Holidays are the most sought after days. Everyone’s heart would swirl and they would swing and whirl to the blissful tunes that their heart have initiated. But it wasn’t the same for a poor girl. When everyone would be happy at home with their lovely parents, she would be far from her home, the dwellers of whom she hardly knew. Others would be taking rest after hectic school days while she would be lending a helping hand to someone. She would be in the field harvesting potatoes or carrying farmyard manure to their field or help them cook and do other household chores. But why can’t she do the same back at her home?
Neither does she find charm in laughing at jokes created by her friends nor comment on it. She liked being alone and isolated more than being in a group. Only does she become the hungriest shark when it comes to learning. She does group study or discussion only if necessary. Otherwise, she would rather be out in the corridor, the terrace, the meeting hall or any other place where she could find solitude and peace of mind. She was accustomed to it and she liked it. She would rather plug in her earphone than to be plagued by envy and depression on hearing her friends talk about how much their parents love, care and sacrifice for them.
Nevertheless, she used to appreciate as well as envy those Indian girls for having a father who accompanies them everywhere like a bodyguard and the intimate bond they share. Her heart wept every time she witnessed such incidences. She said to herself, “How fortunate of them to have parents who insist them to eat, to study, to sleep, to wake them up in the morning, tell them the dos and don’ts, usher them good values of life and act as an inspirational force behind their child’s every step”. But she had none.
A laughter or smile could be hardly induced in her and even if she did, it wasn’t from her heart. She would hardly involve in a gossip or a conversation unless a necessary intervention was required. Her face would be marked by sternness or seriousness, the reason here to be foretold. The wall of endurance and patience that she built around herself for decades trembled down when she could no longer hold herself from penning down her emotional cries and let the world realize what a life she had been through. No one would have endured a life like hers and no one would understand her as much as she does herself.
The way the mother earth welcomed her to the world of being was in itself a harsh start. Instead of the cozy blanket and bed, she landed with her head down on a stepping stone near the door step while her mother tried to get hold of the wooden pillar erected there. Though in utmost pain, her mother reached her gentle hands but only to pick her motionless baby girl. Her helpless mother shed tears of agony for the loss she have had incurred. But the twist of faith came when the baby she was holding sprang back to life with a sudden jerk and gave her first and the heartiest cry. Her mother’s face glowed and glistened even through the tears.
Her mother's happiness was obscured by sadness on the other side of the coin. Her mother was abruptly flabbergasted when her father walked away from them. He walked out of the house, barefoot with a bamboo basket on his back and his only hand woven woolen blanket in it. They barely exchanged a glance and neither of them uttered a single word. But he left her when she was just three days old, when she could barely open her eyes.
Her mother who was giving bath to her could not control but let her tears drop incessantly into the wooden tub beneath. She almost lost the control of her senses only to be brought back by the shrill cry from beneath in response to the water that has become as cold as the surrounding air.
There was no malice intended in what he was doing but he was left with no choice than to proceed when her grandparents drove him away for so silly a reason. They ruthlessly said that he is unfit as their daughter’s husband but did they ever give a second thought for the child in between? Never! And they would never.
An astrologer predicted something about her to her mother, “You won’t be able to raise her or she won’t live long but if she does, she will be someone with merit and luck that you will be the luckiest to have her. Let me have her called as ‘Namgangmo’, corresponding to the tenth day of the Bhutanese calendar of this December month on which she was born”. A mixed feeling of chillness and thrill raced through her spines upon hearing so.
Once, her mother had to leave to a far flung village after having her entrusted to her grandmother. Her mother returned back to witness blisters all over her daughter’s leg. The catastrophe took its toll when her grandmother left her wrapped in a blanket nearby an oven. She moved and somehow fell into the vicinity of the fire. Her grandmother arrived back to extinguish the blazing fire when her entire left leg was burnt. She was destined to live though.
The pages of the calendar were wiped away by time and the time came for her to stroll to school. She was sent to study her pre-primary at Thinleygang with her uncle who worked there as a Health Assistant.
The following year, she was brought back to her village to pursue her primary schooling. It was one of the torturing moments she have had. Captains would beat her for not giving them papers, given
they would collect bundles from the innocent ones and stitch it into books for themselves; a teacher slapped her in the assembly for her absence in the morning study in place of medicine for the toothache that plagued her the entire morning; a captain would beat her every time during meals for not accepting his proposal; the then headmaster had her head hit with the same wooden hammer that she is supposed to ring the bell for her failure to do so on time. She was required to ring the bell in every less than an hour or so as bell captain and she once failed when her sleep overtook her senses.
The situation wasn’t any different back at home. It would hardly be 5 a.m. in the morning and her grandmother would scare the hell out of her. “Hey... lazy pig! Would you come out of bed yourself or should you welcome me there?” Knowing the taste of the thin leather strap very well, she would jump out of her bed. Without even a cup of water, she would hurry towards the cattle shed and untie the ropes tethering each one of them to poles, before the next dose of poison stung her fragile heart.
“Can’t you take them little further where pasture is plenty?” comes the next order from the self-appointed boss. “Still, there she is, strolling like a tortoise; you won’t bear it when I give you some activation energy on your feet. Are you waiting for that?” With fire in her eyes, she would chase the cattle with the thought,” I am not following your order, mind you, but I want you out of my sight”.
When it was time to milk the cows, she would be terrified to see some of them missing and her grandmother blazed into the flame of anguish, “Didn’t I tell you to keep an eye on each one of them? Are you turning a deaf ear to me or have you become blind? Better go and find them now or else you will be deprived of breakfast today”. With tears welled up in her eyes and lumps choking her throat, she would go. A thought occurred to her, “Why didn’t she let me be engulfed by the fire that caught me once if she hated me so much. I wish I was dead there than to be treated so”.
“Eat less and work more” and with this comes the bang on her back. “I bet this girl is having a stomach of horse and food pipe of a bird; taking hours to finish breakfast”.
When she brought her lunch box, her grandmother would exaggerate, “Our neighborhood girl always goes to herd the cattle without lunch. Not even a bottle of water would she be carrying. But this bastard won’t spare”. Her mind would be fogged by the pain her grandmother had inflicted but none would be there to assuage the pain.
She would come to an abrupt halt to hear the devil shout again, “Do I need to remind you every time to carry the bamboo basket? How dare you could go empty handed without spindle and wool with only a dozen cattle to lay your eyes upon? I will evaluate you in the evening on how much yarn you have spun”.
In the evening, she would arrive with the cattle, firewood laden bamboo basket on her back; lunch bag and spindle clutched in each one of her hands. Beads of perspiration clung to her dreary forehead. The moment she came into sight, she would start receiving orders. “Drop that load of yours and start washing the plates and the utensils there in the kitchen. And after that, quickly start kneading dough for the dinner tonight”...
(to be continued in Part II)
(to be continued in Part II)