. Soon, I decided to quit meat. I became a vegetarian despite all the challenges I had to face as the only vegetarian in Muenselling Institute. Although we were studying in Jigme Sherubling Higher Secondary School, we were staying in the hostels of Muenselling Institute and attended the regular morning and evening extra-curricular activities in the Institute. I would not have an alternative vegetarian curry when the meat was served and I often had to swallow my food with the help of salt and pickles. Even then, I could last as a vegetarian for three years until I had to eventually fall back to my earlier diet since I thought I could no longer deal with the inconveniences. However, what I had learned in Gyalse Laglen continued to haunt me every time I ate meat. So finally in 2011, I decided to go vegetarian for the last time, promising never to turn back again.
I am no longer a student now, but the lessons I have learned from the textbooks during my school days continue to guide my way of life even to this day. If we can absorb and practice every little knowledge we get from the prescribed textbooks in the school, I am sure we don’t have to look anywhere else for transformation. The textbooks are not meant only to be studied to pass exams. They have the potential to transform our lives if we know how to imbibe the knowledge they carry. My 8-year-old son has learned to wash his hands before eating and to cross the roads only via Zebra-crossings from his textbooks. We would definitely become a good human being if we let whatever we have learned in the school to guide us in our daily life.