The painful realities of life in Thimphu

Panoramic view of Thimphu City. Image source: www.visitcity.com

As the Capital City of Bhutan, Thimphu has been undergoing a major transformation over the years with numerous developmental activities coming up in all corners. With various modern facilities and infrastructures in place, the city has been considered a safe haven for thousands of Bhutanese people who come here for education, employment and business. However, with the rising cases of senseless murder, burglary and robbery over the recent years, I think Thimphu is now losing the glory of its past. There are many people who no longer feel safe here today.

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She is a homemaker, not a housewife

Photo of my wife Amrita Rai with River Swan at the background. Image shot in Perth, Western Australia in 2013

When people ask me about my wife’s profession, I just tell them that she is a homemaker because she is the one who actually transforms my house into a beautiful home. As one of my lecturers had once said when I was in college, there is a huge difference between a house and a home. A house is only a physical structure whereas a home is where we get absolute comfort, warmth and happiness. Considering the amount of sacrifices she makes every day at home, I think the term ‘housewife’ does not fully define her role. Whenever we hear someone say that his wife or mother is a housewife, the general impression we get is that she is jobless and stays at home idly. But if our wife or mother who stays at home were to prepare her Individual Work Plans to show us what she does every day, I think she would have more responsibilities than most of us who go to office.

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The price children pay for their parents’ divorce

Last night, I was browsing through Thimphu Confession Page on Facebook and I was very sad to find so many people sharing their painful experiences of being the innocent victims of domestic violence and broken families. Some of the stories even brought tears to my eyes. I had not realized that the hostility between the separated parents could go even beyond their boundaries to torture their children. I have copied two stories testifying how painful it is to be deprived of the opportunity to grow up with both the parents and siblings.

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Breaking the wall within the family

Photo of my family

My wife is illiterate and looks innocent but sometimes she can really think out of the box and tiptoe far into the future. Realizing how disability can create barriers even within the family, she always tries to keep our children closer with me with the hope that they would grow up learning to accept me as their disabled father. Ever since my eldest son and my adopted daughter were 6 or 7 years old, she would let them guide me whenever we went out into the town or other places and every time I refused to walk with them not being able to trust them, she would always warn me they would hesitate to walk with me when they grow up if we don’t let them do it right now. Yes, after all, she was right. I realized that we should never let such a wall form between me and my kids right from the beginning. Hence, I always started walking with my kids whenever I went out and today, my eldest son always comes to my office after his school hours to fetch me home. As of now, both my adopted daughter and eldest son do not seem to hesitate to walk with me and this is what my wife wants to see in all the times to come.

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My youngest son leaves the comfort of his home behind to start a new journey of his life

Photo of my youngest son Rigden Subba in his school campus on his first school day

There is a wave of excitement in my family as my youngest son Rigden Subba began his much-awaited academic journey since yesterday. Till now he has been his mother’s best companion at home, living with full of childish innocence and smiles. So the first day was certainly a strange experience for him. Although he had promised that he would not cry in school as his elder brother had done on his first day in school four years ago, it seems he did silently shed some tears on the way back home yesterday. I am sure he must have felt very strange in that new environment. For now, my wife is giving him company in the school, waiting for him all day and helping him have lunch or go to toilet during the intervals. He has been told that after a while, he has to be alone and that his mother will only come to get him home after the school hours. He has accepted this upcoming ordeal that he has to face. I am sure he will soon learn to be independent especially after he gets familiar with the environment and his friends. The problem with him right now is that he is normally a silent boy and that he doesn’t easily mingle with others. So, most of the time, it seems he is seen alone in the classroom. But with the passage of time, I hope he would gain some confidence to open up and interact with others.

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What my kids have to say about their vacation in the village

Photo of my entire family: me and my wife with our three kids

This winter, my kids have spent almost a month in their mother’s village in Sibsoo observing and enjoying a unique kind of life which they had not seen in the towns. After they came back on 29th January 2016, I asked them to share their experiences of being in the village. To my amazement, they have many good things to share. I am glad to learn that they were able to help their grandparents a lot during their short stay.

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I don’t own my wife as a property

Photo of me and my wife during my graduation day at Curtin University in December 2013 in Perth, Western Australia

I and my wife have been married for over twelve years now, and we have never gone through any major conflict of interest till date. Despite occasional arguments over trivial matters, our children have never seen any violence in the house. I feel this has been possible because both my wife and I know our boundaries well and respect each other’s views. We never take unilateral decisions when it comes to family matters and we always consult each other and because of this, I feel our married life has been going on smoothly so far. We got engaged in May 2003 when I was still in the university, yet we have managed to walk together the unexplored path of life sharing happiness and sadness, successes and failures, and problems and solutions. Today, we have been blest with two sons and one adopted daughter all of whom have made our life extraordinarily beautiful and lovely.

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My beautiful daughter has grown up now

Photo of my daughter Anju Rai in her beautiful costume

My daughter Anju Rai is just 12-years-old but she is mature enough to share most of the responsibilities in the family. Whenever she does not have to study, she helps her mother in the kitchen and other domestic chores. She is very interested in cooking and she can in fact prepare more delicious meals than my wife. Initially, I was hesitant to let her use electric appliances and cooking gas but my wife was of the view that unless she was given the opportunity, she would never learn. I fully agreed with my wife and we gradually let her work in the kitchen and soon she came out as a more independent person. Today whenever my wife is not around, I don’t have to worry about anything because I always have my daughter to rely on.

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My forgotten brother

Whenever I hold my 5-year-old son Rigden in my arms, the image of my late younger brother often flashes through my mind. I think he was about the same age as my son when he died. He was about four years younger to me. Like my son Rigden, he was active, jolly and of course, I should say he was intelligent. I still have vivid memories of those days when he used to help me when I became blind. Even when he was busy taking meals, he would stop eating and help me to go to toilet whenever requested. That way, he was very helpful and supportive even at such a tender age. I always wish if he were still alive.
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On the other side of my smile

Photo of me receiving blessing from Lama Namkhai Nyingpo in Perth, Australia in 2013

Having overcome several obstacles and tragedies over the past 34 years of my life, I consider myself an optimistic person. My life has never been a bed of roses but still my failures and misfortunes hardly discouraged me to keep going. I know I have a good sense of humour and I love to laugh with people around me. Social interactions and laughter always help me forget the pain of my past and present. Even when I am stressed, I can afford to smile and laugh. That’s why my old school friends still tell me that I seem to be happy forever. But once in a while, a very strange wave of sadness runs through my nerves without any warning. I am still trying to figure out what is it all about and where it’s coming from.
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Celebrating Dashain with kids and relatives

Photo of Thukten, Rigden and Anju with Tika

As the Hindu communities across the world celebrated Dashain today, it has been a great pleasure for me and my wife to join the celebration with our kids in our own small way. According to the Hindu mythology, Lord Ram killed Ravana on this very day and established peace in the region. Since then, this day has been celebrated as the day of victory of the good over evil, and we all observe the occasion by receiving blessings from elders and feast together with families and relatives. This year’s Dashain has been a special festival for us because we had missed the opportunity to be with our kids on this day over the past two years when we were abroad. So, it has been a big occasion for us today because due to God’s grace, we have been able to celebrate the day with our kids once again.
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My old wound pricked again!

May God bless me

On the evening of 28th August 2014, I and my wife decided to host a simple dinner for my uncle who was in Thimphu on a short visit. He is my late father’s youngest brother and he lives in Samtse. All his three daughters are in Thimphu and he was staying with them. So, we invited them all for an informal get-together. But what was expected to be a joyous family gathering ended up as a moment of humiliation and harassment for us.
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Family gathering

Photo of people having lunch

We humanbeings are called social animals because we are the only creatures with the ability to socialize with each other. I often joke with friends that if we fail to socialize with others, then we lose the “social” part and we become only “animals”. It is part of our culture to get together with friends and relatives from time to time to take a short break from busy schedule and relax over a simple meal. But today, life has become so busy for everybody that we hardly get a chance to see our friends and relatives even in months. So, I feel that such an occasional gathering among friends and relatives is an important part of our social and cultural life. A social gathering is not only about eating. It is more than that. It helps us strengthen our bonding and deepen our relationships. It is the time when we exchange our concerns, and understand each other’s situations. More importantly, such gatherings can contribute to passing the values and a sense of belonging down the generations.
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